Metal Music Reviews from UMUR

BONE GNAWER Feast of Flesh

Album · 2009 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Feast of Flesh" is the debut full-length studio album by multi-national death metal act Bone Gnawer. The album was released through Pulverised Records in June 2009. Bone Gnawer were formed in 2008 by former Massacre frontman Kam Lee and prolific Swedish musician Rogga Johansson (The Grotesquery, Paganizer, Ribspreader, Demiurg...etc.), who handles the bass and performs backing vocals on this project (he ususally plays guitar and performs lead vocals). The two also work together in The Grotesquery. The lineup is completed by Morgan Lie on drums and Ronnie Björnström on guitars/backing vocals.

The music on the album is old school death metal combining the best from the Swedish and the American scenes. Unlike the horror concept story themed albums of The Grotesquery, which is a project that musically shares a lot of similarities with Bone Gnawer, the lyrical themes and imagery on "Feast of Flesh" are focused heavily on gore and on cannibalism in particular. Song titles like "Cannibal Cook-Out", "Sliced & Diced", "Feast of Flesh", and the reference to the 1980 Italian Joe D'Amato directed cannibal movie "Anthropophagus" ("The Grim Reaper" in USA) in "Anthropophagus Beast" also tell that story.

Musically you get everything you´d expect from an old school death metal release. Crushingly heavy doomy parts, mid-paced death metal grooves, and faster parts too (no blast beats). Kam Lee is one of the more distinct sounding death metal vocalists out there, and his intelligible deep growling and higher pitched screams suit the music well. The material are generally well written and for the most part infectiously catchy. Although it´s certainly both dark and brutal like you´d expect from a death metal release, there´s also an occasional humourous edge, that I think works in the the band´s favour. Particularly the way Kam Lee performs his vocal lines on "Cannibal Cook-Out" stands out as good B-Horror movie fun. Some might find it to be bad taste, but if you enjoy campy, then this certainly applies.

"Feast of Flesh" is well performed and well produced too, and upon conclusion it´s obvious that the combination of Kam Lee and Rogga Johansson is a winner (also if you take into consideration the high quality of their Grotesquery output). So if you enjoy old school death metal with intelligible growling vocals, and gore/cannibal themed vocals, delivered by skilled musicians, and written in a catchy memorable style, I can highly recommend "Feast of Flesh". A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

ILLDISPOSED Retro

Album · 2000 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Retro" is the 4th full-length studio album by Danish death metal act Illdisposed. The album was released through Diehard Music in 2000. The cover artwork was created by Joe Petagno (who is known for his work on several Motörhead album covers as well as a wide varity of creative work for other artists).

"Retro" is a covers album, mainly with Illdisposed´s versions of classic tracks by death- and thrash metal artists like Carcass, Venom, and Obituary, but the album also features a couple of more surprising covers in "Killed by Death" by Motörhead, and "Beating Around the Bush" by AC/DC. The quality of the performances, the sound production, and the arrangements of the tracks are generally on a decent level, and Illdisposed manages to put their own mark on the material, although they are not themselves the most original sounding act, so that of course also has some impact on how the covers sound.

As mentioned all tracks on the 11 track, 51:53 minutes long album are of a good quality, but I´d mention "Cromlech" by Darkthrone, "Reek of Putrefaction" by Carcass, and "Out of the Body" by Pestilence as some of the highlights. Overall "Retro" is pretty good covers album by Illdisposed and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

GOTSU TOTSU KOTSU 魍魎 (Mouryou)

Album · 2009 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"魍魎 (Mouryou)" is the debut full-length studio album by Japanese death/thrash metal act Gotsu Totsu Kotsu (or 兀突骨 in Japanese). The album was released through Bang the Head Records in 2009. Gotsu Totsu Kotsu features among others (at the time) Defiled bassist (and on this project also vocalist) Haruhisa Takahata.

The music on the album is a raw and brutal form of thrash metal with growling vocals. It´s energetic, aggressive, and organic in execution. In many ways similar to other brutal thrash metal acts out there, but one thing sets Gotsu Totsu Kotsu apart from other artists playing the style, and that´s the bass playing of Haruhisa Takahata. He plays a brutal and busy slap bass (so no funky sounding slap bass here) throughout the album, which provide the music with some originality. If you´re familiar with his contributions to Defiled´s material the distinct sounding bass playing is no surprise though.

The material is slightly one-dimensional but solid and relatively catchy throughout, so overall "魍魎 (Mouryou)" might not be a revelation, but it´s still a very enjoyable thrash metal album in the more brutal end of the spectrum. a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

OVERKILL From the Underground and Below

Album · 1997 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.61 | 14 ratings
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"From the Underground and Below" is the 9th full-length studio album by US, New York based thrash metal act Overkill. The album was released through Steamhammer Records in September 1997. It´s the successor to "The Killing Kind" from 1996...

...and if you are familiar with "The Killing Kind (1996)", "From the Underground and Below" pretty much continues where that album left off. It´s groove oriented thrash metal with a very heavy sound production. The band are as always very well playing and Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth delivers his raw vocals with conviction and passion.

The material is generally well written and relatively effective, but the songwriting is not exactly adventurous and there aren´t many tracks featured on the album which are catchy beyond what is usual for the band´s material. "Long Time Dyin'" has since become a live stable for the band, and it´s one of the highlights on the album, but it´s probably "Promises" which stands out the most on the album, as it´s a power ballad type track, which you won´t hear often from Overkill.

As mentioned "From the Underground and Below" features a very powerful sound production, which provides the music with an ultra heavy sound. There´s a metallic tone to it (especially the bass), which suits the music well. Upon conclusion "From the Underground and Below" is another quality release by Overkill and while it´s not the strongest release in their discography and you´ll have to be able to appreciate the groove metal element (which is something I´ve learned a lot of old school thrash metal listeners have a very hard time doing), it´s still a pretty good album deserving a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

TRIPTYKON Eparistera Daimones

Album · 2010 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.35 | 21 ratings
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"Eparistera Daimones" is the debut full-length studio album by Swiss extreme metal act Triptykon. The album was released through Prowling Death Records Ltd. in March 2010. Triptykon was formed by former Celtic Frost vocalist/guitarist Thomas Gabriel Fischer, after the Swiss extreme metal pioneers folded in 2008 for the second time in their career. Fischer teamed up with V. Santura (guitars, vocals), Vanja Slajh (bass), and Norman Lonhard (drums, percussion) who complete the four-piece lineup.

The music on "Eparistera Daimones" pretty much takes off where Celtic Frost´s "Monotheist (2006)" left off, new bandname and lineup or not. That means an eclectic style of extreme metal which features elements from death, thrash, black, doom, and gothic metal, but ultimately aren´t any of those. The atmosphere is dark, bitter, and at times quite aggressive. The riffs and beats are predominantly brick heavy yet rhythmic, which means that a doom metal tag it only occassionally valid, and there are faster paced parts on the album too.

The material is generally very well written, and the at times repetitive song structures don´t become tedious, because they are implemented to create a dark ritualistic effect. Something which works wonders for the band. From the first notes of the 11:00 minutes long opener "Goetia" to the last notes of 19:00 minutes long closer "The Prolonging", "Eparistera Daimones" is a very entertaining and relatively diverse album, which screams high quality and not the least passion, skill, and conviction behind the delivery. The vocals are predominantly raw yet fully intelligible, but there are both male and female clean vocals featured on the album too (although in smaller doses).

The sound production, which was handled by Thomas Gabriel Fischer and V. Santura, is also a great asset. "Eparistera Daimones" is simply an incredibly well produced album with a powerful, dark, and heavy sound. Especially the guitar sound is menacing, but the bass is also given a lot of room in the mix, which provides the sound with a lot of heavy bottom. So all in all it´s hard to find any flaws to mention and that´s almost always a sign of high quality, and a 4.5 star (90%) rating is fully deserved.

PANZERCHRIST 7th Offensive

Album · 2013 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"7th Offensive" is the 7th full-length studio album by Danish death metal act Panzerchrist. The album was released through Listenable Records in July 2013. After a longer hiatus Panzerchrist released "Regiment Ragnarok" in 2011 but although "7th Offensive" was released relatively shortly after that (2 years between albums is pretty normal these days), a lot has happened to the lineup in those few years. Panzerchrist was always a pretty unstable band when it came to the lineup, but this time around there have been more changes than usual as only band founder Michael Enevoldsen (here using the alias Panzergeneral) remains from the lineup who recorded "Regiment Ragnarok (2011)". New faces are Simon Schilling (drums), Nils Petersen (guitars), and Søren Lønne (vocals). Enevoldsen handles bass and keyboards.

The music on the album is relatively brutal death metal, but it´s not without melodic moments, and it´s actually relatively catchy for the style. New vocalist Søren Lønne is a pretty standard deep growling and relatively unintelligible singer, and his singing style suits the music well. The musicianship is overall on a decent level, but to my ears new drummer Simon Schilling´s drumming style is a bit of an issue. Maybe he has been instructed to not play any fills or to play as lifeless as possible, but he sounds so much like a machine, that I initially thought that the drums were programmed. An assumption which was further fueled by the artificial drum sound. Especially the cymbals/hi-hat and the snare drum sound like they were programmed, so there´s an issue with the sound production too.

The material is generally well written and for the genre relatively varied, and as usual the lyrics focus on war, which songtitles like "Panzer the 7th Offensive", "The Stronghold of Hill 666", and "Napalm Alarm", are a testament to. If I have to compare the music style on "7th Offensive" to some of the band´s previous releases, it would be the first couple of albums that I think about, and neither the direct predecessor nor the Bo Summer fronted albums.

So it´s an album with both good sides and bad sides, but overall it´s a decent quality release and if the monotone drumming doesn´t bother you, you´ll probably enjoy it a bit more than I do. Personally I expected a bit more, and I definitely don´t count "7th Offensive" among the band´s best releases, but a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is still deserved.

SACRED REICH The American Way

Album · 1990 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.20 | 11 ratings
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"The American Way" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Phoenix, Arizona based thrash metal act Sacred Reich. The album was released through Hollywood Records in May 1990. So there are 3 years between the release of the band´s debut album "Ignorance (1987)" and "The American Way", which was an unusually long time between a debut and a sophomore release in those days. Sacred Reich wasn´t inactive in those intermediate years though, as they toured but also released the "Surf Nicaragua (1988)" EP and the "Alive at the Dynamo (1989)" EP to bridge the gap between the two full-length album releases.

Musically quite a lot has happened in those 3 years too. The aggressive and rather obviously Slayer influenced thrash metal sound on "Ignorance (1987)" is all but gone on "The American Way", which introduces a more humourous (although not silly, and still with serious social/environmental/political commentary) and more varied sound. It´s still unmistakably the sound of Sacred Reich, but that´s mostly because of Phil Rind´s very distinct sounding voice and singing style than anything else. He sounds even more like the Jeff Bridges of thrash metal on "The American Way" than he did on "Ignorance (1987)". As a singer he is probably very much an aquired taste, but he undeniably provides the vocal side of Sacred Reich with a unique sound.

And unique is exactly the right word to use about "The American Way", which despite that it features standard thrash metal trademarks, like fast and heavy rhythmic riffs/rhythms, blistring solos, and a relatively high level of aggression, still manages to sound quite different from other thrash metal releases from that time (and in general). Bill Metoyer and the band have done a great job on the production too, which is clear, powerful, and again...relatively unique sounding.

The material on the 8 track, 35:24 minutes long album is generally of a high quality and all tracks are memorable and stand out from each other. Highlights are probably the iconic title track (which the band did a promotional video for), and the anti-suicide anthem "Who´s to Blame", but you can name almost any track off the album and call it a standout track. Although the closing and quite funky track "31 Flavors" is aimed at opening the musically close-minded to other musical styles, I´m gonna go out on a limb and call it a bit misplaced, and not really consistent with the rest of the material on the album (yeah alright you can call me concervative). It´s not bad by any means, just a pretty odd way of closing an album. To my ears it´s a track which would have been better suited on the B-side of a single or as an EP track. But that´s Sacred Reich in a nutshell. They always did exactly what they felt for, and didn´t cater to anyone else. Although I don´t agree with what they did here, I generally greatly respect the artistic integrity they show by such a boldness.

So "The American Way" is for the musically adventurous thrash metal listener. It´s not technical thrash metal (although some tracks actually feature some relatively technical playing), it´s not old school raw thrash metal, and it´s not Bay Area influenced thrash metal either. It´s thrash metal done the Sacred Reich way! A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved despite a few issues along the way.

IMMOLATION Here in After

Album · 1996 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.58 | 15 ratings
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"Here in After" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US death metal act Immolation. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in February 1996 and it´s the successor to "Dawn of Possession" from 1991. In those days 5 years between albums was a very long recording break, but Immolation were dropped by Roadrunner Records (along with quite a few other death- and thrash metal acts) before they were able to release a follow-up to the debut. It took quite a few years to find a new label, but eventually Metal Blade Records signed Immolation for a three-album deal. In the meantime Repulse Records took the opportunity to release the "Stepping on Angels... Before Dawn (1995)" compilation, which features both demo tracks by Rigor Mortis (the band´s original name) and Immolation, and live tracks by the latter mentioned.

Stylistically the music on "Here in After" continues the dark and brutal death metal style of it´s predecessor. The blashemous/anti-christian lyrical themes are also in place, which songtitles like "Burn with Jesus", "Away from God", and "Christ´s Cage", are a testament to. The music is technically well played with a decent amount of tempo changes, brutal and mostly unintelligible growling vocals, and an almost complete lack of anything resembling a melody. In that regard the music is completely uncompromising. But then again you don´t listen to an Immolation album to find something to hum along to, but rather to listen to something dark, twisted, and brutal. When that is said, there are memorable parts here and there, but it takes time and repeated listens before they settle.

"Here in After" is well produced. Powerful, dark, and mean sounding, which is a sound which suits the music perfectly. So overall the 5 year recording break was worth it. I wouldn´t say "Here in After" is a better release than "Dawn of Possession (1991)", but it´s about equal in quality and another great album in the band´s discography. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

ABYSMAL DAWN Programmed to Consume

Album · 2008 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 5 ratings
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"Programmed to Consume" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, California based death metal act Abysmal Dawn. The album was released through Relapse Records in May 2008. Abysmal Dawn were formed in late 2003 and released a well received demo in 2004 before signing to Crash Music Inc. for the release of their debut full-length studio album "From Ashes (2006)". From there they gained the attention of Relapse Records, who signed them for a multible album deal. There´s been one lineup change since "From Ashes (2006)" as Michael Cosio has been hired as a permanent solution for the bassist position replacing session player Mike Bear.

The music on the album pretty much continues down the same technically well played death metal path which was initiated on "From Ashes (2006)". There are few signs of development, but as the music on the debut album was more or less an effective and well played package, the band probably didn´t feel the need to change a winning formula. That also means that the issue I had with the debut album and it´s lack of originality is also an issue on "Programmed to Consume". Abysmal Dawn write and play well sounding and instantly enjoyable death metal, but the material is generally not that memorable after the album is over. And that has a lot to do with the band lacking a personal sound.

"Programmed to Consume" is well produced (slightly more raw sounding than the debut, which suits the band´s music well), and overall it´s another quality death metal release by Abysmal Dawn. So if you enjoy technically well played US death metal, "Programmed to Consume" is a recommendable release. I still think Abysmal Dawn lack the defining songwriting skills to make them stand out in the genre, but other than that "Programmed to Consume" is a great quality release and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

WITCHERY I Am Legion

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"I Am Legion" is the 7th full-length studio album by Swedish heavy metal act Witchery. The album was released through Century Media Records in November 2017. That´s almost exactly one year after the release of "In His Infernal Majesty's Service (2016)", and after a couple of years of relative inactivity before that, the band have indeed said in interviews that they would pick up the pace and record and tour more the next couple of years. With "I Am Legion" they keep that promise. "I Am Legion" was recorded by the same five-piece lineup who recorded "In His Infernal Majesty's Service (2016)", so no changes there.

Stylistically "I Am Legion" is slightly different from it´s predecessor though, and a little less formulaic than what we´re used to from Witchery. Witchery were always a band who were hard to define as their heavy metal basis sound features quite a few influences from genres like black metal, thrash metal, speed metal, and a little death metal too. Some of the previous releases featured an almost traditional heavy metal sound (although in the harder end of the spectrum) but with blackened snarling vocals, but on "I Am Legion" the scale tips a bit more to the extreme metal side of the band´s sound. The structure of the songs and the songwriting are also a bit less anthemic and a little more loose and intentionally chaotic, which is both a strength and a weakness.

It´s a strength because it´s always great to hear when an established act with a signature sound try something different. It shows a band which haven´t stagnated and who are still hungry to prove themselves and who still have the boldness to evolve. I applaud that...but it´s also a weakness in terms of "I Am Legion", because the infectiously catchy sing-along (well...shout-along) choruses from the previous releases are few and far between on this release, and those choruses were always a big part of what made Witchery such a charming act.

I´ll put on the positive glasses here though, as I think Witchery make their less formulaic and more adventurous approach to songwriting work really well, and it´s not like there aren´t any catchy moments on the album. In fact there are plenty of memorable tracks and catchy moments featured on the album, so it´s not a major change of the band´s sound, but more an adjustment towards a more creative songwriting direction. Witchery are as always a very well playing band and lead vocalist Angus Norder shows again, that the band made the right decision to add him to the lineup on the predecessor. "I Am Legion" features a dark and fairly organic sounding production, which suits the new musical direction perfectly, and upon conclusion "I Am Legion" is yet another high quality release by Witchery. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

ABYSMAL DAWN From Ashes

Album · 2006 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 5 ratings
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"From Ashes" is the debut full-length studio album by US, California based death metal act Abysmal Dawn. The album was released through Crash Music Inc. in April 2006. When Relapse Records signed Abysmal Dawn for the release of their second full-length studio album "Programmed to Consume (2008)", they also opted to buy the rights to "From Ashes", which saw a Relapse Records reissue in 2011, featuring three bonus tracks. Abysmal Dawn was formed in late 2003 and released a well received demo in 2004 before signing to Crash Music Inc. for the release of "From Ashes".

Stylistically Abysmal Dawn deliver a technically well played type of death metal on "From Ashes". Abysmal Dawn is generally quite brutal, but they also embrace melodic moments, although that part of their sound is not a dominant feature on "From Ashes". The material is skillfully executed, and the album features a relatively well sounding production, and as such "From Ashes" is a quality death metal album. When that is said the songwriting isn´t the most interesting nor distinct sounding, which results in "From Ashes" drowning a bit in the vast number of relatively standard quality death metal releases on the market. So it´s not exactly a release where it´s easy to single out any tracks as highlights, because there are generally very few standout moments on the album. Instead it´s a very consistent album both in terms of the quality of the material and the musical style.

So at this point it´s safe to say that Abysmal Dawn lacked an original sound and more memorable songwriting to elevate their otherwise decent quality product to a higher level. It´s not always enough that you got the chops and a sound production which displays your music in a good light, if said music isn´t particularly memorable nor unique sounding. A 3.5 star (70%) rating isn´t all wrong though, as this is still a greatly entertaining quality death metal album while it plays, and for a debut release it does show promise.

GIGANTIC BRAIN The Invasion Discography

Boxset / Compilation · 2004 · Grindcore
Cover art 2.16 | 4 ratings
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"The Invasion Discography" is a compilation album by US, Virginia based experimental grindcore act Gigantic Brain. The album was released through Razorback Records in July 2004. Gigantic Brain was formed by John Brown in the early years of the millenium, and was at this point a one-man act. "The Invasion Discography" is a compilation featuring all material recorded by John Brown up until then.

The music on "The Invasion Discography" is one crazy mix of blasting grindcore, electronic effects/samples, programmed drums, assorted types of extreme vocals, and a futuristic sci-fi atmosphere. Most tracks are between a half minute to 1 minute long and with 63 tracks distributed over a 59:16 minutes long playing time there is a lot to dig into. The sound production is obviously created on a home computer, and while it´s fairly well sounding for that type of production, it´s clearly not a professionally produced product.

The music is quite adventurous with many shifts in style and genre within each track, but they are also rather chaotic and fragmented. So it´s definitely not a boring release, but it´s not exactly the most well written one either, if you appreciate memorability. This sounds a lot like it´s written and recorded to satisfy John Brown rather than to cater for an audience. It´s highly experimental and the more "regular" sounding grindcore parts are always followed by an atmospheric ambient part or something more experimental sounding.

Upon conclusion "The Invasion Discography" is probably very much an aquired taste. Some listeners will probably enjoy the crazy sci-fi concept, the home recording idea, and embrace the fragmented experimental grindcore style, while others will miss a bit more conscise and memorable songwriting, and a professional sound production. Personally I lean towards the latter opinion and a 2.5 star (50%) rating is warranted.

GIRLSCHOOL Demolition

Album · 1980 · NWoBHM
Cover art 3.40 | 8 ratings
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"Demolition" is the debut full-length studio album by UK hard/heavy rock act Girlschool. The album was released through Bronze Records in June 1980. Girlschool was formed in 1975 as an all girl rock covers band under the Painted Lady monicker, but after some lineup changes, they changed their name to Girlschool in 1978. They released the "Take it all away" single in 1979, which came to the attention of Lemmy from Motörhead, who helped them get the support slot on Motörhead´s 1979 "Overkill" tour. After the tour Girlschool signed with Bronze Records (at the time also home of Motörhead).

Stylistically the music on "Demolition" is sweaty and raw, badass rock´n´roll played by girls. Especially the instrumental part of the music takes no prisoners, and sounds like a combination of AC/DC, The Runaways, and Motörhead. So basically über amplified blues based hard rock. To my ears the female vocals lack a bit of grit and rawness, and takes away from the otherwise raw power of the music, but they are skillfully delivered, and it´s overall obvious that these girls can play/sing.

The material on the 10 track, 34:35 minutes long album is consistent in both quality and style. Vers/chorus structured and quite catchy rock´n´roll songs with few surprises, carried by a strong playing band and a well sounding and organic production. All tracks feature a great energy level which is one of the great assets of the album. I´d mention the Joan Jett influenced "Breakdown" as one of the highlights. "Demolition Boys" which opens the album and "Baby Doll", which is a live recording also stand out. Overall "Demolition" is a pretty great listen if you enjoy female fronted hard rock and had the vocals been a bit more raw I would probably have given a 4 star (80%) rating, but as it is the vocals drag my rating down to a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

IN FLAMES Lunar Strain

Album · 1994 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 3.80 | 20 ratings
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"Lunar Strain" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish melodic death metal act In Flames. The album was released through Wrong Again Records in April 1994. In Flames was formed by guitarist Jesper Strömblad (also drums and keyboards on this release) in 1990 as a side-project where he wanted to explore a more melodic version of death metal. Something he wasn´t able to do in his then main act Ceremonial Oath. After leaving the latter in 1993, he started assembling a lineup for In Flames, but initially wasn´t able to find a suitable vocalist and therefore Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquillity sung on the 1993 demo. An arrangement which was continued on "Lunar Strain".

The music on the 10 track, 36:43 minutes long album is indeed melodic oriented death metal. Loads of harmony guitar themes, leads, and an overall epic atmosphere. There are also quite a few folk elements featured in the music like the occasional use of violins and acoustic guitars. The vocal style is an aggressive and relatively high pitched growling type of vocals, and they provide the music with just a slight touch of black metal (there are a few female vocals featured on the album too). A track like "Upon an Oaken Throne" even touches thrash metal territory, so In Flames are relatively eclectic on "Lunar Strain". Artists like Necrophobic, Dissection, and Unanimated aren´t completely wrong as references, although In Flames doesn´t embrace blasphemous/anti-Christian lyrics, but instead opt for a fantasy universe.

The quality of the material is very high throughout and "Lunar Strain" overall features a relatively good flow too. The sound production could have been better, but the album is still relatively well sounding, and the sound suits the music pretty well. The band is well playing too, and upon conclusion "Lunar Strain" is not only a promising debut release by In Flames, it´s also a very high quality release in it´s own right. Especially considering that it´s a debut release. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY No Cross No Crown

Album · 2018 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.82 | 3 ratings
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"No Cross No Crown" is the 10th full-length studio album by US metal/heavy rock act Corrosion of Conformity. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in January 2018. It´s the successor to "IX" from 2014 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as lead vocalist/guitarist Pepper Keenan has returned to the fold after leaving the band after the "In the Arms of God (2005)" album and not being part of the lineup who recorded the 2012 eponymously titled comeback album nor a part of the lineup who recorded "IX (2012)". Both mentioned albums were recorded by the three-piece lineup of Mike Dean (Bass, Vocals), Reed Mullin (Drums, Vocals), and Woody Weatherman (Guitars, Vocals).

It was never ruled out that the three remaining members wouldn´t work with Keenan again, and in late 2014 Corrosion of Conformity indeed announced that they would be reuniting with Keenan to write and record at least one album and tour in support of it. Initially the plan was to release the album in 2015, but touring commitments and the temporary dismissal of Mullin after an alcohol abuse related seizure postponed the recording and release plans.

While the two predecessors featured a more hardcore influenced heavy rock/metal style, which harks back to the early beginnings of the band, "No Cross No Crown" more or less picks up where "In the Arms of God (2005)" left off. So the listener is treated to a catchy stoner metal/southern influenced heavy rock style featuring healthy doses of both aggression, groove, and melody. Keenan is a skilled vocalist with a distinct sounding voice and delivery, and he just brings that something extra to Corrosion of Conformity´s sound. The instrumental part of the music is also performed with great skill and conviction. The band are an organic playing unit, who obviously know each other well and connect on a musical plain. Nothing sounds forced here and the band appear to have a good time playing, which isn´t always the case with reunited artists.

So it seems that the band have reunited with the right intentions in mind (because they like playing together and not just because they could make a lot of money). That can also be heard in the quality of the material on the 15 track, 57:37 minutes long album, which is relatively high throughout the album. I wouldn´t call "No Cross No Crown" the band´s strongest or most memorable release, but it´s a powerful, groove laden, and heavy and hard rocking album, featuring mostly memorable and catchy songs. The whole thing is packed in a raw and organic sounding production, which suits the material well, so upon conclusion "No Cross No Crown" is a quality comeback album for the Pepper Keenan-fronted Corrosion of Conformity. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

MY DYING BRIDE Trinity

Boxset / Compilation · 1995 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 3.82 | 7 ratings
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"Trinity" is a compilation album by UK doom/death metal act My Dying Bride. The compilation was released through Peaceville Records in September 1995. The original version features material from the band´s first three EPs: "Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium (1992)", "The Thrash of Naked Limbs (1993)", and "I Am the Bloody Earth (1994)" and the A-side track from "The Sexuality of Bereavement (1994)" single. The 2004 re-release features "Vast Choirs" and "Catching Feathers" from the "Towards the Sinister (1990)" demo as bonus material (and a different cover artwork).

The idea to release "Trinity" was great as the three EPs were either out of print, or released in a limited number of copies, which made it hard for the fans to purchase them. There are also quite a few listeners who don´t bother with EPs because of the relatively short running times, and that´s a problem you don´t experience here as "Trinity" (the original version) features 9 tracks and a full playing time of 64:16 minutes.

The quality of the material is a bit up and down though. "Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium (1992)" is a pre-album release, and it´s obvious at this point, that My Dying Bride were slightly immature as songwriters, and that they were still searching for a unique identity. The title track from the EP is where you´ll hear most nods toward the sound on the debut album. Especially the sections which feature violin. Ultra doomy riffs, melancholic violin themes, and growling vocals in front. The two shorter tracks from the "Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium (1992)" are pretty standard quality mid-paced death metal tracks, which are both decent, but not really great.

Out of the three tracks from the "The Thrash of Naked Limbs (1993)", it´s the title track and to a lesser degree "Gather Me Up Forever", which are worth the price of admission. The ambient and atmospheric "Le Cerf Malade" isn´t that interesting and honestly I think it´s a typical EP filler track.

"I Am the Bloody Earth (1994)" originally featured three tracks but Transcending (Into the Exquisite) which is a remix by Stevie Dachau featuring elements from various tracks from "Turn Loose the Swans (1993)" is omitted on "Trinity". Instead the title track and Crown of Sympathy (Remix) are accompanied by the A-side from "The Sexuality of Bereavement (1994)" single. A track which was also included as a bonus track on the limited edition digipack version of "The Angel and the Dark River (1995)" (but recorded during the sessions for "Turn Loose the Swans (1993)"). Transcending (Into the Exquisite) isn´t the most interesting track, so it´s no big loss that it has been left out of this compilation. Crown of Sympathy (Remix) isn´t very interesting either though, as it more or less sounds like someone just put the drum track through a chorus effect and not much else. I much prefer the original version from "Turn Loose the Swans (1993)". Both "I Am the Bloody Earth" and "The Sexuality of Bereavement" are pretty decent quality tracks though.

So there are both some quality material on the compilation, some more standard quality material and even a couple of pretty redundant tracks. "Trinity" does serve it´s purpose well though, as it helps increase the availability of hard to get non-album material and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

GOJIRA The Way of All Flesh

Album · 2008 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.04 | 36 ratings
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"The Way of All Flesh" is the 4th full-length studio album by French metal act Gojira. The album was released through Listenable Records/Prosthetic Records in October 2008. It´s the successor to "From Mars to Sirius" from 2005, which was the album, which gave Gojira their international (metal scene) breakthrough. "The Way of All Flesh" was predominantly recorded at the band´s own home studio Studio des Milans with lead vocalist/guitarist Joe Duplantier acting as producer. The drums were recorded at Undercity Recordings in Los Angeles and engineered by former Machine Head guitarist Logan Mader.

The musical direction hasn´t changed that much since "From Mars to Sirius (2005)". It´s still crushingly heavy, angular, and relatively complex and technically well played progressive metal featuring powerful, raw, and aggressive yet occasionally melodic tinged singing. The pace varies both within tracks and between tracks so the album features everything from slow to really fast-paced parts. The music is mostly mid-paced and heavy though. The tracks, while generally featuring relatively accessible vers/chorus structures, do often go beyond that format to explore more adventurous song formulas, which is part of the reason why this music can be labelled progressive.

The material are well written and the album is consistent in quality and style, which makes it hard to pick standout tracks. I´d mention tracks like the opener "Oroborus", the brutal "Adoration for None", the catchy "Esoteric Surgery", and the 9:54 minutes long "The Art of Dying" as some of the highlights, but I could have picked just about any track off the album as the quality is high throughout. The music is played with great technical skill and Gojira seamlessly combine elements from death metal, thrash/groove metal, and progressive metal to create a sound that is their own.

"The Way of All Flesh" features an intense, powerful, and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly. If he hadn´t opted to become a musician, Duplantier could easily have landed the job as professional producer/engineer (he is a bit of a multi-artist, as he is also credited for creating the cover artwork for the album). So upon conclusion "The Way of All Flesh" is a great follow-up album to the much praised "From Mars to Sirius (2005)". It´s also a bit "safe" though, as it sounds a lot like "From Mars to Sirius (2005)" number 2, but there are differences, and it would be wrong to say that Gojira haven´t evolved in the three years between the two albums. "The Way of All Flesh" is sligthy more catchy and the tracks are generally a bit more memorable than the tracks featured on the predecessor, but it´s little details really. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

QUEENSRŸCHE Hear In The Now Frontier

Album · 1997 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.71 | 35 ratings
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"Hear in the Now Frontier" is the 6th full-length studio album by US heavy metal/hard rock act Queensrÿche. The album was released through EMI America Records in March 1997. It would be the band´s last album on the label, as the record company went bankrupt while Queensrÿche were touring in support of "Hear in the Now Frontier", leaving the band themselves to finance the remaining part of the tour. "Hear in the Now Frontier" would be the last album to feature the original lineup as guitarist Chris DeGarmo subsequently left to pursue other interests.

While Queensrÿche had changed their sound on every album release before "Hear in the Now Frontier", the band chose a more drastic change in sound on this album, as they opted for a significantly less heavy metal oriented sound, and went with an accessible radio-friendly hard rock style. Although Peter Collins is credited as producer, the editing and mixing of the album were done by Toby Wright, who had recently worked with Alice In Chains on their 1995 eponymously titled third full-length studio album, and the latter´s involvement is clearly heard in the way "Hear in the Now Frontier" is produced. The album features an organic and warm sound production, suited for the hard rock material featured on the album, but also lacking the edge to push the most hard rocking tracks past being pleasant and accessible. In other words the sound production is professional and well sounding, but completely lacks bite.

It very much feels like Queensrÿche were domesticated here, and that they have left their heavy metal roots behind. They were never the most hard edged heavy metal act on the scene, but they had their moments on all preceding releases. "Hear in the Now Frontier" is almost completely void of anything heavy metal oriented (save for a few harder edged riffs), and sounds more like an artist like Stone Temple Pilots than anything Queensrÿche had released in the past. For at hard rock release "Hear in the Now Frontier" is actually a fairly decent album, but not many tracks stand out and featuring 14 tracks, and a full playing time of 57:42, it overstays its welcome by at least 10 minutes and maybe a little more.

So while "Hear in the Now Frontier" is not a bad quality release by any means (professional sound production, skillful execution, and professional songwriting, check..check..check), Queensrÿche´s attempt at creating a more accessible hard rock sound is not exactly a success either. They simply don´t sound convincing, and their hard rock sound is a bit too soft and uninspired, lacking the attitude and power that characterize the best hard rock releases. Too often during the playing time my attention begins to wander, and the album becomes pleasant background music, and as I´m neither on board an elevator or purchasing goods in the supermarket, that´s not really what I want from a hard rock album. Considering the inspired high quality releases which precede "Hear in the Now Frontier", it is a major disappointment that the band chose this path. A 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating is warranted.

DALE CROVER The Fickle Finger Of Fate

Album · 2017 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"The Fickle Finger of Fate" is the debut full-length studio album by hard/heavy rock artist Dale Crover. The album was released through Joyful Noise Recordings in July 2017. Dale Crover is quite the prolific musician and while he is mostly known for his drummer role with Melvins, he has also contributed to the recordings of many other artists (Nirvana, Shrinebuilder...just to mention a few). It´s been fairly sparse with solo output by Crover through the years though with the Melvins 1992 Kiss-themed solo EP being the closest to a solo effort (and a few other minor releases), but with "The Fickle Finger of Fate" he finally got the time and mustered the energy to write and record enough material for a full-length solo release.

Not surprisingly the material on the 20 track album is quite the eclectic size. There´s everything from semi-avant garde sound experiments (usually very short tracks), to rock´n´roll tracks, to punk influenced tracks, to psychadelic tinged rock tracks. Crover plays and sings almost everything on the album, and while he is predominantly a drummer, this is not a "drummer solo album". The material aren´t centered around Crover showing off on the drums. These are actual songs, and some of them are pretty catchy tunes too. With that said, it´s impossible not to notice how great a drummer Crover is. His groove, his timing, his organic touch...beautiful. His voice isn´t particularly remarkable, but he can sing, and sing pretty well too.

The album was recorded by longtime Melvins engineer Toshi Kasai, and he has created a well sounding production, which suits the material perfectly. So upon conclusion Crover can be pretty proud of his first solo offering. It´s a quality release, which is catchy but also challenging enough to be interesting in the long run. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

WITCHERY Dead, Hot and Ready

Album · 1999 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.08 | 2 ratings
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"Dead, Hot and Ready" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Swedish metal act Witchery. The album was released through Necropolis Records in October 1999. It was released almost exactly a year after the debut full-length studio album "Restless & Dead (1998)", but the guys in the band were pretty busy in those days, and had also had time to release the "Witchburner" EP in March 1999. There´s been no changes in the lineup since the EP (or since the debut album for that matter), so the five-piece of Toxine (Vocals), Mique (Drums), Richard Corpse (lead guitars), Patrik Jensen (rhythm guitars), and Sharlee D'Angelo (Bass, lead guitars), is still intact. And this despite the fact, that several of the members were also busy with other projects including acts like Mercyful Fate, Arch Enemy, and The Haunted.

Stylistically "Dead, Hot and Ready" pretty much continues the energetic heavy/speed/thrash metal style with black metal type vocals of the previous releases. It´s powerful and very well played by the seasoned musicians involved. Had it not been for the raspy black metal croaks, this would probably have been labelled traditional heavy metal, but the vocals provide the music with an extreme metal edge. The whole thing reeks appreciation for traditional heavy metal values, which songtitles like "The Guillotine", "Full Moon", and "Call of the Coven" also imply. While it is undeniably retro it is delivered with the right amount of conviction and passion, and you´re never in doubt that these guys mean business.

The material on the 10 track, 33:33 minutes long album are generally very well written. It´s predominantly regular vers/chorus structured tracks we´re presented with, but Witchery manage to keep them interesting with great hooks, blistering guitar solos, pounding aggressive rhythms, and a dark occult atmosphere (delivered with a gleam in the eye). The powerful, clear, and very well sounding production is another great asset, and "Dead, Hot and Ready" is on all parameters a high quality release and a great sophomore album by Witchery. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

GAMMACIDE Gammacide 91

Demo · 1991 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Gammacide 91" is a demo release by US, Arlington, Texas based thrash metal act Gammacide. The demo was independently released in 1991. Unlike most demos, this one was released after Gammacide had released their debut full-length studio album "Victims of Science" through Wild Rags Records in 1989. Unfortunately Gammacide didn´t have a label deal for their second album, and therefore had to record a demo, which they originally only send to press and labels. They didn´t succeed though and disbanded in 1992. The four tracks from this demo are now available as bonus material on the 2005 CD reissue of "Victims of Science".

If you´re familiar with the raw, aggressive, at occasionally rather brutal type of thrash metal Gammacide played on "Victims of Science", the sound and musical style on the four tracks on the 20:03 minutes long demo won´t be a surprise, as it´s more or less a continuation of said sound and style. The sound production is a bit more dark, but no less professional than on the debut album, and the music is just as furiously fast-paced and aggressive. The tracks are slightly longer than on the debut album, and the extra playing time provides them with a bit more room for variation, although that´s a relative term when speaking of Gammacide.

It´s a high quality demo through and through. High level musicianship, a well sounding organic production, and a clearly defined songwriting style, which is slightly one-dimensional, but very effective and delivered with great passion. As the case was on "Victims of Science", lead vocalist Varnam Ponville has a voice and delivery, which is probably and aquired taste, and his singing style drags my rating down sligthly, but it´s not because he can´t sing, or doesn´t deliver his vocals with passion, it´s a matter of voice and singing style. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

GHOUL Ghoul's Night Out

Demo · 2001 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Ghoul's Night Out" is a demo release by US, Oakland, California based death/thrash/grindcore act Ghoul. The demo was independently released in 2001. Ghoul were formed in 2001 by members of death metal act Impaled and "Ghoul's Night Out" is their debut release.

The music style is filthy and raw sounding death/thrash metal with goregrind elements. It´s strongly influenced by early Carcass. The demo features 4 tracks. The first three tracks on the album are originals, while the closing track is a cover of "Ghoul's Night Out" by Misfits. A great cover actually, but the original tracks are also quite charming too. It´s so and so with the originality of the music, but it´s both powerful and a lot of fun if you enjoy the style.

The sound production is organic and raw, but not too primitive to enjoy, and it suits the music well. So all in all "Ghoul's Night Out" is a promising first release by Ghoul, and as a demo it works well showing what Ghoul are about. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted. And that might even be a bit too low.

MY DYING BRIDE Anti-Diluvian Chronicles

Boxset / Compilation · 2005 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Anti-Diluvian Chronicles" is a compilation album by UK doom/death metal act My Dying Bride. The album was released through Peaceville Records in May 2005. The compilation was released as a 3-disc digipack featuring a poster and a booklet with an in depth interview with lead vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe. Each disc features more than 70 minutes long music, making "Anti-Diluvian Chronicles" quite the comprehensive release. Although it features remix versions of some tracks (some of which also features newly recorded parts), and a couple of live tracks too, it is more than anything just a representation of the band´s music from their early days until 2004-2005, featuring a tracklist which covers most of My Dying Bride´s releases up until then. In that respect it´s quite different from the band´s earlier compilation albums, which focused more on rare and hard to get material. "Anti-Diluvian Chronicles" is more of a "best of" compilation, although that expression may be a bit vulgar when speaking of My Dying Bride´s music.

The compilation is build in reverse chronological order, which means that the tracks on disc 1 are the most recently released material (in 2005), while the tracks on disc 3 are material from the earliest part of the band´s discography. You can always argue about the choice of tracks for the compilation, but overall I think the chosen tracks serve their purpose well and provide a fine representation of what My Dying Bride is about. Although it´s always preferable purchasing the regular studio albums, and the few remix tracks, changes to tracks, and live versions on this compilation don´t change that, "Anti-Diluvian Chronicles" is still what I would label a successful compilation album with great quality material by a unique sounding artist and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

MY DYING BRIDE Meisterwerk II

Boxset / Compilation · 2001 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.17 | 2 ratings
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"Meisterwerk II" is a compilation album by UK doom/death metal act My Dying Bride. The compilation was released through Peaceville Records in June 2001. It´s the second part of a two series compilation. "Meisterwerk I" was released in November 2000.

"Meisterwerk II" features a combination of album tracks, rare demo/single/limited edition bonus track recordings, and the video for "For You" from "Like Gods of the Sun (1996)". Like the case was on "Meisterwerk I", the regular studio version tracks are a bit redundant, and it´s the rare recordings that are of most interest. The versions of "Vast Choirs" and "Catching Feathers" from the "Towards the Sinister (1990)" demo, "Follower" which is a bonus track from the Japanese version of "34.788%...Complete (1998)", "Some Velvet Morning" from the Peaceville Records "X" compilation, and the Portishead cover "Roads" from the Peaceville Records "X" compilation. Those five tracks and maybe the video for "For You", are the attractions here.

I´m sure most listeners can do without the regular studio versions of "Sear Me MCMXCIII", "She Is the Dark", "Two Winters Only", and "Your River", which on their own are quality material, but here work more like redundant filler. Therefore "Meisterwerk II" isn´t the most necessary compilation release, and upon conclusion the end product would have been much more interesting if Peaceville Records had compiled the rare recordings from "Meisterwerk I" and "Meisterwerk II" on one release and left out the regular studio recordings. As "Meisterwerk II" is now a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

MY DYING BRIDE Meisterwerk I

Boxset / Compilation · 2000 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 2.83 | 2 ratings
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"Meisterwerk I" is a compilation album by UK doom/death metal act My Dying Bride. The compilation was released through Peaceville Records in November 2000. It´s the first part of a two series compilation. "Meisterwerk II" followed in June 2001.

"Meisterwerk I" features a combination of album tracks, rare demo/single/limited edition bonus track recordings, and the video for "The Cry of Mankind" from "The Angel and the Dark River (1995)". If you already own the studio albums, tracks like "The Crown of Sympathy", "A Kiss to Remember", "For You", and "Sear Me III", may seem a bit redundant and it´s probably the rare recordings that´ll be of most interest. The versions of "Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium" and "The Grief of Age" from the "Towards the Sinister (1990)" demo, "Grace Unhearing (Portishell Mix)" which was a bonus track on the limited edition of "Like Gods of the Sun (1996)", and "Unreleased Bitterness", which is a rehearsal version of the track "The Bitterness and the Bereavement", originally released on a single, which was limited to 1.150 copies. Those four tracks and maybe the video for "The Cry of Mankind", are the attractions here.

So while there is nothing wrong with the quality of the material, you still have to ask yourself, if you´re willing to purchase this compilation if you already own the studio albums. You´ll be paying for four tracks and a video, and quality wise those four tracks are the weakest of the tracks on "Meisterwerk I". Overall I find "Meisterwerk I" to be a bit of a confusing release and the idea to combine regular studio tracks with rare recordings doesn´t work too well. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

MELVINS A Walk With Love & Death

Album · 2017 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.62 | 3 ratings
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"A Walk With Love & Death" is the 25th full-length studio album by US hard/heavy rock act Melvins. The album was released through Ipecac Recordings in July 2017. It´s the successor to "Basses Loaded" from 2016. While "Basses Loaded" is an album featuring material compiled from various recording sessions during the last decade, "A Walk With Love & Death" features freshly written new material.

"A Walk With Love & Death" is a double album release. The first part of the album is titled "Death" and the second part of the album is titled "Love". The "Death" part of the album (tracks 1-9) are individual tracks in the usual hard/heavy rock style that Melvins have played for now many years, while the "Love" part of the album (tracks 10-23) is the soundtrack to a short film by Jesse Nieminen, titled "A Walk With Love & Death". The album features various guest performances, but the main tracks were recorded by the three-piece lineup of King Buzzo (Guitar, Vocals, Theremin, Modular Synth, Assorted Noise), Dale Crover (Drums, Vocals, Assorted Noise), Steven McDonald (Bass, Vocals, Assorted Noise).

The heavy/hard rock part of the album is pretty standard quality Melvins. Some tracks stand out a bit more than others, but the "Death" part of the album is generally pretty consistent in quality and style. I´d mention tracks like "Euthanasia" and "Christ Hammer" as some of the highlights, but they aren´t major standout tracks. Overall it´s not Melvins as their best, but certainly not at their worst either, and the "Death" part of the album is generally entertaining enough.

The "Love" part of the album is another story. Some soundtrack albums feature "regular" vers/chorus pop/rock material and maybe some atmospheric sound collages/experiments, voice samples, and assorted noises (there are plenty of examples, but I´d mention "More (1969)" and "Obscured by Clouds (1972)" by Pink Floyd to make my point), but Melvins have opted to only include the latter type of material on the "Love" part of the album (with a few exceptions where they break the sound collage style with something which resembles regular songs). It´s probably an aquired taste if this type of music is something a listener can appreciate, but if enjoy atmospheric sound collages, you may be able to enjoy the 14 tracks on this part of the album.

Personally I find the "Love" part of the album completely redundant, and although the "Death" part of the album is good quality heavy/hard rock and "A Walk With Love & Death" features a well sounding organic production and Melvins are as always distinct sounding and very well playing, I have to evaluate "A Walk With Love & Death" as a full product, and in that regard the soundtrack part of the album does drag my rating down. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

BODY COUNT Murder 4 Hire

Album · 2006 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 3.00 | 3 ratings
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"Murder 4 Hire" is the 4th full-length studio album by US heavy/crossover metal act Body Count. The album was released through Escapi Music in August 2006. Body Count took a longer hiatus after the release of "Violent Demise: The Last Days (1997)" and there have been quite a few lineup changes in the 9 years between the two albums. Beatmaster V, who died of leukemia shortly after recording "Violent Demise: The Last Days (1997)", has been replaced by new drummer O.T. and Vincent Price has taken over the bass duties from Griz. Rhythm guitarist D-Roc the Executioner died from lymphoma cancer in 2004, which stalled the recording of the album some until the band recruited Bendrix as their new rhythm guitarist.

9 years between albums and lineup changes doesn´t change the fact that the music on "Murder 4 Hire" sounds unmistakably like Body Count. With a charismatic singer like Ice-T behind the microphone it´s really not that strange, and the band´s usual combination of rap, hardcore/punk, heavy metal, crossover thrash, and rhythm´n´blues is also in place.

Despite a few decent tracks (the chorus to "The End Game" is for example really great), the material unfortunately feels a bit uninspired. Something the band themselves have also mentioned in inverviews over the years. But it´s not only the tracks which generally aren´t that memorable, it´s also the delivery, and the sound production which aren´t up to par with the band´s usual standards. First of all new drummer O.T. doesn´t do a very good job at replacing Beatmaster V. He has a drumming style, which sometimes makes me wonder if it´s actually a machine playing. Secondly the normally well playing Ernie C is a shadow of himself. There are not many interesting guitar solos featured on the album, and the riffs are pretty generic and lifeless sounding too.

Combine that with a weak sounding production, where only the vocals stand out in the mix (the instrumental part of the music is way too low in the mix), and you more or less have a recipe for disaster. Not surprisingly "Murder 4 Hire" is a self-produced effort with Ernie C and Ice-T acting as producers. In my experience it´s very seldom a good idea to self-produce your music (with exceptions), and "Murder 4 Hire" is proof of that.

When that is said "Murder 4 Hire" isn´t a total disaster and it´s still obvious we´re dealing with relatively skilled musicians, and the basic song material isn´t completely uninteresting either. It´s just a flawed album which clearly could have been better and the 9 years of waiting for a new Body Count album definitely wasn´t worth it. A 3 star (60%) rating isn´t all wrong.

BODY COUNT Violent Demise: The Last Days

Album · 1997 · Rap Metal
Cover art 3.43 | 3 ratings
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"Violent Demise: The Last Days" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US heavy/crossover metal act Body Count. The album was released through Virgin Records in March 1997. There´s been one lineup change since "Born Dead (1994)", as bassist Mooseman has been replaced by Griz, who also handles loops and samples. "Violent Demise: The Last Days" would be the last Body Count album to feature drummer Beatmaster V, as he died of leukemia shortly after recording the album. The album is dedicated to him.

The music on "Violent Demise: The Last Days" is unmistakably the sound of Body Count. That means a hybrid rock/metal style which includes elements from rap, hardcore/punk, crossover thrash, traditional heavy metal, and blues. Calling this rap metal would be wrong, although several tracks on the album features rap style vocals, but Ice-T predominantly sings/shouts.

The 16 track, 46:09 minutes long album features both "regular" tracks and quite a few shorter intros/interludes. Typically with Ice-T talking about what the next track is about in a humourous fashion. The lyrical themes ranges from tales about gang violence/ghetto issues, social/political commentary, and bragging about sexual adventures ("Strippers" is for example quite explicit). The quality of the material is generally pretty high, and for the most part relatively metallic and aggressive in sound.

"Violent Demise: The Last Days" features a well sounding and powerful Howard Benson production, which suits the music well. The musicianship is also on a high level, and all in all "Violent Demise: The Last Days" is a pretty good quality release by Body Count. Definitely a step up from the rather disjointed "Born Dead (1994)". It doesn´t quite match the excellence of the debut album, but it´s still enjoyable in it´s own right and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

HEIR APPARENT Graceful Inheritance

Album · 1986 · US Power Metal
Cover art 3.67 | 5 ratings
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"Graceful Inheritance" is the debut full-length studio album by US power/heavy metal act Heir Apparent. The album was released through Black Dragon Records in January 1986. Heir Apparent were formed in 1983 and released a 1984 and a 1985 demo tape, before being signed by French independent label Black Dragon Records for the release of "Graceful Inheritance". "Graceful Inheritance" generally received positive reviews at the time of release, but as it took the band three years to release their sophomore studio album "One Small Voice (1989)", their window of opportunity had closed, and they never managed to fully capitalize on their good career start. Heir Apparent split-up in 1990.

It´s too bad, because they hit at just the right time with just the right music style. A type of US power/heavy metal with clear references to artists like Crimson Glory, Fates Warning, and especially Queensrÿche, who were all fairly popular contemporary artists (some more popular than others...). The material on "Graceful Inheritance" is in the melodic end of the US power/heavy metal scale and the tracks are generally quite accessible and hook laden. Hard rocking riffs, melodic lead guitar work, a solid rhythm section, and a high pitched and clear vocal performance by Paul Davidson in front. High level performances on all posts.

"Graceful Inheritance" features a clear and detailed sound production, which suits the material well, although by today´s standards it lacks some bottom end heaviness. While the quality of the material is generally high, Heir Apparent aren´t the most unique sounding act on the scene, and "Graceful Inheritance" therefore doesn´t stand out as much as the best releases fromt the contemporary artists mentioned above. It´s a solid release, featuring high level musicianship, and a professional and well sounding production, but a more distinct sound could have elevated the material to an even higher level. As it is "Graceful Inheritance" is still a quality debut album though and it´s recommendable to fans of the above mentioned artists. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

GAMMACIDE Victims of Science

Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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"Victims of Science" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Arlington, Texas based thrash metal act Gammacide. The album was released through Wild Rags Records in 1989. "Victims of Science" turned out to be the sole album release by Gammacide although they did release a 4 track demo in 1991, which is featured as bonus material on the 2005 CD reissue of "Victims of Science". That demo (which was originally only available to press and record labels) unfortunately didn´t get them a new label deal, and as a result they disbanded in 1992. They reunited shortly in 2004, and recorded two new tracks, which are also included on the 2005 CD reissue. So while the original album release featured 9 tracks, the reissue features 15 tracks.

Gammacide plays a furiously fast-paced and aggressive thrash metal style not completely unlike the sound found on albums like "Reign in Blood (1986)" by Slayer and "Darkness Descends (1986)" by Dark Angel. Fellow Texans in Devastation is another valid reference. So this is basically very raw, aggressive, and occasionally even brutal thrash metal played with great skill and conviction. Lead vocalist Varnam Ponville has a raw and passionate delivery, but it´s also slightly one-dimensional, and if I have to point out a minor issue it would be his voice and type of delivery. The lyrics are your typical social/political/environmental issues themed lyrics, so no surprises there.

The material isn´t especially varied, neither within or between tracks. Fast-paced thrashy rhythms, razor sharp riffs, screaming chromatic solos, and the occasional mid-paced breakdown. Nothing out of the ordinary for this type of music, but it´s the delivery, the razor sharp yet organic sound production, and some of the killer riffs, that sets "Victims of Science" apart from more standard quality releases in the genre. The relentless aggression is mosh inducing, and it´s impossible to sit still while this album is playing. Tracks like "Fossilized" and "Gutter Rats" are simply crushing, and the same can be said about most of the material on the album.

So if you enjoy some of the above mentioned albums/artists, I can highly recommend "Victims of Science". The bonus material on the reissue version makes a purchase of that version of the album more than worth it, as it´s of an equally high quality as the original album material. It´s not everyday you come across a thrash metal release of this high quality, and while the vocals drag my rating down a bit, I still think a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

IPERYT Totalitarian Love Pulse

Album · 2006 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Totalitarian Love Pulse" is the debut full-length studio album by Polish black/industrial metal act Iperyt. The album was released through Agonia Records in November 2006. Iperyt were formed in 2005, and released the "Particular Hatred" EP in August of that year. All members of the band are or have been involved in other acts like Voidhanger, Morowe, Herzer...etc.

The music on "Totalitarian Love Pulse" more or less continues down the same hate filled industrial extreme metal path which was initiated on "Particular Hatred (2005)". Iperyt is often labelled black metal, but their music also features elements from both death metal and grindcore, and reeks dark industrial atmosphere and coldness too. There´s no human drummer on the album, and all drums are therefore programmed and the addition of samples and effects/keyboards further enhance the futuristic industrial nature of the band´s music. The raw and snarling vocals are delivered with caustic aggression and great conviction.

Even for extreme metal this is a very extreme album, which takes absolutely no prisoners. From start to finish the band will assault your ears relentlessly, and even though most of the album is played in a very high, almost manic pace, there are occasionally heavier section included on the album but they are usually only short breathers (and most listeners probably won´t even think of those sections as breathers), before a new blasting attack sets in. This is the kind of album that´ll make your heart gallop in your chest. It´s simply a very stressful listening experience (in a good way) delivered with fierce aggression and great energy.

Tracks like "Abuse You", "Adoration of Social Demise", and "Scorched Earth Creed", are quite brilliant, and even though not all tracks stand out equally, the material on "Totalitarian Love Pulse" are overall of a very high quality. The bleak and haunting atmosphere and the high level musicianship are other great assets to the album. "Totalitarian Love Pulse" is also a very well produced album. The programmed drums are placed perfect in the mix, and they generally sound really great.

Overall "Totalitarian Love Pulse" is a high quality release by Iperyt and it´s proof that the promise which was heard on "Particular Hatred (2005", wasn´t just an empty promise. They´ve successfully followed up on the quality material from the EP, and I think "Totalitarian Love Pulse" is highly recommendable to fans of industrial tinged and highly aggressive extreme metal. A 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

INTRUDER Escape from Pain

EP · 1990 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Escape from Pain" is en EP release by US thrash metal act Intruder. The EP was released through Metal Blade Records in August 1990 and bridges the gap between the band´s 2nd and 3rd full-length studio albums "A Higher Form of Killing (1989)" and "Psycho Savant (1991)". "Escape from Pain" features exactly the same lineup who recorded "A Higher Form of Killing (1989)". Jimmy Hamilton (Vocals), John Pieroni (Drums), Todd Nelson (Bass), Greg Messick (Guitars), and Arthur Vinnett (Guitars).

So it´s no surprise the musicianship is overall on a high level. A decent playing rhythm section, fast rhythmic riffing, blazing solos, and the high pitched vocals by Jimmy Hamilton in front. This is basically classic 80s Bay Area influenced thrash metal with a melodic inclined singer in front. I hear nods towards both early Metallica and Megadeth, as well as to Anthrax. Intruder doesn´t have the most original sound, but they do deliver their music in a relatively convincing manner.

"Escape from Pain" features 5 tracks and a full playing time of 29:25 minutes. "25 or 6 to 4" is a Chicago cover, but the remaining four tracks are originals. The quality of the material is overall decent, but seldom particularly memorable or above standard interesting. The 8:55 minutes long title track also features a song length, which ends up making it a bit of a tedious listen. So the material is generally alright but not really great.

Compared to "A Higher Form of Killing (1989)", the EP features a sound production which can´t match the one on the album. Especially the rhythm guitar features a flat and weak sound. Again it´s not a catastrophy, but it doesn´t really help on an already lurk warm impression of the EP. So upon conclusion this is a slight step down from "A Higher Form of Killing (1989)" and a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

NEUROSIS Enemy Of The Sun

Album · 1993 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.52 | 9 ratings
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"Enemy Of The Sun" is the 4th full-length studio album by US, California based sludge/Post-metal act Neurosis. The album was released through Alternative Tentacles in August 1993. It´s the successor to "Souls at Zero" from 1992. "Souls at Zero (1992)" was the album where Neurosis changed their original hardcore sound towards an atmospheric, heavy and doomy (although still hardcore influenced) music style.

That development in sound is further continued on "Enemy Of The Sun", and Neurosis also continue to add new elements and refine their sound. "Enemy Of The Sun" is a cold, harsh, and angry album. It´s drenched in a bleak and melancholic atmosphere. The ingredients of the band´s sound are a heavy yet rhythmically adventurous rhythm section, heavy doomy riffs, feedback and noise, raw shouting aggressive hardcore type vocals (and a few cleaner sung vocals), and atmosphere enhancing use of keyboards and electronics/samples. It´s completely uncompromising, original, and because of the unconventional nature of the riffs, the rhythms, and the atmosphere, probably a bit of an aquired taste (even for fans of heavy music).

It´s sonically challenging music, which most listeners probably won´t find immediately accessible, but the material are not without catchy moments. They just seldom appear in the form of a sing-along chorus, a melody part you can hum along to, or a harmony guitar part that you remember long after the album is over. In that respect the material on "Enemy Of The Sun" are a difficult listen. It´s gritty, menacing and ugly, and generally demand the listener´s full attention. It´s progressive music which hasn´t lost it´s aggressive hardcore authenticity.

"Enemy Of The Sun" opens with two stand-alone tracks in "Lost" and "Raze the Stray", while "Burning Flesh In Year of Pig", "Cold Ascending" and "Lexicon" seque into each other and appear like one long track. The title track and "The Time of the Beasts" follow (the latter is a crushingly heavy track featuring a section which sounds like a funeral march with violin and trumpet) and the album closes with the 26:34 minutes long "Cleanse". "Cleanse" (which is not featured on the vinyl version of the album) is a long hypnotic song featuring tribal percussion, shouting and yelling and samples. The last 8 minutes are a pretty harsh listen as it is a sampled shout repeated over an over again. It´s pretty surely the kind of track, which is an aquired taste. The same can be said about "Lexicon", which is an extremely noisy track. It sits on the verge of being avant garde.

"Enemy Of The Sun" features a suitingly harsh and raw sound production, which further helps the material shine. So upon conclusion it´s a high quality release by Neurosis. While "Souls at Zero (1992)" felt at lot like a transitional album (and in that case, that´s not a bad thing), "Enemy Of The Sun" is an album featuring an almost fully developed new sound. I write almost, because the band would further develop and refine this particular sound on the next two releases, before making another change in musical style. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

RUSH All the World's a Stage

Live album · 1976 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.91 | 28 ratings
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"All the World's a Stage" is a live album release by Canadian progressive rock act Rush. The album was released through Mercury Records in the US/Europe and through Anthem Records in their native country in September 1976. The original version of the album was a double vinyl release featuring a gatefold sleeve. It´s the first live album release by the band, and according to the liner notes it closes the first chapter of the band´s history.

Rush got their breakthrough earlier in 1976 with the release of their fourth full-length studio album "2112" and the material on "All the World's a Stage" were recorded at Massey Hall in Toronto on June 11, 12, and 13 during their tour supporting the album. "All the World's a Stage" naturally features some tracks from "2112" (including about 16 minutes of the normally 20 minutes long title track), but the band´s first three albums "Rush (1974)", "Fly by Night (1975)", and "Caress of Steel (1975)", are also represented by at least one track each.

Rush have always been an exceptionally well playing band, and that´s true for their live performances too, which "All the World's a Stage" perfectly documents. The album also features a powerful, raw, and organic sounding production, which suits the material well, so "All the World's a Stage" is a fine presentation of a 1976 Rush show (including a drum solo from Neal Peart). The tracklist is well picked, the sound production is relatively well sounding, and the performances are strong from all three members of the band. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

DANZIG Black Laden Crown

Album · 2017 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Black Laden Crown" is the 11th full-length studio album by US heavy rock act Danzig. The album was released through AFM Records/Nuclear Blast Records in May 2017. "Black Laden Crown" is the first Danzig featuring new original material since "Deth Red Sabaoth" from 2010. The two albums are however bridged by the covers album "Skeletons" from 2015. The material on the 9 track, 43:11 minutes long album were recorded over the course of 3 years, with the initial recording sessions starting in February 2014.

Vocals, rhythm guitars, some bass parts, and some drums were performed by Glenn Danzig, while lead guitars and the remaining bass parts were handled by Tommy Victor. In addition to the drum parts that Glenn Danzig performs, no less than four other drummers were involved in the recording of the album: Joey Castillo, Johnny Kelly, Karl Rockfist, and Dirk Verbeuren.

Stylistically most tracks on the album can be described as a heavy and dark type of doomy rock. Most are slow and atmospheric tracks, but "Eyes Ripping Fire" and "Devil On Hwy 9" are slightly more hard rocking with a heavy bluesy edge. Not completely unlike the musical direction on the early albums by the band. It´s obvious though that a lot of water has run under the bridge, and in the intermediate years Danzig changed their sound and added industrial elements and generally had less focus on the bluesy heavy rock side of their music. On the last couple of albums the latter style has crept back into the band´s sound though, and "Black Laden Crown" is a combination of the various elements the band have picked up over the years. The material are generally well written and fairly memorable, although a bit more variation could have made the album more interesting.

The musicianship is solid, although there´s little here which requires great (technical) skill to play. Glenn Danzig was born in 1955 and is not a young man anymore, and while he still has a powerful and distinct sounding voice, said voice has changed a bit and has become a bit more hoarse on his older days. "Black Laden Crown" features a sound production which unfortunately takes away some of the power of the music. The instrumental part of the music is often a bit low in the mix, while the vocals are placed unnaturally high. The latter are also produced with an effect, which makes them sound a bit like they were recorded in an empty bathroom, and that´s not particularly pleasant to listen to.

Despite some elements of the album not quite reaching the expectations, it is nice that the tracks generally work well and "Black Laden Crown" is overall a decent quality release. It would be fair if some listeners had their doubts regarding the project after the minor catastrophy of "Skeletons (2015)", but thankfully Danzig make a decent return to form on "Black Laden Crown". The album doesn´t exactly reach the heights of the band´s iconic late 80s/early 90s releases, but less will do and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

NECROPHAGIA Season of the Dead

Album · 1987 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.77 | 3 ratings
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"Season of the Dead" is the debut full-length studio album by US death metal act Necrophagia. The album was released through New Renaissance Records in February 1987, making it one of the earliest examples of a death metal album released through a label. Hell, it was even released a couple of months before "Scream Bloody Gore" by Death. Necrophagia had however been active in the US extreme metal underground and tape trading scene since they were founded in 1983, and had released several demos before releasing this debut album. A band history which should probably earn them the title as one of the originators of the death metal style along side acts like Death/Mantas, Massacre, Executioner (later Obituary), Morbid Angel, Death Strike, Possessed, and Deceased (just to mention a few of the heavily influential bands from the early years of death metal).

As the case is with many of the earliest death metal releases, the line between being a particularly raw sounding thrash metal release, and being a more brutal death metal ditto, is a bit blurry regarding "Season of the Dead". Personally I think I lean more towards calling it the former. The vocals are raw, but not really growling. They are actually quite odd sounding, as it sounds like Killjoy is talking/whispering the vocals while snarling. He sounds a bit out of breath, and the vocals ultimately aren´t that powerful. The riffs are basically raw and primitive sounding thrash metal riffs, and the same can be said about the drumming style. The whole thing is pretty lo-fi produced, murky, and dark sounding, which probably adds to the general view that "Season of the Dead" is a death metal album.

If the cover artwork featuring feasting zombies didn´t give it away, song titles like "Insane for Blood", "Bleeding Torment", and "Mental Decay" probably do. Yes... the lyrical content and the general image of the band is gore/horror themed.

If you like your thrash/death metal as raw and straight forward as possible you´ll probably greatly enjoy "Season of the Dead" and viewed upon a bit more objectively, it is in fact a decent early thrash oriented death metal release, but it´s neither the most originals sounding, nor the most interesting release from those days, and other than being incredibly influential regarding the development of the death metal genre, there are quite a few albums with a similar history, that I´d recommend before this one. The skill of the performers, the murky sound production, and the very standard quality songwriting aren´t enough to warrant more than a 3 star (60%) rating.

ILLDISPOSED There's Something Rotten... in the State of Denmark

Album · 1997 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"There's Something Rotten... in the State of Denmark" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Danish death metal act Illdisposed. The album was released through Serious Entertainment in 1997. The album title is taken from Shakespeare's "Hamlet", where the Character "Marcellus" says: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark". Since the release of "Submit (1995)" there has been one lineup change as lead guitarist Morten Gilsted has been replaced by Tore Mogensen.

Shakespeare influenced album title or not there´s not much sophisticated Shakespeare theater about Illdisposed or the music on this album. This is pretty much a continuation of the groove oriented death metal style of "Submit (1995)", just featuring a few more melodeath elements. New guitarist Tore Mogensen also makes sure to put his mark on the music with some very well played and melodic guitar solos. So there´s a good balance between brutal and groove oriented death metal riffing, melodic solos, and melodeath harmonies. There´s a nod or two towards death´n´roll too on the album, which provides the album with even more groove. Lead vocalist Bo Summer delivers a good performance too, with both deep growling vocals and higher pitched aggressive ditto. The album even features a clean vocal section. The atmosphere of the album is mostly dark and aggressive, although the melodic content provide it with a bit of light and positivity. Illdisposed never took themselves too seriously though, and of course they close the album with a "fun" track like "Horsens Highway". If I didn´t know better I would have guessed it was a Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention avant garde rock track from the late 60s.

The material on the 11 track, 39:01 minutes long album are pretty consistent in quality, with only a few lows but also featuring few above standard highs. Illdisposed´s greatest asset is their brutal grooves (and on this release the melodic guitar solos), and they are best when they focus on those and weakest when they focus on more generic sounding melodeath oriented sections. "There's Something Rotten... in the State of Denmark" is relatively well produced featuring a raw and powerful sound production which suits the music well, and upon conclusion it´s one of the better albums in the band´s discography and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

CANNIBAL CORPSE Red Before Black

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.82 | 6 ratings
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"Red Before Black" is the 14th full-length studio album by US death metal act Cannibal Corpse. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in November 2017. It´s the successor to "A Skeletal Domain" from 2014 and features the exact same lineup who recorded the predecessor. Cannibal Corpse are by now an institution on the death metal scene, and one of the most commercially successful artists on the scene too, but when you reach your 14th full-length studio album, it´s always interesting to hear if a band as seasoned as Cannibal Corpse can keep up the pace. There´s also a question of not stagnating artistically, and most artists would probably struggle with that at this point in their career...

...but that´s not really the case with Cannibal Corpse. Sure the quality of the songwriting has been a slightly (only slightly) up and down on their now many studio albums, but there has always been a certain standard that they have never sunk below. You can always count on excellent musicianship, a professional sound production, and consistent material, and nothing has changed in those departments on "Red Before Black".

Stylistically we´re treated to the brutal death metal sound, that is unmistakably the sound of Cannibal Corpse. George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher´s brutal growling vocals and occasional higher pitched scream, technically intriguing and powerful guitar riffs, the occasional screaming guitar solo, and the ever solid and hard hitting rhythm duo of bassist Alex Webster and drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz. The gory lyrics (and another signature Vince Locke cover artwork) are also in place.

"Only One Will Die" opens the album in great style and establishes right away, that we can expect to be bludgeoned as always. From then on it´s one solid death metal track after another. Some faster, some heavier, but always of a good quality and in a few cases memorable. They could overall easily have been more hook laden though, and thereby also memorable longer after the album has ended, because that´s not exactly the case, and it´s not an album you remember many songs from. It´s not a major issue considering the brutality level and the fact that a one-dimensional songwriting style isn´t anything out of the ordinary on other contemporary releases in a similar style. At least Cannibal Corpse have a signature sound, and they deserve praise for that.

"Red Before Black" was produced by Erik Rutan, who has previously produced several of the band´s albums, and he has created a powerful, raw, and detailed sound production, which suits the material well. So upon conclusion "Red Before Black" is another quality death metal release by Cannibal Corpse. It´s not one of their most standout releases, but it´s consistent in quality and style and an overall solid release. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

IHSAHN angL

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.14 | 20 ratings
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"angL" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Norwegian progressive/extreme metal act Ihsahn and is the successor to "The Adversary (2006)". The album was released through Mnemosyne Productions in May 2008. After Emperor originally disbanded in 2001, Ihsahn (real name Vegard Sverre Tveitan) first collaborated with his wife Ihriel (Real name Heidi Solberg Tveitan) on the avant-garde metal act Peccatum, but in 2006 he opted for a solo career, and thus Ihsahn was born. As the case was on "The Adversary (2006)", Ihsahn handles all guitars and keyboards, and most of the singing on "angL". Asgeir Mickelson (Borknagar, Spiral Architect...among others) again handles the drums, and bass and fretless bass are played by Lars K. Norberg (Spiral Architect). Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth makes a lead vocal guest appearance on "Unhealer".

The music on the album continues down the progressive/extreme metal path of "The Adversary (2006)", just better produced, better written, and better performed. Stylistically Ihsahn is still in the same genre as Opeth, and "Unhealer" could almost have been a track by Opeth if I didn´t know better. Ihsahn is not a clone act though and Tveitan still manages to create an original sounding style (despite the obvious references to Opeth). The balance between light and dark, acoustic/distorted guitars, clean/raw snarling vocals, and atmospheric and heavy moods, is something Tveitan masters to perfection. His past in Emperor is not heard often in the music, but the way he uses the swirling neo-classical oriented keyboards, and the occasional blast beat section do lead my thoughts in that direction.

The material on the 9 track (10 tracks on the Japanese edition), 47:22 minutes long album is of a very high quality throughout. Every track is intriguing and memorable, and the quality of the material only drops very few times during the listening experience. Highlights could be "Scarab", "Emancipation", "Unhealer", and "Monolith", but it´s a consistently high quality album which deserves to be listened to from beginning to end.

As mentioned above "angL" is also a very well produced album, performed by very skilled musicians. It´s hard not to praise the inventive drumming by Asgeir Mickelson, but everything on the album is skillfully played. For instance check out the many well played guitar solos and harmony themes. To my ears Tveitan is a bit of a compositional genius too (his classical/symphonic arrangements are also quite clever) and taking all features into consideration "angL" comes of as quite the brilliant release and a 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

DAWN Promotional Demo 1993

Demo · 1993 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Promotional Demo 1993" is the 3rd demo release by Swedish death/black metal act Dawn. The demo was independently released in 1993. The three tracks from the demo are also featured on "The Eternal Forest - Demo Years 91-93" compilation album. Dawn were formed in 1990 and originally played death metal, but later shifted towards a more melodic oriented black metal style.

The music on "Promotional Demo 1993" is still old school Swedish death metal, but something has changed since the release of the "Apparition" demo in December 1992. A blackened touch has crept into the music, and while it´s only an element of the instrumental part of the music, the vocals by Henke Forss are now a blackened aggressive snarl, instead of the deep and largely unintelligible growling vocals featured on the first two demos. The difference is best heard on "In the Depths of My Soul" which is a track that was originally featured on "Apparition" but is included here in a re-recorded version.

The sound production is clear, and semi-professsional, and is actually pretty similar to the sound production on "Apparition". While the production is detailed enough, it´s not the most charming or suiting production for music like this. Especially the drums feature a cold clicky sound, which could have prospered from a more organic tone. When that is said the general quality of the material and the memorability of the tracks are better here than on "Apparition", the new vocal approach is also much more interesting and effectful than the monotone growling vocals on the early demos. Therefore "Promotional Demo 1993" is a good representation of the new more blackened death metal direction Dawn were heading in. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved.

DAWN Apparition

Demo · 1992 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Apparition" is the 2nd demo release by Swedish death/black metal act Dawn. The demo was independently released in December 1992. The four tracks from the demo are also featured on "The Eternal Forest - Demo Years 91-93" compilation album. Dawn was formed in 1990 and originally played death metal, but later shifted towards a more melodic oriented black metal style.

The music on "Apparition" is a continuation of the old school Swedish death metal style of "Demo 1" from March 1992, but presented in a more clear and detailed semi-professional sound production. Dawn play a brutal and often blast beat loaded form of old school Swedish death metal, so in that respect they are a bit different from classic Swedish acts like Entombed and Dismember.

"Apparition" features 4 tracks and a full playing time of 20:14, and as a listener you get a much better idea of what Dawn were about at this point in time, than you did on the very short "Demo 1". "Apparition" actually features a re-recorded version of "Thirst of the Dead" from "Demo 1", which is presented here in a rather different sounding version.

So as a demo release "Apparition" successfully presents the listener and labels with the sound of Dawn. The material is a bit one-dimensional though and it´s not the most memorable death metal style that Dawn play either, and add to that the fact that the more clear sounding production actually doesn´t suit the brutal music as well as the murky and lo-fi ditto did on "Demo 1", and "Apparition" ultimately doesn´t come off as the most interesting Swedish death metal demo from that time. Still a 3 star (60%) rating is deserved.

DEICIDE Once Upon the Cross

Album · 1995 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.07 | 14 ratings
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"Once Upon the Cross" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, Florida based death metal act Deicide. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in April 1995. Deicide is one of the originators of the Florida death metal scene and enjoyed great success with their first two albums "Deicide (1990)" and "Legion (1992)", which are both widely considered classic death metal releases from the heyday of the death metal scene. By 1995 things had already changed a lot though and death metal as a music scene was popularity wise in decline. A lot of death metal acts lost their recording contracts or disbanded around this time, but Deicide stayed true to their style and soldiered on.

Which is why it should come as no surprise that the music on "Once Upon the Cross" pretty much continues the brutal old school US death metal style of it´s two predecessors. The anti-Christian/blasphemous lyrics are in place, which is abundantly clear when reading song titles like "Christ Denied", "When Satan Rules His World", and "Kill the Christian", the skillfull execution of the music is also present and accounted for, and the powerful Morrissound production by Scott Burns is also there, so as mentioned there are no surprises on "Once Upon the Cross".

So it can be argued that Deicide haven´t developed much and that "Once Upon the Cross" isn´t their most necessary release, but while there is some truth to that, the 9 track, 28:11 minutes long album is overall of such high quality that all is more or less forgiven. There are tons of artists out there who make the same album over and over again, and some artists can get away with it either for a while, or for the duration of their career, and on "Once Upon the Cross", Deicide still fell under the first catagory (it´s up for discussion if they fall under the latter today). They don´t necessarily sound as fresh or innovative as they did on their first two releases, but they still deliver their music with fierce conviction and a burning brutal passion.

Deicide is very well playing and perform both really fast parts and heavier ditto to perfection. Drummer Steve Asheim is technically skilled and changes pace with ease, the Hoffman brothers churn out one fast brutal riff and screaming solo after another, and vocalist/bassist Glen Benton delivers solid bass playing and distinct sounding and mostly intelligible deep growling vocals. His use of higher pitched screams is relatively limited on "Once Upon the Cross".

Upon conclusion "Once Upon the Cross" is a very strong death metal release by one of the most distinct sounding acts in the genre. High level musicianship, a raw and powerful sounding production, and songwriting that may not be as memorable and catchy as on the first two releases, but still is relatively memorable and way above standard for the genre. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

MY DYING BRIDE Unreleased Bitterness

Single · 1993 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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"Unreleased Bitterness" is a one-sided 7" flexi disc single release by UK doom/death metal act My Dying Bride. The single was released through the Unbridled Voyage label in 1993. It´s a pretty rare item as it was only pressed in 1.150 copies. The track is also included on the "Meisterwerk I (2000)" compilation album.

"Unreleased Bitterness" features a rehearsal version of the track "The Bitterness and the Bereavement" recorded on the 27th of April 1991. "The Bitterness and the Bereavement" was later featured on My Dying Bride´s debut full-length studio album "As The Flower Withers (1992)". The rehearsal version on this single is quite raw and features a lo-fi sound quality and therefore "Unreleased Bitterness" is more a fan item that anything, as you can easily live without ever having heard this version of the track unless you´re a die hard fan.

Quality wise there is absolutely nothing wrong with the track, although at this stage it´s a bit underdeveloped. It´s crushingly heavy and drenched in melancholy just as you´d expect from an early My Dying Bride track, but the sound quality is a bit of a show stopper, and overall a 2.5 star (50%) rating isn´t all wrong.

DAWN Demo 1

Demo · 1992 · Death Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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"Demo 1" is the first demo release by Swedish death/black metal act Dawn. The demo was independently released in March 1992. The two tracks from the demo are also featured on "The Eternal Forest - Demo Years 91-93" compilation album. Dawn was formed in 1990 and originally played death metal, but later shifted towards a more melodic oriented black metal style.

The music style on the two tracks on this demo is old school Swedish death metal. It´s in the more brutal and at times rather fast paced end of the old school Swedish death metal territory, but it´s still firmly rooted in that genre. "Dawn of Torture" is a very short track (1:36 minutes long) and is almost over before it´s begun, so it´s mostly on "Thirst of the Dead", where you get an idea of Dawn´s style.

The sound production is murky and pretty lo-fi, but it´s also rather charming and suits the brutal music well. With a full playing time of 6:25 minutes "Demo 1" doesn´t last long enough to give the listener a solid impression of what Dawn has to offer, and it´s not surprising that the band had to record two further demos before being signed to a label. If you view it as an isolated release, it´s still a pretty enjoyable recording though, and I´d say a 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating is warranted.

MOTÖRHEAD Orgasmatron

Album · 1986 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 36 ratings
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"Orgasmatron" is the 7th full-length studio album by UK hard/heavy rock act Motörhead. The album was released through GWR Records August 1986. It´s the follow up to "Another Perfect Day", which was released in June 1983, which at the time, was the longest recording break Motörhead had had. Quite a few lineup changes had occured though, and Lemmy needed time to get the band going again. Guitarist Brian "Robbo" Robertson (Thin Lizzy), who performed on "Another Perfect Day (1983)" was always meant to be a temporary solution, and he is replaced here by Phil Campbell and Würzel, making "Orgasmatron" the first Motörhead album to feature two guitarists. Longstanding Motörhead drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor temporarily left Motörhead during this period and is replaced here by Pete Gill. Taylor would be back behind the kit on "Rock 'n' Roll (1987)".

"Another Perfect Day (1983)" was a bit of an anomaly in Motörhead´s dicography (which doesn´t necessarily mean it´s a bad album), mainly because of Brian Robertson´s guitar style, and it was not a commercial success for the band, so "Orgasmatron" is naturally a bit harder edged and heavy, as if Lemmy wanted to prove a point. It´s details though and the music on the album is still unmistakably the sound of Motörhead just as the case was on "Another Perfect Day (1983)". Tracks like "Deaf Forever" and the title track are however among the most metal oriented and heavy tracks in the band´s discography. At it´s roots the music is still amplified badass blues based rock´n´roll with Lemmy´s distinct sounding raw voice in front. In addition to the two tracks mentioned above, which are some of the highlights on the album, you could pick just about any track off the album and it would be a standout track. In that regard "Orgasmatron" is a very consistent release.

The material on the 9 track, 35:34 minutes long album is generally both well written and catchy, but also relatively varied, which makes "Orgasmatron" one of the stronger Motörhead albums when it comes to memorability. The album is relatively well produced although it features some of the 80s reverb abuse, which was popular at the time, and which makes the production sound slightly dated. It´s still raw and powerful though, which suits the music perfectly.

"Orgasmatron" ended up being a commercial comeback for Motörhead, and the album charted much better than "Another Perfect Day (1983)" did. To my ears the two albums are pretty equal in quality, but "Orgasmatron" is probably the more popular album because it´s harder edged and more raw sounding than it´s predecessor. It´s overall another high quality release by Motörhead deserving a 4 star (80%) rating.

WITCHERY Witchburner

EP · 1999 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.58 | 2 ratings
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"Witchburner" is an EP release by Swedish metal act Witchery. The EP was released through Necropolis Records in March 1999. It bridges the gap between the debut full-length studio album "Restless & Dead (1998)" and the band´s second full-length studio album "Dead, Hot and Ready (1999)". There have been no changes in the lineup since the debut album, so the five-piece of Toxine (Vocals), Mique (Drums), Richard Corpse (lead guitars), Patrik Jensen (rhythm guitars), and Sharlee D'Angelo (Bass, lead guitars), is still intact. Some of the members are rather prolific and are also featured in acts like Mercyful Fate, Arch Enemy, and The Haunted.

"Witchburner" is a 7 track, 25:21 minutes long EP, featuring 4 cover tracks and 3 originals. The covers are "Fast as a Shark" by Accept, "I Wanna Be Somebody" by W.A.S.P., "Riding on the Wind" by Judas Priest, and "Neon Knights" by Black Sabbath. Pretty good material choices considering Witchery´s usual traditional oriented heavy/speed/thrash metal style. Toxine is of course a more extreme type vocalist than the guys who sang on the originals, but he gives it his all, and the raw vocals generally work really well on the covers. I think Toxine´s voice and delivery work the best on "Fast as a Shark" and "I Wanna Be Somebody", because both Udo Dirkschneider (Accept) and Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.) are rather extreme vocalists in their own right, while especially "Neon Knights" doesn´t work as well, because Dio´s vocal style is more melodic, and Toxine isn´t fully able to do Dio´s vocal lines justice with his hoarse croak. The three original tracks are of a good quality and pretty much continue the music style of the debut album.

The musicianship is on a high level, and the material is well produced too, so "Witchburner" is overall a great quality EP release by Witchery. There´s both enough quantity and quality to justify a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

MANITOU Entrance

Album · 1995 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.42 | 2 ratings
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"Entrance" is the debut full-length studio album by Norwegian progressive metal act Manitou. The album was released through Mind The Gap Records in 1995. Manitou was formed under the Powerslaves monicker in 1985 and initially played Iron Maiden covers, but later changed their name to Manitou and started writing original material. Although they originally existed for over a decade, Manitou´s recording output can be counted on one hand and "Entrance" was their only official studio recording on a label before they disbanded. Lead vocalist Øyvind Hægeland would later participate on releases by artists like Spiral Architect, Lunaris, Scariot, and play live with Arcturus.

While Manitou´s traditional heavy metal past isn´t completely gone from the music on "Entrance", they take a more progressive turn on this album. The music isn´t overtly technical (although there are plenty of tempo- and time signature changes featured on the album), and we´re predominantly treated to a more subtle type of progressive playing. Not completely unlike listening to a heavy metal oriented Fates Warning (1988-1990). The musicianship is generally on a very high level, and especially Øyvind Hægeland´s strong voice and vocal performance impress. His delivery here is very convincing (great harmonies too). His voice is reminiscent of Ray Adler´s voice, which further enhances the Fates Warning comparison I made above.

The music is guitar/vocal driven progressive metal with only sparse and subtle use of keyboards, which places "Entrance" in a 1980s progressive metal tradition rather than a 1990s ditto. While the guitars and vocals take a lot of focus, the rhythm section are very strong playing too, and definitely worth a mention. The sound production is clear, detailed, and professional, but as a consequence of the instrumentation, which doesn´t feature many layers, there are times during the playing time, when the mix sounds a bit empty. It´s a minor issue though, and most of the time, the music sounds fine.

The 11 track, 71:49 minutes long album is a quality release through and through, although it´s slightly too long for it´s own good. But then again I can understand the motivation behind releasing as much material as possible, when you´ve waited 10 years to release your debut album. It´s not the most original sounding progressive metal album and considering it was released in 1995, it sounds slightly dated, but to fans of 1980s progressive metal this should be a real treat. a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ENSLAVED E

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.26 | 10 ratings
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"E" is the 14th full-length studio album by Norwegian progressive black metal act Enslaved. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in October 2017. It´s the successor to "In Times" from 2015 and there´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as keyboard player/(clean) vocalist Herbrand Larsen has left Enslaved and has been replaced by Håkon Vinje. It´s actually the first lineup change since "Isa (2004)" so Enslaved have enjoyed quite a few years and album releases with a steady lineup.

Stylistically the material on "E" continue the progressive black metal sound that Enslaved have played and developed upon over now many years and albums, but it particularly has many similarities to RIITIIR (2012) and "In Times (2015)", which is of course only natural, as they are the two direct predecessors to this release. So the progressive elements of the band´s sound are dominant, while their black metal side is more subdued in the soundscape. The change on the clean vocal spot doesn´t make a major impact as Vinje doesn´t have a voice that is much different from Larsen´s ditto (they both have pretty regular non distinct sounding voices and vocal styles), and the vocal melodies haven´t changed much either. Grutle Kjellson predominantly uses his raspy black metal vocal style but occassionaly uses a more death metal type growling vocal style, so the vocal department of the album is fairly diverse.

The instrumental part of the music can be described as varied too. Heavy riffs, mellow atmospheric sections, guitars harmonies, skillfully played guitar solos, a solid rhythm section, which mostly keeps a mid-paced tempo, but occasionally speeds things up, and an omnipresence of keyboards. Predominantly organ and mellotron/string sounds. The material are generally well written and quite intriguing with great dynamic between mellow sections and louder more heavy sections. The album features an epic atmosphere and Enslaved cleverly navigate the listener through both dark and lighter emotions. The album features 6 tracks and a full playing time of 49:45 minutes, but it´s recommedable to seek out the limited edition version which features the two bonus tracks "Djupet" and "What Else Is There?". The latter is a cover of fellow countrymen Röyksopp and it´s interesting to hear how well Enslaved handle what is originally an electronic oriented pop song. "Djupet" is a great quality track too.

The musicianship is as always on a high level and Enslaved have clearly reached a point in their career where they are very confident in their performances. "E" features a clearly defined and powerful sounding production. Where the two predecessors featured relatively similar sounding production jobs, "E" features a more "dry" and clear sounding production. It´s a well sounding album but a slightly more organic sounding production would probably have suited the material a little better.

Upon conclusion "E" is another high quality release by Enslaved, which as such isn´t surprising given the many, many high quality releases in the band´s discography, but to my ears it´s a slight step down from the last couple of releases. Probably mostly because I don´t hear much development (the saxophone on "Hiindsiight" is a nice progressive element though) or that many standout tracks on the album (I´d mention the two tracks "Storm Son" and "Hiindsiight", which bookend the album, as some of the highlights), but on the other hand it´s a consistent album both when it comes to quality and style. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

MANIAC KILLER Amusing Anecdotes for the Depraved

Album · 2004 · Grindcore
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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"Amusing Anecdotes for the Depraved" is the debut full-length studio album by grindcore act Maniac Killer. The album was released through No Escape Records in 2004. Maniac Killer is a one-man project featuring Maniac Killer ("Maniac Neil" Smith) on vocals, guitar, bass, and drum programming. Smith is also known for his involvement in acts like Whore, Frightmare, Lord Gore, and especially Blood Freak.

If you´re familiar with any of the acts mentioned above, it´s probably not that surprising that the music on the 43 track, 37:16 minutes long album is goregrind with programmed drums. Well...the above artists use real drummers, so in that respect Maniac Killer is a bit of a different journey for Smith. The lyrical themes which revolves around B-Horror movies, splatter and gore are as present as ever though, which is fully on display when reading song titles like "The God of Cum Filled Open Wounds", "Masturbating in the Blood Dripping From the Dangling Freshly Butchered Corpse of a 2 Year Old Child", and "Cum and See the Amazing Deformed Dildo Psycho Cunt Mangler". And that´s just 3 out of 43 very imaginative song titles on "Amusing Anecdotes for the Depraved". It´s kinda cheesy and therefore it´s a bit hard to get really offended by, even though some of the song titles and lyrics are obviously very vile. But the whole sick humour mixed with blood´n´gore is something of a speciality for Smith.

The actual music on the album is a lo-fi produced (recorded at two different sessions, which feature different sounding productions) and at times very noisy type of goregrind, featuring completely unintelligible growling, gurgling, and screaming vocals. The material is very one-dimensional (all tracks are around 1 minute long or shorter), and you probably wouldn´t be able to tell when one track stops and another starts if it wasn´t for the many intro/outro horror movie samples, which all work to great effect. In fact I´d call them the highlight of the album, because the music sure isn´t that interesting and doesn´t exactly leave a lasting impression either. While you don´t always notice that the drums are programmed, there are moments when it´s obvious and the artifical sound of the drums on those sections make an odd contrast to the otherwise noisy and organic soundscape.

I generally perceive Neil Smith as one of those great unsung underground musicians, that few know or will ever know about, and some of his output is really great within it´s genre (I can highly recommend his Blood Freak project). Unfortunately the same can´t be said about "Amusing Anecdotes for the Depraved", which to my ears is a bit of a missfire. The signature sick humour, the blood´n´gore lyrical themes and imagery, and the well placed horror movie samples, are all there and accounted for, but the actual music doesn´t live up to Smith´s usual standards and a 2 star (40%) rating is therefore warranted.

MAD SEASON Above

Album · 1995 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 3.43 | 3 ratings
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"Above" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Seattle, Washington based rock/hard rock act Mad Season. The album was released through Columbia Records in March 1995. Mad Season was formed by guitarist Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) and bassist John Baker Saunders, when the two met at a Minneapolis drug rehabilitation center in 1994. When the treatment was completed they returned to Seattle and formed The Gacy Bunch, with vocalist Layne Staley (Alice in Chains) and drummer Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees), which soon changed name to Mad Season. The group was rather short lived as a combination of Layne Staley´s serious drug issues and conflicting schedules made them disband in 1996. John Baker Saunders had a relapse with heroin and died of a drug overdose in January 1999 and Layne Staley died in April 2002. Also as a result of a drug overdose.

So Mad Season was definitely an act with their fair share of drug experiences, and it rubs off on the music which is a type of laid back psychadelic tinged rock/hard rock. It´s often so stoned and laid back that you can almost picture these guys playing in a heroin haze. Which of course isn´t true since it was only Layne Staley who had those issues while recording "Above". They occasionally play some more punchy hard rocking parts, but the album is predominantly more mellow and laid back. The use of instruments like cello, marimba, and vibraphone, in addition to the regular rock instrumentation of guitars, bass, and drums, further enhances the soft and mellow sound of the music. Mad Season have also opted to include saxophone on "Long Gone Day", which is a real treat, and fits in perfectly with the song´s atmosphere.

The 10 track, 55:36 minutes long album is an organic listen, featuring a pleasant sound production and blues and roots rock influences. The material is relatively well written, but not necessarily that catchy upon first listen. "Above" is definitely a grower, but it never really grows beyond being a good listen. For that there are too many sections where not enough happens, and you as a listener are left listening to a couple of guys who obviously enjoyed playing together, but don´t always manage to channel that joy of playing to their audience. That´s probably a harsh choice of words, but although a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved, I still feel the need to voice my opinion on some of the issues concerning "Above" and not just the good things.

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