Metal Music Reviews from UMUR

TESTAMENT Practice What You Preach

Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.81 | 43 ratings
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"Practice What You Preach" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, California based thrash metal act Testament. The album was released through Atlantic/Megaforce Records in August 1989. The band enjoyed great success with their first two albums, and they were on a roll at this point in their career, which they took full advantage of by releasing their third album in little over two years.

"Practice What You Preach" is what I´d call a natural progression from the first two albums. Stylistically it´s slightly less raw sounding, a little more melodic, features a cleaner sounding production, and overall just sounds a bit more professional. The music style is still thrash metal with the distinct sound that Testament were known for in those days, but they´ve incorporated a few more traditional heavy metal elements here than they did on the two predecessors. The opening title track is one of the highlights, but the material is generally well written, although not as immediately catchy as much of the material on the two predecessors. The quality does drop a bit the longer you get into the album though, and to my ears the first five tracks (Side 1 of the vinyl version) are the strongest. After that the songwriting becomes a bit more patchy.

The cleaner sound production (and especially the clicky kick drums) has the effect that the music sometimes lacks a bit of punch and rawness though. It´s almost as if the cleaner and more professional sounding production isn´t doing the music any favors.

The lineup is still the same as the lineup who recorded the two predecessors, and therefore we are treated to the same highly skilled lead guitar playing by Alex Skolnick, the powerful and distinct sounding vocals by Chuck Billy (a little more melodic oriented this time around), but unfortunately also the clumsy and one-dimensional drumming by Louie Clemente. So no surprises there. Overall "Practice What You Preach" is another quality thrash metal release by Testament, but to my ears it´s a slight step down in songwriting quality from the two more immediate and raw sounding predecessors. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

NECROVATION Breed Deadness Blood

Album · 2008 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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"Breed Deadness Blood" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Necrovation. The album was released through Blood Harvest Records in February 2008. Necrovation were formed in 2003 and released several minor releases before being signed to Blood Harvest Records for the release of "Breed Deadness Blood".

Stylistically the music on "Breed Deadness Blood" is old school Swedish death metal, but with a twist. The twist is that there are quite a few more tempo changes in the band´s music than what you´ll normally hear when listening to an old school Swedish death metal release. It doesn´t sound forced or anything like that though, as the band very naturally shift pace and make the new sections part of the track they are playing. The many tempo changes are actually a great strength as they provide the otherwise somewhat generic music with variation, which ensures the attention of the listener. I think I hear something a bit more sinister and dark about the band´s music compared to some of the bigger Swedish acts from the early 90s, and because of that I´m often reminded of Norwegian artists like early Darkthrone and early Cadaver.

The musicianship is on a high level on all posts, and the relatively intelligible growling vocals are well performed too. Another great asset on "Breed Deadness Blood" is the raw, yet detailed, and very powerful sound production. It´s so retro sounding you´ll find yourself thinking that this is 1991.

So is this a bit deriative? Well...yes it is somewhat retrospective in sound and style, but it´s so damn well performed and produced that it´s hard not to get carried away if you enjoy this type of music. If I have to mention a minor issue it would be that the material on the 9 track, 37:43 minutes long album is slightly one-dimensional and that it´s sometimes hard to tell the tracks apart. Of course repeated listens help, but it doesn´t change the fact that a few more catchy hooks would have made the album a bit more interesting. So I´m a bit biased here as I think Necrovation delivers old school Swedish death metal like it´s supposed to be delivered, but then again they add very little original or unique sounding to the genre, and that is a slight issue (along with the rather one-dimensional songwriting). So I think it speaks volumes of the quality of the album when I still think a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved, even though it´s certainly not a flawless release.

THE GROTESQUERY The Lupine Anathema

Album · 2018 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"The Lupine Anathema" is the 4th full-length studio album by multi-national death metal act The Grotesquery. The album was released through Xtreem Music in April 2018. It´s the successor to "Curse of the Skinless Bride" from 2015 and features the same lineup who recorded the predecessor. Rogga Johansson (guitars), Johan Berglund (bass), and Brynjar Helgetun (drums), and Kam Lee (vocals). The latter is known for his involvement in several acts, but probably mostly for being the lead vocalist in the legendary US death metal act Massacre. The other three are quite prolific on the Swedish death metal scene. Especially Rogga Johansson who are involved in multible acts like Down Among the Dead Men, Ribspreader, Paganizer, Putrevore, and Johansson & Speckmann, just to mention a few of his projects.

Just like the case has been on the three preceding album releases by The Grotesquery, "The Lupine Anathema" is a horror-themed concept death metal album, this time featuring a werewolf horror story, which song titles like "Under the Curse of the Full Moon", "Advent of the Werewolves", and "Dark Cry of the Wolf" are also a testimony to. The Grotesquery are a well playing band and Kam Lee is a strong growling vocalist, but that´s not a surprise if you´re familiar with the preceding releases by the band. The music is generally pretty basic old school Swedish oriented death metal and compared to the predecessors very little has actually changed. It´s high quality death metal songwriting, but nothing revolutionizing, although the concept story of course provides something a little more special than usual for the genre.

"The Lupine Anathema" features a powerful, raw, and detailed sound production, which suits the material well, so upon conclusion it´s another strong release by The Grotesquery. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

MOTÖRHEAD Rock 'n' Roll

Album · 1987 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.82 | 21 ratings
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"Rock 'n' Roll" is the 8th full-length studio album by UK hard/heavy rock act Motörhead. The album was released through GWR Records September 1987. It´s the follow up to "Orgasmatron", which was released in August 1986. Motörhead experienced a commercial comeback with "Orgasmatron" and used the momentum to release "Rock 'n' Roll" only about a year after the release of it´s predecessor. "Rock 'n' Roll" wasn´t as successful in Europe as "Orgasmatron", but it helped gain Motörhead popularity in the USA. There´s been one lineup change since "Orgasmatron (1986)", as Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor is back behind the drumkit replacing Pete Gill.

To my ears the short time between "Orgasmatron (1986)" and "Rock 'n' Roll" is audible and I´d go as far as to call them sibling albums. Both in terms of production values and songwriting style. Stylistically this is Motörhead as we know them. Blues based rock´n´roll with the volume turned up high, and Lemmy Kilmister´s distorted bass and sandpaper voice in front.

"Rock 'n' Roll" features some great tracks, and some more standard quality ones too. That´s pretty much business as usual for Motörhead though, who have seldom produced albums with only "hits". Highlights on "Rock 'n' Roll" include the title track, the catchy "Eat the Rich", "The Wolf", "Dogs", and especially "Stone Deaf in the U.S.A.", which is an absolutely killer track. The short guest appearance by Michael Palin in which he performs a weird Monty Python type monologue is pretty damn amusing too, and a little extra spice to the album.

Upon conclusion "Rock 'n' Roll" is another well played, relatively well produced and well written Motörhead album, but to my ears it´s not among their best. It´s still a good quality release though and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

XENTRIX Shattered Existence

Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.12 | 4 ratings
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"Shattered Existence" is the debut full-length studio album by UK, Preston based thrash metal act Xentrix. The album was released through Roadracer Records in September 1989. Xentrix were formed under the Sweet Vengeance monicker in 1985, but changed their name to Xentrix in 1988. They recorded four albums before disbanding in 1997.

The music on "Shattered Existence" is US influenced thrash metal. While Xentrix don´t sound exactly like them, Metallica is a huge influence. The riffing style, the rhythms, and especially the use of multi-harmony guitar parts, lead the listener´s thoughts in that direction. Chris Astley doesn´t have a very distinct sounding or especially powerful voice, but his delivery still suits the music relatively well. The band are generally very well playing, and it´s obvious we´re dealing with skilled musicians.

The material on the 9 track, 43:25 minutes long album could have been a bit more catchy and memorable, but that´s not a major issue, and "Shattered Existence" is still a great thrash metal release while it plays. The sound production deserves a mention too, as it´s a poweful and meaty production, which suits the music perfectly. It´s probably one of the best sounding thrash metal productions I´ve heard from the 80s.

"Shattered Existence" is upon conclusion a good quality debut album by Xentrix, and at this point, certainly one of the better thrash metal relases to come out of Britain. These guys are tight playing professionals, the album is well produced, and the material reasonable interesting. It´s of course in the latter department, that Xentrix falls a bit short. They simply don´t have enough identity in their songwriting, and their tracks aren´t instantly catchy enough either. As written above it´s not a huge issue, when "Shattered Existence" is as enjoyable as it is when it plays, but it´s not necessarily an album that is memorable in the long run. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved though.

THE QUIET ROOM Reconceive

Album · 2000 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.31 | 4 ratings
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"Reconceive" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Denver, Colorado based progressive metal act The Quiet Room. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in April 2000. The band was founded in 1992 and released two full-length studio albums before they disbanded in 2002. Since the release of "Introspect (1998)" there have been quite a few lineup changes as lead vocalist Chadd Castor has been replaced by Pete Jewell, bassist Josh Luebbers is replaced by Rob Munshower, and drummer Mike Rice is replaced by Graeme Wood. The remaining members from the lineup who recorded the debut are George Glasco (guitars), Jason Boudreau (guitars), and Jeff Janeozko (keyboards). So that´s 50% of the members who have been replaced since the last album.

The lineup changes have resulted in quite a different sound to the rather traditional progressive metal sound of "Introspect (1998)", and it´s especially due to the vocal style of Pete Jewell. The instrumental part of the music is a combination of traditional keyboard laden 90s progressive metal combined with harder edged riffs and rhythms (delivered with relatively complex tempo- and time signature changes). There´s an occassional tribal/alternative vibe about the music (listen to "Choke on Me" for an example of this), but it´s just an element of the overall sound. As mentioned it´s in the vocal department, that "Reconceive" stands out the most though. Jewell is quite the versatile singer and can do both clean and more gruff vocals. He predominantly performs the latter though, which makes "Reconceive" quite a different sounding progressive metal release. He doesn´t growl or do anything too extreme, but he has a raw shouting delivery, which is quite atypical for a progressive metal release.

The musicianship is generally on a high level, and the album is also relatively well produced (the guitar tone could have been more pleasant and the guitars could also have packed a bit more punch), so "Reconceive" is overall a pretty good quality album. I´m not sure the most conservative progressive metal listener will find this in his/her taste, but if you enjoy your progressive metal with a groove laden and alternative element, this might be the thing for you. Personally I find "Reconceive" an interesting yet not perfect release, and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ARMORY The Dawn of Enlightenment

Album · 2007 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.82 | 7 ratings
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"The Dawn of Enlightenment" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Massachussets based power metal act Armory. The album was independently released in December 2007. It´s a complete re-recording of the "The Dawn of Enlightenment" demo from 2004. A demo which was originally released as the band´s debut album, but was "downgraded" to demo status, after this version came out.

Stylistially the music on the album is Euro styled power metal. It´s neo-classical oriented, usually fast-paced, energetic, and uplifting in mood. In other words...classic Euro styled power metal. Armory are skilled composers though and they bring enough compositional variation to the table, to not sound one-dimensional or too generic. The first five tracks on the 10 track, 64:02 minutes long album, provide a good overview of what the band have to offer. The intro track "The Tempest" is an epic atmospheric opening to the album, and in traditional Euro power metal style it is succeeded by a fast-paced and energetic track in "Faith in Steel". "Riding the Cosmic Winds" shows the band playing more mid-tempo (although still relatively fast), while "Forever Triumphant" is a majestic power ballad type track featuring an anthemic chorus with a grand choir. "Heart of Dreams" introduces galloping Iron Maiden type riffs and rhythms. The 13:47 minutes long title track is slightly progressive in style, but the overall style of that track is Euro power metal too.

So the material is relatively varied and it´s delivered by highly skilled musicians. "The Dawn of Enlightenment" also features a very well sounding production, which suits the music perfectly, so upon conclusion it´s a high quality release by Armory. It´s not exactly an original sounding release, but when the music is delivered with as much conviction as here, and when the songwriting and production work are as professional and clever as it is on "The Dawn of Enlightenment", you just can´t deny quality although originality is usually a high ranking rating parameter. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

E-FORCE The Curse...

Album · 2014 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"The Curse..." is the 3rd full-length studio album by French thrash metal act E-Force. The album was released through Mausoleum Records in April 2014. E-Force was formed in 2001 by former Voivod vocalist/bassist Eric Forrest after he left Voivod (he recorded "Negatron (1995)" and "Phobos (1997)" with them). After releasing the E-Force debut full-length studio album "Evil Forces" in 2003, Forrest relocated from Canada to France and assembled a new lineup for the recording of the sophomore album "Modified Poison (2008)". Then a longer recording break followed before E-Force returned with "The Curse...", which could be called a comeback album after a 6 year long recording break.

Stylistically the music on the album more or less continues down the same aggressive and occasionally semi-progressive thrash metal path as "Modified Poison (2008)" tread. It´s still Eric Forrest-era Voivod which is the most obvious musical reference, but E-Force is generally a bit more hard edged and aggressive. "The Curse..." is a concept album concerning the power of women and how far men (and some women) will go to get laid. I´ve read an interview with Forrest where he mentions Tiger Woods as a good example of that.

After a short atmospheric intro ("Invitation") which features a woman moaning in what sounds like sexual ecstacy, the album kicks off with "Perverse Media", and never looks back until it closes with "The Curse Of The Cunt". The album is stylistically very consistent, but unfortunatly also a bit one-dimensional. Every track on the album is of a good quality if you listen to them out of context, but as an album "The Curse..." could have prospered from a bit more variation between tracks. When that is said it´s still a pretty good listening experience. Forrest´s vocals are delivered with the right aggressive snarling attitude, the playing is tight, and the blistering guitar solos add another important dimension to the music.

The album features a powerful, raw, and generally well sounding production, which suits the music well. So upon conclusion "The Curse..." is a relatively great album by E-Force. A bit more variation in the songwriting department and it could have been excellent. As it is a 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved though.

ORIGIN Antithesis

Album · 2008 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 9 ratings
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"Antithesis" is the 4th full-length studio album by US death metal act Origin. The album was released through Relapse Records in April 2008. It´s the successor to "Echoes of Decimation" from 2005 and features a couple of lineup changes since the predecessor. Guitarist Clint Appelhanz has been replaced by Jeremy Turner and drummer James King has been replaced by a John Longstreth. Both replacements returning after not having been part of the band for a couple of years.

The music on the album is predominantly ultra fast and blasting technical death metal. There are some slower and crushingly heavy mid-paced parts on the album too, but they are few (some sections from the 9:32 miutes long title track, which closes the album, could be mentioned). The vocals are deep unintelligible growls and higher pitched aggressive screaming. To my ears especially the growling vocals are a bit monotone and I miss some aggression in that vocal approach so it´s nice when the band decide to put in a few higher pitched screams for variation.

My slight issue with the growling vocals aside "Antithesis" is overall a very impressive album. The riffs are played with clinical precision and technical skill that´s beyond what you´ll usually hear in an already very technical sub genre of death metal. There is no doubt that Origin are one of the fastest playing and most innovative acts when it comes to brutal technical death metal. I´ve mentioned the riffs but the drums are also supernaturally fast played and delivered with precision that´s admirable. The whole thing is a bit cold and clinical but the playing style suits the sci-fi themed lyrics and image of the band.

The sound production (which is otherwise professional and generally well sounding) unfortunately lacks a bit of dynamic and the tracks have a tendency to sound a bit too much the same as a consequence of that. Especially the more "regular" blasting parts on the tracks sound a bit too similar in style. It´s definitely not an easy listening experience, but given enough spins the tracks begin to be easier to tell apart. Variation is not the strength of the album though.

Despite a few issues "Antithesis" is still close to the premier league of brutal techncial death metal albums. So while I still think the band could focus a bit more on variation instead of monotone brutality, the album deserves a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating. When Origin chose to lower the pace or play more rhythmically varied parts they shine and memorable moments even occur in the chaos of ultra fast technical riffing, growling vocals, and blasting drums (tracks like "The Aftermath", "Wrath of Vishnu" and the title track stand out as some of the highlights). I hope the band will develop that part of their sound further on subsequent releases. With a bit more variation in the songwriting department there is no limit to how great this band can become. They certainly have the technical skills and creativity to pull it off.

QUEENSRŸCHE Tribe

Album · 2003 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.12 | 26 ratings
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"Tribe" is the 8th full-length studio album by US heavy metal/hard rock act Queensrÿche. The album was released through Sanctuary Records Group in July 2003, almost 4 years after the release of the predecessor "Q2K (1999)". Since the release of "Q2K (1999)", guitarist Kelly Gray has left, leaving Queensrÿche a four-piece. Although it had been quite a few years between albums, Queensrÿche found themselves short of material before entering the studio to record "Tribe", and therefore opted to contact former Queensrÿche guitarist and composer Chris DeGarmo to hear if he would help contribute material for the album. DeGarmo accepted, but after writing some tracks, co-writing a few others, and playing some guitar parts, he left the sessions. Mike Stone was recruited to complete the recording sessions and ended up being hired permanently.

I´m not sure if it is DeGarmo´s presence or his songwriting contributions, which have done it, but after a couple of lacklustre albums, Queensrÿche have actually produced a pretty good quality heavy metal/hard rock album in "Tribe". Several of the tracks featured on the album are memorable (tracks like "Open", "Blood", and "Desert Dance") and the well sounding production also helps being out the best in the material. There´s a strong conviction behind the performances which is audible too and upon conclusion I´m left with a nice positive impression when the 10 track, 41:41 minutes album is over. Yes it´s not as interesting as the early releases by the band, and this more hard rock infused "mature" sound has a tendency to become a bit tedious, but on "Tribe" I think Queensrÿche have hit a good balance and a generally high quality songwriting level and therefore a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

TESTAMENT The New Order

Album · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.47 | 52 ratings
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"The New Order" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US thrash metal act Testament. The album was released through Atlantic/Megaforce Records in May 1988. "The Legacy (1987)" instantly put Testament on the thrash metal map and riding on that wave of success "The New Order" was recorded and released less than a year after the release of "The Legacy (1987)" (which was released in July 1987). Add to that a lot of touring and the release of the "Live at Eindhoven" EP in October 1987, and you have a very busy band.

It´s not exactly audible on "The New Order" though, which is a well composed, detailed, and generally well played release. Stylistically it´s the natural successor to the debut, featuring more sophisticated compositions, while still maintaining some of the rawness and aggression of it´s predecessor. The 10 track, 39:20 minutes long album is a pretty varied release, showing new sides of Testament that the debut didn´t. It´s especially the very skillfully executed guitar leads and solos by Alex Skolnick, which provide the music with something extra, but quite a few of the basic tracks themselves are also very catchy and feature powerful and memorable thrashy riffs and vocals. Highligths include "Trial by Fire", "Into the Pit", and "Disciples of the Watch", but there´s nothing sub par on the album. Even the Aerosmith cover "Nobody's Fault" is delivered in a convincing manner, that also shows that Chuck Billy is pretty good at performing more melodic oriented vocals.

The sound production is decent, but could definitely have been better sounding. For a 1988 thrash metal production it´s alright though. As mentioned above the musicianship is generally very strong on the album (and in the case of Skolnick it´s absolutely brilliant), but if I have to mention a minor issue it would be the drumming by Louie Clemente. The man has absolutely no groove and his drumming style is often one-dimensional and lacking innovative playing ideas. With a better drummer "The New Order" could have been an absolute beast of an album, but Clemente´s playing style and general lack of groove drag my rating down a bit. I still think "The New Order" is one of Testament´s strongest albums though, and a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

NOCTURNUS Ethereal Tomb

Album · 2000 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.53 | 7 ratings
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"Ethereal Tomb" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US death metal act Nocturnus and the band´s first album since "Thresholds (1992)". The album was released through Season of Mist in February 2000. After the release of "Thresholds (1992)", the band ran into a lot of issues, especially with the lineup, where drummer (and former vocalist) and founding member Mike Browning was ousted, kicking and screaming, after some of the other members had secured the rights to the Nocturnus name behind his back. New drummer on "Ethereal Tomb" is Rick Bizarro. Bassist Chris Anderson has been replaced by Emo Mowery, who has also taken over the vocal duties from Dan Izzo. The three remaining members from the lineup who recorded the predecessor are Mike Davis (Guitars), Sean McNenney (Guitars), and Louis Panzer (Keyboards).

Nocturnus was one of the early Florida based death metal acts, and they made quite a name for themselves with their debut full-length studio album "The Key (1990)", as they included a keyboard player in the lineup. A very rare thing in those days. Other than having a keyboard player in the lineup of a death metal band in the late 80s/early 90s, the fact that Louis Panzer did other things than just play backing keyboards, and was a more integrated part of the band´s sound, made Nocturnus stand out from the crowd.

Stylistically "Ethereal Tomb" pretty much continues the keyboard laden sci-fi themed death metal style of its two predecessors. The music is relatively technical and occasionally enters progressive territories, but it´s still old school death metal at it´s core. New lead vocalist Emo Mowery has a strong and commanding intelligible growling delivery, and the rest of the band are very well playing too. I think the keyboards aren´t as dominant as earlier, and they are often placed low in the mix and used as backing, but maybe they don´t seem that interesting in Nocturnus music anymore because it simply wasn´t a rare thing to feature a keyboard player in a death metal band in the year 2000. Panzer could have pulled a few tricks to keep that part of the music exciting, but unfortunately he has opted for a more restrained role on "Ethereal Tomb". One thing that hasn´t changed since the early releases by the band, are the many well played guitar solos, which really help expand the music beyond standard death metal territory.

The material is as such well written and there are some catchy parts here and there, but overall there are too many tracks which are enjoyable while they play, but forgotten as soon as they are over. So it´s certainly a bit up and down in that department. It´s the kind of album which opens strong with "Orbital Decay", which is one of the few standout tracks on the album, and then after a couple of tracks starts to fade a bit to the background because of a lack of hooks. When that is said "Ethereal Tomb" is not a bad album by any means, and it still features many assets which makes it worth a listen or two, but it doesn´t exactly reach the heights of its two "classic" predecessors and a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

DEFIANCE Void Terra Firma

Album · 1990 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.36 | 3 ratings
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"Void Terra Firma" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Oakland, California based thrash metal act Defiance. The album was released through Roadracer Records in March 1990. Defiance were formed in 1985 and released a couple of demos before releasing their debut full-length studio album "Product of Society (1989)". There´s been one lineup change since the debut as lead vocalist Ken Elkinton has been replaced by Steev Esquivel.

Steev Esquivel makes an instant impact as he is a much more powerful and raw sounding vocalist than Ken Elkinton. At times he reminds me of Chuck Billy from Testament, although Esquivel is generally a bit more one-dimensional in his delivery. Stylistically the music on "Void Terra Firma" isn´t completely unlike the early releases by Testament either (generally a bit more raw and direct though, and not nearly as sophisticated). The band are well playing and you´ll be treated to fast-paced thrashy riffing (Some well played guitar solos too), powerful and relatively varied drumming, and the above mentioned vocals by Steev Esquivel, which suit the music well.

The material is overall well written and relatively catchy, although there´s little here, which is memorable beyond the playing time of the album. Defiance has opted to include a cover of "Killers" by Iron Maiden, and while it´s a welcome breather between their original tracks, it´s not an exceptional cover. It´s just pretty decent like the rest of the material. While the quality of the material is consistent and there aren´t many standout tracks, I´d still mention the opening title track and "Slayground" as some of the more memorable tracks. The latter because of the rhythms played on that track (great drum intro).

While the music is overall relatively effective on "Void Terra Firma" and fans of US, Bay Area thrash metal should find this a decent listen, the sound production is unfortunately a bit thin sounding. And that goes for both the drum and the rhythm guitar sounds. With a more powerful sound production the music would have had a better chance to shine. As it is now a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is fair.

OVERKILL Coverkill

Boxset / Compilation · 1999 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 9 ratings
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"Coverkill" is the 10th full-length studio album by US, New York based thrash metal act Overkill. The album was released through CMC International Records in October 1999. "Coverkill" is a covers album featuring tracks by artists like Motörhead, Sex Pistols, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, and no less than three covers by Black Sabbath. 10 out of 12 tracks were recorded during the same recording sessions at Carriage House Studios, while the remaining two were recorded at other studios.

Covers albums are always a bit hard to review, as they are often a very subjective listening experience and people´s opinions if an artist does a great job or a poor one covering their musical heroes usually vary greatly. Personally I think Overkill does a pretty good job overall on this release, bringing in the right amount of themselves without straying too far from the originals. When you have a singer like Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth fronting your band, it could not be any other way though. "Blitz" has a very distinct sounding voice and delivery, which is one of the primary defining elements of Overkill´s sound, and his performance here also ensures that even though these tracks were written by other artists, you´re never in doubt that it´s Overkill playing. All 12 tracks on the 43:29 minutes long album are worth investigating, but to my ears "Space Truckin'" by Deep Purple and "Tyrant" by Judas Priest are among the highlights.

The sound production is powerful and metallic. Fully in sync with the "regular" Overkill albums which bookend "Coverkill". There´s a slight difference in the way some of the tracks are produced, but the album is generally consistent sounding. The musicianship is also on a high level throughout, and "Coverkill" is overall a pretty good covers album by Overkill. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

M.O.D. Surfin' M.O.D.

EP · 1988 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 3.14 | 3 ratings
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"Surfin' M.O.D." is an EP release by US crossover act M.O.D.. The EP was released through Megaforce Records in 1988 and bridges the gap between the band´s debut full-length studio album "U.S.A. for M.O.D. (1987)" and their second full-length studio album "Gross Misconduct (1989)". Four of the tracks featured on the EP had already been featured on the "Surfin' U.S.A. (1988)" single, but here those four tracks are accompanied by three additional tracks, and a 23:33 minutes long track titled "The Movie", which is a spoken word piece which features the music tracks from the EP in between the spoken parts. So side 1 of the original vinyl version of the EP features "The Movie", and side 2 features the seven music tracks without the spoken word sections.

Although the tracks are generally slightly more goofy and rock´n´roll oriented than the material on the debut album (which at times were also pretty goofy), this pretty much sounds like a natural successor to "U.S.A. for M.O.D. (1987)". The spoken word part of the project provides it with a slightly experimental touch, but this is at it´s core still crossover thrash. The biggest attraction here is probably the cover of "Surfin' U.S.A." by the Beach Boys, but honestly even that track isn´t that great (although not completely without it´s charm). Billy Milano struggles to hit the right notes, which gives the cover a pretty raw and flippant sound, but pretty it ain´t. To my ears the highlight is "Surf´s Up", which is a nice little catchy crossover track.

The band are relatively well playing, and the sound production is also acceptable, so "Surfin' M.O.D." is overall a decent release by M.O.D.. There´s little here which really makes my blood boil, but a 3 star (60%) rating is still deserved.

CROWBAR Obedience Thru Suffering

Album · 1991 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 5 ratings
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"Obedience Thru Suffering" is the debut full-length studio album by US, New Orleans based sludge metal act Crowbar. The album was released through Grind Core International in September 1991. It wasn´t an album that gained them international attention (that would come with the next couple of albums), but it did put them on the map. Crowbar was formed in 1989 under the Slugs monicker, but changed their name to the current one in 1990. They are often refered to as one of the seminal sludge metal acts.

Stylistically the music on "Obedience Thru Suffering" is a combination of crushingly heavy doomy riffs and rhythms, and the aggression of hardcore (especially the vocals point in the direction of the latter style). The material is very basic vers/chorus structured and solely feature basic instrumentation of bass, guitars, drums, and vocals. If the heavy music didn´t convey it, the depressive lyrics dealing with pain, loss, betrayel, and other dark human emotions and actions, make sure that the listening experience is bleak beyond bleak. When Kirk Windstein sings it´s like being dragged into a dark hole of depression and despair. He is a very expressive and passionate vocalist, who is able to convey both aggression and despair through his raw yet still melodic tinged vocals.

The material on the 10 track, 43:00 minutes long album are generally well written and quite consistent in style and quality, and there are few standout tracks but a couple of tracks into the album things start to flow together a bit too much. The tracks simply sound too much the same. It´s not a major issue as there are no bad quality tracks featured on the album, but "Obedience Thru Suffering" surely could have prospered from more variation between tracks.

"Obedience Thru Suffering" features a fairly well sounding and very heavy sound production, which is raw and powerful, and suits the music well. So "Obedience Thru Suffering" is in many ways a very promising and for the time rather original sounding debut release, and while the songwriting could have been more varied, and it´s a slight issue that it isn´t, I still think a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

SOILWORK A Predator's Portrait

Album · 2001 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 3.77 | 9 ratings
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"A Predator´s Portrait" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Swedish melodic death metal act Soilwork. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in February 2001. It´s the successor to "The Chainheart Machine" from 2000 and features the exact same lineup who recorded the predecessor.

The material on "A Predator´s Portrait" are melodic and pretty polished melodic death metal with thrashy riffing. The polished sound is very much due to the omnipresent keyboards, which add a lot of depth and atmosphere to the sound but also take away a little of the savage power of the first two albums. Every possible space in the music is filled with background keyboards and the music is often not given much time to breathe (which is up to the ears that hear if that is a good or a bad feature). So the listener is treated to a wall of sound type of soundscape. The guitars play some relatively fast melodic thrashy riffing and even enters neo-classical territory at times. There are some pretty impressive sections here and there if you take a close listen. Lead vocalist Björn Strid handles both aggressive high pitched snarling vocals and clean vocals too. Strid is a skilled singer and his clean vocal delivery adds lots of melodic memorability to the tracks. "A Predator´s Portrait" is the first Soilwork album where he combine his raw vocals with singing clean vocals (having exclusively performed raw vocals on the first two albums), and although he would develop his clean vocal style on subsequent releases, his performance here is of high quality too.

Highligts to my ears are "Like the Average Stalker", "Neurotica Rampage", "Grand Failure Anthem", and the title track (the rerecording of "Shadowchild" from the Japanese/reissue version of "The Chainheart Machine (2000)" is also worth a mention), but all tracks are almost on an equally high quality level. Some tracks are a bit too formulaic and predictable and a bit more rawness and less polish could also have elevated the album to a higher level, but all in all "A Preditor´s Portrait" is a quality product. The sound production is professional and the performances are high class all around, so upon conclusion "A Predator´s Portrait" is another high quality release by Soilwork and because of the inclusion of clean vocals an important step in the development of the band´s sound. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

FLESHWROUGHT Dementia/Dyslexia

Album · 2010 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Dementia/Dyslexia" is the debut full-length studio album by US technical/progressive death metal act Fleshwrought. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in August 2010. Fleshwrought is a two man act featuring Jonny Davy on vocals and Navene Koperweis on all instruments.

Stylistically the music is a very brutal type of technical death metal with jazz leanings. A bit of an unusual coctail really, but it generally works really well. It´s not often I´ve heard that combination work but these guys control the elements and manage to deliver some really powerful, very well played, and quite well composed music. The vocals vary between deep semi-intelligible growling and higher pitched screaming vocals. When the latter appear I´m often reminded of The Black Dahlia Murder, just played with a higher intensity and on a technical level above what their more famous fellow countrymen usually produce. Which should give you a good indication of the technical level of playing on "Dementia/Dyslexia", because The Black Dahlia Murder are not exactly known to play sloppy or known not to know how to play their instruments. The fierceness of the playing, the intensity of the aggression, and the incredible musical performances should leave most listeners with their jaws on the floor.

Featuring 10 tracks and a full playing time of 32:57 minutes the album doesn´t overstay it´s welcome, because while this is undeniably a great listening experience, the music is also so busy and energetic, that it leaves no room for the listener to breathe (the only breathers here are a couple of noisy interludes), and even seasoned tech death metal listeners could experience an increased heart rate and stress symptoms as a result of listening to "Dementia/Dyslexia". So this is mercifully quality over quantity (and that´s meant in the most positive way possible).

As mentioned the band often make use of jazz elements to spice up their brutal technical death metal. It´s most often in the form of jazzy guitar solos in the vein of Allan Holdsworth. Really fast-played jazzy solos, but always made to suit the otherwise really brutal music. The guitar riffs are predominantly ultra fast start/stop type riffs although there are tremolo picking parts in the music too. I´m a bit unsure if the drums are programmed or not, but they do sound like it. It´s one of those rare cases where it doesn´t matter though, as they suit the music perfectly. Razor sharp precision drumming to go along with the riffs.

The album features a powerful, detailed, and clear sounding production, which helps bring out the best in the music. Upon conclusion it´s hard not to be impressed by what is happening on "Dementia/Dyslexia". Fleshwrought are obviously professionals, but they don´t neglect to perform their music with passion and conviction, which makes this particular album stand out in a genre where many other artists go for a cold, clinical, and quite often emotionless delivery. This is über technical, yet still relentlessly aggressive, and at times even somewhat catchy (well...it might take a few listens). A 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

ELECTRIC WIZARD We Live

Album · 2004 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 4.05 | 9 ratings
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"We Live" is the 5th full-length studio album by UK stoner/doom metal act Electric Wizard. The album was released through Rise Above Records in June 2004. Although it´s only been two years since the release of "Let Us Prey (2002)" there have been some quite radical changes in the band lineup, as both bassist Tim Bagshaw, and drummer Mark Greening have left Electric Wizard, leaving vocalist/guitarist Jus Oborn as the only remaining original member. The new lineup consists of Jus Oborn (vocals, guitars), Liz Buckingham (guitars), Rob Al-Issa (Bass), and Justin Greaves (drums), making Electric Wizard a four-piece for the first time.

Stylistically the music on "We Live" pretty much continue down the same psychadelic tinged stoner/doom metal path of "Let Us Prey (2002)" though. There´s still an occult and dark atmosphere about the music (which is also obvious from reading songtitles like "Flowers of Evil a.k.a. Malfiore" and "The Sun Has Turned to Black"), and the distinct underlying aggression is present too. The riffs are crushingly heavy, and the rhythm section follows suit. There´s also a hypnotic repetitive psychadelic element to the music which is quite prominent, so while the music features regular vers/chorus structures, it often goes beyond that, and presents the listener with something a bit more structurally loose.

"We Live" is generally a very organic sounding release. The performance of the music flows naturally, the sound production is raw, earthy and analogue tinged, and the material is well balanced between structure and jam oriented sections. The 10:48 minutes long opening "Eko Eko Azarak: I. Invocation - II. Ritual" is a good example of the more loose psychadelic side of the band´s music, while the dark, crushingly heavy, and occasionally quite aggressive side is well represented in tracks like the title track and "Flowers of Evil a.k.a. Malfiore". That´s truly doomy darkness, yet still with a psychadelic touch. It´s however more a "trip gone wrong" type of psychadelic touch rather than a happy "hippie flower power" touch. "Another Perfect Day?" is another interesting track, as it opens in a pretty fast-paced rock´n´roll oriented style and then drops to a crushingly heavy doom metal style in the middle. It´s not only good for the overall variation of the album, but also works really well within the particular track. "The Sun Has Turned to Black" and "Saturn's Children" close the album in slow doomy style, and it´s only during those two tracks that it sometimes gets too repetitive and monotone.

Upon conclusion "We Live" is yet another high quality stoner/doom metal release by Electric Wizard. It´s not as surprising or innovative as some of the group´s early releases, although the psychadelic element has become stronger, and has changed the band´s sound a bit, but you can´t deny strong and memorable songwriting, excellent musicianship, and a professional, organic, and raw sound production. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

BONE GNAWER Scissored

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 2010 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Scissored" is a 7" vinyl EP release by multi-national death metal act Bone Gnawer. The EP was released through Metal Inquisition Records in 2010. It´s not a stand-alone release though, and is only available as a bonus release with the vinyl version of the band´s debut full-length studio album "Feast of Flesh". The original version of "Feast of Flesh" was released in 2009, while the vinyl version wasn´t released until 2010. The "Scissored" EP only came with the first 99 copies of the vinyl version of "Feast of Flesh". The material from "Scissored" was ultimately included as part of the "Carved (2012)" EP, where it is more readily available.

Bone Gnawer was 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 do backing vocals on this project (he ususally plays guitar and performs lead vocals on his other projects). The two also work together in The Grotesquery. The lineup is completed by Morgan Lie on drums and Ronnie Björnström on guitars/backing vocals.

"Scissored" features 3 tracks and a full playing time of 7:30 minutes. In other words it´s very much a "to the point" kind of release. If you´re familiar with the material on "Feast of Flesh" (or with most other projects the four musicians are involved with) it will be no surprise, that the music style is old school death metal, which sounds pretty much like it was recorded in the early 90s. The music is very well performed (Kam Lee as always delivers some raw and organic, yet intelligible growling vocals) and produced though, and the songwriting is effective and catchy. This may be pretty brutal old school death metal, but Kam Lee is a master in including vocals hooks and phrases and repeating them enough times during a track, for the listener to be able to remember the song and in some cases even growl along. For example I dare you not to scream along to "Leave Her to the Cleaver" or "Back to the Butchery". As you might have guessed the lyrics and the general image are gore/horror themed.

So "Scissored" is actually a fine little EP release by Bone Gnawer, and it´s a bit of a shame it´s never seen an individual release. If you enjoy old school death metal and do come by the EP (or "Carved (2012)") I´d most definitely pick it up though. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM Doomsday for the Deceiver

Album · 1986 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.38 | 37 ratings
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"Doomsday for the Deceiver" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Arizona based thrash metal act Flotsam and Jetsam. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in July 1986. The band was formed in 1981 under the Paradox monicker, changed their name to Dredlox in 1982, then again in 1983 to Dogz, and finally in 1984 they changed their name to Flotsam and Jetsam. Flotsam and Jetsam initially received quite a bit of critical acclaim, but only ever achieved moderate commercial success. Outside their core audience they are probably mostly known because Jason Newsted played bass on this album before he joined Metallica...

...which of course is completely unfair, as what Flotsam and Jetsam offers the listener on "Doomsday for the Deceiver" is pretty kickass thrash metal with a lead vocalist in Eric A.K., who can actually sing, and who provides the music with a heavy metal/US power metal edge. Eric A.K. has a voice that sometimes reminds me of mid-range Rob Halford (Judas Priest) and a commanding delivery to boot. His piercing high pitched screams are also very convincing. Paired with strong songwriting which is relatively varied, and a sound production which is raw and powerful, yet detailed and clear enough for the listener to hear what´s going on, "Doomsday for the Deceiver" comes off quite a high quality debut album by Flotsam and Jetsam.

The original version of the album only featured 9 tracks, while the US CD version features the "Flotzilla" track as a 10th song on the tracklist. All quality material and it´s no wonder that "Doomsday for the Deceiver" is often mentioned in the same breath as other "classic" thrash metal albums from the 80s. I mentioned Eric A.K. above and praised his performance on the album and rightly so, but the rest of the band also deserve a mention. The rhythm section is tight and Newsted´s bass is placed deligthfully high in the mix. The two guitarists churn out one killer thrashy riff after another, but also some more heavy metal oriented ditto. The many blistering guitar solos and harmony leads also deserve a mention.

Upon conclusion "Doomsday for the Deceiver" is an original sounding US thrash metal release. I hear some nods toward early Metallica, Megadeth, and Judas Priest, but Flotsam and Jetsam have managed to forge a pretty unique and recognisable sound, which was no easy treat in those days, when the scene was overflowing with new thrash metal acts trying to make it big. The fact that this is a debut album, just makes the accomplishment even more impressive. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is well deserved.

CRIMINAL Victimized

Album · 1994 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Victimized" is the debut full-length studio album by then Santiago, Chile based thrash/groove metal act Criminal. The album was released through Inferno Records in 1994. Criminal were formed in 1991, and released a couple of well received demos in 1992, before being signed to record "Victimized".

Stylistically the music on "Victimized" is a groove laden type of thrash metal, not too far removed from what Sepultura did on "Chaos A.D. (1993)", although the material is generally a bit more aggressive and direct here. There´s a slight nod towards death metal here and there, but that´s only a secondary influence.

The material on the 34:35 minutes long release is generally well written and quite effective too, but it´s also a bit one-dimensional, and the album could have prospered from a more varied songwriting approach. The sound production is decent, but there´s something about it, which keeps me from calling it a high quality production. It doesn´t have an authentic organic sound. The musicianship is strong enough, and lead vocalist/guitarist Anton Reisenegger delivers a fierce and raw shouting vocal performance which suits the aggressive music well.

So "Victimized" is a good groove/thrash metal release in some departments, while it could have been better in others. I´d still say a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved, and it´s certainly an album that´s recommendable if you need something with a nice aggressive groove (yet still rooted in old school thrash metal).

OBSCURE INFINITY Putrefying Illusions

Album · 2012 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Putrefying Illusions" is the 2nd full-length studio album by German death metal act Obscure Infinity. The album was released through Obscure Domain Productions in July 2012 and it´s the successor to "Dawn Of Winter" from 2010. Obscure Infinity were formed in 2007 with the declared goal to play old school death metal, and that they do on "Putrefying Illusions"...

...which continues down the same musical path as it´s predecessor. That means a traditional early 90s death metal style, which predominantly draws influences from the Swedish, Stockholm scene, but isn´t limited to sounding like a retro clone of that scene. The music is very retrospective though, and we´re exposed to just about everything that was great about the early 90s death metal scene. Deep and brutal, yet relatively intelligible growling vocals, downtuned distorted guitar riffs. Both tremolo picking, and longer sustained chords for crushingly heavy doomy effect, effectful lead guitars, either playing solos, or providing the music with gloomy and morbid themes, classical oriented acoustic guitar interludes, and an overall dark and mystic atmosphere. Add to that ethereal songtitles like "The Wilting Splendour", "From the Bleak Spots to Infinity", and "Ascension-Kenosis", and you should be able to easily figure out what territory we´re in.

That songwriting approach could have ended up being a generic and tedious listening experience, but Obscure Infinity manage to play the style with passion and conviction. They are very skilled songwriters too, and obviously know exactly which elements to put where, for most impact on the listener. The album is well produced too, featuring a raw, yet detailed sound production, which suits the material well. So upon conclusion "Putrefying Illusions" isn´t a very original sounding release, but it´s both skillfully performed, well produced, and well written, so a 4 star (80%) rating isn´t all wrong.

AUTOPSY Shitfun

Album · 1995 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.27 | 5 ratings
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"Shitfun" is the 4th full-length studio album by US death metal act Autopsy. The album was released through Peaceville Records in September 1995. "Shitfun" was already recorded in Nov/Dec 1994 though. It was the last album released by the band until they reunited 2009 and a couple of years down the line released "Macabre Eternal (2011)". At the time of the release of "Shitfun", Autopsy had already disbanded and several of the members went on to form Abscess. For most of the recording sessions for "Shitfun", Autopsy functioned as the three-piece of Chris Reifert (Vocals, Drums, Bass), Danny Coralles (Guitars, Bass), and Eric Cutler (Guitars, Bass), but with some additional bass tracks being played by Freeway Migliore and Clint Bower. Both guests would be part of the early Abscess lineup.

Stylistically "Shitfun" pretty much continues down the filthy, old school US death metal path of "Acts of the Unspeakable (1992)", but still manages to sound vastly different from it´s predecessor. Not so much because of the music itself, but as a consequence of the very different sounding production. Where "Acts of the Unspeakable (1992)" features a rather thin sounding production, "Shitfun" features a dark, brutal, and rather meaty sounding ditto. The tracks alternate between faster deathgrinding parts, mid-paced death metal sections, and crushingly heavy/doomy parts. It´s often very simple, almost punk oriented, but Autopsy always incorporate little details to keep the listener interested throughout. The lead guitar work is for example very intriguing, and often the icing on the morbid cake. If you hadn´t guessed it by looking at the disgusting and perverted cover artwork, songtitles like "Humiliate Your Corpse", "I Sodomize Your Corpse", and "Shit Eater", should tell you that Autopsy is still as twisted and gore obsessed as always. This time around with an even more sick sexual twist.

The musicianship is a story in itself. Autopsy is just about the epitome of organic played old school death metal. The playing is skillful yet delivered with a great loose organic feel, that transports the listener right into the rehearsal room with the band. Chris Reifert´s growling vocals are relatively intelligible, and delivered in his usual deranged style, but it´s his drumming that deserves a special mention more than anything else. He is simply the master of this style of drumming. The other guys are well playing too.

The above mentioned sound production is very well sounding and brings the best out in the tracks. So upon conclusion "Shitfun" is a great death metal release by Autopsy. At 21 tracks distributed over a 55:38 minutes long playing time, the album is a bit too long for it´s own good, but taken track by track, there is a lot of quality to be found here. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

AT THE GATES The Red in the Sky Is Ours

Album · 1992 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.42 | 13 ratings
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"The Red in the Sky Is Ours" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act At the Gates. The album was released through Deaf Records in July 1992. At the Gates was formed in 1990 after Grotesque disbanded. They were part of the very furtile Gothenburg scene of the early 90s, which also spawned artists like In Flames and Dark Tranquillity.

While At the Gates are often mentioned among the forefarthers of the melodeath style, the music on "The Red in the Sky Is Ours" is not melodeath by any means. At least only in very small portions. There are plenty of melodic guitar themes featured throughout the album, but the music on this particular At the Gates album is a much more eclectic size to be just labelled melodeath. The album features elements from technical death/thrash metal, melodic death metal, blackened death metal, and even a couple of nods toward folk metal. The latter is only true when the band incorporate the use of folky violin playing a couple of times during the playing time, but it´s there and therefore a part of the sound on the album. The blackened edge mostly stems from Tomas Lindberg´s singing style which is a higher pitched growl than your usual more deeper growl, but also as a result of the often dark and mystic atmosphere of the music. I´m sometimes reminded of artists like Unanimated and Necrophobic. But then the band also mix in melodic guitar themes and quite technical death/thrashy riffing/drumming, and it´s hard not to get the feeling that the album is a bit "all over the place".

Stylistic inconsistency can be a huge issue for some releases, but At the Gates somehow manage to pull it off convincingly. So even though it´s obvious the band were pretty immature composers at this point, they still have so many great intriguing songwriting ideas, and a passionate, skillful, and convincing delivery of those ideas, that "The Red in the Sky Is Ours" is overall a pretty strong debut album. I´m even ready to forgive the rather thin and not too well sounding production, because of the creativity on display here and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

QUEENSRŸCHE Q2K

Album · 1999 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.43 | 27 ratings
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"Q2K" is the 7th full-length studio album by US heavy metal/hard rock act Queensrÿche. The album was released through Atlantic Records in September 1999. It´s the successor to "Hear In The Now Frontier" from 1997 and there´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as original guitarist (and one of the main composers of the band) Chris DeGarmo has left and has been replaced by Kelly Gray. The latter played with lead vocalist Geoff Tate in his pre-Queensrÿche 80s band Myth. It was the first lineup change in the recording history of Queensrÿche.

The hard rock infused "Hear In The Now Frontier (1997)" was quite the big departure from the preceding more heavy metal oriented releases by Queensrÿche, and "Q2K" continues the hard rock oriented trend of its direct predecessor. It´s slightly sharper sounding than "Hear In The Now Frontier (1997)", but it´s still quite a polished and mainstream oriented hard rock/heavy metal affair. The tracks are vers/chorus structured and there are generally very few surprises during the album´s playing time.

Queensrÿche are as always well playing and professional, and although he is a bit more restrained in his use of high notes here than on the early releases by the band, Tate is still a force to be reckoned with. "Q2K" features a professional, detailed, and well sounding production too, so it´s the songwriting which brings the album down to a less interesting quality level. The material simply lack memorable vocal hooks, catchy hard rocking riffs and rhythms, and variation. Even after several spins I remember very few tracks from the album and that´s seldom a good sign when listening to something as melodic as this album generally is. A 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating is warranted.

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 4.18 | 13 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 3.81 | 21 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.

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