Metal Music Reviews from UMUR

BLACK STAR RIDERS Heavy Fire

Album · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.27 | 3 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 4.26 | 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 | 8 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 3.75 | 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 4.49 | 19 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 3.84 | 17 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 4.56 | 9 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 3.99 | 29 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 | 12 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 3.97 | 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.

MY DYING BRIDE Symphonaire infernus et spera empyrium

EP · 1992 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 3.51 | 5 ratings
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"Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium" is an EP release by UK death/doom metal act My Dying Bride. The EP was released in March 1992 and it was the band´s first release on the Peaceville Records label. My Dying Bride were signed to the label on the grounds of the "God is Alone (1991)" EP/single. The 11:38 minutes long title track was made into a video (in an edited version). It had some showings on the MTV Headbanger´s Ball show, which was the most important heavy metal video media in those days, if you wanted your music to reach a bigger audience. There´s been one lineup change since "God is Alone (1991)" as Adrian "Ade" Jackson was added to the ranks as the band´s permanent bassist, making My Dying Bride a five-piece for the recording of "Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium".

"Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium" features three tracks and a full playing time of 20:12 minutes. The 11:39 minutes long title track fills up the whole of the A-side and the two shorter tracks "God is Alone" and "De Sade Soliloquay" fill up the B-side (on the original vinyl version of the release). All three tracks had seen a release in other versions before being released on "Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium". The title track was released in a shorter and not as developed version on the "Towards the Sinister (1990)" demo tape while the other two tracks are available on the "God is Alone (1991)" EP/single. They appear here in re-recorded versions.

Stylistically the two shorter tracks are fairly standard and predominantly mid-paced old school death metal. They really aren´t anything out of the ordinary, but it´s with the title track that My Dying Bride made their mark on the early death/doom metal scene. We´re invited into the doomy and melancholic world of My Dying Bride complete with extremely heavy distorted guitar riffs, growling vocals, and melancholic violin playing. The song structure is quite interesting too as the song shifts style a couple of times throughout the playing time from gloomy doom to mid-paced death metal brutality.

The sound production is decent, but not really great sounding, and it´s also audible the band either didn´t have much time to record in the studio or didn´t quite have the necessary playing skills yet, because it´s all slightly untight. So while "Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium" definitely should be counted among the seminal death/doom metal releases from the early 90s, it´s not a perfect release by any means, but it is an interesting glimpse into what My Dying Bride would become on their debut album. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

FIRESPAWN The Reprobate

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.76 | 3 ratings
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"The Reprobate" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Firespawn. The album was released through Century Media Records in April 2017. Firespawn is a project band featuring several rather prolific Swedish musicians in lead vocalist LG Petrov (Entombed/Entombed A.D.), guitarist Victor Brandt (Entombed/Entombed A.D.), guitarist Fredrik Folklare (Necrophobic, Unleashed), bassist Alex Friberg (Necrophobic), and drummer Matte Modin (Defleshed, Dark Funeral). There have been no lineup changes since the release of the band´s debut full-length studio album "Shadow Realms (2015)".

Stylistically "The Reprobate" is pretty much a continuation of the death metal style introduced on "Shadow Realms (2015)". It´s old school at it´s core, but it´s not too derivative of past glories. With LG Petrov helming the project (and Brandt on guitars) an Entombed influence is inevitable, but he is predominantly a bit more growling and brutal when singing for Firespawn than he is when singing for his main act (and unfortunately also a bit one-dimensional and monotone in his delivery). The instrumental part of the music generally doesn´t sound like any particular Swedish or foreign country death metal act, but it´s not the most original sounding death metal style either (the main riff on the title track for example loans heavily from Morbid Angel). While the music is varied enough with great rhythmic changes, powerful riffs, and great melodic lead guitar work, you probably won´t come away from the album feeling like you´ve heard something you haven´t listened to before.

It´s not a major issue though, and one of the main reasons for that is the high level musicianship. Considering the involved parties, that´s not a huge surprise, but it deserves to be mentioned that these guys are incredibly well playing and deliver their music with great passion and conviction. "The Reprobate" is well produced too, and upon conclusion it´s a good quality death metal release. It may not shake the foundation of the death metal genre, but it´s another proof of how great the Swedes generally are when it comes to playing the style. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

MOTÖRHEAD Another Perfect Day

Album · 1983 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.88 | 28 ratings
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"Another Perfect Day" is the 6th full-length studio album by UK hard/heavy rock act Motörhead. The album was released through Bronze Records in the UK and through Mercury Records in the US in June 1983. The US version and the casette version of the album feature a different tracklist compared to the other versions. The lineup of Eddie Clarke (guitars), Lemmy Kilmister (Vocals, Bass), and Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor (drums), who had been stabile since 1976, saw a change during Motörhead´s 1982 US tour supporting "Iron Fist (1982)", as Clarke left the band as a consequence of the band recording "Stand By Your Man", a cover version of the Tammy Wynette track, in collaboration with Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics. Clarke felt the cover track would hurt Motörhead´s integrity and refused to play on it. Former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian "Robbo" Robertson replaced him and after finishing the US tour, went straight to the studio with Lemmy and Taylor to record "Another Perfect Day". After touring in support of the album Robertson and Motörhead agreed that he had to move on, so "Another Perfect Day" is the only Motörhead release to feature his services.

Stylistically it´s quite obvious that there is a new boy in town, because the guitar part of the album is very different sounding from what we´ve been used to on the predecessors. While Eddie Clarke is a skilled enough guitarist with a signature sound, his playing style did become a bit one-dimensional towards the end, and Robertson is a breath of fresh air in the Motörhead camp with his more sophisticated, melodic oriented, and generally more varied playing style. At it´s core the music on "Another Perfect Day" is still unmistakably the sound of Motörhead though with badass rock´n´roll attitude in the front seat, Lemmy´s rusty voice, raw vocal delivery, and rumbling distorted bass, the untamed organic drumming by Taylor, and the huge doses of heavy blues oriented rock´n´roll riffing.

There are several highlights on the album like "Shine", "Dancing on Your Grave", and "One Track Mind", but the material on "Another Perfect Day" are generally of a high quality, and very few tracks can be labelled fillers. The album also features a well sounding organic and detailed production, which suits the music perfectly, so "Another Perfect Day" is overall a great album by Motörhead. It´s also one of the albums in the band´s by now huge discography which stands out, because of Robertson´s involvement and playing style. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

MOTÖRHEAD Motörhead

Album · 1977 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.83 | 30 ratings
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"Motörhead" is the self-titled debut full-length studio album by UK heavy/hard rock act Motörhead. The album was released through Chiswick Records in September 1977. Motörhead had already recorded an album in late 1975/early 1976 titled "On Parole", but United Artists Records refused to release the album, because they felt it lacked commercial potential (they eventually released it in 1979 after the success of "Overkill (1979)" and "Bomber (1979)"). Motörhead continued to play live though and finally secured a new label deal with Chiswick Records, who payed for studio time to record material for this debut release. All tracks from "On Parole", except "Fools" and "Leaving Here", were re-recorded during the sessions for "Motörhead", but only 5 of them made it unto the original 8 track, 32:37 minutes long version of the album. In addition to those 5 tracks, "Motörhead" features the two new original tracks "White Line Fever" and "Keep Us on the Road" and a cover of "Train Kept A-Rollin'" (originally recorded by Tiny Bradshaw in 1951 and popularized by The Yardbirds in 1965).

Since the recording of "On Parole" guitarist/vocalist Larry Wallis has been replaced by Eddie Clarke. The lineup of Eddie Clarke (guitars), Lemmy Kilmister (Vocals, Bass), and Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor (drums) would be stabile in the period 1976–1982.

Compared to "On Parole", which shares a large portion of the material featured on this album, "Motörhead" features a more harder edged, at times punked, and very gritty and raw "Fuck You" attitude laden introduction to Motörhead. The difference between the "On Parole" version of the eponymous titled "Motörhead" track and the version of the same track on this album tells the whole story. The 1977 version features a snarling aggression, and badass attitude that the "On Parole" version could only dream of, and that goes for all the re-recorded versions of the tracks from "On Parole".

It´s obvious that this lineup of Motörhead were hellbent to succeed and that they put all their energy into recording the most raw and energetic versions of the material as they could. Not that the versions featured on "On Parole" aren´t really well played and powerful, but the rawness of the sound production, the distorted and quite busy bass playing, and Lemmy´s sandpaper vocals on this album, provide the music with an edge that "On Parole" can´t match. So it´s not so much the material which has changed, it´s the determination behind the delivery, and the way the tracks are performed (and produced), which end up making the huge difference between the two releases.

"Motörhead" proved to be a relatively successful debut album for the band although it wasn´t until they released "Overkill (1979)" that they had a genuine breakthrough. There had been speculations about a band split-up shortly before Motörhead signed the label deal with Chiswick Records, but the fact that they achieved at least some moderate success with this album, meant that they opted to continue. It´s not their most accomplished album, and at times it´s a little rough around the edges, but a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is still deserved.

DARK MILLENNIUM Diana Read Peace

Album · 1993 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.58 | 5 ratings
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"Diana Read Peace" is the 2nd full-length studio album by German progressive metal act Dark Millennium. The album was released through Massacre Records in 1993. Dark Millennium was formed in 1989 and disbanded in the mid-90s after releasing two demos and two full-length studio albums. They started out playing death metal with doomy sections and occasionally progressive structures, but "Diana Read Peace" doesn´t feature much which indicate that Dark Millennium just the year before released the death metal oriented debut full-length studio album "Ashore the Celestial Burden (1992)".

Instead we´re treated to an adventurous and occasionally gothic take on progressive metal with a few nods towards thrash and doom metal. The atmosphere is dark, melancholic, and at times even alien, as if the band have visited places other people don´t dare to, and have found inspiration in that. Some tracks are not as complex as others, but there are some very progressive structured tracks on the album. The best example os probably the 9:45 minutes long "Brotherhood Sleep... Back to Treasureland".

The musicianship are on a high level, even though lead vocalist Christian Mertens is probably an aquired taste. He sometimes sound a bit out of tune, and his vocal lines are not that memorable and generally not very melodic. He sounds a bit strained when he does his more raw vocal parts too, and considering how strong his growling vocals were on the debut album, it´s a bit of a mystery why he would chose to sing in a vocal style like this on "Diana Read Peace". Development is almost always a positive, but in this case it´s a step down the quality ladder.

"Diana Read Peace" is a relatively well produced album, and as mentioned especially the instrumental part of the music is very well delivered, but the adventurous songwriting is sometimes a bit too adventurous for it´s own good, and sometimes it feels like Dark Millennium had a thousand individual ideas for each track, and some parts and transitions between parts therefore come off as disjointed from the rest of the track.

So upon conclusion "Diana Read Peace" is an album that leaves me a bit biased as I hail the adventurous nature of the album and the high level musicianship, but at the same time I have some issues with the vocals, and with the core songwriting (the album is also a bit too long featuring a playing time that exceeds the hour mark). "Diana Read Peace" therefore ends up falling in the catagory of being more interesting than actually good, but I´d still say a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

MOTÖRHEAD On Parole

Album · 1979 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.62 | 24 ratings
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"On Parole" was recorded in late 1975/early 1976 and was originally intended to be Motörhead´s debut full-length studio album, but United Artists Records felt the recorded material lacked commercial potential and refused to release it. The band, which at the time consisted of Lemmy Kilmister (Vocals, Bass), Larry Wallis (Guitars, Vocals), and Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor (drums), were of course disappointed by the label´s rejection of their recorded material, but soldiered on playing live shows and were with hard work and a bit of luck offered a new label deal by Chiswick Records, who would release the band´s self-titled debut full-length studio album in 1977. It was only after the success of "Overkill (1979)" and "Bomber (1979)", that United Artists Records chose to release "On Parole" though, and not with the consent of the band.

Motörhead was formed by Lemmy after he was kicked out of Hawkwind following a drug bust on the US/Canadian border, which rendered Lemmy unable to play a couple of Canadian tour dates while in prison, which ultimately meant that Hawkwind had to cancel those shows. This was only one episode in a longer line of erratic behaviour episodes which led to Lemmy´s dismissal from Hawkwind. Considering the rumoured intake of huge amounts of psychadelic drugs in the band, Lemmy´s behaviour must have been really bad for them to kick him out. I´ve read Lemmy joking about his dismissal that he took too many "upper" drugs like amphetamine and cocaine, as opposed to the other members of the band, who were primarely into psychadelic drugs, and those two states of mind didn´t go well together.

"On Parole" features 9 tracks and a full playing time of 36:59 minutes, and 3 of those tracks are re-recorded and rearranged versions of tracks that Lemmy wrote while he was in Hawkwind. The eponymously titled "Motörhead" track was featured on "Warrior on the Edge of Time (1975)", "Lost Johnny" on "Hall of the Mountain Grill (1974)" and "The Watcher" was featured on "Doremi Fasol Latido (1972)". Especially the latter features some space rock influences, but other than that the musical style on "On Parole" is blues based hard rock (although "Fools" actually features a less heavy Beatles influence).

All tracks, except "Fools" and "Leaving Here", were re-recorded during the sessions for "Motörhead (1977)" although only 5 of them made it unto the original version of that album. They appear on "On Parole" in more straight rock´n´roll versions, and the gritty punk influences, the raw vocals and massive distorted bass, which are pretty dominant features on the versions of the tracks which appear on "Motörhead (1977)", are only heard in sequences here. "On Parole" certainly isn´t a polished release, and there are some of the badass wildness of the successor present here, but it´s predominantly a much more accessible hard rock release with clear melodies (even some harmony vocals here and there) and a relatively clear sound production. I hear influences from The Stooges and MC5 here, but the savage attitude which Motörhead would adopt on their debut album, is only here in small doses. This is still pretty hard and heavy rock music though.

It´s not exactly an album that has spawned many Motörhead live stables, but the eponymous track and "Iron Horse / Born to Lose" are tracks that were played on occasion (especially the former) up until Lemmy´s death. While "On Parole" isn´t my first recommendation to a Motörhead novice, it´s actually quite an enjoyable listen and overall a quality heavy rock release and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

GVERR Failed Philosophy

Album · 2010 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Failed Philosophy" is the debut full-length studio album by Albanian death metal act Gverr. The album was independently released in September 2010. Gverr was formed in Tirana in 2007.

Stylistically the music on "Failed Philosophy" is technical/progressive death metal. Death (the band) is an obvious influence, but Gverr is not a Death clone act. There are influences from a lot of other artists in the music too. The material on the 8 track, 35:54 minutes long album are generally well written and well played. The sound production is relatively well sounding too, but it´s in that department where "Failed Philosophy" lacks slightly compared to more professionally produced releases.

Overall "Failed Philosophy" is a promising first release by Gverr, and it´s obvious from the performances on the album, that these guys can play. However I´d like to hear them write music that´s a bit more original and memorable in the future, and a more professional sounding production should also be a focal point, but as it is, "Failed Philosophy" is relatively intriguing and an overall decent product. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

RUSH A Farewell to Kings

Album · 1977 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.34 | 110 ratings
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"A Farewell to Kings" is the 5th full-length studio album by Canadian progressive rock act Rush. The album was released through Mercury Records (US/Europe)/Anthem Records (Canada) in September 1977. Originally on vinyl featuring a gatefold sleeve. After releasing three albums which earned Rush some attention but not a genuine breakthrough, "2112 (1976)" proved to be just what the doctor ordered in terms of critical acclaim and commercial success. "A Farewell to Kings" continued that trend and ended up selling 500.000 copies within 2 months of its release (US Gold Certification).

Stylistically "A Farewell to Kings" continues the hard rocking progressive music style of its predecessor, but adds new levels of sophistication in terms of more adventurous songwriting and an even higher level of technical playing (drummer Neil Peart has for example greatly increased the fusion elements in his playing style). Rush now also frequently use synthesizer in their music, and that element is an important feature in their sound on the album. In addition to that we´re as always treated to hard rocking riffs, creative lead guitar ideas, busy and adventurous bass playing, and Geddy Lee´s distinct sounding high octave voice and skillful and passionate delivery. Rush are an incredibly well playing band and paired with their clever compositional skills, it´s a potent cocktail.

"A Farewell to Kings" features 6 tracks. "Xanadu" and "Cygnus X-1, Book I: The Voyage" are both over 10 minutes long progressive rock tracks, featuring complex structures and intricate playing, while the remaining tracks are slightly less progressive in structure, but a little more hard rocking (except for "Madrigal" which is a short ballad type track). "Closer to the Heart" is the most vers/chorus simple track on the album, but no less appealing because of that, and "A Farewell to Kings" is overall a nicely varied release. To my ears "Cinderella Man" and "Madrigal" are slightly sub par to the rest of the material on the album, which affects my rating of the album a bit, but they are not bad quality tracks by any means. The highlight of the album is arguably "Xanadu", which is an absolutely brilliant composition.

The sound production is powerful and organic, suiting the material perfectly, and upon conclusion "A Farewell to Kings" is another high quality release by Rush and the next logical step in their musical development. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

DISSECTION The Somberlain

Album · 1993 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 4.15 | 37 ratings
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"The Somberlain" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish black/death metal act Dissection. The album was released through No Fashion Records in December 1993. Along with acts like Unanimated and Necrophobic, Dissection are widely considered among the most prolific Swedish blackened death metal/melodic black metal acts from the 90s.

The music on the album treads the fine line between melodic black metal and blackened death metal. The vocals are mostly raspy and belong in black metal territory, while the riffing style is a bit of both worlds with both fast tremolo picking and more brutal riff based sections. Always layered with ultra melodic lead guitar work though. Often with folk influenced themes. Occasional use of keyboards help bring an epic atmosphere to the album and the classical inspired acoustic guitar interludes that appear a couple of times on the album, work well as breathers. The album is drenched in a melancholic atmosphere, but still quite aggressive and raw.

The musicianship are generally on a high level, although drummer Ole Öhman at times has a clumsy playing style that could have been a bit more imaginative. The classical acoustic guitar interludes played by John Zwetsloot also feature a couple of playing errors, but it´s not a major deal, and the rest of the music is very well played.

The sound production is powerful and suits the music well. Again it´s a feature on the album that sits in the borderland between black and death metal. Too high end sounding to be a "regular" death metal production from those days, and too "low end" to sound like a contemporary black metal release. No matter how you describe it, it´s a suiting production for the music, and that´s what probably matters to most people.

"The Somberlain" is overall a high quality debut release by Dissection, and right off the bat, they spearheaded the Swedish melodic black/blackened death metal scene. While the other artists I mentioned above are also quite prolific in their own right, Dissection has a cult following that those two and other similar size acts can only dream of, and it´s obvious to hear why when you listen to "The Somberlain". It´s simply more convincing on all parameters than most other contemporary releases in the same style and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

SKELATOR Agents of Power

Album · 2012 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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"Agents of Power" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US heavy metal act Skelator. The album was released through Metal on Metal Records in April 2012. Skelator were formed in 1998 and released a couple of demos and EPs before releasing their debut full-length studio album "Give Me Metal or Give Me Death " in 2008.

The band initially started out playing a more speed metal oriented style, but on "Agents of Power" the music is through and through traditional heavy metal. There are several references in the music to two of the greats of the genre in Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, but Skelator aren´t as such clones. They just use elements of the two band´s sound and combine them with their own take on traditional heavy metal. Not completely unlike a lot of other artists in the genre. So you´ll be treated to melodic harmony guitars and heavy riffing, galloping rhythms, fantasy lyrics, and a lead vocalist that can both deliver higher pitched epic singing and slightly more raw ditto. There´s also an occcasional nod towards folk rock/metal in the band´s sound.

"Agents of Power" features 16 tracks where the first 4 tracks on the album are individual tracks and the remaining tracks form a concept story titled "Elric: The Dragon Prince (A Tale of Tragic Destiny in 12 Parts)", based on science fiction and fantasy writer Michael Moorcock's tales about the antihero character of Elric and his fateful symbiosis with the Stormbringer sword. The concept works pretty well with some spoken narrative between the more "regular" heavy metal tracks. It´s all very epic and probably a bit cheesy to some listeners, but Skelator are relatively convincing at what they do.

The album features a decent sounding production (the bass drums aren´t that well sounding though), and both the musicianship and the songwriting are of relatively high standards, so overall "Agents of Power" is a quality traditional heavy metal release by Skelator. They lack that last originality to elevate them to an even higher level, but a 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved.

CADAVER Hallucinating Anxiety

Album · 1990 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Hallucinating Anxiety" is the debut full-length studio album by Norwegian death metal act Cadaver. The album was released through Necrosis Records (an Earache Records imprint label) in November 1990. The album has an interesting release history, as it was originally only released as an individual album on vinyl and cassette tape. The CD version of the album was released as a split album which also featured the "Dark Recollections (1990)" album by Swedish death metal act Carnage. Cadaver was founded in 1988 and released the "Abnormal Deformity" demo in 1989, which is one of the earliest examples of Norwegian death metal, and they are widely considered a seminal Norwegian death metal act.

The music on "Hallucinating Anxiety" gore themed old school death metal. The guitar tone is brutal and buzzing, the drums are organic and played relatively varied for the style, and the vocals are brutal but also features an aggressive edge. The riffs are mostly downtuned tremolo picking, but there are quite a few heavier groove oriented brutal parts on the album too. A good example of the latter is already heard on the opening track "Ignominious Eczema" (after the short "Tuba" intro), where the band successfully, and to great effect, play a riff, then take the pace down and play a heavier version of the same riff, and then take the same riff down even further to an even heavier and slower pace. It might be simple, but it´s greatly effective and crushingly brutal.

The trio of Anders Odden (Guitars), René Jansen (Bass) and Ole Bjerkebakke (Drums, Vocals) are relatively well playing and the album features a suiting brutal murky sound production, so "Hallucinating Anxiety" is overall a good quality old school death metal release. The material is slightly one-dimensional, and a guitar solo here and there wouldn´t have hurt, to break the sometimes monotone brutality, but fans of uncompromising old school death metal should be able to appreciate "Hallucinating Anxiety" greatly. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) is warranted.

AUTUMN LEAVES Embraced by the Absolute

Album · 1997 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Embraced by the Absolute" is the debut full-length studio album by Danish death metal act Autumn Leaves. The album was released through Serious Entertainment in 1997. Autumn Leaves were active from 1993 to 2001 and released a demo and two full-length studio albums in that period. When the band split-up, some of the members went on to form Scavenger, which later changed their name to The Arcane Order.

The music on "Embraced by the Absolute" more or less continues the old school, yet technically well played, death metal style with melodic leanings which was initiated on the "Hope Springs Eternal (1995)" demo. The 4 tracks from the demo are also included on "Embraced by the Absolute" in re-recorded versions and the lineup hasn´t changed either, which are also contributing factors to the continuation of the musical style from the demo.

While the music features the right morbid old school feeling, Autumn Leaves successfully incorporate contemporary groove elements, tempo changes (short section blasting, mid-paced heavy grooves, faster tremolo picking sections, and brutal doomy parts), and occasional soaring melodies to the tracks, which ultimately make "Embraced by the Absolute" more than just another derivative old school sounding death metal release recorded after the early 90s heyday of death metal. There´s a hint of a blackened element in there too when the vocals are raspy shrieks, instead of the otherwise predominantly deep intelligible growling vocals on the album, but it´s a minor stylistic element and "Embraced by the Absolute" is other than that through and through a death metal album.

The material are well written although it´s not always memorable beyond while it´s playing, but that´s not a major issue on most death metal releases, and for the most part the music on the album is both instantly catchy and relatively memorable in the long run. The high level musicianship is a great asset and the sound production is also both raw, powerful, and overall pretty strong, so "Embraced by the Absolute" is in many ways a quality release by Autumn Leaves. They aren´t that original sounding though and while it´s not a major issue, it is in that department that the album could have been more interesting. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT American Paranoia

Album · 1986 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 3.05 | 2 ratings
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"American Paranoia" is the debut full-length studio album by US, San Francisco, Bay Area formed hardcore/crossover thrash metal act Attitude Adjustment. The album was released through Pusmort Records in 1986. Attitude Adjustment was formed in early 1985 and after playing local shows along side other Bay Area acts like Death Angel, Vio-Lence and Forbidden and thereby gaining valuable experience and also popularity among local crowds, the band entered Peter Miller Studios to record the "Dead Serious" demo, which eventually got them signed to Pusmort Records. The original version of "American Paranoia" features 16 tracks but some later reissues feature the tracks from the "Dead Serious (1985" demo as bonus tracks.

The music on "American Paranoia" continues the fast, aggressive, and raw hardcore that the band also played on the the "Dead Serious (1985" demo. In fact most of the tracks from the demo are included here in re-recorded versions. The attitude is savage with aggressive shouting vocals, fast drumming and buzzing punked guitar riffs, and while there are mid-paced heavier sections on the album, the pace is mostly really fast and the delivery aggressive and "in your face". The material are pretty standard for the genre and aren´t the most memorable out there, but there are some pretty killer tracks on the album that stand out a bit more than others.

The sound production is unfortunately a bit weak, featuring a very thin and powerless guitar sound, and it´s a bit of a shame, because if you´re familiar with the "Dead Serious (1985)" demo, that release featuring a very raw and lo-fi live sounding production that actually suited the material much better than this "professional" studio production does. "American Paranoia" is widely considered a seminal US hardcore/crossover album from the 80s, but personally I think it´s a pretty standard release for the genre and a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted. Had the sound production suited the music better I might have had a different impression of the album, but as it is, I can´t rate it higher.

ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT Dead Serious

Demo · 1985 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Dead Serious" is a demo release by US, San Francisco, Bay Area formed hardcore/crossover thrash metal act Attitude Adjustment. Attitude Adjustment was formed in early 1985 and after playing local shows along side other Bay Area acts like Death Angel, Vio-Lence and Forbidden and thereby gaining valuable experience and also popularity among local crowds, the band entered Peter Miller Studios to record the "Dead Serious" demo. The demo was released on one-sided cassette tape. Some reissue versions of Attitude Adjustment´s debut full-length studio album "American Paranoia (1986)" feature the tracks from the "Dead Serious (1985" demo as bonus tracks.

The music on the demo is raw, fast, and aggressive hardcore, delivered by a convincing and passionate band. The 10 tracks on the 14:55 minutes long demo are for the most part under 2 minutes long, and some are shorter than 1 minute long, so it´s safe to say that this is a simple "in your face" type of hardcore release. It´s the aggression and passion behind the delivery that´s the real assets here though, because not all tracks are equally memorable and it´s obvious that these guys have spend more time thinking about getting out playing live, and less time on the songwriting. There are a couple of gems like "Grey World" and "Dead Serious" on the demo though.

The sound production is raw, filthy, and lo-fi sounding, and it more or less sounds like the demo was recorded live in the studio. It´s not an issue though and you are mostly able to make out what´s being played and sung. In fact the raw sound quality suits the equally raw sounding music well, and overall provides the demo with a savage charm. "Dead Serious" is not exactly a revelation of aggressive hardcore and many artists had done something similar at this point in time. Some better, and some worse. It´s enjoyable for what it is, but not what I would call a mandatory listen for fans of aggressive 80s US hardcore. A 3 star (60%) rating is deserved.

SUFFOCATION ...Of The Dark Light

Album · 2017 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 4.48 | 4 ratings
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"...of the Dark Light" is the 8th full-length studio album by US, New York based death metal act Suffocation. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in June 2017. It´s the successor to "Pinnacle of Bedlam" from 2013 and features a couple of lineup changes compared to the predecessor as guitarist Guy Marchais has been replaced by Charlie Errigo and drummer Dave Culross has been replaced by Eric Morotti. The usual suspects in the lineup are guitarist Terrance Hobbs, bassist Derek Boyer, and lead vocalist Frank Mullen. While the latter seldom tours with Suffocation these days (mostly only local shows), he is still the official lead vocalist for the band.

Stylistically the material on the 9 track, 35:17 minutes long album is unmistakably the sound of Suffocation. Their stylistic consistency is made abundently clear when the re-recording of "Epitaph of the Credulous" from "Breeding the Spawn (1993)" sounds like a completely natural track to put on "...of the Dark Light" altough it was written many years before the rest of the material on the album. The So it´s no surprise that the music on the album is technically well played brutal death metal featuring lots of tempo changes and Frank Mullen´s ultra brutal growling vocals in front. They pioneered this type of death metal in the early 90s and "...of the Dark Light" is yet another proof that they are still kings of the genre all these years down the line.

In usual Suffocation style, the listener is bludgeoned by the unrelenting brutal assault on the ears. Listen a bit more closely and you´ll discover quite a few clever compositional details though, and there are even a few times during the playing time, when the band venture into new territories (though without ever really leaving their core style), which is great for the variation of the album. This is still first and foremost a brutal death metal album, so variation between tracks is not the main focus here and it is still in that department Suffocation could improve. They are completely uncompromising which is both a charming feature but also means that their music is sometimes inaccessible and not always easy to remember.

"...of the Dark Light" is well produced, featuring a brutal, powerful, and detailed sound production. Personally I could have wished for a slightly more organic sound, but that´s a matter of personal taste, and evaluated objectively the sound production suits the music well. So upon conclusion "...of the Dark Light" is another high quality brutal technical death metal release by Suffocation, which may not add loads of new features to their core sound, but still enough to differentiate it slightly from their preceding output. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

DROTTNAR Welterwerk

Album · 2006 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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"Welterwerk" is the debut full-length studio album by Norwegian extreme metal act Drottnar. The album was released through Endtime Productions in April 2006. "Welterwerk" is lyric wise upon initial listen a World War 2 concept album, but there is a bit more to it than that. There seems to be a political and social agenda to the concept as well. The World War 2 atmosphere is further enhanced by the band posing in vintage soldier uniforms in the booklet and of course as a consequence of song titles like "Victor Comrade" and "Niemand Geht Vorbei".

The music on the album is technical black metal (or maybe technical blackened death metal is more correct) and in my experience that´s not a music style many artists practice. Imagine a combination of the twisted, gloomy and industrial tinged progressive black metal of "Supervillain Outcast (2007)" by Dødheimsgard and the technical extreme metal of "Unquestionable Presence (1991)" by Atheist and you´re half way there. The playing is on a high level by all involved. Technical precision drumming, sharp and twisted riffing (lots of dissonance) and an aggressive and raspy sounding vocalist in front. The tracks are generally complex and not necessarily memorable upon initial listen. The power of the music and the technical skills of the players are features that you instantly notice though and the tracks do start becoming more recognisable the more you listen to them, so it´s not necessarily a major weakness, but maybe a question of patience and repeated listens. Sometimes the fact that music is not instantly catchy and memorable only adds to it´s longivity, and that´s certainly the case here, as "Welterwerk" is the kind of album that you can put on and find new details on every time you give it a spin.

Most tracks on the album are in the furiously fast played and aggressive technical black/death metal style that is the band´s predominant style, but the track "Victor Comrade" is quite a bit different from the rest and works both as an album divider and as a "breather" among the busy technical riffing and chaotic atmosphere of the rest of the tracks. There is a kind of World War 2 movie soundtrack atmosphere to it with samples of people talking, a trumpet playing the lead melody, sirenes sounding, and bombs falling.

The 9 track, 52:04 minutes long album is a very well produced affair. The sound is detailed, powerful, and perfectly designed for the band´s chaotic, technical, and aggressive music. So upon conclusion "Welterwerk" is a very strong debut album by Drottnar. An incredibly aggressive and technically well played release, that they can rightfully be proud of. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

CLUTCH Clutch

Album · 1995 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.09 | 11 ratings
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"Clutch" is the self-titled 2nd full-length studio album by US hard/stoner rock act Clutch. The album was released through Eastwest Records in May 1995. Clutch started out as a hardcore band, and their debut album "Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes, and Undeniable Truths (1993)" still featured quite a few hardcore traits although it´s mostly a hard rock/stoner rock album.

The hardcore elements are now completely gone from the band´s sound, and "Clutch" is a hard rock/stoner rock album through and through. There are still some badass attitude moments on the album, that might have been born in their hardcore youth, but we´re predominantly treated to southern influenced bluesy hard rock with a psychadelic stoner rock edge. It´s quite heavy at times, but the album is overall quite dynamic with both vers/chorus structured hard rockers, and more experimental/psychadelic tinged tracks.

The material on the 13 track, 55:05 minutes long album (the Japanese version of the album feautures the bonus track "Apache") are generally of a good compositional quality, and several tracks are really strong. It´s not all tracks that are equally remarkable, and if you ask me, I think the album overstays it´s welcome by a couple of tracks, but then again if you take each track and listen to them one by one, they are all quite entertaining, so maybe it´s the overall flow of the album that doesn´t always work that well.

The musicianship are as always one of the great assets when listening to a Clutch album. Neil Fallon is an incredibly skilled vocalist with a strong voice and a passionate delivery, and his performance on this album is even a bit more varied than on later releases, because he still occasionally sings more raw vocal styles here. The rest of the band are also very well playing. A tight yet organic sounding unit. The instrumentation is guitars, bass, drums and vocals, but there are a few tracks featuring organ, courtesy of session player Richard Morel.

The album is packed in a well sounding, powerful, and organic sound production, which suits the music perfectly. So overall this sophomore album is another high quality release by Clutch and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

EXELOUME Fairytale of Perversion

Album · 2011 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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"Fairytale of Perversion" is the debut full-length studio album by Norwegian thrash metal act Exeloume. The album was released through ViciSolum Records in May 2011. Exeloume was formed in Trondheim in 2007 and released a couple of demos before being signed. Probably courtesy of their common past in Godsend, guitarist Tom "Welhaven" Wahl has brought in prolific Swedish musician/producer Dan Swanö to mix/master the album. Swanö also delivers guest vocals. The album features a guest guitar solo by Andy LaRoque (King Diamond) too, so Exeloume have made full use of their good connections.

Despite the Ed Repka cover artwork, which more or less screams old school thrash metal, the music on "Fairytale of Perversion" actually sounds a bit more up to date. Especially due to the professional, clear, and powerful sound production, but also because of the more technical approach to riffing and drumming, and because of the aggressive thrashy vocals. The latter mentioned features both a screaming "core" edge and an occasional semi-growling element.

The music on the 12 track, 43:56 minutes long album doesn´t exactly sound like the music of any other particular act, but it´s not terribly original or unique sounding either, it´s just a well performed, well produced, and relatively well written (the material could for the most part, have been a bit more catchy and memorable) take on contemporary thrash metal and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

POWER TRIP Nightmare Logic

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.09 | 6 ratings
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"Nightmare Logic" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Texas based thrash metal act Power Trip. The album was released through Southern Lord Recordings in February 2017. Power Trip was formed in 2008 and released a demo and two EPs before releasing their debut full-length studio album "Manifest Decimation" in 2013. "Nightmare Logic" features the same lineup who recorded the predecessor. Chris Whetzel (bass), Riley Gale (vocals), Nick Stewart (rhythm guitar), Blake Ibanez (lead guitar), and Chris Ulsh (drums).

Stylistically "Nightmare Logic" is the natural successor to "Manifest Decimation (2013)" as it features a similar raw and powerful thrash metal sound, but adds a bit more quality to the songwriting and also features a sound production which is of a higher quality than the production on the predecessor. The basis of the music is still hard edged thrashy riffing, screaming chromatic solos, hard pounding powerful drumming, riot gang choir vocals, and Riley Gale´s raw shouting vocals in front.

The material is obviously written to make the listener bang his/her head and to mosh in the pit, and the tracks are generally both powerful and quite catchy. It´s almost impossible to not scream along to tracks like "Executioner's Tax (Swing of the Axe)" and "Firing Squad", but the album is overall very consistent in quality and all tracks on the album are worth listening to.

Power Trip aren´t exactly the most original sounding band and artists like Exodus, Slayer, and late 80s/early 90s Sepultura are valid references. It´s not a major issue, but it´s in that department Power Trip could move up a level, and with the qualities they have, it could be possible at some point. For now "Nightmare Logic" is a high quality thrash metal release and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

KOSMOS Kosmos

Album · 2007 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Kosmos" is the self-titled debut full-length studio album by Canadian, Montreal based rock act Kosmos. The album was released through The End Records in September 2007. Kosmos was formed around 2005/2006 and features among others Voivod drummer Michel Langevin.

The music on the album is psychadelic/space rock with the occasional nod towards krautrock. Repetitive organic beats, swirling psychadelic tinged synths/keyboards, and bass, organ and guitars that rock along. The music is mostly instrumental but there are sporadic vocals on the album courtesy of some guest singers.

While the album opens with the jam packed, cool and groove laden psychadelic track "Psycho", it already changes sound on the second track "Dream" which is pure krautrock with electronic tinged nods towards Kraftwerk. The 12 track, 43:58 minutes long album goes through a couple of those surprising changes ("Much Too Old" even features a disco beat), but as there are many similarities between the genres that the band embrace, and nothing sticks out on the album because it doesn´t fit, the album features a good flow. The whole thing is very retro 70s sounding, and the album also features a suiting organic sound production.

The band are well playing and while the quality of the material drops a slight bit a couple of times during the playing time, "Kosmos" is overall a quality release, that celebrates the classic virtues of psychadelic/space rock (and occasionally krautrock). It´s not necessarily the most original or unique sounding release, but that´s of less importance, when the music is delivered with conviction and passion as it is here. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

NEUROSIS Souls at Zero

Album · 1992 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.44 | 13 ratings
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"Souls at Zero" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, California based sludge/post metal act Neurosis. The album was released through Alternative Tentacle Records in May 1992. It´s the successor to "The Word as Law" from 1990 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as Simon McIlroy (keyboards, tapes, samples) has joined Neurosis to make the band a five-piece on "Souls at Zero". Neurosis were formed in 1985 and initially played hardcore punk on their debut album "Pain of Mind (1988)". They continued playing hardcore punk on their sophomore album "The Word as Law (1990)", but on that album slower doomy elements began to appear, and it was obvious on that album that Neurosis were in a transitional process. No one at the time of course knew what they were transforming into, but that is revealed on "Souls at Zero".

Stylistically "Souls at Zero" still features hardcore punk elements, but it´s now only a part of the band´s sound and not the core of their music. The pace has been lowered considerably and while the music is often quite energetic and aggressive, the tempos are mostly slow-to mid-paced. One crushingly heavy riff after another, feed-back noises, samples and sound effect, and loads of adventurous rhythmic combinations are now some of the elements which make up the basis of the music. On top of that the shouting raw hardcore type vocals by Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till. The song structures are unconventional and occasionally even progressive in nature, and listening to the 10 track, 61:24 minutes long album is quite the musical journey.

For examples of the more experimental/progressive ideas found on the album take a listen to the subtle piano in the opening section of the title track, the violin and flute section on "Flight", the use of trumpet on "Sterile Vision", or "Stripped", which in addition to featuring crushingly heavy riffs and almost hypnotic tribal rhythms, also feature violin, orchestral keyboards, and a short medieval choir section. Interesting experimental/progressive features which ensure variation. The use of keyboards/sound effects/samples on many tracks also provide the material with a richer and more dynamic sound. The keyboards/sound effects/samples are not a dominant feature in the soundscape, but still an important part of creating the dark atmosphere of the music.

The album´s greatest strength, in addition to the strong musicianship and powerful and well sounding production, is how well Neurosis combine primal hardcore aggression with slow doomy riffs and rhythms, experimental/progressive ideas, and bleak atmospheric moments. It never sounds contrived. It just flows completely naturally and the many stylistic elements are used to great effect and they are used at the perfect moments throughout the album. Hour long album releases can sometimes be a bit of a chore to get through, and there are often filler material or tedious moments on releases that long, but "Souls at Zero" is one of the exceptions to that rule.

So upon conclusion "Souls at Zero" is a high quality release by Neurosis, which feels a bit like a new beginning for the band. It´s not like their first two releases aren´t worth listening to, but they pretty much sound like they were recorded by another band. "Souls at Zero" signals a new start and a new musical direction, but the journey had just begun, and Neurosis would evolve, and develop and add new ideas and elements to their heavy doomy core sound over the course of their subsequent releases. In that respect "Souls at Zero" is a relatively unique release in their discography. Not only because it´s the first release in their new heavy and experimental/progressive style, but also because it´s still immature and raw in many ways (or maybe stylistically "unfinished" is a better description), which is ultimately greatly charming. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

RUSH 2112

Album · 1976 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.19 | 103 ratings
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"2112" is the 4th full-length studio album by Canadian progressive rock act Rush. The album was released through Mercury Records in April 1976 (and through Anthem Records in Canada). "2112" was Rush first major commercial success. They were actually asked by their label to write more mainstream material after the commercial failure of "Caress of Steel (1975)", which sold less than "Fly by Night (1975)" had done. But Rush chose to ignore the advice and continued to write more progressive inclined material. In retrospect that was of course a great idea, but back then it was a major gamble, where they fortunately ended up collecting the reward. Had they not succeeded with "2112", who knows what the label would have done with them?

Stylistically "2112" is more or less the natural successor to "Caress of Steel (1975)". The album features one 20:33 minutes long progressive epic (the title track) and five shorter tracks. The "regular" length tracks vary in style from hard progressive rockers, to more mellow progressive rock tracks. None of them are overtly complex in structure, but they still feature a progressive edge, which makes them quite intriguing. The real attraction here is the title track though, which displays a lot of different sides of Rush. Their instrumental superiority, Geddy Lee´s incredible vocal range, Neil Peart´s adventurous lyrics (in this case set in a future sci-fi universe), and their songwriting skills.

"2112" is a very well produced album too, and the sound production is a great asset to the album. It´s powerful, warm, and organic, and especially the drums feature a great sound. "2112" is in many ways an impressive release, and it´s obvious why it´s often mentioned among the highlights of the band´s discography. One of the things which makes "2112" stand out compared to the next couple of releases by the band, is that it still features quite a lot of hard rocking riffs, rhythms, and vocals. Sure that has always been a part of the band´s sound, also on subsequent releases, but this is the last album by Rush to feature the primal aggression of their early material. I´d even go as far as to say that the most hard edged and aggressive moments on the album feature heavy metal leanings. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

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