Metal Music Reviews from UMUR

MOTÖRHEAD Orgasmatron

Album · 1986 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.06 | 36 ratings
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"Orgasmatron" is the 7th full-length studio album by UK hard/heavy rock act Motörhead. The album was released through GWR Records August 1986. It´s the follow up to "Another Perfect Day", which was released in June 1983, which at the time, was the longest recording break Motörhead had had. Quite a few lineup changes had occured though, and Lemmy needed time to get the band going again. Guitarist Brian "Robbo" Robertson (Thin Lizzy), who performed on "Another Perfect Day (1983)" was always meant to be a temporary solution, and he is replaced here by Phil Campbell and Würzel, making "Orgasmatron" the first Motörhead album to feature two guitarists. Longstanding Motörhead drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor temporarily left Motörhead during this period and is replaced here by Pete Gill. Taylor would be back behind the kit on "Rock 'n' Roll (1987)".

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

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

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

WITCHERY Witchburner

EP · 1999 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.52 | 2 ratings
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"Witchburner" is an EP release by Swedish metal act Witchery. The EP was released through Necropolis Records in March 1999. It bridges the gap between the debut full-length studio album "Restless & Dead (1998)" and the band´s second full-length studio album "Dead, Hot and Ready (1999)". There have been no changes in the lineup since the debut album, so the five-piece of Toxine (Vocals), Mique (Drums), Richard Corpse (lead guitars), Patrik Jensen (rhythm guitars), and Sharlee D'Angelo (Bass, lead guitars), is still intact. Some of the members are rather prolific and are also featured in acts like Mercyful Fate, Arch Enemy, and The Haunted.

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

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

MANITOU Entrance

Album · 1995 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 2 ratings
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"Entrance" is the debut full-length studio album by Norwegian progressive metal act Manitou. The album was released through Mind The Gap Records in 1995. Manitou was formed under the Powerslaves monicker in 1985 and initially played Iron Maiden covers, but later changed their name to Manitou and started writing original material. Although they originally existed for over a decade, Manitou´s recording output can be counted on one hand and "Entrance" was their only official studio recording on a label before they disbanded. Lead vocalist Øyvind Hægeland would later participate on releases by artists like Spiral Architect, Lunaris, Scariot, and play live with Arcturus.

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

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

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

ENSLAVED E

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.14 | 9 ratings
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"E" is the 14th full-length studio album by Norwegian progressive black metal act Enslaved. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in October 2017. It´s the successor to "In Times" from 2015 and there´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as keyboard player/(clean) vocalist Herbrand Larsen has left Enslaved and has been replaced by Håkon Vinje. It´s actually the first lineup change since "Isa (2004)" so Enslaved have enjoyed quite a few years and album releases with a steady lineup.

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

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

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

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

MANIAC KILLER Amusing Anecdotes for the Depraved

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

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

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

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

DEFECATION Intention Surpassed

Album · 2003 · Grindcore
Cover art 2.95 | 2 ratings
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"Intention Surpassed" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US grindcore act Defecation. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in January 2003. Defecation was formed as a side-project by Righteous Pigs guitarist Mitch Harris (guitars, bass, vocals) and Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris (drums, vocals) in 1987. They released the "Purity Dilution" debut album in 1989. It was initially a one-off project, as Mitch Harris joined Napalm Death in late 1989, and both guys focused on that band (not for long though as Mick Harris soon left Napalm Death to form Scorn). However Mitch Harris opted to ressurect Defecation in the early years of the new millenium and recorded "Intention Surpassed".

While "Purity Dilution" was a team effort, "Intention Surpassed" is a one-man project where Mitch Harris handles all guitars, bass, drum programming, and vocals. Although there are 14 years between the debut album "Intention Surpassed", the music style is at it´s roots pretty much the same on the two releases. It´s Napalm Death influenced grindcore with some nods toward death metal. "Intention Surpassed" is a much sharper and less chaotic sounding release compared to "Purity Dilution" though and the programmed drums also provide the album with a more artificial and less organic sound than the case was on the debut album. The vocals are also a bit different as they are more aggressive and higher pitched than the growling vocals featured on the debut album.

"Intention Surpassed" is as such well produced but the programmed drums aren´t that suiting. They are fairly well programmed but in this case I´m sure a human drummer could have done the music more justice. The fact that the material on the 13 track, 39:04 minutes long album is a bit one-dimensional is not exactly a positive either, but it´s still overall a decent grindcore/death metal release deserving a 3 star (60%) rating.

SATYRICON Deep Calleth upon Deep

Album · 2017 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.38 | 6 ratings
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"Deep Calleth upon Deep" is the 9th full-length studio album by Norwegian extreme metal act Satyricon. The album was released through Napalm Records in September 2017. It´s the successor to the self-titled album from 2013.

Stylistically the material on the 8 track, 45:25 minutes long album is a natural progression from the material featured on the predecessor...or maybe more correctly, there´s been only little stylistic progression, and "Deep Calleth upon Deep" therefore feels like a natural successor to "Satyricon (2013)". Starting with "Volcano (2002)", Satyricon have gradually moved further and further away from their black metal roots, and have incorporated more traditional heavy metal elements, death- and doom metal elements, and even some hard rock (I swear I hear the odd Led Zeppelin influence here and there) and progressive rock elements. The aggression and pitch black darkness of their early releases are still a part of their sound, so although this isn´t black metal as such, it´s still gloomy and extreme music. Just another and more diverse type of extreme metal.

The unmistakable raw and raspy vocals and commanding delivery by Satyr are at the front of the soundscape and underneath the listener is met by heavy intriguing riffs, guitar harmonies, organic bass playing, and the inventive drumming by Frost. The latter reaches new adventurous heights with his playing on this album and I don´t hesitate to call him one of the most creative drummers on the scene. So again little has changed since the last album, but it still needs to be emphazised how well playing the band are and how convincing the delivery of the music is. Satyricon deserve that praise.

The material on the album is also well written, relatively diverse for the genre, and while it´s not Satyricon´s most innovative release, the quality is high throughout and there are several really strong compositions featured on the album. I´d mention "To Your Brethren In The Dark" and the title track as some of the highlights, but there are no sub par tracks on the album, which is entertaining throughout.

"Deep Calleth upon Deep" features an organic and powerful sounding production too, and upon conclusion it´s another strong album release by Satyricon. Black metal purists will probably wrinkle their noses and cry sell-out, but at this point it´s doubtful that there are many of those left in the Satyricon fanbase. "Deep Calleth upon Deep" is recommended to the listener who enjoys dark, clever, and heavy music with raw vocals and an above standard level of sophistication in the songwriting department. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

MACHINE HEAD Burn My Eyes

Album · 1994 · Groove Metal
Cover art 4.15 | 27 ratings
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"Burn My Eyes" is the debut full-length studio album by US, thrash/groove metal act Machine Head. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in July 1994. Machine Head was formed in 1992 by former Forbidden and Vio-lence guitarist Robb Flynn (who is also the lead vocalist in Machine Head), guitarist Logan Mader, bassist Adam Duce, and drummer Tony Costanza. With that lineup Machine Head recorded their 1993 demo, which eventually got them signed to Roadrunner Records. Before recording "Burn My Eyes" Tony Costanza was replaced by Chris Kontos. Upon release "Burn My Eyes" was an almost instant success and with 400.000 copies sold, it was the best selling debut album released through Roadrunner Records until the release of Slipnot´s debut album in 1999.

While main songwriter Robb Flynn came from a Bay Area thrash metal background, the times they were a changin´ in the early 90s and especially Pantera and Sepultura (with "Chaos A.D. (1993)") had brought a more groove oriented element to thrash metal music, and with "Burn My Eyes", Machine Head followed suit.

The music on the album is at it´s roots thrash metal, but it´s far from the sound of 80s thrash metal (except for the fast thrashy riff on "Blood for Blood") and features hard edged groove oriented riffs and rhythms, raw and shouting hardcore influenced vocals, and the occasional alternative metal leaning. The latter is mostly heard in the clean vocal sections. The material on the 11 track, 55:37 minutes long album is of a consistently high quality, although tracks like the iconic album opener "Davidian", "Old", and "Death Church" are among the highlights.

The musicianship is on a high level on all posts. Machine Head are a tight unit, delivering precision playing, but never to a point where an organic approach is forgotten. While all involved are skilled musicians, I´ll give a special mention to drummer Chris Kontos, who´s relatively inventive playing style and impeccable sense for grooves carry the music far. The vocals by Robb Flynn are the only minor issue I have with "Burn My Eyes". They undeniably suit the music well, but he just doesn´t have a very powerful voice and his clean vocals aren´t that interesting either. He makes it´s work with what he´s got though, and that deserves some praise.

"Burn My Eyes" is a very well produced album featuring a powerful, heavy, and detailed production. It´s one of the most well sounding Colin Richardson productions, and considering his vast number of high quality production jobs, that says a lot. "Burn My Eyes" is through and through a high quality release, that to my ears is just short of being a masterpiece, but a 4.5 star (90%) rating is still well deserved.

DEFECATION Purity Dilution

Album · 1989 · Grindcore
Cover art 2.50 | 2 ratings
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"Purity Dilution" is the debut full-length studio album by US/UK grindcore act Defecation. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in 1989. Defecation was formed as a side-project by Righteous Pigs guitarist Mitch Harris (guitars, bass, vocals) and Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris (drums, vocals) in 1987. It was initially a one-off project, as Mitch Harris joined Napalm Death in late 1989, and both guys focused on that band (not for long though as Mick Harris soon left Napalm Death to form Scorn). Mitch Harris ressurected Defecation in the early years of the new millenium and released "Intention Surpassed" in 2003.

The music on "Purity Dilution" is Napalm Death influenced grindcore with the odd nod towards a punked version of old school death metal. The album was recorded and mixed in 29 hours and was co-produded by Danny Lilker (Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth). It´s audible that the band probably didn´t have time to do more than a few takes of each track, because this is a very organic sounding and not always tight performance. On some tracks the vocalist sounds pretty commanding, delivering some convincing growling vocals, while he sounds strained and hoarse on other tracks, which is probably the consequence of having to record all the vocal tracks within a few hours.

The tracks feature both mid-paced heavy parts, faster punk rhythms, and furiously fast-paced blast beat sections. Despite the relatively varied rhythmic approach the material is a bit one-dimensional and not many tracks stand out from the others. The sound production is pretty raw, lo-fi, and parts of the production lacks punch. So upon conclusion "Purity Dilution" is quality wise a bit of a mixed bag. I admire the DIY approach of the project, but the outcome really isn´t the greatest or most distinct sounding grindcore release and a 2.5 (50%) rating is warranted.

M.O.D. U.S.A. for M.O.D.

Album · 1987 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 3.71 | 5 ratings
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"U.S.A. for M.O.D." is the debut full-length studio album by US, New York based crossover thrash metal act M.O.D. (Method of Destruction). The album was released through Caroline/Megaforce Records in 1987. M.O.D. was founded in 1986 by S.O.D. (Stormtroopers of Death) vocalist Billy Milano after it was clear that S.O.D. was a one-off project (at least that was the case in 1986) and the other members of the band opted to focus on their main acts Anthrax and Nuclear Assault. Milano however didn´t have a main act to return to and as a consequence formed M.O.D. to continue what he had helped start with S.O.D....

...and that`s politically incorrect crossover thrash metal delivered with an attitude. While "U.S.A. for M.O.D." isn´t as surprising nor as revolutionary as "Speak English or Die (1985)" by S.O.D., the musical style of the latter is pretty much continued on "U.S.A. for M.O.D." with very few changes to the overall musical/lyrical concept despite most of the personel having changed.

Most tracks are structured with a heavy groove oriented section first and then a fast-paced hardcore section to close the track. There are exceptions to that formula like some of the very short tracks in "That Noise" and "Short but Sweet", which are respectively 13 and 7 seconds long. There are a couple of more tracks that are as short as those two, but most tracks on the 22 track, 40:32 minutes long album are between 1 and 3 minutes long. Short bursts of aggression and often oddball politically incorrect lyrical themes (like making fun of fat people on "Bubble Butt" and "Spandex Enormity", or of gays on "A.I.D.S."). But the lyrical themes are actually quite varied as you´ll also find social/policial commentary as in "Aren´t You Hungry" and "Get a Real Job", or some silly humorous lyrics like in "Don't Feed the Bears" and "Ode to Harry".

"U.S.A. for M.O.D." was produced by Alex Perialas and Anthrax/S.O.D. guitarist Scott Ian (who also handles some guitar/backing vocals, and co-wrote some of the material featured on the album), and the sound quality is decent. The guitar tone is a bit thin and the punch is slightly lacking from the sound, but considering the fact that "U.S.A. for M.O.D." was recorded and mixed in 4 days, the sound production is of a pretty good quality. The organic and somewhat lo-fi nature of the sound is definitely not without it´s charm.

So upon conclusion "U.S.A. for M.O.D." is a relatively entertaining debut release by M.O.D.. It doesn´t quite live up to the quality of the legendary "Speak English or Die (1985)" by S.O.D., but if you enjoyed that album, there´s a good chance you´ll find at least some enjoyment in "U.S.A. for M.O.D.". A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

LÄÄZ ROCKIT Know Your Enemy

Album · 1987 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.24 | 4 ratings
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"Know Your Enemy" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, San Francisco, California based heavy/thrash metal act Lääz Rockit. The album was released through Enigma Records in September 1987 and it´s the successor to "No Stranger To Danger" from 1985. Lääz Rockit was formed in 1982 and was an active part of the early Bay Area scene, although the early part of their discography only features very few thrash metal elements.

"Know Your Enemy" is the album where Lääz Rockit crosses the border into thrash metal territory more than just dipping their toes like they did on their first two releases. There´s still a strong traditional heavy metal element in the music though and I´d call the music on "Know Your Enemy" 50% thrash metal and 50% traditional heavy metal.

The musicianship is on a high level on all posts, which isn´t that surprising if you´re familiar with the preceding releases. Lääz Rockit was always a very well playing act, delivering their music with the right amount of badass attitude and passionate conviction. A pounding rhythm section, hard edged riffing/blistering solos, and the powerful and raw sounding vocals by Michael Coons in front. The material is generally well written and predominatly vers/chorus structured. It´s catchy and easily accessible music and while it´s not wildly adventurous in nature, Lääz Rockit are able to deliver even the most generic heavy metal tracks/lyrics with conviction.

"Know Your Enemy" feautures a raw, organic, and powerful sounding production, which suits the music well and overall it´s another quality release by Lääz Rockit. Personally I like them best when they play the more traditional sounding heavy metal tracks, than when they are more thrashy (at least on this album), as the vocal melodies on the more heavy metal oriented tracks are more memorable, but Lääz Rockit generally masters both styles pretty well. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

MORBID ANGEL Kingdoms Disdained

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 3 ratings
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"Kingdoms Disdained" is the 9th full-length studio album by US death metal act Morbid Angel. The album was released through Silver Lining Music in December 2017. It´s the successor to the much discussed and critizised "Illud Divinum Insanus" from 2011. There have been quite a few lineup changes since the predecessor as lead vocalist/bassist David Vincent has been replaced by Steve Tucker. The latter was also a member of Morbid Angel in the 1997-2001 and 2003-2004 periods and has recorded three albums with the band (the last being "Heretic" from 2003). Drummer Tim Yeung has been replaced by Scott Fuller (Abysmal Dawn, Havok, Annihilated), and guitarist Destructhor has also jumped ship. He hasn´t been replaced here, so guitarist and band leader Trey Azagthoth handles all guitars on "Kingdoms Disdained".

While "Illud Divinum Insanus (2011)" probably made quite a few Morbid Angel fans scratch their head in disbelief, it was an experiment the band needed to do, but listening to "Kingdoms Disdained" it´s also obvious that Morbid Angel knew what their fans expected from them after their little experimental adventure and in that regard they chose the safe path this time around. So "Kingdoms Disdained" doesn´t feature any flirts with industrial metal or weird electronic music experiments, but instead features the trademark Morbid Angel death metal sound of the 1990s. It´s old school and brutal, but still rather complex and sophisticated death metal loaded with twisted riffs, screaming atonal solos (actually not as many as usual), brutal yet intelligible growling vocals, and quite a few tempo changes. It´s not easy listening death metal, and a few more catchy moments wouldn´t have hurt the overall accessibility of the album, but this is uncompromising death metal, so that´s more or less the premise and nothing unusual for the genre.

The material on the 11 track, 47:43 minutes long album is otherwise well written, intriguing, and powerful. Not quite in the league of their first four albums, but definitely on par with the other Tucker fronted releases and after the challenging experience of getting through "Illud Divinum Insanus (2011)", it´s great to hear the band back on track, doing what they do best. The musicianship is as always on a high level. Tucker is not quite as distinct sounding as Vincent, but he is a pretty strong and commanding growler, and new drummer Scott Fuller delivers a powerful percussive attack. He has a great, and for the genre relatively varied drumming style. Azagthoth is...well Azagthoth. A lot of praises have been spoken of his inventive riffing style and solos over the years, and I can only join the choir here, and send more praise his way. As mentioned above a few more memorable and more straight forward riffs could have made some of the tracks a little more listener friendly, but on the other hand Azagthoth clearly does exactly what he feels is right for the music, and I always praise a bold and adventurous soul like Azagthoth.

"Kingdoms Disdained" features a dark, raw, and powerful sounding production, which is surprisingly organic since it´s Eric Rutan who is credited as producer on the project. I did not enjoy some of his early production jobs, but in recent years he has become quite a skilled producer. Some of the guitar riffs could have been more clearly defined as they sound a bit murky and low in the mix, but other than that "Kingdoms Disdained" sounds pretty great.

Upon conclusion "Kingdoms Disdained" is a high quality death metal release by Morbid Angel and a clear letter of content that the experiment of "Illud Divinum Insanus (2011)" was a one-off. "Kingdoms Disdained" is not what I would characterize as a standout release in the band´s discography, but it´s an important album because of when it was released. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

DEATH STRIKE Fuckin' Death

Demo · 1985 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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"Fuckin' Death" is a demo cassette tape by US death/thrash metal act Death Strike. The demo was self-released in January 1985. Death Strike was formed out of the ashes of the first incarnation of legendary US death metal act Master. Master was formed by War Cry members Paul Speckmann (bass/vocals) and Bill Schmidt (drums) after they left War Cry, but as the two weren´t able to get a decent lineup going, Schmidt got impatient and left to join Mayhem (a US band). Speckmann then changed the band name to Death Strike, got a lineup together and recorded the "Fuckin' Death" demo. Shortly after the demo was released Bill Schmidt returned and the band continued under the Master monicker.

So why this much attention to a band, who only released a 4 track, 11:56 minutes long demo in their active career? Well, it´s a matter of the release date and the brutality of the music. In late 1984/early 1985, the most extreme metal music was thrash metal and especially the German scene produced some very raw releases in those years (most famous are probably Kreator, Sodom, and Destruction). Something even more sinister and dark was brewing in America though, and acts like Mantas/Death, Necrophagia, Slaughter, Possessed, and Death Strike, started incorporating a more guttural growling vocal style and downtuned brutal riffing to their music, and that was pretty much the beginning of death metal as a genre. So that´s the reason why "Fuckin' Death" is such an influential release. It´s simply one of the earliest examples of death metal oriented music.

The four tracks on the demo aren´t what most people would call death metal today though, and they are still deeply rooted in thrash metal, but the vocal approach and the darkness and brutality of the music were pretty much unprecedented in those days. If the music had been of a low quality no one would probably have taken notice, but all four tracks on the demo are energetic, raw, and highly aggressive songs of a high quality. The sound production is raw, powerful, and overall very well sounding for the time, and further enhances the impression that "Fuckin' Death" is a great demo release. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

DEATH STRIKE Fuckin' Death

Album · 1991 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.24 | 5 ratings
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"Fuckin' Death" is the debut full-length studio album by US death/thrash metal act Death Strike. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in August 1991. It´s probably a bit misleading calling "Fuckin' Death" a studio album, as it´s actually more of a compilation. The first four tracks are taken directly off the 1985 "Fuckin' Death" demo, and the four remaining tracks on the 33:26 minutes long release are recorded at another session at a later date.

Death Strike was formed out of the ashes of the first incarnation of legendary US death metal act Master. Master was formed by War Cry members Paul Speckmann (bass/vocals) and Bill Schmidt (drums) after they left War Cry, but as the two weren´t able to get a decent lineup going, Schmidt got impatient and left to join Mayhem (a US band). Speckmann then changed the band name to Death Strike, got a lineup together and recorded the "Fuckin' Death" demo. Shortly after the demo was released Bill Schmidt returned and the band continued under the Master monicker.

Considering that band history, it´s doubtful if the four remaining tracks on this album were actually recorded by a Death Strike lineup, and it´s more likely the tracks were recorded by a Master lineup. There is also a very noticeable difference in sound production, and in overall musical style between the tracks from the demo and the remaining tracks. The demo tracks are raw, energetic, and powerful death/thrash tracks packed in a dark, and brutal production, while the remaining tracks are generally slower in pace, slightly more sophisticated in composition, and delivered a bit tighter. They simply sound more professional.

Professional doesn´t always mean better though, and in this case it´s actually the demo tracks, which are the most interesting material on the album. The slower pace, and less aggressive atmosphere of the remaining tracks, make them a bit more dull in comparison to the vicious attack of the demo material, and they ultimately end up bringing the quality of the album down. The demo tracks fully deserve a 4 star (80%) rating, while the quality of the remaining material only warrants a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating, so a 3.5 star (70%) rating isn´t all wrong.

KONKHRA The Vicious Circle

Demo · 1990 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"The Vicious Circle" is the debut demo cassette tape by Danish death metal act Konkhra. The demo was self-released in 1990. It´s one of the earliest death metal releases from Denmark, and Konkhra subsequently went on to become one of the major players on the Danish death metal scene of the 90s. The band is a three-piece on "The Vicious Circle" consisting of Anders Lundemark (Bass, Vocals), Jon Clausen (Drums, Vocals), Claus Vedel (Guitars, Vocals).

The music on the demo is technically well played death metal featuring a good portion of tempo changes. It´s actually very well played and very well produced considering the time of release. The growling vocals are pretty standard for the genre, and not that distinct sounding, but occasionally a more aggressive vocal type is used, which provides the vocal part of the music with some variation. While "The Vicious Circle" isn´t wildly original sounding, I can only point to a few clear references, but if I have to mention one it would be late 80s/early 90s Carcass.

The 4 tracks on the 15:07 minutes long demo are all well written, well performed, and considering that "The Vicious Circle" is a demo, very well produced. The guitar sound could have been a bit more powerful sounding, but other than that, the sound is pretty close to regular early 90s death metal studio album sound quality.

Konkhra was one of the most talked about death metal acts on the Danish scene in the early 90s, and subsequently developed into one of the most prolific Danish death metal acts, and listening to "The Vicious Circle" it´s obvious why that is. First of all it´s a quality demo release through and through, and secondly Konkhra had a sound that hinted at a future more original sound, although it remains at hints on this release. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

CODE Lost Signal

EP · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Lost Signal" is an EP release by UK progressive/avant rock/metal act Code. The EP was released through Agonia Records in January 2017. It´s the successor to the band´s fourth full-length studio album "Mut" from 2015 and features the same lineup as the album does.

"Lost Signal" doesn´t contain any new original material but instead feautures 6 re-recorded and re-arranged tracks from the band´s four preceding studio albums. Three tracks off "Mut (2015)" and one track from each of the other three studio albums "Nouveau Gloaming (2005)", "Resplendent Grotesque (2009)", and "Augur Nox (2013)". The tracks off "Mut (2015)" are given a slightly more raw and gritty treatment, while the three tracks from the first three albums are arranged to sound more like the dark and heavy progressive/avant rock/metal of "Mut (2015)". So the black metal influences of the past are mostly gone from the band´s sound at this point, although the occasional snarling vocal phrase still stubbornly holds on to a minimal extreme metal orientation. "Lost Signal" however predominantly features clean vocals by lead vocalist Wacian.

Code manage to make the listener feel that "Lost Signal" was recorded live, that´s how gritty, authentic, and organic the EP sounds. It´s a perfect sound production for the material. Add to that intriguing songwriting and high level musicianship and you have another high quality release by Code on your hands. One of the great things about Code at this point of their career, is that there´s stylistic development between every release, and as a listener you just know that they aren´t through developing their style yet, and that you can expect more surprises in the future. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

DEADSOUL TRIBE The January Tree

Album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.80 | 14 ratings
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"The January Tree" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Austrian/US progressive metal act Deadsoul Tribe. The album was released through InsideOut Music in August 2004. While the band´s preceding album release "A Murder of Crows (2003)" was recorded by a full lineup, band leader Devon Graves opted to record "The January Tree" almost entirely by himself. He plays and sings everything except for the drums on the album, which are recorded by Adel Moustafa. So the two other members of the band are reduced to touring members. A concept Graves would also use on the next two Deadsoul Tribe albums.

The music on the album continues the predominantly vers/chorus structured progressive metal style of it´s two predecessors and doesn´t add much new to the band´s discography in the way of innovation. It´s an album were it very much feels like Deadsoul Tribe had found a music style they were comfortable with and therefore didn´t feel the need to develop upon. As a result "The January Tree" is a solid release but it´s also a very "safe" release.

Musically we´re treated to heavy distorted riffs, some acoustic sections, lead harmony melodies, rhythmic drumming, and Devon Graves distinct sounding vocals on top. The material is relatively well written, but few tracks stand out. I´d mention "The Coldest Days of Winter" and "Wings of Faith" as some of the highlights, but overall it´s more a solid release than an outstanding one.

The slightly flat impression I get when listening to "The January Tree" also has a lot to do with the way the album is produced. Considering how often Devon Graves (who acts as producer on this album) has spoken of his love for organic sounding artists like Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, and Jethro Tull, it´s odd how artificial this production sounds. The drums are clicky and flat sounding, and the rest of the instruments and the vocals has a digital tone to them, which isn´t very suiting.

So upon conclusion "The January Tree" is an album which leaves me a bit biased, because objectively it´s a solid release featuring a professional sound production, decent songwriting, and strong musicianship, but it´s like the sum of the parts, just don´t add up to an album that´s extraordinary. Less will do though, and "The January Tree" is overall a decent release by Deadsoul Tribe and a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is still warranted.

LETHAL Your Favorite God

EP · 1995 · US Power Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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"Your Favorite God" is an EP release by US progressive/power metal act Lethal. The EP was released through Massacre Records in 1995 and bridges the gap between the band´s debut and second full-length studio albums "Programmed (1990)" and "Poison Seed (1996)". There´s been one lineup change since the debut album as guitarist Dell Hull has been replaced by David McElfresh. The original version of the EP featured 5 tracks, while the 1997 reissue features the bonus track "Balancing Act".

The music on the EP continues the progressive US power metal style of "Programmed (1990)" but adds a more heavy and dark edge to the band´s sound. Progressive metal had changed rapidly in the years between the band´s debut album and "Your Favorite God", and while Lethal still sound like themselves (guitar/vocal driven progressive power metal rooted in 80s heavy metal), they´ve clearly also listened to the contemporary version of progressive metal and developed their own sound with it. Hard edged chugging riffs weren´t exactly the order of the day on "Programmed (1990)", but you´ll find plenty here.

The musicianship is on a very high level, which is no surprise if you´re already familiar with "Programmed (1990)". Lead vocalist Tom Mallicoat is still a great asset with his high pitched singing style, but he is actually a bit more varied on this release using lower registers and a more raw singing style too. Lethal is a very sophisticated band in the way they arrange their tracks and in how they incorporate details, but structurally this is still pretty basic vers/chorus based tracks, with the rare excursion into more progressive territories. The first four tracks on the EP are heavy and dark, but "The Real", which closes the original version of the EP, is a power ballad type track, which is slightly lighter in mood.

"Your Favorite God" is a well produced release with a dark and heavy sound, which suits the heaviness of their "new" style well. While I´m not completely sure that I prefer this new heavier progressive/US power metal sound to the more melodic US power metal style of Lethal´s debut album, I understand the need to change with the times and add some heaviness to their sound. Not that it did anything for them commercially, and artistically they still lack a 100% unique sound to elevate them to a higher level. Still a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

LEMUR VOICE Insights

Album · 1996 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.24 | 7 ratings
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"Insights" is the debut full-length studio album by Dutch progressive metal act Lemur Voice. The album was released through Magna Carta Records in 1996. Lemur Voice was formed in 1993 under the Aura monicker but soon changed their name to Lemur Voice.

The music on the album is "classic" 90s progressive metal highly influenced by Dream Theater. I hear a few nods towards 90s Fates Warning, and the more rock oriented sound of Enchant too, but it is Dream Theater I´m reminded of most often during the 8 track, 56:57 minutes long album.

The music is generally very keyboard heavy, but also features some very intricate rhythmic playing (tempo- and time signature changes are played with natural ease), heavy riffs and melodic solos, and a high pitched lead vocalist in Gregoor van der Loo. The music is very dynamic with both heavy rhytmically complex chugging sections, and more subtle piano/vocal sections, and longer instrumental sections. The band are very well playing and Gregoor van der Loo is a relatively skilled singer too. His vocal melodies aren´t that memorable though, and even though the music on "Insights" is very melodic in nature, it actually features very few memorable hooks.

"Insights" is relatively well produced, but the longer you get into the album the less interesting the sound becomes. I´m not sure what it is, but it´s like the production at times lacks a bit of punch and the whole thing comes off as a little too polished and nice.

Upon conclusion "Insights" is a hard album to rate fairly. On the surface it´s easily a 4 star (80%) rating, because of the professionalism on display. The compositions, the musicianship, and the sound production are all features of a relatively high quality, but when you dig a bit deeper, the music is actually a bit more shallow than what initial impressions might reveal and the band also lack an original sound. Still it´s a relatively strong progressive metal release and hardcore fans of the genre might find it more enjoyable than I do, so a 3.5 star (70%) rating isn´t all wrong.

LEHAVOTH Hatred Shaped Man

Album · 2003 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Hatred Shaped Man" is the debut full-length studio album by Israeli death metal act Lehavoth. The album was released through Fadeless Records in April 2003. Lehavoth was formed in 1995 and initially played black metal. They went on a longer hiatus towards the end of the millenium as a consequence of the members serving their 3 years of military service (which is mandatory in Israel), but came back together in 2000 and recorded a demo, which resulted in them getting signed. "Hatred Shaped Man" was recorded at Soundlab Studios in Sweden with producer Mieszko Talarczyk (Nasum, Genocide Superstars).

The music on the album is brutal and technically well played death metal. There´s great rhythmic variation throughout the album, which includes everything from mid-paced brutal grooves to blast beating. While the music is predominantly old school death metal oriented, Lehavoth incorporates other more contemporary influences to their music, which makes "Hatred Shaped Man" quite a different sounding and adventurous release for the genre. This is definitley not your average Cannibal Corpse or Suffocation clone although Lehavoth is equally extreme and brutal sounding. Usually with artists from the middle east you´ll be treated to some native instrumentation or sections, but there´s none of that on "Hatred Shaped Man", and Lehavoth could as such have been from any place in the world. They have what I´d characterize as a universal sound.

The vocals vary between brutal growling and more aggressive tinged growling. They are delivered with fierce conviction and are relatively intelligible. The fierceness of the vocal attack, is equalled by the instrumental part of the music which is also delivered with furious aggression and brutality. In many ways "Hatred Shaped Man" is a very extreme release (probably even for seasoned death metal listeners).

The sound production on the 10 track, 29:45 minutes long album is harsh, powerful, and detailed. A very suiting sound for Lehavoth´s raw sounding music. So "Hatred Shaped Man" is in every way a successful release feauturing great material, high level musicianship, and a professional and well sounding production. Add to that the above mentioned adventurous element and the fact that even though they are rooted in old school death metal, they are not retro sounding. On the contrary their sound is pretty refreshing. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

FORBIDDEN Raw Evil (Live at the Dynamo)

Live album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.56 | 6 ratings
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"Raw Evil (Live at the Dynamo)" is a live EP release by US, California based thrash metal act Forbidden. The EP was released through Combat Records in 1989 and bridges the gap between the band´s debut and second full-length studio albums "Forbidden Evil (1988)" and "Twisted into Form (1990)". The four tracks on the EP were recorded live at the Dynamo Festival, Eindhoven, The Netherlands on May 15, 1989.

Three of the four tracks on the EP were featured on "Forbidden Evil (1988)" in their original studio versions ("Forbidden Evil", "Chalice of Blood", and "Through Eyes of Glass"), and the last track on the EP is a cover of "Victim of Changes" by Judas Priest. Vocally that´s quite a demanding song, but Russ Anderson pulls it off with great conviction, which is also true when it comes to his performances on the original Forbidden tracks. It´s almost a shame to focus so much on his performance, when the rest of the band are also as well playing as they are (the instrumental part of the music is delivered with tight precision and passion), but his performance here (mind you in a live setting) is very strong and deserves a special mention.

You can argue that opening the EP with "Victim of Changes", when it appears from the crowds chanting after the track ends, that it was the last song played that night/day, is an odd tracklist choice, and I´ll agree with you, but other than that "Raw Evil (Live at the Dynamo)" is quite a great quality live EP, featuring excellent musicianship, great material, and a good authentic live sound quality, and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

W.A.S.P. Animal (F**k Like a Beast)

Single · 1984 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.75 | 2 ratings
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"Animal (F**k Like a Beast)" is a single release by US heavy metal act W.A.S.P.. It was released through Music for Nations in April 1984. The single features the A-side title track, and the B-side track "Show No Mercy". "Animal (F**k Like a Beast)" was originally intended to be included on the band´s self-titled debut full-length studio album, but Capital Records pulled the track from the final album release, as they feared that the explicit sexual content of the lyrics would get the album banned from some of the major US retail chains. Instead W.A.S.P. opted to release "Animal (F**k Like a Beast)" as a single, but Capital Records didn´t dare to release that in the US either, so the single ended up being a UK only release through Music for Nations and "Animal (F**k Like a Beast)" wasn´t available in the studio version in the US until it was included on the reissue of W.A.S.P. debut album in 1998.

Listening to "Animal (F**k Like a Beast)" with the ears of today, it´s a bit hard to imagine why it was considered such a controversial track (the PMRC continuesly used the track, when they were rallying against explicit lyrics in rock music), but granted the lyrics are pretty explicit if you are sensitive to images of naked women and hard sex. The music itself is hard rocking heavy metal, but very catchy and melodic. "Show No Mercy" (which is not a Slayer cover) is one of the band´s more harder edged and dark heavy metal tracks. A pretty great B-side.

The material is well produced, well composed, and well played, and as a single release "Animal (F**k Like a Beast)" is quite successful to my ears, but I doubt that it would have received as much attention as it did, if the lyrics for the title track hadn´t been as provocative as they are. A good publicity stunt, or maybe just the circumstances of the situation elevated the release to something a bit more interesting than it really was/is. Still a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

BLACK STAR RIDERS Heavy Fire

Album · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.25 | 4 ratings
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"Heavy Fire" is the 3rd full-length studio album by UK hard rock act Black Star Riders. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in February 2017, almost exactly two years after the release of "The Killer Instinct (2015)". "Heavy Fire" features the exact same lineup who recorded "The Killer Instinct (2015)". Ricky Warwick (vocals, guitar), Scott Gorham (guitar), Damon Johnson (guitar), Robbie Crane (bass), and Jimmy DeGrasso (drums).

Stylistically there aren´t many surprises either. This is unmistakably the sound of Black Star Riders continuing the proud legacy of guitarist Scott Gorham´s past in Thin Lizzy. So while no one really sounds like Black Star Riders, they themselves sound a lot like Thin Lizzy. Lead vocalist/guitarist Ricky Warwick isn´t no where near as charismatic and distinct sounding as the late Phil Lynott, but he has a decent raw rock voice and gets the job done fine here. The riffs are hard rocking, the solos and harmony parts melodic and well played, and the rhythm section deliver a great organic backbone. The musicianship is on a high level on all positions, and it´s hard not to be impressed by the skill and mutual understanding of band dynamics between the players involved. They sound like they love what they do, and they deliver their music with great passion.

"Heavy Fire" features 10 tracks and a full playing time of 40:02 minutes, which is perfect for this type of music. The material are both powerful and catchy, and I caught myself singing along several times during the playing time. It´s melodic hard rock at its best. The album also features an organic and well sounding production, which suits the material perfectly, so upon conclusion "Heavy Fire" is another high quality hard rock release by Black Star Riders. They may never get rid of the Thin Lizzy comparisons, but who cares when they write such infectiously cathy tunes and perform them with this kind of passion and conviction...a 4 star (80%) rating is well deserved.

LETHAL AGGRESSION Ad Nauseum

Album · 2009 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Ad Nauseum" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, New Jersey based crossover act Lethal Aggression. The album was released through Horror Pain Gore Death Productions in January 2009. Lethal Aggression formed as far back as 1985 and released their debut full-length studio album "Life Is Hard-But That's No Excuse" in 1989. They disbanded in 1991, but reunited again in 2001.

The music on "Ad Nauseum" is crossover thrash metal/hardcore in the harder edged end of the spectrum. There are tracks and sections on the album, which remind me slightly of early Suicidal Tendencies, but other than those moments, "Ad Nauseum" is a very raw and aggressive release, featuring a pretty dark and pissed off atmosphere, so these guys have not taken the "beer and party" route, generally opting for a more serious social/political agenda. That doesn´t hinder the less serious lyrical topic to pop up now and again, but it´s not the main focus on this album.

The band is very well playing and occasionally play some very fast thrashy riffing and rhythms although there´s always a hardcore edge to the proceedings. Aggression is in the high seat, which is helped further along by the vocals on the album, which are really raw and delivered with fierce conviction. The material on the 13 track, 38:04 minutes are generally well written and relatively varied for the genre, and actually quite a bit more sophisticated than what is usual for crossover releases. You´ll find plenty of tempo changes and even guitar solos on the album. As a bonus the band have added a hidden track on the album featuring a full live set recorded in 2003 at CBGB's. The sound quality is actually pretty decent, and fully showcase what a powerful sounding act Lethal Aggression also are in a live setting.

"Life Is Hard-But That's No Excuse" was quite an enjoyable crossover album when it was released, and Lethal Aggression definitely hasn´t lost any of their punch or passion for playing music in the years between their debut and sophomore album, because "Ad Nauseum" is to my ears an even better release than the debut was, and certainly a step up in quality both when it comes to the musicianship, the songwriting, and the sound production. The latter is dark, heavy, and very powerful sounding. It may not be a full 4 star (80%) rating but a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) isn´t the worst rating either.

LEUKEMIA Suck My Heaven

Album · 1993 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Suck My Heaven" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Leukemia. The album was released through Black Mark Production in 1993. Leukemia was formed in 1989 and worked as a two-piece project act consisting of Kentha Philipson (drums) and Jocke Granlund (Vocals). All other instruments and vocals are delivered by guest/session musicians. Among those are prolific artists like L-G Petrov (Entombed) on backing vocals, and Jörgen Sandström (Entombed, Grave) on bass.

The music on "Suck My Heaven" is a hybrid death/thrash metal style with experimental/progressive moments. The latter mostly consists of some pretty odd and at times even silly sections, but they are few and far between, and the music predominantly features a more dark and serious atmosphere. "Suck My Heaven" was recorded at the now legendary Sunlight Studios and features the "classic" sound from that studio. The guitars are slightly more thin sounding and not as "buzzing" as usual on recordings from Sunlight, but especially the drums feature that unmistakable sound.

While Leukemia is generally considered a death metal act, the riffing on the album is often closer to thrash metal than to death metal and the same can be said about the thrash oriented raw vocals, which is the primary vocal style on the album. There are growling vocals on the album too though.

The material on the 9 track, 47:03 minutes long album is relatively well written but not necessarily that memorable in the long run, and paired with the thin guitar sound, and a vocal style which is a bit powerless sounding, "Suck My Heaven" isn´t the most successful sounding release to my ears. It´s not bad either though and there are several interesting sections and high level musicianship to be found on the album too, so a 3 star (60%) rating isn´t all wrong.

NILE Those Whom the Gods Detest

Album · 2009 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.22 | 30 ratings
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"Those Whom the Gods Detest" is the 6th full-length studio album by US death metal act Nile. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in November 2009. It´s the successor to "Ithyphallic" from 2007. "Those Whom the Gods Detest" is the third studio album in a row produced by Neil Kernon (Nevermore, Macabre...etc.) and sound production wise there are many similarities between the three albums (the drum production is handled by Eric Rutan on this one though). Neil Kernon seems to be the perfect producer to bring out the best in Nile´s rather complex, busy, and at times chaotic soundscape. The sound production on "Those Whom the Gods Detest" is powerful, brutal and professionally crafted. Raw yet clear. But not clean in a way that takes away power or brutality.

Stylistically the material on "Those Whom the Gods Detest" is brutal and technically well played death metal. There´s an epic atmosphere to the music and Nile as usual incorporate middle eastern scales/notes/themes in the music. The latter elements compliment the ancient Epypt lyrical themes perfectly and are some of the defining elements of the Nile sound. The 10 tracks on "Those Whom the Gods Detest" are all well composed, intriguing, and powerful enough to tilt an elephant. The tracks are also relatively varied and given some spins they begin to stand out from each other. That´s not necessarily an everyday thing when we´re talking brutal death metal artists and their releases but Nile are one of the few exceptions to the rule. They both play crushingly heavy parts, mid-paced death metal grooves, and insanely fast-paced blast beating. There´s nothing this band can´t do.

The vocals are deep brutal growling but they are actually intelligible to a certain extent, which is a major plus in my book. The commanding and aggressive fashion they delivered in, is not exactly a problem either. Lead vocalist/bassist/guitarist Dallas Toler-Wade are occasionally complimented by guitarist Karl Sanders who delivers some additional (and more unintelligible) growling vocals. The riffs those two conjure up are brutal, razor sharp, and rather sophisticated for the genre but it´s the drumming by George Kollias that put the icing on the cake. The man is a phenomena. You can argue that he plays his two triggered bass drums a bit too much but it´s hard to argue that he doesn´t play them well. He has a way of making the music move forward in a powerful and aggressive fashion yet with a sophistication that puts him in a class of his own. In addition to his playing on the faster paced tracks it´s interesting to listen to his playing on the crushingly heavy and slow "4th Arra of Dagon" which perfectly showcases what he is also capable of when the pace is lowered.

Upon conclusion, Nile have with "Those Whom the Gods Detest" once again proven who are the kings of brutal technical death metal. Releasing several high quality death metal albums in a row is not something you´ll see many artists accomplice. They are one of the very few death metal acts that have a distinct sound and an overall concept that work wonders. Put on any Nile album and you would instantly be able to tell that it was Nile you were listening to. Now that is what seperates the leaders from the followers. Well crafted memorable compositions, excellent musicianship, and a powerful professional sound production. It´s hard to ask for much more than that. A 4.5 (90%) star rating is deserved.

LETHAL Programmed

Album · 1990 · US Power Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 9 ratings
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"Programmed" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Hebron, Kentucky based progressive/power metal act Lethal. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in October 1990. Lethal was formed by the Cook brothers Eric (on guitars) and Glen (on bass) in 1982 and after a couple of lineup changes and the release of the 1987 "Arrival" demo, they got signed to Metal Blade Records for the release of "Programmed". A promotional video was released for the "Immune" track.

The music on "Programmed" is a guitar/vocal driven type of progressive power metal, not far removed from the 80s releases by acts like Fates Warning, Crimson Glory, and Queensrÿche. In addition to the artists mentioned above I´d also add a slight Iron Maiden influence when describing the music.

The 10 track, 46:54 minutes long album is loaded with well written material. Each track is intricate, relatively catchy, and melodic yet heavy when that is called for. Lead guitar themes and solos are a major part of the band´s sound as well as a tight and well playing rhythm section. It´s mostly the very high pitched vocals and ornamented vocal melodies by Tom Mallicoat, which are in focus. With a vocalist like that fronting the band it´s nearly impossible to focus on anything else when he sings. A passionate and very convincing vocal delivery throughout. The instrumental part of the music is also very well played and it´s clear from the opening notes of album opener "Fire in Your Skin", that we´re dealing with a professional and talented band.

I called the music progressive power metal above, but in this case the word "progressive" doesn´t mean complex song structures or demanding instrumental sections, but rather just that the compositions are quite intricate and played with a rare sophistication (although most tracks do feature some pretty demanding playing). When examined a bit closer most of the tracks are actually pretty regular vers/chorus structured.

Overall "Programmed" is a high quality debut release by Lethal, and while they never broke through commercially and is seldom mentioned as one of the seminal progressive power/heavy metal acts from those days, the album is still highly recommendable to fans of the genre. Definitely a high quality release deserving more attention. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

ANTHRAX Spreading The Disease

Album · 1985 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.84 | 49 ratings
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"Spreading The Disease" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US heavy/thrash metal act Anthrax. The album was released through Island Records in October 1985. It´s the successor to "Fistful Of Metal" from february 1984. Quite a few things have happened in the 18 months between the two albums. There have been a couple of lineup changes as lead vocalist Neil Turbin has been replaced by Joey Belladonna, and bassist Dan Lilker has been replaced by Frank Bello. Lineup changes which formed what most probably consider the "classic" Anthrax lineup. In addition to that Anthrax also had time to record and release the "Armed and Dangerous" EP in February 1985.

So things moved fast for the band in their early years, and that includes changes to their musical style. While "Spreading The Disease" isn´t a 100% pure thrash metal release, the band have begun the process of moving away from their original raw heavy metal/speed metal style towards a more thrash metal oriented style based on catchy groove laden riffs and rhythms. The most thrashy tracks on the album are probably "A.I.R." and "Gung-Ho" which are the two tracks that bookend the album, while tracks like "The Enemy", "Medusa", and "Lone Justice", lean more towards traditional heavy metal (the former featuring a heavy Iron Maiden influence). So I´d say "Spreading The Disease" is a 50/50 heavy metal/thrash metal release.

The material is generally well written and for the most part instantly catchy. Joey Belladonna is a very versatile vocalist able to sing really high notes when that is called for, but also more rough sounding vocals. Always with a melodic sensibility to his delivery though. The 9 track, 43:46 minutes long album features 8 new original tracks, and "Armed and Dangerous", which had already appeared on the "Armed and Dangerous" EP earlier in the year. It´s a great track though and fits well on "Spreading The Disease", although it stands out a bit with it´s clean guitar intro and slow building structure.

"Spreading The Disease" is packed in an organic and powerful sounding production, and paired with the high level musicianship, and memorable songwriting, it makes for an enjoyable listening experience from start to finish. I still view "Spreading The Disease" as a transitional album though, and there are a couple of more questionable features on the album, which would be weeded out on the next couple of releases, but for what it is a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

GOJIRA From Mars to Sirius

Album · 2005 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.81 | 33 ratings
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"From Mars to Sirius" is the 3rd full-length studio album by French progressive death/thrash metal act Gojira. The album was released through Listenable/Prosthetic Records in September 2005. It´s the successor to "The Link" from 2003. While "The Link (2003)" had already made the world well aware of who Gojira were, "From Mars to Sirius" further helped raise the band´s profile on the metal scene. They took the successful formula of the predecessor and expanded upon it. When listening to the stylistic development between the first three Gojira albums, it´s obvious the band were going through a fast moving development process and "From Mars to Sirius" was the culmination of the early stage of the band´s career. The next upward step to greatness and success.

Stylistically the music on "From Mars to Sirius" is technically well played and progressive death/thrash metal. The main vocal style is raw shouting/semi-growling, but there are sections featuring clean vocals on the album too. The music is rooted in the groove laden part of the thrash metal movement of the 90s and artists like Sepultura, (early) Meshuggah, and Machine Head, but there are some death metal traits in the music too. Considering all the heavy and sharp riffs and rhythms featured on the album, "From Mars to Sirius" is actually a very atmospheric release though. There´s often a melancholic "the world will go down the drain if we don´t do something to stop the environmental issues and world conflicts" type atmosphere present, and I´m reminded of an artist like Killing Joke. So the various elements which make up the whole, aren´t necessarily that original, but the way the elements are combined and the tracks are constructed, provide Gojira with a relatively unique sound.

Highlights include tracks like "Backbone", "Where Dragons Fall", "The Heaviest Matter of the Universe", and "To Sirius", but "From Mars to Sirius" is a highly consistent release. It´s both a positive and a negative, but more about that in the conclusion below.

The musicianship is on a high level on all posts. Gojira are obviously very skilled, but they are also passionate about delivering their music and that´s audible too. "From Mars to Sirius" features a powerful, detailed, and well sounding production, which suits the material perfectly. So upon conclusion it´s a high quality release by Gojira. Featuring 12 tracks and a full playing time of 66:58 minutes it outstays its welcome a bit and a few tracks could have been left off the album and it would most likely have been a little more concise and "sharp", but as it is, it´s still a great quality release and the extra minutes of playing time is a minor issue. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

DYING FETUS Wrong One to Fuck With

Album · 2017 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 4.10 | 5 ratings
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"Wrong One to Fuck With" is the 8th full-length studio album by US, Maryland based death metal act Dying Fetus. The album was released through Relapse Records in June 2017. It´s the successor to "Reign Supreme" from 2012 and features the same three-piece lineup as the predecessor: John Gallagher (guitars, vocals), Sean Beasley (bass, vocals), and Trey Williams (drums). In fact Dying Fetus has featured this trio lineup since "Descend into Depravity (2009)", and it finally looks like the endless lineup changes of the past are behind them. A stable lineup for three albums in a row is definitely some sort of a record for the band.

Stylistically almost nothing has changed since the inception of Dying Fetus in the early 90s despite of the many lineup changes throughout the band´s history. Band leader/guitarist/vocalist John Gallagher has steered the ship through various storms with a clear musical vision of playing the most crushingly brutal and groove laden death metal he could possibly produce and has for the most part succeeded in doing just that. Every release up until now has been high quality death metal, although some albums stand out more than others. That trend is continued on "Wrong One to Fuck With", which is another example of how one of the elite artists of the genre deliver brutal and technical well played death metal on a level that only few similar styled contemporary artists can dream of reaching.

No compromise is the first thing I think when listening to "Wrong One to Fuck With", which is a vicious attack on the ears. Given a few listens, hooks begin to appear and there are definitely some pretty catchy moments here and there on the album, but initially you´ll probably be blown to pieces by the ultra brutal music and uncompromising nature of the material. Dying Fetus are not the type of band to cater to accessibility and you´ll be hard pressed to find anything resembling a melody on the album (which of course is a bit of an exaggeration, because there are actually brief hints of melody featured on the album). Fast blasting, sharp riffs and rhythms, and those trademark ultra brutal groove laden breakdowns, paired with the brutal growling vocals of Gallagher and Beasley (who compliment each other with a deep unintelligible growling type and a slightly more intelligible aggressive growling type), are the basis of the band´s music.

It´s not album where it makes much sense to mention one track over another, because all tracks on the album are consistent in quality and style. It´s both a strength and a weakness. A strength because you know that you´ll be exposed to high quality brutal death metal played with great technical skill for the duration of the album, but a weakness because the album is a bit of a one-dimensional listen. It´s more or less the premise of this particular style of death metal though, and it´s a matter of locking on to the brutal hypnotic grooves and enjoying the sharp riffs and precision drumming, rather than expecting stylistic variation and development.

"Wrong One to Fuck With" is a well produced album. It´s raw, powerful, and detailed, and the sound production suits the material perfectly. The triggered bass drums are maybe a bit too "thin" and "clicky" sounding, but it´s not a major issue, and overall the album sounds great. So upon conclusion "Wrong One to Fuck With" is yet another high quality brutal death metal release by Dying Fetus. They are still one of the elite artists of the genre, and prove it once more here. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

ANGELCORPSE Exterminate

Album · 1998 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.97 | 5 ratings
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"Exterminate" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US death metal act Angelcorpse and the successor to "Hammer of Gods" from 1996. The album was released through Osmose Productions in early 1998 and recorded at Morrisound Studios during October/November 1997. Since the recording of the debut album second guitarist Bill Taylor has been added to the lineup, making Angelcorpse a four-piece on "Exterminate".

Stylistically the music on "Exterminate" continues the blasphemous/occult themed blackened death metal style featured on "Hammer of Gods (1996)", but adds in the extremity department. "Exterminate" is if possible even more uncompromising and inaccessible than "Hammer of Gods (1996)" was. The closest relative is probably Morbid Angel, but Angelcorpse are generally far more extreme and less immediately catchy.

The music consists of fast and very technically well played drumming, fast and aggressive tremolo riffing, screaming atonal guitar solos, and lead vocalist/bassist Pete Helmkamp´s snarling hate filled growling in front. The rest of the music has little to do with black metal, but Helmkamp´s vocals provide the music with a blackened touch, and his vocals are generally a great asset to the band´s music. His got a rare caustic delivery that leaves no doubt that he means business, spitting out his blasphemous hatred.

Viewed upon objectively the material on the 8 track, 39:49 minutes long album is actually a bit one-dimensional, and the tracks don´t differ that much in sound or style. You´ll find catchy vocal phrases and a riff here and there that you´ll be able to remember, but overall this is a full on assault of raw and aggressive blackened death metal almost completely without melody nor hooklines. While that may sound negative or off putting to some listeners, that´s actually the whole point of a release like "Exterminate". Angelcorpse is obviously not out to cater to those listeners who crave variation or instantly catchy hooks, but rather those who want their death metal as extreme, raw, and chaotic sounding as possible.

Tracks like "Christhammer", "Phallelujah", and "Sons of Vengeance" feature bludgeon guarentee, and that´s more or less how you feel after listening to "Exterminate". Like you´ve just been beaten by an angry mob. So if you can stand a 40 minutes beating I can highly recommend "Exterminate", even though a slightly more varied songwriting approach could probably have lifted the overall quality and accessibility of the album. Nonetheless it´s still a high quality blackened death metal album, featuring high level musicianship, an organic and raw sounding production, and uncompromising high quality songwriting (when speaking of individual tracks) and a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

LÄÄZ ROCKIT No Stranger To Danger

Album · 1985 · Speed Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"No Stranger To Danger" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, San Francisco, California based heavy/thrash metal act Lääz Rockit. The album was released through Target Records in 1985 and it´s the successor to "City's Gonna Burn" from 1984. Lääz Rockit was formed in 1982 ans was an active part of the early Bay Area scene, although the early part of their discography only feature very few thrash metal elements...

...and the same applies to "No Stranger To Danger", which features a hard edged heavy metal sound with only a few thrash metal leanings. The tracks are vers/chorus structured with anthemic chorus lines, and almost always featuring a well played guitar solo after the second chorus. So that part of the music is very basic and there´s definitely not the most adventurous approach to songwriting on display here.

It´s of very little importance though, as the band fully make it up with a fiercely convincing performance. The instrumental part of the music is played with raw passion but also features quite a few more sophisticated tricks. Pounding drums, hard rocking bass lines, heavy rocking riffs, and great melodic guitar solos, are the main ingredients of the band´s sound. It´s lead vocalist Michael Coons, who takes the prize though, with his strong voice and commanding attitude filled delivery.

The 9 track, 37:54 minutes long album, is pretty consistent in style and in quality, so while not all tracks stand out equally much, I don´t hear any filler material. Honorable mentions go to the opening trio of tracks "Dreams Die Hard", "I´ve Got Time", and "Town to Town", but the fast paced heavy rocker "Backbreaker" also has its moments.

Overall "No Stranger To Danger" is well worth the price of admission if you´re fan of raw and hard rocking traditional heavy metal, played/sung by skilled musicians, and packed in a powerful and organic sounding production, and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is well deserved.

ALTERED AEON Dispiritism

Album · 2004 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Dispiritism" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish thrash metal act Altered Aeon. The album was released through BLack Lotus Records in November 2004. Altered Aeon was formed in 2001, but had a rather short recording career as their 2007 "Reborn as Gods" demo didn´t result in a new record contract and the band subsequently disbanded.

The music on "Dispiritism" is a technical brand of thrash metal with US power metal leanings, and artists like Charred Walls of the Damned, Control Denied, and Antithesis, are valid references. The playing is on a high technical level, and lead vocalist Kjell Andersson sings both raw shouting vocals, and more melodic clean ones.

The album features 10 tracks and a full playing time of 42:06 minutes, but there´s a limited edition available of the album too which features two bonus tracks. An instrumental track titled "Cellular Disorganization", which is actually quite a great track, that could easily have been part of the regular edition, and a cover of "Welcome Home" by King Diamond. The latter is really well played, and as a result of the clear, powerful, and detailed sound production on "Dispiritism", it´s possible to hear details on this cover version, that you can´t hear on the original. Unfortunately that track and the rest of the tracks on the album, which feature vocals, are mared by the fact that Kjell Andersson isn´t the most interesting singer out there. His voice is as such powerful enough and he hits the notes too, but his tone and delivery just aren´t that interesting (and neither are the melody lines), and the vocals are soon reduced to something that is just there, or even worse a slight annoying element.

It´s not a major issue, as the instrumental part of the music pulls in a very positive direction featuring some intricate technical drumming, relatively complex thrashy riffing, and some very fine melodic guitar solos, but it´s not a positive either when the vocals don´t add to the music. They are generally toneless and lacking emotion.

The material is overall very well composed, but could have featured more catchy parts to hook the listener. Too often I find myself listening for technical chops instead of enjoying the catchiness of a track. I realize my review has come out a bit more negative than intended, but when I hear something featuring as much potential to be great as "Dispiritism" does, and that potential isn´t fulfilled, I can´t help being a bit critical. When that is said, "Dispiritism" is still quite an interesting technical thrash metal release with US power metal leanings, and if you enjoy the genre, and maybe some of the artists I mentioned above, chances are you might enjoy this one too. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

THE LURKING FEAR Out Of The Voiceless Grave

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 2 ratings
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"Out Of The Voiceless Grave" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act The Lurking Fear. The album was released through Century Media Records in August 2017. The Lurking Fear was formed in 2016 and features several prominent members of the Swedish death metal scene: Lead vocalist Tomas Lindberg (At the Gates, Grotesque, Lock Up, The Crown), drummer Adrian Erlandsson (At the Gates, The Haunted, Paradise Lost, Cradle of Filth, Vallenfyre), guitarist Fredrik Wallenberg (Embalmed, Skitsystem, Sarcasm), guitarist Jonas Stålhammer (At the Gates, Bombs of Hades, God Macabre, Macabre End, The Crown), and bassist Andreas Axelsson (Edge of Sanity, Tormented, Marduk, Infestdead).

Stylistically the material on "Out Of The Voiceless Grave" is old school death metal. Playing that style was also the premise of forming The Lurking Fear, and the band arguably succeed well in their mission. It´s audible that these are seasoned musicians because they deliver the music with great skill and conviction. It´s brutal, it´s occult (the H.P. Lovecraft lyrical themes help pull in that direction), it´s distorted and raw, and Lindberg has changed his voice a bit to a slightly deeper growling style, although he still has the higher pitched hysterical edge to his delivery that we´re used to from his performances with At the Gates.

"Out Of The Voiceless Grave" features a raw and powerful sounding production, which suits the material perfectly, and paired with the high level musicianship, and some good quality songwriting (highlights include tracks like "Upon Black Winds" and "Beneath Menacing Sands", but there´s not a single sub par track on the album, which is more varied than it initially may seem), the album is upon conclusion a great quality old school death metal release and a very promising debut, which begs for a follow-up as soon as possible. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

FORBIDDEN Twisted Into Form

Album · 1990 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.23 | 20 ratings
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"Twisted Into Form" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, San Francisco, California based thrash metal act Forbidden. The album was released through Combat Records in March 1990. The band was formed under the Forbidden Evil monicker in 1985 as was an active part of the Bay Area thrash metal scene of the 80s (featuring in those days Rob Flynn from Machine Head on guitars), releasing several demos and playing quite a few live shows, before changing their name to Forbidden in 1987 shortly before recording their debut full-length studio album "Forbidden Evil (1988)". While Forbidden are often mentioned as an influential and important part of the 80s Bay Area thrash metal scene, they were one of the acts from those days, along with contemporaries like Exodus and Heathen, which never broke through to a mainstream metal audience, and probably as a consequence folded in 1997.

The music on "Twisted Into Form" is a technically well played and often melodic US thrash metal style. Compared to the band´s debut album "Forbidden Evil (1988)", the music on "Twisted Into Form" is slightly more sophisticated and at times (seldom) even touches semi-progressive territories. The focus on aggression and technically skilled playing hasn´t changed since the debut, but Forbidden have simply become better songwriters with more adventurous ideas.

The 9 track, 41:09 minutes long album is loaded with brilliant and cleverly written thrash metal tracks, featuring raw thrashy (yet sophisticated) riffing, melodic guitar solos, a rhythmically challenging rhythm section, and Russ Anderson´s skillfully executed vocals in front. He is a very talented vocalist, able to sing both raw staccato type thrash metal vocals, and higher pitched melodic ditto. There´s an edge to the delivery at all times though, so this is not pop oriented clean singing. The most valid reference I can come up with is Sanctuary/Nevermore even though Forbidden are generally more thrash metal oriented. But there is also that link to the most raw US power/thrash which the two mentioned artists deliver featured on "Twisted Into Form".

While the video track "Step by Step" is probably the most well known track from the album (and featuring some really heavy thrashy riffing and a memorable punchy chorus, deserves to be just that), there are many other great tracks on the album and it is one of those albums where the diversity between and within tracks makes the album a great listen throughout. The sound production is also clear, powerful, and raw, which suits the music perfectly and overall "Twisted Into Form" is a professional, and for the genre quite adventurous sounding release from start to finish. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

MY DYING BRIDE As the Flower Withers

Album · 1992 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 3.85 | 19 ratings
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"As the Flower Withers" is the debut full-length studio album by UK doom/death metal act My Dying Bride. The album was released through Peaceville Records in May 1992. Peaceville Records signed the band after listening to the 1991 "God Is Alone" EP. My Dying Bride´s first release on Peaceville Records was the "Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium" EP from 1991, which with its accompanying promotional video airing on MTVs Headbangers Ball, put My Dying Bride firmly on the doom/death metal map. Following up on a success (underground or not) is always a daunting task, but "As the Flower Withers" proved to be an even greater success for the band, and put them in the forefront of the UK doom/death metal scene along with artists like Paradise Lost and Anathema (who at this point through hadn´t released their debut yet).

The music on the album is a combination of crushingly heavy and slow doom/death metal and mid-paced and occasionally faster paced old school death metal. On this album lead vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe only uses his growling vocal style. Although the tracks feature elements and sections with both of the above mentioned musical styles, the album´s tracks can roughly be divided into two main styles. "Silent Dance" is a short classical intro, so I´ll only mention it briefly as a great atmospheric opening to the album. "Sear Me", "The Bitterness and the Bereavement", and "The Return of the Beautiful" are all fairly long, slow, and heavy doom/death metal tracks, featuring majestic melancholic atmospheres, classical contrapoint melodies between guitars and violin, and poetic lyrics, while "The Forever People", "Vast Choirs", and "Erotic Literature" are mainly old school death metal tracks with the occassional more doomy touch.

The musicianship is strong on all posts, but I´ll give a special mention to drummer Rick Miah for his creative approach to doom metal drumming. It´s not always easy for a drummer to make that part of a doom metal album interesting, but Miah understands the importance of variation, and to play some catchy and memorable rhythm patterns. Take for example the opening drum pattern to "Sear Me". Now that´s one hell of a catchy rhythm pattern that´ll stick in your head forever.

"As the Flower Withers" features a powerful, raw, and detailed sound production, which suits the material well. The guitar tone could maybe have been a bit more defined, but it´s a minor detail, and overall the album is well sounding. So upon conclusion it´s a quality album and a seminal doom/death metal release from the early 90s. To my ears it´s not a perfect release though, and it´s mostly a result of the uneven songwriting and stylistic inconsistency. My Dying Bride shine when they play slow doom/death metal, but when they play more "straight" old school death metal they are pretty unremarkable (or at least nothing out of the ordinary), and as half of the tracks on the album are in that style, I´d say a 3.5 star (70%) rating is fair.

PARADISE LOST Medusa

Album · 2017 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.29 | 16 ratings
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"Medusa" is the 15th full-length studio album by UK doom/gothic metal act Paradise Lost. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in September 2017. It´s the successor to "The Plague Within" from 2015, and once again there´s been a lineup change on the drummer position as Adrian Erlandsson has been replaced by Waltteri Väyrynen (Abhorrence, Vallenfyre). The band have had several drummers joining and leaving over the years, and although the remaining four band members have been there from the beginning, they´ve just never been able to find a longer lasting solution on the drum position. There have been drummers through the years who have held the position for several years, but it just seems like being the drummer in Paradise Lost comes with a curse.

"The Plague Within (2015)" reintroduced growling vocals to the band´s doom/gothic metal style, which lead vocalist Nick Holmes had otherwise dropped after the first couple of albums, and on "Medusa", Holmes continues to shift between clean and growling vocals (predominantly using growls on this album). Thankfully not in a formulaic growling sung vers/clean sung chorus format. Holmes manage to add an unpredictable element to the music by using clean and growling vocals for different parts of the various tracks. It´s nothing major, but it´s enough to keep the music from becoming too predictable and thereby lose longivity.

The material on the 8 track, 42:41 minutes long album are well written and memorable. It´s crushingly heavy, dark, atmospheric, and melancholic, and as a consequence of the growling vocals occasionally slightly aggressive too. Both the bass and the rhythm guitar feature a brutal distorted tone, which Paradise Lost haven´t had on their releases in years, and there is prominent use of lead guitar melodies throughout the album, which is another feature harking back to the early days of the band. But while there are quite a few derivative elements featured on "Medusa", it´s not an album which sounds like it was made in the early 90s. Paradise Lost successfully incorporate the gothic metal elements of their repetoire to the doomy and heavy sound on "Medusa", and it feels like an album where Paradise Lost are looking forward, creating a new sound using known elements. Highlights include the doomy "Fearless Sky", the catchy and melodic "The Longest Winter", and the hard rocking gothic metal track (with growling vocals) "Blood & Chaos".

The limited edition of the album includes two bonus tracks in "Shrines" and "Symbolic Virtue". Considering the generally harder edged, raw, and doomy direction of the material on "Medusa", both tracks are pretty obvious take outs. "Shrines" is a great quality track shifting between clean and growling vocals, but a bit more vers/chorus formulaic than the other tracks on the album, and "Symbolic Virtue" is a melodic, clean sung, and piano/keyboard drenched track, which doesn´t really fit with the rest of the material.

"Medusa" features a dark and raw sound production, which suits the material perfectly. I´ve often felt that some of their releases featured too polished and sterile sounding productions, but "Medusa" brings back an organic element which becomes Paradise Lost well. So upon conclusion it´s a high quality release by Paradise Lost and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

MACABRE Grim Scary Tales

Album · 2011 · Death 'n' Roll
Cover art 3.95 | 3 ratings
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"Grim Scary Tales" is the 5th full-length studio album by US extreme metal act Macabre. The album was released through Decomposed Records in January 2011. It´s been 8 long years since the release of "Murder Metal (2003)", but Macabre are not exactly known for being the most productive band on earth in terms of churning out major releases. The band have released a couple of minor releases between 2003 and 2011 though.

Stylistically the material on "Grim Scary Tales" is instantly recognisable as the sound of Macabre. Macabre are probably one of the most unique sounding metal acts on the scene despite what can only be characterized as a very eclectic extreme metal style. On this release they combine elements from death metal, goregrind, black metal, thrash metal, country/bluegrass, swing, children songs and other oddities for your entertainment. The lyrical content is as usual about serial killers/mass murderes delivered with a humourous/bizarre touch. This time around several older legendary killers like "Countess Bathory" (a nice cover of the Venom classic), "Bella the Butcher" (Belle Sorenson Gunness), "Lizzy Borden", and Roman Emperor Nero on "Nero's Inferno", have been included. Most of the murderes described in the lyrics on "Grim Scary Tales" are actually pre-1900 killers, which is a slightly different lyrical approach, as Macabre in the past have predominantly written about post-1900 killers.

Despite the aggression and brutality of the album, the overall atmosphere of the release can sometimes turn towards the somewhat silly (which isn´t unusual for Macabre), but there´s nothing silly about the excellent musicianship, or the band´s compositional skills. The Macabre trio are very well playing and they know how to write a catchy and powerful extreme metal track, and how to effectively incorporate elements from alien music styles to their core sound. Regarding the high level musicianship, it´s especially the drumming by Denis The Menace which stands out. Both the sound of the drums (this is an example of when triggered bass drums work perfectly) and the playing by Denis The Menace are greatly enjoyable throughout the album. The vocals by lead vocalist/guitarist Corporate Death (backed up by bassist Nefarious) are also one of the defining features of Macabre´s music and on this album he sings more varied than ever. You´ll hear his trademark high pitched hysterical vocals on the album but also several types of clean and raw vocals, and some death metal growling too.

As always it´s a bit hard to pick favorites, because Macabre´s releases are usually of a very consistent quality, and the same applies to "Grim Scary Tales", but if I have to pick a few standout tracks it would probably be opening track "Locusta", "Nero's Inferno", and most definitely the country/bluegrass track "The Bloody Benders". "Grim Scary Tales" is well produced, featuring a slightly more raw and organic production than its two direct predecessors, but it´s still a professional, clear, and detailed sounding production.

Upon conclusion "Grim Scary Tales" is not an album which adds much new to the Macabre discography, although the band do conduct a few new sonic experiements, and it´s probably not an album you´d pick over classic albums like "Sinister Slaughter (1993)" and "Dahmer (2000)", but with that said Macabre´s music is still relevant on this release and in its own right "Grim Scary Tales" is a solid and quite enjoyable album and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is warranted.

W.A.S.P. W.A.S.P.

Album · 1984 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.05 | 30 ratings
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"W.A.S.P." is the self-titled debut full-length studio album by US heavy metal act W.A.S.P.. The album was released through Capitol Records in August 1984. It was originally titled "Winged Assassins", but is mostly known under the eponymous title. The original version of the album was to have featured the track "Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)", but as a consequence of pressure from the PMRC (The Parents Music Resource Center), Capitol Records decided to cut the track from the album, and W.A.S.P. instead opted to release the track as a UK single. The album, and especially the opening track "I Wanna Be Somebody", was an instant success, and the promo video for the latter further enhanced the group´s profile.

The music on the 10 track, 38:20 minutes long album is hard rocking heavy metal, featuring hard edged guitar riffing, blistering solo work, a pounding rhythm section (loads of anthemic galloping rhythms to be found here), and Blackie Lawless powerful "I swallowed a dozen razors" voice on top. The instrumental side of the music is well played, but slightly formulaic sounding as a result of the vers/chorus structured tracks, but the vocals and the backing- and harmony vocal arrangements make the music shine.

While few tracks on the album reaches the excellence of "I Wanna Be Somebody", which is a really powerful and relatively raw rocker, the material are generally well written and quite memorable too. Some of the anthemic choruses are infectiously catchy, and it´s hard not to pump your fist in the air and shout along. It´s very audience friendly music, and I can imagine how great the material functioned live in those days.

The album is decently produced, featuring a raw and organic sound production. The drums and especially the bass drum sound could have been handled with a bit more finesse, but overall the sound production suits the material well. So "W.A.S.P." is upon conclusion a pretty strong debut album by W.A.S.P., and a promising start to their career. Not all tracks are equally great, but all tracks are catchy and stay in your memory long after the album is over. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

TOXIK Breaking Class

EP · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Breaking Class" is an EP release by US thrash/speed metal act Toxik. The EP was independently released in August 2017. Toxik were formed in 1985 (under the Tokyo monicker, but soon changed their name to the current one) and released two generally well received studio albums in 1987 and 1989 before disbanded in 1992. For years there were rumors of a reunion and a comeback album titled "In Humanity", but that idea didn´t materialize, and "In Humanity" was released as a 3 track pre-production demo in 2014. So "Breaking Class" is the band´s first official studio release since the "Think This" full-length studio album from 1989.

So how do you pick up 28 years down the line? Well...Toxik used to play a technical type of thrash/speed metal with high pitched screaming vocals, and while the instrumental part of the music is still in technical thrash/speed metal territory, the vocal style has changed a bit. Lead vocalist Charles Sabin can still hit a high note when that is needed and do it frequently, but he now predominantly sings in a slightly lower register. He is a skilled singer with a strong voice, so he makes it work well, although I can´t deny that I miss the completely over-the-top high pitched vocals on "Think This (1989)", but that´s a matter of personal taste, and Sabin´s performance here is arguably of a high quality and nicely varied too. The rest of the band are also well playing. Guitarist Josh Christian (who in addition to Sabin is the only remaining member of the lineup who recorded "Think This (1989)") plays sharp and thrashy but also more melodic guitar riffs, harmonies and leads, while the new rhythm section of bassist Shane Boulos and drummer James DeMaria do a great job playing powerful energetic parts driving the music forward.

"Breaking Class" features 3 tracks and a full playing time of 12:36 minutes, so it´s only a short taste of how Toxik sound in 2017, but it´s a sweet taste leaving the listener wanting more, and that´s always a sure sign of good quality material. The tracks are powerful, thrasy, melodic, and played and sung with great passion and conviction, and they are relatively varied too. The EP features a well sounding production, which suits the material perfectly, so upon conclusion "Breaking Class" is a great comeback for Toxik, which arguably shows they still have what it takes. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

VALLENFYRE Fear Those Who Fear Him

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 2 ratings
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"Fear Those Who Fear Him" is the 3rd full-length studio album by UK death metal act Vallenfyre. The album was released through Century Media Records in June 2017. It´s the successor to "Splinters" from 2014 and features a couple of lineup changes as bassist Scoot has left Vallenfyre. He hasn´t been replaced which means that the bass parts were recorded by guitarist Hamish Hamilton Glencross. Drummer Adrian Erlandsson has been replaced by Waltteri Väyrynen (B>Paradise Lost, Hypothesis, Abhorrence). The last member of the three-piece lineup is vocalist/guitarist Gregor Mackintosh.

Vallenfyre was specifically formed as an outlet for the band members old school death metal ideas, which their day job bands couldn´t incorporate. And brutal and sinister old school death metal it is. Ranging from fast-paced, D-beat hardcore punked, mid-paced and heavy, to ultra brutal and doomy, "Fear Those Who Fear Him" has it all when it comes to old school death metal traits. Mackintosh has a brutal yet intelligible growling vocal style, which suits the darkness of the music well and paired with the rawness of the sound production (the guitars have what I´d characterize as an early 90s Swedish death metal tone), the album comes off as one of the more successful contemporary retro sounding death metal releases.

The change in pace and rhythm style are some of the great assets of the band´s music. Fast-paced tracks like "Messiah" and "Nihilist", are paired with the mid-paced brutal grooves of tracks like "Degeneration" and "Amongst the Filth", and the slow brutal death/doom of tracks like "An Apathetic Grave" and "Cursed from the Womb". And it all sounds pretty natural too. Nothing contrived about it. It just feels like the band have composed exactly what they wanted, when and how they wanted. When you play a music style like this these days, no one expects your music to be of a groundbreaking character, because the whole idea behind playing this type of music is to have a derivative approach to composing your material, but that doesn´t mean you can´t still try to forge a personal sound, to set yourself apart from the pack. Vallenfyre are relatively successful in doing that. At least to a certain extent.

The real asset on "Fear Those Who Fear Him" is how well performed the material is though. These are some really well playing guys, and there are tons of conviction and passion behind the delivery. There´s a great raw and organic touch to the way the music is played, which is greatly charming, and ultimately suiting the old school death metal material perfectly. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

MASTODON Jonah Hex: Revenge Gets Ugly EP

EP · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.01 | 9 ratings
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"Jonah Hex: Revenge Gets Ugly EP" is an EP release by US metal act Mastodon and the official score for the Jimmy Hayward directed film "Jonah Hex (2010)". The EP was released digitally through Reprise Records in June 2010. The making of the EP turned out to be a bit more painful than planned, as the band´s first attempt to write music for the film was shelved, as original soundtrack composer/arranger John Powell had to leave the project, after being handed Mastodon´s material, and new composer/arranger Marco Beltrami wanted something less heavy and a bit more subtle. So Mastodon had to start from scratch, and paired with the fact that they were in the middle of a major world tour, the band felt a bit stressed out by the situation.

As always Mastodon delivers a professional product though. This time fully instrumental and generally more ambient and less heavy than what we´re used to from their side, but still quite intriguing and as the case is with the slow building opener "Death March", quite ominous sounding too. I´m sometimes reminded of a contemporary and slightly heavier version of the most dark material from the "More (1969)" soundtrack by Pink Floyd. The EP features four tracks, and two alternate versions of the two opening tracks "Death March" and "Clayton Boys" summing up to a total of six tracks and a full playing time of 32:46 minutes.

Although the music doesn´t feature vocals, and it´s a bit more slow building and ambient in style than usual for Mastodon, it´s still unmistakably the sound of the band. "Jonah Hex: Revenge Gets Ugly EP" is also as well produced and well performed as any other release by the band, and while the soundtrack nature of the material makes it a bit less interesting compared to their "regular" releases, the EP is still a quality product by Mastodon deserving a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

FORBIDDEN Forbidden Evil

Album · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.37 | 19 ratings
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"Forbidden Evil" is the debut full-length studio album by US, San Francisco, California based thrash metal act Forbidden. The album was released through Combat Records in September 1988. The band was formed under the Forbidden Evil monicker in 1985 as was an active part of the Bay Area thrash metal scene of the 80s (featuring in those days Rob Flynn from Machine Head on guitars), releasing several demos and playing quite a few live shows, before changing their name to Forbidden in 1987 shortly before recording "Forbidden Evil". While Forbidden is often mentioned as an influential and important part of the 80s Bay Area thrash metal scene, they were one of the acts from those days, along with contemporaries like Exodus and Heathen, which never broke through to a mainstream metal audience, and probably as a consequence folded in 1997.

The music on the album is technically well played US thrash metal. Forbidden sets themselves a bit apart from the majority of thrash metal acts from those days as lead vocalist Russ Anderson combines his raw staccato thrash metal vocals, with more melodic oriented clean vocal parts (sometimes high pitched). The whole thing is still pretty raw but the occasionally melodic vocals provide the music with valuable memorability. And the 8 tracks on the 40:58 minutes long album, are all high quality material, written and performed by a top tier band. Tracks like "Chalice of Blood" and "Through Eyes of Glass" are among the highlights, but this is an album with no filler material. Quite a few of the tracks appeared on the band´s demos, but here they are enhanced by a better production, and more detailed arrangements, to provide them with new life.

In addition to the very strong and convincing vocal performance by Russ Anderson, the rest of the band are also very well playing. Fast paced aggressive riffing, great guitar solos, a busy and audible bass, and precision drumming by Paul Bostaph (who later has played with both Exodus, Testament, and of course Slayer). A tight yet organic performance by all involved, which is further enhanced by the raw, powerful, and detailed sound production.

"Forbidden Evil" is upon conclusion a very strong debut release by Forbidden and even though the band didn´t get the big breakthrough with this release (or any of their subsequent releases), "Forbidden Evil" is widely considered a "classic" Bay Area thrash metal release from the 80s, and personally I think that reputation is fully deserved. The performances on the album are more than convincing, the sound production is well sounding for the time, and the material is relatively varied and memorable. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

INTRUDER A Higher Form of Killing

Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"A Higher Form of Killing" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US thrash metal act Intruder. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in August 1989. Intruder was formed in 1984 (under the Transgresser monicker) and released a couple of demos before releasing their debut full-length studio album "Live to Die" in 1987. There´s been one lineup change since the debut album as the band have added a second guitarist to the lineup in Greg Messick.

Musically Intruder have developed their original raw thrash/speed metal sound towards a more straight US, Bay Area influenced thrash metal style. I´m often reminded of Forbidden, because of how Jimmy Hamilton delivers his vocals in both straccato raw thrash metal style but also with a more singing type delivery. Joey Belladonna from Anthrax is another vocal reference. Hamilton has a powerful voice, but his singing abilities are of varied quality, or maybe it´s the rather monotone song melodies, which doesn´t always work wonders. As a result I often find myself thinking that the vocals are a distraction from the otherwise very well played and powerful instrumental part of the music. These guys are a tight playing unit, and you´ll be treated to fast played- and more heavy thrashy riffing, very well played guitar solos, and a powerful rhythmic assault.

The material is generally well written for the style, but again the vocal melodies could have been developed upon, to make them more memorable, and the tracks could also have featured more instrumental hooks. Quite a few of the tracks just pass by and you don´t even notice when the next one starts, so there´s definitely an issue with the tracks sounding a bit too much the same. The cover of "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone" by the Monkees is not surprisingly quite different sounding to the rest of the tracks though.

"A Higher Form of Killing" is well produced featuring a powerful and clear sound, which suits the music perfectly. So upon conclusion the album is a bit of a mixed bag, but quality wise I´d still say that a 3.5 star (70%) rating isn´t all wrong, despite a few issues with the vocals and the vocal melodies and the fact that some tracks aren´t that memorable.

DECAPITATED Anticult

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 4 ratings
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"Anticult" is the 7th full-length studio album by Polish metal act Decapitated. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in July 2017. It´s the successor to "Blood Mantra" from 2014 and features one lineup change as bassist Paweł Pasek has been replaced by Hubert Więcek.

Stylistically the material on the 8 track, 37:49 minutes long album continue the technical extreme metal style of it´s two direct predecessors. It´s a combination of death and heavy groove/thrash metal, with aggressive screaming "core" tinged vocals. There are audible references to artists like Meshuggah, Machine Head, and Gojira, at various points throughout the album (especially "Earth Scar" features a clear Gojira influence), but Decapitated still manage to produce something which doesn´t sound like a clone of any of the mentioned artists.

The technical level of playing is high. Tempo changes, heavy grooves, fast precision drumming, aggressive vocals, and sharp riffs, are some of the elements which make up the band´s music. Everything is delivered with great conviction and passion, and it´s a great joy listening to a band as skilled as Decapitated perform their music. They also manage to put atmospheric parts on the album (predominantly created by effect laden lead guitar parts), which provide the music with some variation. Not that "Anticult" is a one-dimensional release by any means. It only takes a few listens to remember all tracks, and the material are generally pretty catchy. A good example is "Kill the Cult", which features a killer groove laden riff, and a punchy hook laden chorus.

"Anticult" features a powerful, raw, and detailed sound production, which isn´t especially organic, but isn´t sterile either, and ultimately the production suits the material featured on the album perfectly. "Blood Mantra (2014)" was a great quality album by Decapitated, but "Anticult" ultimately comes off just a bit more focused and memorable. Vogg´s crushing precision riffing is as always the greatest asset of the band´s music, but there are many high level performances on the album. I could have wished for a more personal vocal style, but Rafał Piotrowski arguably does what he does with great conviction and passion. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

BODY COUNT Born Dead

Album · 1994 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 4 ratings
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"Born Dead" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, California based metal act Body Count. The album was released through Virgin Records in September 1994. It features the same lineup, who recorded the band´s self-titled debut full-length studio album from 1992. Said debut album earned Body Count quite a bit of infamy as a concequence of the "Cop Killer" track, but also lots of attention because they were an all black band playing heavy metal (which is still a rarity). The album became quite successful in terms of sales, and what some people might have thought was a one off project, became a bit more than that, as Body Count opted to continue and recorded "Born Dead".

Stylistically "Born Dead" is quite different to it´s successful predecessor. It´s audible that it´s the same band playing, but Body Count sounds harder edged, more riff oriented, and more "metal" on "Born Dead", than they did on the more hardcore tinged debut. I´m not sure if it´s part of the explanation, but as opposed to the debut album, which was almost solely composed by lead guitarist Ernie-C (with lead vocalist Ice-T handling most of the lyrics), both bassist Mooseman, and rhythm guitarist D-Roc, are credited for writing or co-writing several tracks on "Born Dead". In addition to the original material on the album, "Born Dead" also features a cover of "Hey Joe" (which was originally featured on the Jimi Hendrix tribute album "Stone Free (1993)").

However to my ears the major difference here is how the vocals are performed and how the lyrics are written. While the debut album contained several tracks, which featured "storytelling" type lyrics (probably as a result of Ice-T usually performing rap vocals), the lyrics on "Born Dead" generally feature less words, and are more anthemic in nature, with the same words being repeated over and over again. Ice-T sounds pretty pissed here too, and the otherwise quite charming humour from the debut is more or less gone on this album.

The sound production is sharper, more heavy, and darker too, and it all adds up to a pretty aggressive and raw sophomore album by Body Count. Unfortunately the new musical direction doesn´t elevate the band´s music to a higher level. On the contrary the lack of the humourous storytelling lyrics and the endless repetition of the lyrics on many tracks, make "Born Dead" slightly hard to get through in one spin. A great riff, a clever lyric line, and a cool rhythm pop up now and again, but overall "Born Dead" is a disappointment compared to the strong debut album and a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

WITCHERY Restless & Dead

Album · 1998 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.55 | 2 ratings
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"Restless & Dead" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish metal act Witchery. The album was released through Necropolis Records in October 1998. Witchery was formed in 1997 by four former members of Satanic Slaughter and bassist Sharlee D'Angelo (Mercyful Fate, Arch Enemy).

The music on "Restless & Dead" is heavy metal with elements of death, black, and thrash metal, making it a bit hard to tag correctly. Maybe an extreme form of traditional heavy metal is the most valid description. The instrumental part of the music isn´t that extreme though, and only occasionally touches old school sounding thrash and speed metal territories. It´s mostly grounded in traditional heavy metal with hard edged riffing, melodic solos, and pounding drums, but generally featuring a slightly darker/occult atmosphere than most releases in the genre. Song titles like "Midnight at the Graveyard", "Awaiting the Exorcist", and "House of the Raining Blood" speak louder than words when it comes to the lyrical content. The vocals are relatively extreme, and is best described as a screaming yet intelligible blackened growl.

The material on the 10 track, 35:44 minutes long album is well composed, but also slightly formulaic and it doesn´t take more than a couple of tracks, before you know how the rest of the album is gonna sound like. It´s not a huge issue since the album is very well produced and the musicianship is on a high level, but the lack of compositional surprises do make the album slightly less interesting than it could have been. Still there are some high quality material on the album, featuring catchy hooks and memorable riffs, and therefore a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

MASTODON Emperor of Sand

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.58 | 13 ratings
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"Emperor Of Sand" is the 7th full-length studio album by US metal act Mastodon. The album was released through Reprise Records in March 2017. It´s the successor to "Once More 'Round the Sun" from 2014. The band have created a conceptual piece which deals with mortality/fatal illness (the band members have revealed in interviews that the cancer illness of friends and family have served as inspiration), but on a metaphorical level telling the story of a desert wanderer who has been sentenced to death.

Stylistically the material on "Emperor Of Sand" continue the more accessible melodic direction of "Once More 'Round the Sun (2014)". It´s still unmistakably the sound of Mastodon, featuring their relatively unique riffing style, heavy bass, Brann Dailor´s energetic drumming, and the different vocal styles, ranging from raw to various clean vocal styles. It´s heavy music, but although the occasional sludgy moment occurs, the music is sometimes closer to heavy rock than it is to metal. It´s safe to say Mastodon have changed a lot since their early progressive sludge metal days. It should be noted though that the music is still occasionally progressive in structure and style. The closing "Jaguar God" (which is one of the highlights of the album) is an example of that.

The music features a nice organic tone which is further backed by the warm organic sound production. The material is well written and in most cases the tracks are relatively catchy and memorable too. Mastodon still make their audience work though, and although there are a couple of pretty accessible melodic tracks featured on the album (the melody to "Show Yourself" is stuck in my head), there are also some which require more than one listen to sink in.

So upon conclusion "Emperor Of Sand" is another quality release by Mastodon, and the only real issue I can come up with, is that there is little on this album, the band haven´t already tried and done on the predecessors. So it´s not exactly a groundbreaking release as far as their discography goes. Less will do though, and "Emperor Of Sand" is still a damn solid release deserving a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating.

BODY COUNT Body Count

Album · 1992 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 3.78 | 11 ratings
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"Body Count" is the eponymously titled debut full-length studio album by US, Los Angeles, California based hardcore/heavy metal act Body Count. The album was released through Sire Records (a subsidary to Warner Bros. Records in March 1992. Body Count was founded in 1990 by lead guitarist Ernie C. and lead vocalist Ice-T along with three old friends (Mooseman on bass, D-Roc on rhythm guitar, and Beatmaster "V" on drums). Ice-T was a very prolific name in rap music circles in those days, but he also had a love for rock and heavy metal music, and wanted to expand his means of expression and found a songwriting partner in Ernie C., who could help him do that.

The album was both a commercial and artistic success, but it was also a very controversial release as the song "Cop Killer" was deemed as a call to kill cops. Despite the heavy criticism from authorities, the label initially defended the band´s right to include the track on the album, but Body Count eventually opted to remove the track (and the short intro track "Out in the Parking Lot") from the album, and replace it with "Freedom of Speech", which is a song from Ice-T's 1989 solo album "The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech...Just Watch What You Say". The track was re-edited and remixed for the occasion.

Despite Ice-T's background as a rapper, the music on "Body Count" isn´t rap metal, although there are vocal parts featured on the album, which resemble rap type vocals. Ice-T predominantly sings in a more rock/hardcore type raw/shouting vocal style. The instrumental part of the music features elements from both thrash, heavy metal, punk, hardcore, rock´n´roll, and blues. Ernie C. is obviously a very skilled guitarist, and he plays quite a few impressive solos on the album, but the rest of the band are well playing too. The rhythm section is a bit unconventional sounding for heavy metal music, and I´d be surprised if Mooseman and Beatmaster "V" had ever played metal music before recording this album. But despite (or maybe because) of the unconventional rhythmic playing on the album, that part of Body Count´s sound is actually pretty original.

"Body Count" is an album with a good flow, although there is good variation between tracks too. There´s not a dull moment or anything sub par on the album, and it´s through and through a quality release, seen from a compositional point of view. Some tracks can be a bit formulaic and repetitive, but the band always successfully incorporate bridges, a guitar solo, a drum solo, or some other detail to make sure the tracks are entertaining throughout. The lyrics deserve a mention too, as they are quite entertaining, dealing with race conflicts, sex, violence, drug abuse, police brutality, and political issues. Some are delivered with fierce conviction, and some are delivered with a more warm humourous gleam in the eye, but you are never in doubt about the passion behind the delivery. I can mention quite a few highlights from the album, like "KKK Bitch", "Cop Killer", "Body Count", "The Winner Loses" (which always reminds me of Jimi Hendrix), and "There Goes the Neighborhood", but again there´s not a single track here that´s not equal in quality to those mentioned.

The album features a pretty well sounding production too, and all in all this is a great quality debut album by Body Count. The eclectic nature of the tracks is one of the album´s greatest strengths, but the high compositional quality (instantly catchy and memorable tracks), and the skills of the musicians involved, are also assets that combined make this a great listening experience. A 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

MASSACRE Inhuman Condition

EP · 1992 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Inhuman Condition" is an EP release by US, Florida based death metal act Massacre. The EP was released through Earache Records in October 1992. Massacre is widely considered one of the seminal death metal acts on the Florida scene, although they didn´t release their debut full-length studio album "From Beyond" until 1991. The band features several ex-members of the equally influential Death in the lineup. Compared to the lineup, who recorded "From Beyond", Steve Swanson (Six Feet Under) has been added as the band´s second guitarist.

"Inhuman Condition" features 4 tracks and a full playing time of 20:38 minutes. In addition to three new original tracks, the EP also features a cover of "Warhead" by Venom. The latter mentioned is a pretty good cover, and the three original tracks are quality wise and stylistically not that different from the music on "From Beyond (1991)". This is very basic and simple old school death metal with strong ties to the raw part of the 80s thrash metal scene.

The sound production is relatively powerful and well sounding (the EP was recorded at Morrisound Recording), and the musicianship is decent (although Kam Lee´s vocals sounded better on the debut album than they do here), and paired with the relatively catchy old school death metal tunes, "Inhuman Condition" is a pretty entertaining EP release by Massacre. It´s not exactly in the elite of old school death metal releases from those days though and a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

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