Metal Music Reviews from Unitron

SOUNDGARDEN Louder Than Live

Live album · 1990 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.67 | 2 ratings
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What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a fantastic live album. Judas Priest's Unleashed in the East? Metallica's Live Shit? AC/DC's If You Want Blood? Gentle Giant's Playing the Fool? Daft Punk's Alive 2007? Whatever it is, there's plenty to choose from. While live albums can sometimes suffer from bootleg quality productions, there is a good handful of fantastic live albums that perfectly capture a band at their peak and in a sense brings you to the concert displayed on said album. An unfortunately forgotten live album that ranks as one of the best is Soundgarden's Louder Than Live. This was probably due to only being released on VHS and as a promotional CD/cassette/vinyl in 1990 and never being officially re-released since.

Now, this is a live performance. Like all the best live albums, it shows the band at their very best. Soundgarden is in their prime here, and deliver a crushing balls-to-the-wall concert that would scare off anyone who's too used to modern over-polished "extreme" metal. This is about as much energy as you can get without being at the concert yourself. Plus this is the only Soundgarden release where you can hear Jason Everman on bass.

With a setlist consisting mostly songs from the masterpiece that is Louder Than Love, the most doom metal song Soundgarden's ever done, one of the band's earliest songs, and a couple comedic covers, you know you're in a for a treat. It opens up with said doom metal song, the gargantuan behemoth that is "Beyond the Wheel". Like the original studio version, it's haunting and blisteringly heavy. Here though, it's extended to a much more fitting 7 minutes and you can hear it in all of it's glory. Unlike the garage quality of the debut, this has some extra grit in the riffs and Cornell has a bit more of a snarl.

As if "Gun" wasn't a massive beast of a song before, Louder Than Live has the song sounding like it's just going to grab you by the throat and throw you around in the pit until you're on your way to the hospital. You can hear the feedback, the amps sound like they're going to blow any minute, and it shows that Cornell was just as much of a screaming maniac on the stage as in the studio. The discordant "I Awake" sounds even more out of a horror film, and "Big Dumb Sex" opens with some hilarious stage banter. It all closes with covers of Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom" and Cheech and Chong's "Earache My Eye". "Big Bottom" works in more ways than one, with Soundgarden having such a heavy bottom end. "Earache My Eye" turns into a heavy grungy biter of a track with total manic screaming and it's a real awesome rendition.

To me these are the best kinds of live albums, the ones that display a band in all of their raw and unbridled rage and musical intensity. It serves as a huge influence for budding musicians like myself, and pushes the drive to get out on a stage and give it your all even more. Watching the VHS brings the whole experience home even more, watching everyone swirl around in the mosh pits and bang their heads like madmen just as the band does themselves. If you can find it, treat yourself to one of the best live albums/videos the metal world has to offer.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/soundgarden-louder-than-live-review.html

SOUNDGARDEN Louder Than Love

Album · 1989 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.83 | 22 ratings
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"Hands all over the inland forest. In a striking motion trees fall down like, dying soldiers."

Only a year after the band's phenomenal debut, Soundgarden came out with one of the greatest yet sadly underrated metal albums of all time. Louder Than Love, and that's what it is. Slamming hammers of sludgy headbanging riffage and rhythm rain down upon the listener like an erupting volcano, while Chris Cornell's screams have the forcefulness of a primal battle cry. This album is louder and heavier than pretty much anything else, and for me represents everything that is beautiful about heavy metal.

Where to start with this masterpiece? From beginning to end, Soundgarden gives the middle finger to weak moments and anything that isn't heavy. I guess "Hands All Over" is a good place to begin rambling about my love for this album. If you thought all environmental messages in music had to be 60's hippie sunshine pop, you're just wrong. This song will slam your face against the pavement with a chunky bass riff and guitar groove, massive and thunderous drums, and Cornell's primal screams of heartfelt fury. I've always loved Cornell's uses of metaphors with lines such as "turning eagles, into vultures" and the aforementioned one at the beginning of the review. This is easily the best environmental metal song you'll find (Though Testament's "Greenhouse Effect" from the same year is great too).

Louder Than Love has a perfect balance between heavy as fuck 70's-sounding grungy doom metal, massive slabs of sludge, and headbanging 80's metal. "Gun" is a perfect mix of sounds, and may be the best on the album. The lumbering drums that open up the track prepare you for the face-melting riffing that wipes the floor with any other song of its kind. The main riff is brooding, punishing, and wants nothing but to kick the listener to the floor in the mosh pit. It slowly picks up speed, and has one of the best progression flows I've heard in any song. The peak speed of the song occurs after Cornell's spit of "fuck 'em up", and is followed up with what should be known as one of the best guitar solos of all time where Kim Thayil just shreds in a swirling mass while Cornell's screams fade into the background. The song slows back down to the pure doom plodding for the end, with some agonized screams and finally one more bellow of "I've got an idea, of something we can do with a gun".

For the old school doom metal fans, Soundgarden channels Black Sabbath here better than any other band out there. Take a listen to a song like "Power Trip", and Kim Thayil is the one who really brought back the Tony Iommi riff back into metal, while blending it into his own unique guitar sound. His solos wail and screech, and he and Cornell deliver bludgeoning riff after riff. "Loud Love" should be more known as an ultimate headbanging anthem, with a colossal hook that is just instant with getting the head moving. "Get on the Snake" is another one that is just a massive stomp. The beast of an opener, "Ugly Truth", "Uncovered", and the beast of a closer "Big Dumb Sex" don't have any shortage of gargantuan hooks either.

The first three Soundgarden albums show every reason why Chris Cornell is probably my all time favorite vocalist. This album in particular, he rarely turns down the siren. Almost every song has him screaming at high levels of high energy, putting tears in my eye as I attempt to scream along to the red-faced and monstrous performances. When he's not unleashing his battle cry, he's either complimenting a slow doom crawl with stoner bellowing or snarling and spitting in "No Wrong, No Right". Just the delivery of the last lines in that song, 'No wrong, no right. Guilt admission, you've been bitten". It's so biting and somehow beautiful at the same time.

Of course, everyone contributes equally to this beast of an album, and the rhythm section is a huge part in the heaviness just like the rest. I already mentioned it when describing "Hands All Over", but Hiro Yamamoto's bass is almost always contributing to a massive groove, especially on that colossus of a song. When not grooving, it's a rapid thumping spitfire like on "Full on Kevin's Mom", or helping carry a haunting atmosphere like with "No Wrong, No Right". Matt Cameron is the first thing you hear on the album, as he opens up "Ugly Truth", right up with a drum fill. His performance is explosive and thunderous, and carries some real weight. Whether it be the crashing cymbals that open up "Gun", the rolls that open up "No Wrong, No Right", or the huge stomp that commands the whole album, he's got it.

Louder Than Love covers everything lyrically. From reflective, to blunt, to moody, its got everything. While hair bands play around with innuendo, Soundgarden doesn't have time for that in a song like "Big Dumb Sex". They just out right scream it, and there's no reason for questions. The speed metal-paced "Full on Kevin's Mom" gets beyond to the point, and flies right into the skin with heat-seeking bass and guitar runs. On the opposite end, you have the discordant and dissonant dirges of "I Awake" and "No Wrong, No Right".

While the debut had a pretty lo-fi sounding production, Louder Than Love has an absolutely massive sound that really makes it "louder than love". I don't think I've heard a sound quite like it, as it melds the warm and raw sound of 70's metal albums with the louder and larger sound of the 80's. I love the debut, but the band sounds just completely focused here and just wanting to deliver a crushing blow to the skull or bite into the skin on this album.

As you can probably tell with how long and detailed this review is, this is one of my all time favorite albums, probably in my top 10. Along with the next album, this is among what I would call a perfect masterpiece and one of the greatest things ever recorded. While sadly this one goes pretty underrated and somewhat forgotten, this is an album that anyone looking for a crushing, loud, and sludgy behemoth of an album should listen to. It's a true one of a kind release, and shows a band at their most raw and angry. In the world of heavy metal, there's nothing better. Thayil described the band's sound as "zen metal", and if beautiful heavy metal that's louder than love is how you enter a state of zen, sign me up.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/soundgarden-louder-than-love-review.html

ACCEPT Breaker

Album · 1981 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 32 ratings
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"You are down and out, when you're just being your self. We ain't down and out, MAN TAKE A LOOK AT YOURSELF!"

Like Rush did with the legendary 2112 back in 1976, Accept gave the ultimate middle finger to the record companies and producers that were pushing the band to be commercial and have hit singles. Vocalist Udo has said that the previous album I'm a Rebel was uninspired and had too many people trying to manipulate and influence the band. Biggest claim to infamy is the title track of that album which was written by Alex Young, eldest brother of Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC, therefore sounding like a reject AC/DC song.

After the failure of I'm a Rebel, the band said 'fuck it' and did what they wanted to do without any outside influence. They couldn't have made a better choice, as Breaker is the album where they immediately found their sound and cemented Accept as among the metal gods. Udo himself believes Breaker to be among Accept's best albums, and I completely agree with him.

There's a perfect blend of speed metal fury, hard rock swagger, metal ballad beauty, and neo-classical soloing throughout the album. Many credit "Fast as a Shark" from the next album as being the first speed metal song, but I believe this album's title track is actually Accept's first creation of that extra fast heavy metal. This and "Starlight" are fast and furious, with blistering leads that will have you air guitaring before you can sing 'He's a breaker'. Jörg Fischer's melodies and Wolf Hoffmann's solos and leads are absolutely amazing, and with the exception of Scorpions' "Sails of Charon" from '77, this was the first real taste of neoclassical metal before Yngwie Malmsteen. Just take a listen to that short but sweet minstrel sounding part in the middle of "Son of a Bitch", which is hilariously placed right before Udo screams 'COCK SUCKING MOTHERFUCKER I WAS RIGHT'

Bassist Peter Baltes does not get the appreciation he deserves, as his thick and chunky basslines really gives Breaker a heavy as hell bottom end. "Feelings" is where I think it stands out the most, and that's what I call groove. It really gives the song a mean swagger, and gives "Son of a Bitch" that extra thumping stomp. He can sing too, as he takes over the mic on the ballad "Breaking Up Again". Stefan Kaufmann's thunderous drum performance coupled with Baltes' thumping bass gives the band a fantastic rhythm section. Kaufmann really shines on the explosive "Down and Out".

Something I love about Accept is how beautiful they sound even when playing borderline speed metal, the title track and "Run if You Can" are perfect examples of such. This brings me to the voice of Accept, and one of the greatest and most unique vocalists in all of metal. Udo Dirkschneider is up there with Rob Halford and Chris Cornell, as one of the vocalists that can be screaming their heads off and create absolute tear-jerking beauty while doing such. The power ballad "Can't Stand the Night" as well as the aforementioned tracks in the paragraph, show Udo at among his finest moments. Of course, he can also be screaming his head off and just be completely pissed off and out for blood. Nothing is a better showcase than the anti-record label anthem of "Son of a Bitch".

Apart from being an absolute masterpiece and the first of many from Accept in the 80's, Breaker also stands with 2112 as an example of a band becoming bigger and better after a record label tries to meddle, proving that staying true to yourselves and your fans is the best way to go. I think the anger that the artists get just gives the performances that much more energy. It's what gives that extra edge for us to scream along as Geddy Lee shrieks about being a priest at the Temples of Syrinx and as Udo screams expletive after expletive at the labels and tells them to kiss his ass. All the beauty of heavy metal is right here. If you've missed out on Breaker, do yourself a favor and listen to an 80's classic.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/accept-breaker-review.html

ANTHRAX Stomp 442

Album · 1995 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.15 | 25 ratings
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"RANDOM ACTS OF SENSELESS, RANDOM ACTS OF SENSELESS, VIIIIIIIIOLEENCEE"

Take one look at that album cover. It's pretty obvious what kind of album this is going to be when it's just a massive ball of heavy metal that towers over the lone man standing right by it. While most known for his work on the many legendary covers that graced all the Pink Floyd classics, Storm Thorgerson did his fair share of metal album covers. This may be his best album cover for a metal album, as this album is so damn colossal just as the ball that stands right in the center.

Stomp 442 is an interesting album in Anthrax's discography, in the sense that it blends together some of the band's most crushing moments with some of their most melodic. Opener "Random Acts of Senseless Violence" is one of the most pumped up openers I've ever heard, it immediately makes you want to kick some ass. John Bush's vocal performance is the biggest part in giving this song so much fucking attitude. The main riff helps too, but Bush's spitting lines and the infectious snarling of 'RANDOM ACTS OF SENSELESS, RANDOM ACTS OF SENSELESS' is really what makes this a perfect song for getting all that built up rage out. In fact, this album might include Bush's best vocal performances with Anthrax. The pre-chorus scream of 'SUCK IT' in "Riding Shotgun" is one of the most badass sounding things out there.

Scott Ian and guest guitarist Paul Crook's riffs are crunching and crushing, while contrasting the meaty sound with screeching and face melting bends. "Drop the Ball" is a spiral of crazy soloing and a riff that pounds your face into the ground like a hammer on a nail. Dimebag guests on "King Size" and "Riding Shotgun" for a couple delicious solos. The latter also has Frank Bello's basslines getting some shine time. You know those 90's music videos where the camera is just spinning out of control, going all over the place? That's what can be imagined while listening to "In a Zone", and it's absolutely amazing.

Despite the majority of the album being an explosive groove-thrash fest of brutality, "Nothing" and "Bare" are a couple of the most melodic songs the band has done. While I would say that these are the weaker songs on the album, they're still great and give the album a good contrast of sounds. "Bare" in particular sounds like it came right out of one of Alice in Chains's mellow/acoustic EP's.

Stomp 442 was an album that went under-promoted and forgotten, when it should have become regarded as one of the best albums groove metal had to offer. Along with Vulgar Display of Power, this is one of the best albums for getting all that built up anger out and also when you just want to bang your head right off. Along with We've Come For You All, this is the best of the Bush albums, and one that no fan of groove or thrash metal should miss.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/anthrax-stomp-442-review.html

VENOM Prime Evil

Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.54 | 11 ratings
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Venom is one of those bands that's sadly more known for their influence rather than the actual music they created. Ask anybody, and they'll probably say something along the lines of "Oh yeah, Black Metal. What an influential album!" or "Welcome to Hell, maybe the first speed metal or black metal album!". Will anyone ever comment on the actual quality? Probably not, and if they do it probably would sound like this: "Ehh, it's okay". I probably wouldn't argue a whole lot if they had only made their first five albums (Though I do really like their first two). However, nobody seems to remember that the band's kept at it, and got 100 times better.

Enter 1989, and here is what I think is Venom's finest hour. Prime Evil is the first out of a few albums to feature Tony Dolan on vocals rather than frontman Cronos, who had left the band after the failure of 1987's Calm Before the Storm. You may be thinking how Venom would continue with the loss of their iconic frontman, but I honestly prefer Dolan's vocals. He maintains the spit and snarl of Cronos, while adding a bit of melody as well as that extra attitude needed for thrash metal.

You know what this album's got? It's got grooves, it's got hooks, and under Venom's command you will headbang. "Blackened are the Priests" has a simply killer groove made with the syncopation of the groove of the guitar riffs and the walloping of drums. "Parasite" and "Carnivorous" are pure thrashers, with the former being addicting as all hell and the latter having a bit of black metal guitar work for flavor. "Skeletal Dance" really shows off Anthony Bray's massive drum sound, with the bridge sounding absolutely colossal. That blended with the piercing guitar sound and screeching, it's like entering an ancient arena.

Usually a cover wouldn't be considered a main highlight, but Venom knocks it out of the park with their cover of Black Sabbath's classic "Megalomania". Man, I love the original, but Venom just gives it a whole new sound and brings such a fresh high energy to the beloved classic. "Harder Than Ever" brings in a more traditional heavy metal sound, especially with the main riff sounding right out of an early Motley Crue album. This is a should be metal anthem, it is just so fun.

While black metal fans may not be too happy, thrash fans like myself can rejoice for what's a real hidden gem that too few people even know exist. There's only one real weak moment on the album, and that's the ridiculously cheesy and somewhat forgettable "Skool Daze" which sounds out of place, but that doesn't do much damage to what's otherwise a flawless masterpiece. If you like your thrash both melodic and spitting, give Prime Evil a try.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/venom-prime-evil-review.html

DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious

Album · 2009 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.20 | 26 ratings
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Along with heavy metal, another style of music that I had grown up listening to quite a bit was Big Band and Swing music from the golden age of film. Although there was some Benny Goodman in the selection, most of what I heard were from the classic movie musicals of the 40's and 50's. I can't say I used to be a huge fan of the vocals, but I always loved the dancing and music that went along with it. In fact, I'd still rank classics like Royal Wedding (1951), The Band Wagon (1953), and It's Always Fair Weather (1955) among my favorite films.

Despite my love of both classic metal and classic films, I'd never have thought "Hey, you know Fred Astaire's awesome jazzy Shoe Shine song in The Band Wagon? Let's combine that with heavy metal and see what we get.". Wrathchild America did the swing and metal combo first back in 1991 with their song "Spy", or if you want to go even farther, Megadeth had some pretty swing-sounding rhythm sections on their first two albums. However, Diablo Swing Orchestra is to my knowledge the first band to make swing metal into an actual thing.

...and holy fuck. When I first heard "A Tap Dancer's Dilemma", I had no idea that this was something I wanted and needed, but fucking hell yes it was. Opening with that total classic sounding booming big band drum sound, it honestly sounds like you did just put on a swing record. Then those sexy horns and grinding guitar come in, it just sounds like a combo made in heaven. It really feels like this is from a scene from one of those old musicals, just with metal instrumentation added. Everything is just so fun, energetic, and just swingin'. Oh, and those basslines, those are smooth as silk that swings.

While the singing was my least favorite part of those musicals growing up, I've since grown to appreciate the vocal styles used such as opera singing and crooning. Usually when people think of opera and metal combined, they think of the over-abundance of Nightwish copycats, but here you couldn't get farther from that. This is real opera singing and other styles right out of those musicals. There's also some tango, surf, and other styles thrown in as far as the music goes. The metal aspect takes from alternative metal, thrash metal, funk metal, and some surprising nu-metal sounding riffs. There is absolutely no pretense here, just tasty licks and delicious riffs a plenty.

"Bedlam Sticks" has thrashing riffs shredding through your skin, blended with bass wizardry and quirky vocals that sounds right out of a Primus album. The vocals are all over the place on this song, with a mix of the aforementioned vocals, opera, cabaret, and even some death vocals thrown in there. "Vodka Inferno" has some crushing hooks that sound right out of a System of a Down album. "Rancid Romance" is an addicting metal tango, "Lucy Fears the Morning Star" has some colossal grooves, and "Ricerca Dell'anima" blends the musical metal sound with some cool surf rock techniques. Towards the end of the song, it's impossible to not love the blend of piercing groove metal riffing with those amazing horns. "Memoirs of a Roadkill" is the one song devoid of metal, and is what I can only call acoustic funk.

Just like the album opened up with the mind-blowing "A Tap Dancer's Dilemma", it closes with the mind-blowing "Stratosphere Serenade". These were the first two songs I heard from the band, and what an introduction. It's hard enough to describe this album as a whole, but this last song especially, I'm at a loss for words. There's some amazing cello work, massive grooves, and beautiful vocals, but this is one that you'll just have to listen to yourself.

This is a tough album to talk about, because no matter what I write in my review, I can't do it true justice. I've made it pretty clear that I'm an old school metal and hard rock fan, most of my all time favorite albums are from the 70's, 80's and 90's. It takes a lot for an album from the 21st century to become one of my all time favorite albums. Clutch's Psychic Warfare did that simply by being an amazing all killer no filler old-school hard rock album, Chevelle's North Corridor did it by being a crushing dirge of alterna-sludge, and Diablo Swing Orchestra did that by being a game-changer that hasn't gotten the game to change yet. It takes two kinds of music that I hold dear to my heart, along with a bunch of other stuff, and just created an album that I never thought I was looking for. While DSO is still around doing stuff, they'll never be the same with the departure of vocalist Annlouice Wolgers. Who knows if swing metal will ever expand beyond DSO's sound. I sure hope it does, but if it doesn't, one thing can be said. Sing-Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious is a one-of-a-kind album, and there's really nothing like it. If you haven't heard this album, check it out with an open mind. In an era where amazing music from new bands is hard to find, make this an essential listen.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/diablo-swing-orchestra-sing-along-songs.html

RIOT Fire Down Under

Album · 1981 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.47 | 13 ratings
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"Swords and tequila, carry me through the night. Swords and tequila, carry me through the fight!"

Riot immediately established their own unique sound on their 1977 debut, and continued delivering the goods on their second album two years later. Another two years later, and the band blasted into the 80's with one of the greatest classics of traditional heavy metal. Fire Down Under not only marked the last album with vocalist Guy Speranza and the final album of their masterpiece trilogy, but it also happened to be the best of the bunch and the band's magnum opus.

What makes Fire Down Under stand out from the first two is just how it does pretty much everything the first two did, but with all of it turned up to 11. Everything is just exploding with heavy metal fury, even the moodier moments have an electrified presence about them. From beginning to end, this album is 37 and a half minutes of pure metal energy, with not a single weak moment. The moodier songs on the album take the form of "Feel the Same" and "Altar of the King". These tracks manage to maintain the high energy of the album while being absolutely beautiful at the same time. "Feel the Same" especially, with its somber main riff and Speranza's stunning vocal performance. It even makes me tear up sometimes.

The album begins with the one-two punch of "Swords and Tequila" and the title track. The former has always been my favorite Riot tune, it has such addictive hooks and it's impossible to not want to sing along to it. The title track is a blistering piece of early speed metal that will shred your skin right off. "Don't Bring Me Down" sounds a bit like classic Aerosmith on steroids, while "Don't Hold Back" and "Run For Your Life" are treats of the classic galloping riff. The only song that takes a bit of time to get used to is the finale of "Flashbacks". However, once you get past the talking at the beginning and focus on the blistering distortion and later catchy riff, it closes out the album really damn well.

Even though Riot's terrible mascot is staring you right in the face on Fire Down Under, somehow it works this time around. It almost seems to speak: "Yeah, our mascot sucks, what you gonna do about it?". If that was the intent, you can't get much more metal than that. Even if you still can't get past the cover art, at least give Fire Down Under a listen. If you don't, you're missing out on an amazing classic album that no self-respecting metalhead should miss.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/riot-fire-down-under-review.html

RIOT Narita

Album · 1979 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.12 | 13 ratings
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"Road Racin'. Movin' on down the line. Shiftin' gears, racin' through space and time"

Two years after Riot's phenomenal debut Rock City, the band continues at a steady pace with the amazing sound they set up with the debut. Keeping the heavy metal and hard rock blend in tact, not a whole lot has changed. It's another delivery of late 70's metal of the highest quality.

If you've heard any song from this album, it's probably either the instrumental title track or the classic "Road Racin'". I didn't mention this in my review of their debut, but Riot was probably a big influence on the NWoBHM, and the instrumental title track sure fits right in. "Road Racin'" is a classic and legendary song for a reason, immediately it just sucks you in with the electric drilling main riff. One of the greatest moments on the album is the absolutely blistering cover of Steppenwolf's classic "Born to Be Wild". Riot adds in so much personality and so much more fun to the song, with a pumping bassline that pops right out of your speakers, Speranza's fun vocal performance, and killer guitar work. Not to bash the original, but Riot's cover really hits it out of the park. The muscular "Kick Down the Wall", "Do It Up", and "Hot for Love" are other highlights.

Honestly there isn't a whole lot more I can say about the album without repeating what I said in my review of their debut. Riot retains their unique sound, their fun personality, and everything else great about them. However I would say that I prefer the debut, as only the last song on the album was on the weak end and it was short. There's only one weaker song on this album too, but it's the longest one. "Here We Come Again" isn't bad by any means, but six minutes is way too long for a song that doesn't hold up to the rest of the album.

Again, ignore the even more atrocious cover art and have yourself a blast with Narita. The best in Riot's masterpiece trilogy was to come very soon though, and there's no escaping the fire down under.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/riot-narita-review.html

KROKUS Headhunter

Album · 1983 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.41 | 8 ratings
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Swiss heavy metal band Krokus has a bit of a similar history to their German neighbors The Scorpions. Both bands had their beginnings in the 70's as heavy progressive rock bands, though Krokus didn't have the Krautrock influence that the Scorpions had in their early days. They rather mainly took influence from bands such as Yes and Uriah Heep. Both bands changed their sound pretty quickly, and both adapted a more traditional hard rock sound, with Scorpions quickly joining in on the blossoming heavy metal scene in the late 70's with the classic Taken By Force. Krokus took a bit more time to bring in the heavy metal, starting with 1980's Metal Rendezvous before fully taking form on what many consider to be the band's magnum opus, Headhunter.

Headhunter just blasts right through the gates with the blistering title track that brings to mind the early speed metal of Accept. Speaking of Accept, both bands were criticized back in the day for sounding too much like AC/DC. Let me just say, those criticisms are mostly bullshit. The only slight comparison that can be made, is that Marc Storace's vocals have that scratchy rasp that Bon Scott had. They don't sound much alike though, they just have a similar vocal style. In fact, if I had to compare Krokus to any band, it would probably be Saxon. Even then, Krokus has a unique sound of their own.

Headhunter's status as the band's magnum opus is well-deserved, as every song is classic heavy metal at its very best. There's really no picking highlights on this album, there's a perfect mix of high-octane heavy metal, hard rock swagger, and more majestic and epic moments. The classic "Screaming in the Night" is the best known on the album, and represents the majesty of 80's metal at it's best. Fernando Von Arb and Mark Kohler shine through with beautiful melodies, while also bringing in some unique riffing during the bridge that I'm assuming is some sort of pick-scratching. Whatever it is, it sounds really damn cool on both the aforementioned song as well as the intro instrumental to the last song, "White Din". It's also impossible to not sing-along to the fantastic chorus. The finale "Russian Winter" ends the album with a classic 80's guitar gallop blended with an epic atmosphere. This is the kind of music that plays as Valkyries march into Valhalla.

Okay, I know I said there's really no picking highlights, but there is one that stands out as one of the greatest damn songs ever written and that is "Ready to Burn". With the one and only Rob Halford guesting on backing vocals, you've got to know this is going to be a treat. With a fist pumping bullet of a main riff and an infectiously catchy chorus that you can't help but scream along to, it's just so bloody fun. If you can't immediately start rocking out to this song, you better "hit the road, jack!". That masterpiece of a song is followed up perfectly by the almost equally fantastic "Night Wolf". It keeps your headbanging from the last track, the guitars just shred like there's no tomorrow, and try not to scream along to 'NIGHT WOLF, NIGHT WOLF'. "Stand and Be Counted" continues with a driving drill of a riff, while "Eat the Rich" brings in a bit of hard rock swagger.

Steve Pace gets some time to shine on the drums during the bridge of "Stayed Awake All Night", which brings to mind the somewhat psychedelic bridge of Led Zeppelin's classic "Whole Lotta Love". Chris Von Rohr's bass is consistently audible and keeps a pumping rhythm. Tom Allom is at the helm as producer, who Judas Priest fans will know as being the one who produced the legendary Priest classics of the 80's, and you can hear it on this record.

After a few listens, this album has cemented itself as what I think is one of the greatest classic heavy metal albums of the 80's. It deserves to be mentioned alongside the Priest, Saxon, and Accept classics as some of the greatest albums that the 80's had to offer. If you're a fan of all things old school metal and you've never given Krokus the time of day, give a listen to the masterful metal might that is Headhunter.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/krokus-headhunter-review.html

ANTHRAX We've Come For You All

Album · 2003 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.02 | 16 ratings
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Anthrax is easily one of my favorite bands, and one that I've grown up listening to for much of my life. Some of my earliest memories of hearing the band come from both first hearing Spreading the Disease and being blown away by the sheer speed and fury of songs like "Gung-Ho", which to this day I still think represents thrash metal at its most pure form of crushing aggression, as well as We've Come For You All. This album has a great variety of all the elements that makes Anthrax one of the greatest bands out there as well as a couple well-placed experiments.

Anthrax is the only one of the big four that has never made a bad album, and when you look at what the other three bands were doing at the time, We've Come For You All easily wipes the floor with them. With a relentless combination of groove and thrash metal, as well as melodic traditional heavy metal and a little bit of death metal (yes, you read that right), We've Come For You All ended the John Bush-era of the band on an excellent note.

If there were any doubts of Charlie Benante deserving to be mentioned alongside Dave Lombardo and Gene Hoglan as greatest metal drummers, one listen to "What Doesn't Die" should get rid of any doubts. Just really take in the blistering speed and pounding blasts, it's amazingly tight without sounding too calculated. Benante is a master at his craft on all of the band's albums, but I think it really stands out on this record especially. "Black Dahlia" is another track with some spectacularly fast drumming, sometimes reaching death metal levels of intensity. Benante's drumming combined with the guitar riffing in parts of the song is what brings in the slight death metal element.

This is an album dominated by massive grooves and addicting hooks a plenty. Name almost any song, and you'll get a punch in the gut that immediately gets your head banging. "Superhero", "Refuse to be Denied", "Nobody Knows Anything", the thrash anthem of a title track, and the aforementioned two songs are just so fun to listen to. John Bush vocals are a huge part of what makes these songs so addicting. I could not imagine any other voice screaming in such a badass fashion. Obviously the grooves wouldn't be there though if it wasn't for Rob Caggiano and Scott Ian's riff wizardry and Frank Bello's killer basslines. Blended with Bush's delivery of 'Is that too much to ask?' on "Superhero", you just have to get into the groove.

As far as the more melodic tunes go, I've always loved "Cadillac Rock Box" and "Think About an End" the most. The former is one of two songs on the album that feature Dimebag Darrell contributing, the other one being "Strap It On". Another guest star was The Who's Roger Daltrey on "Taking the Music Back". Pretty impressive guest list if you ask me.

While It doesn't quite beat Stomp 442 as best of the John Bush-era albums, it's a very close second and the one that I have the most nostalgia for. If you want to hear groovy thrash with a melodic edge done at it's best, this should be an essential listen.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/anthrax-weve-come-for-you-all-review.html

L.A.P.D. Who's Laughing Now

Album · 1991 · Funk Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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Most know how Korn spawned the nu-metal genre when they released their debut studio album back in 1994, but not as many know about the short-lived funk metal band L.A.P.D. Unfortunately, many people only know L.A.P.D. as the band that featured James Shaffer, Reginald Arvizu, and David Silveria before they went on to form Korn. This is a bit of a shame, as L.A.P.D. were a great and unique band in their own right.

L.A.P.D. displays a very wide range of styles and influences, but almost always remaining funky. You'll hear crossover thrash, hardcore punk, grunge-y groove metal, and even a bit of rap. Think Primus meets D.R.I. meets a bit of Beastie Boys, and you'll get a close idea of what to expect. As with most funk metal, these guys have a good sense of humor, which is displayed right in the opening of the album. Opener "P.M.S." begins with a sound clip from The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before thrashing the listener's skull. There's none of the depressing and dark subject matter of a Korn record, this album is pure fun, as most funk metal is at its best.

The album is overall really consistent, so it's hard to mention highlights, but there are a few in particular that do stand up above the rest. For those who want some killer thrash-funk, "Excuse Me" delivers those goods. As soon as the song actually starts, it slams your face into the ground with this descending thrashing swirl right into the pit before getting into a marching riff into funky thrash. For an instant headbanger, just take one listen to "Place in France" and try not to get addicted to that riff. It is completely contrasted at the end though with somewhat of a Dream On-esque guitar tone. "Don't Label Me" is a a should-be funk metal classic, and "All My Life" is a short but fun as hell crossover thrash track.

Vocalist Richard Morrill, the only member who wouldn't go on to form Korn, can switch from a Les Claypool-esque tone, hardcore/crossover screaming, to what I can only describe as a stoner rap on "Don't Label Me". That may sound weird, but it adds so much charm. James Shaffer delivers a ton of punishing funk-thrash riffs, as well as some excellent solos on "Don't Label Me" and "Listen (Do What I Say)". The solo on the former in particular is awesome when blended with Reginald Arvizu's funky bass mastery. Last but not least, David Silveria brings a solid rhythm section with Arvizu.

While I love Korn, it would have been nice to hear L.A.P.D. continue as a side thing when the guys weren't busy with Korn. If you're a fan of funk metal, I highly recommend giving this album a listen. It may not be Sailing the Seas of Cheese or S.C.I.E.N.C.E. level of mastery, but it's still a great fun listen.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/03/lapd-whos-laughing-now-review.html

JUDAS PRIEST Point Of Entry

Album · 1981 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 2.85 | 72 ratings
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"From desert plains I bring you love"

With Judas Priest finding worldwide success with 1980's legendary British Steel, it only makes sense that the band wouldn't fix what's not broken and follow it up with another heavy metal masterpiece. But what's this?

"this album is commercial hard rock"

Yes, for some bizarre reason, this album from the heavy metal legends themselves has been trashed and looked down upon as just a commercial hard rock album by the general consensus. Obviously everyone will have different tastes, and I don't care if someone doesn't like one of my favorite albums. However, what I do care about, is if someone is just objectively wrong about it. Point of Entry is one of those albums, as somehow this album got to be looked at in the same way as Load and ReLoad. A rant about "anything I don't like is commercial hard rock" can wait for another day, but Point of Entry is no more commercial hard rock and no less metal than the previous two albums.

When you listen to Point of Entry side by side with the likes of Killing Machine and British Steel, it really does not sound that much different at all. Downing and Tipton's signature twin guitar attack is there. Holland's drums are absolutely massive, and Halford's vocals and melodies are as powerful and beautiful as ever. Tom Allom's production sounds just as great as their other 80's classics. Perhaps the only real difference is that I think Ian Hill's thumping and driving basslines are at their most audible on this record.

Now that all that's out of the way, let's talk more in depth about how much this album kicks ass. The album opens right up with "Heading Out to the Highway", and there couldn't be a better opening. It gets the listener pumped and ready for the ride. This album is meant to be a driving album, nothing else sounds better while cruising in the car or even walking down the street. The whole album follows suit, everything is so fun yet also majestic and beautiful at the same time. No song reflects all of this better than the masterpiece that is "Desert Plains". Not only is this the best song on the album, but I would rank this as one of Priest's very best tunes. It's impossible to not singalong to Halford's soaring melodies and the drums are so colossal that it makes you feel like you're right in front of a stage.

There's not a single dud on this album (though that can be said for most of Priest's albums), but there are a few more apart from the ones mentioned that stand out from the rest. "Solar Angels" starts out with a driving riff that has almost a spacey-tone to it. "Hot Rockin'" is just pure 80's heavy metal at its most fun. It's impossible to not chant along with the shouts of 'I wanna go, I wanna go, HOT ROCKIN'. "Turning Circles" has always drawn me in with the beautiful bridge when the guitars quiet down giving the stage for a simple yet powerful vocal performance. "On the Run" is heavy metal with swagger. Hill's thumping basslines and the main riff give the song such an awesome groove.

Now, there are a couple songs on the album that do fit a more hard rock sound, such as the somewhat Kiss-esque "Troubleshooter". However, Killing Machine and British Steel have their share of more hard rock-oriented songs as well such as "Living After Midnight". Also, if the music is good, who really cares if it's metal or hard rock? Good music is good music, and this album is all good music.

While I love almost all of Priest's albums, I would rank Point of Entry up there with the best of the best. I'm pretty sure Screaming for Vengeance will always remain their best album if I'm having to choose, but this album is certainly in my head when I am thinking about which is their best. If you've dismissed this album as just a commercial hard rock album like so many others, I recommend another listen. Go for a drive, and crank this classic up.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/03/judas-priest-point-of-entry-review.html

EXCITER Heavy Metal Maniac

Album · 1983 · Speed Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 10 ratings
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"I'm a heavy metal maniac!"

In the early days of thrash, there was a fine line between what made something thrash or just really fast and spitfire heavy metal. Perhaps no band sat on this line more than Canadian heavy metal maniacs Exciter. With their debut coming out the same year as Metallica's debut Kill'em All, it might make you wonder: "Who influenced who?"

Maybe neither did, but either way this album is going to kick your ass until you accept speed metal into your heart. Imagine Van Halen's "Atomic Punk" and Raven on steroids mixed with the debuts from Metallica and Anthrax, and you get this masterpiece. The title track is a pure 80's metal anthem, that makes you want mosh and headbang until intense whiplash occurs. Drums pounding, guitars drilling, and vocals screaming, this is pure heavy metal at its finest.

Exciter is a band that really puts the "power" in power trio, as everything is just absolutely on fire and turned up to 11. Allan Johnson's bass is always able to be heard thumping in the background, complementing John Ricci's electric drill of a guitar. "Mistress of Evil" really displays the bass/guitar interplay the best. Let's jump back to the self-titled song, and just take in the blistering raw guitar solos. It's amazing how something can be so melodic and so venomous at the same time, which is the best I can describe the guitar work on the whole album. Rounding up both the vocals and drum kit, is frontman Dan Beehler. Vocalists who double as drummers have always amazed me, especially when you're pulling off the ridiculously fast drum work on this album.

The title song is of course the main highlight of the album, but my other favorite has to go to the crushing "Iron Dogs". Like what many thrash bands would learn, there is nothing better than a good contrast between slow and pummeling and fast and brutal. The punchy slower-paced riffs flawlessly drive right into the rapid moshing till the end. Following that as best song is the seven minute long "Blackwitch". This is a speed metal power ballad at it's best, a masterful mix of beautiful yet heavy melodies and hooks, somber classical guitar work, all resulting in a rampaging finale of pummeling double bass and hammering guitar that blasts right into the finale "Cry of the Banshee", making it essentially part of "Blackwitch".

Heavy Metal Maniac is a classic album, and if you're looking for something that's both raw and has a good sense of melody, nothing fits the bill better. Exciter wouldn't show any signs of slowing down for a while, with the three albums that follow this one being excellent as well, but that anthem of a title track might just give this debut that edge over the rest as the best.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/03/exciter-heavy-metal-maniac-review.html

JANE'S ADDICTION Nothing's Shocking

Album · 1988 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 3.88 | 8 ratings
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Usually credited for kicking off the alternative/grunge scene of the early 90's, Jane's Addiction unleashed their debut Nothing's Shocking with it's probably purposely shocking album cover in 1988. It has since influenced many artists inside and outside the alternative music world, and cemented itself as a hard rock classic of the late 80's, and for good reason.

While glam metal and grunge are often seen as polar opposites, Nothing's Shocking is an interesting blend of Guns 'n' Roses-esque glam with alternative rock and 70's hard rock/heavy metal elements that would help shape the grunge sound. Coupled with its massive arena production sound and quirky sense of humor, this cluster of contrasts create a unique record that has really never been copied, at least not successfully.

Most people who grew up listening to late 80's and 90's hard rock and heavy metal will probably know the slamming headbanger that is "Mountain Song". Opening with one of the most memorable intro basslines in rock, it's impossible to not want to stomp your feet to the crashing and massive riff that dominates the song. There's a ton of attitude here, with both Dave Navarro's pounding riffing and Perry Farrell's snide and nasally vocal performance. That sarcastic tone is contrasted with catchy melodic vocal hooks and guitar soloing that sounds right out of the 70's, as is the album's sound in general.

There's plenty of fantastic songs on here with the right amount of variety without straying away from the main sound. "Had a Dad" blends a killer groove that just punches you in the gut, with one of the soulful vocal melodies on the record. The experimental mini-epic "Ted, Just Admit It..." is an unsettling dirge that perfectly blends a wandering vibe reminiscent of 70's heavy psych and metal with the booming arena sound. The rhythm section of Eric Avery and Stephen Perkins really shines on the song, especially with the drums towards the end and the riffs that sound like Voivod playing funk.

My favorite on the album, as well as my favorite Jane's Addiction song has to go with the underrated deep cut of "Pigs in Zen". It really showcases all that's so great about the album in one song. The mixing of hard-edged guitar grit and soaring killer soloing, Farrell's sneer, deep bass, and the awesome 80's drum sound. Why not as many people talk about this song I will never know, what an excellent finale.

If you haven't heard this classic and love both arena rock and grunge, I highly recommend giving this album a listen. There's a little bit of filler, but nowhere near enough to take away from the abundance of high points. It's one of those legendary debuts like Boston's self-titled that the band could never top. It's a shame, but sometimes bands have one masterpiece within them, and for whatever reason can't come close to reaching the same greatness.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/03/janes-addiction-nothings-shocking-review.html

LIVING DEATH Metal Revolution

Album · 1985 · Speed Metal
Cover art 4.43 | 3 ratings
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Only a year after their promising but flawed debut, Living Death was back with another German speed/thrash assault. However, there is no longer a concern of a terrible original mixing/production, silly vocals, this a band that is out for blood and means war. Everything except the amateurish qualities have been multiplied by 100, and it does not sound like it was an easy feat.

If you started with the debut like I did, don't expect this album to really resemble it all that much. The riffs pummel with so much more force, the production makes it sound much heavier and massive, and best of all: the vocals. Thorsten "Toto" Bergmann went from a charming vocalist with some rather silly attempts at higher pitched vocals, to a screaming siren. Now he has absolutely no problem with hitting those high notes. Quite the contrary, actually. He sounds like a sinister version of the one and only Udo Dirkschneider of the legendary Accept.

Like the debut, the band still retains quite a bit of their traditional heavy metal roots. Namely the aforementioned Accept, especially with songs like "Grippin' a Heart" which sounds like a more thrash version of said band. The finale "Deep in Hell" also has this traditional metal sound, and has such a fantastic catchy chorus.

The album is also very consistent in quality, there's not a single dud to be found. There are a few songs that stand just a bit above the rest though, in particular the menacing behemoth of "Screaming From a Chamber". Before Slayer came along with South of Heaven, this was the pinnacle of how to slow down thrash to a sinister crawl. The guitars have such a teeth-grinding crunch, and Bergmann's piercing screams of "SCREAMING, SCREAMING FROM A CHAMBER" during the chorus couldn't sound better. That isn't the only slower more sinister song on the album, as "Road of Destiny" is dominated by a haunting lead riff that is absolutely spine-chilling. On the opposite end, "Shadow of the Dawn" is pure fast and furious thrash that easily stands as one of the main highlights.

If you couldn't get past the vocals on the debut, give this album a try. It's amazing how much of a leap of quality happened in only a year, though either way this album is fantastic. If you're looking for a frantic speed/thrash album that has just the right balance of melody and bite, Living Death's Metal Revolution has got you covered. However, the best was soon to come.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/02/living-death-metal-revolution-review.html

LIVING DEATH Vengeance of Hell

Album · 1984 · Speed Metal
Cover art 3.83 | 2 ratings
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The German thrash scene was a great one. It was home to many bands that would satisfy the taste of thrashers who wanted a more spitting and caustic attack that would end up influencing early death and black metal. You had the "big three" of Kreator, Sodom, and Destruction as well as bands like Tankard and Holy Moses (Which is my personal favorite German thrash band). Not that there weren't bands of this type elsewhere, as Canada was home to Razor and Voivod and Japan had Casbah and Jurassic Jade, but Germany is usually mentioned as the main hub of these types of thrash acts.

Living Death are one of these bands, and like many thrash bands, had a bit of a rough start with their debut. As with many early speed/thrash releases, Vengeance of Hell retains a lot of it's traditional heavy metal influences though adds in a bit of the grit and spit that's needed. Also you've got some amazing cover artwork that displays obscure metal art at it's finest. The original release of the album was absolutely ruined by a terribly muddy mixing, but thankfully the band must have realized that and remixed the album only a year later in 1985, so that's the version I'll be reviewing.

On the music end, everything's here. Soloing of the utmost classic metal tradition, pounding drums that constantly keep the foot tapping, skin-shredding riffs, and a penchant for great melodies. Speaking of melodies though, the vocals can sometimes be a bit of a problem. For the most part, Thorsten "Toto" Bergmann's vocals are fine and have that amateur charm to them. However, when he tries to reach higher pitched notes like in "You and Me" or "Night Light", he just sounds a bit silly. I feel like I'm listening to myself trying to sing Judas Priest songs, and in fact I probably sound exactly like this when I try.

Despite that, what really keeps this album from flopping is both the excellent music and the aforementioned charm. The album sounds like everyone's just having fun, and that's something that I almost always love hearing. I'd take some rather amateurish speed metal that's clearly having fun over ultra brutal, technical, and serious modern death metal any day. It's impossible to not love metal anthems like "Heavy Metal Hurricane", it is seriously a hidden classic metal gem. The chorus on it is just so catchy. Some of the other highlights are "My Victim", "Hellpike", and the excellent closing title track. Damn, the short crushing riff that ends the song is just a beast. It sadly only lasts the last 20 seconds and should have gone on longer, but it does provide a great finale.

The band would very much improve and hone in on their sound on the following two releases especially on the vocal end, but this is a fun album that should not be missed. If you can get past the sometimes dumb-sounding vocals and make sure to listen to the 1985 version, this is a great start to an underrated thrash/speed metal band's career.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/02/living-death-vengeance-of-hell-review.html

ALICE IN CHAINS Alice In Chains

Album · 1995 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.85 | 39 ratings
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Alice in Chains' self titled album, their last album to feature frontman Layne Staley, is one that is often forgotten or pushed aside in their discography. It is probably overshadowed by Dirt, which is often seen as the band's magnum opus and a crown jewel of the grunge genre, as well as the band's 2009 comeback album Black Gives Way to Blue, which is often seen as their best album after Dirt if not their best (Which I personally don't understand, I find that album pretty boring and bland, but that's a review for another day).

Alice in Chains is an album where you can just hear all the band tensions and what was going on at the time. While Jerry Cantrell has expressed his joy with the finished product, it sounds like Staley's heroin addiction made it a pain to get the record done. The band has never been known for uplifting music, but this album might very well be their most outright depressing and dreary album.

The underlying doom metal influence that's always been with the band perhaps shows up the most on this album. However, it is blended with some bittersweet melodies, harmonies, and a creative use of the band's acoustic side shown on their EP's. The band finally brings their two sounds together on this album, and it works beautifully. Great examples of this are on the longer songs on the album, such as "Sludge Factory", "Heaven Beside You", and "Frogs". You get this mesh of sludgy riffing dripping with misery and twangy acoustic blues guitar that actually enhances the overall mood. "Sludge Factory" I believe uses this sound best and is probably my favorite on the album.

Cantrell's comment in an interview of "Our music's kind of about taking something ugly and making it beautiful", really paints a good picture of this album's sound. This is partly due to the harmonies the Cantrell and Staley always make even in a really heavy or somber song. I once again refer to the longer songs on the album, especially "Heaven Beside You", whose bittersweet chorus is always followed up by this heavy doom metal riff. There's also some great screeching soloing on this record, like with "Sludge Factory" as well as "Brush Away". "Nothin' Song" also features this combined with some excellent syncopation. For one of the more doom-sounding songs, they sure made it pretty catchy. I think they knew that with the inclusion of lyrics such as "Well the nothin' song sticks to your mouth, like peanut butter on the brain".

This album is a perfect example of a grower. While Facelift has the instant appeal of it's infectiously catchy hooks and riffs, and Dirt has classic status, it takes a few listens for this one to fully sink in. Not to say there aren't some instant hooks on this album though, as I've always loved the classic opener of "Grind" and "Head Creeps" which immediately get you headbanging to the teeth-gritting riffs. If you've only heard this album once or twice and not thinking much of it, I recommend giving it another listen. It's a real underrated gem that deserves the same appreciation as the band's other albums.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/02/alice-in-chains-alice-in-chains-review.html

VARGA Mileage

Single · 2018 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Varga made a small name for themselves back in the early 90's with their single "Greed" being featured on the popular MTV cartoon Beavis and Butthead. Said single came from the band's debut studio album, Prototype, which was an amazing industrial/groove/thrash metal album which had amazing riffs, hooks, and variety. It's really one of the best hidden gems of 90's metal. However, the band started out playing technical thrash metal with their debut demo. When the band returned from a long time away in 2011, they released two albums a few years later which saw a return to their original sound.

Now those two new studio albums were fantastic comeback albums, and it was great to see such an underrated band come back with flying colors. Now the band has returned yet again with a new single, that ranks with the band's absolute best songs. "Mileage" is a crushing thrash metal track that's full of bite and attitude. Joe Varga's vocals has his signature edgy thrash personality blended with some higher-range vocals that scream so much attitude with the chorus. His bass, Dan Fila on drums, and Sean Williamson's guitar work bring a fantastic and catchy groove to the whole song. Williamson plays a killer spinning chromatic guitar solo that is complimented perfectly with Varga's low tuned and driving bassline.

All in all, this is classic Varga. It's a perfect mix of the band's reformed tech thrash sound with the personality and groove of their classic Prototype. Speaking for myself as a huge Varga fan, this single has me hyped for more. Can't wait to hear what these guys have coming next! Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

STATIC-X Wisconsin Death Trip

Album · 1999 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 3.72 | 10 ratings
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"Speed toward hell, shed no tears"

By the end of the 90's, there was not an explosion of new fantastic industrial metal bands and albums like there was at the beginning of the decade. Treponem Pal had released their masterpiece "Higher" in '97, which would be their last album for about a decade, and Fear Factory and Rammstein were going strong. That was about it. However, come the year of 1999, and the industrial metal band Static-X unleashed their debut studio album Wisconsin Death Trip to the world.

Static-X brought their own fresh sound to the industrial metal scene, using a blend of the atmospheric heaviness of Fear Factory, the groove and catchiness of a Godflesh beat, and the pulsing EBM/Electro-Industrial of Front Line Assembly. Bringing together all the elements of what makes industrial music so great, while not copying any of these bands is what makes this album have such a winning sound.

As soon as the grooving "Push It" blasts through your speakers, this album doesn't let up until the ambient "December" closes out the album. This is perfect cyberpunk video game music, the kind of stuff that goes perfectly with a game of Quake II or even Doom. That's not to say that it doesn't work on it's own, quite the contrary. Take the mechanical screeching in "Push It" that emulate power drills, or the underlying atmosphere throughout the album, this embraces everything industrial.

Going back to the mention of cyber, the menacing "The Trance is the Motion" showcases an early example of the cyber metal sound. It may take place as my favorite on the album. It is engulfed in a stark atmosphere, screeching and down-tuned riffs, chaotic screams, and has a pretty epic vibe for being only 5 minutes long. Honestly, I think this song should have closed out the album rather than the slightly boring "December". Apart from that last song though, the rest of the album is all fantastic. Especially the songs dominated by a massive groove while keeping the futuristic atmosphere. "Stem", "Bled for Days", and the title track are in particular highlights.

Despite the highlights, this is an album that is meant to be listened to all the way through. Each song bleeds into the next, and makes for a good CD to turn on for any occasion that requires a surge of industrial metal goodness. This is a classic album of the industrial genre, and one that the band wouldn't match until 2007's Cannibal. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

EARTH WITCH Out of the Shallow

Album · 2017 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.97 | 4 ratings
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Now is a perfect time to be a stoner fan, as so many stoner rock and metal bands are popping up like crazy. Being a stoner fan, I'm very happy to see this, and many of them are retaining the old school 70's metal sound that started the whole genre. If you were to ask me who the best of these new stoner bands is though, I would probably have to say Earth Witch.

They set themselves apart with how much heart and soul they clearly have, and a real passion of classic 70's heavy metal. While many of the riffs would make Tony Iommi proud, the band has their own sound and plays some pretty beautiful leads. The band calls themselves "doom blues", which honestly couldn't be a more fitting title. The album is engulfed in a laid back blues metal vibe, but isn't afraid to crush some skulls with blistering doom riffs such as in the grand finale of "Earth Witch". Though the album is also bursting with driving riffs as heard right at the beginning with opener "Guts". The vocals will often be gravely sounding, but sometimes they're a bluesy croon in the vein of Danzig.

The best song on the album, and one of the greatest stoner songs ever written (Yes, it is that good) is easily "Butterfly". Not since Clutch's The Elephant Riders have I heard something so beautiful yet heavy from the stoner genre. The plodding murky yet melodious bassline blends perfectly with the crooning vocals, and adds that much more impact when the distortion gets cranked up to 11 and the guitar rips and the drums become colossal. The guitar leads and soloing are stunning, and let the heaviness and beauty blend right together.

Other main highlights include, the whole damn album! "Starfighter", "Lovecraft", "Riff Rider", "Green Torch", "Mermaid", "Pilgrim", it is all absolutely fantastic. Each song is among the best stoner you'll ever hear. Basically, if you want to hear beautiful melodies, singing guitar solos, punchy distorted riffs and hooks, warm and organic productions, or the aforementioned driving riffs and crushing dirges, this is essential listening.

I don't have much else to say, it is just an absolute masterpiece. If you're a stoner fan, do yourself a favor and listen to these amazing guys. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

RIOT Rock City

Album · 1977 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.93 | 11 ratings
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"Shine, shine on, Warrior."

Exploding onto the quickly growing metal scene in 1977, Riot unleashed the first taste of their high octane traditional metal with their debut Rock City. By this time, heavy metal was evolving out of it's development stages, and into a second wave of bands that propelled the genre into the 80's and into a more focused sound. So along with Judas Priest, Scorpions, Motorhead, and Heavy Load, Riot brought heavy metal into a truly "traditional" sound.

Already Riot feels very comfortable in their own sound, as this debut is not far off from the band's legendary classics like Narita and Fire Down Under. Influences from Sweet's heavy metal moments can be heard, as well as some more hard rock leaning moments reminiscent of bands like Led Zeppelin and UFO. Overall though, it can easily be compared to what Judas Priest would be doing on Killing Machine just a year later.

The album opens right up with a one-two punch of "Desperation" and "Warrior", which have everything that's great about late 70's metal. The title track follows with a more hard rock sound, though the solo is pure metal all the way. "Angel" and "Heart of Fire" are a couple more high energy bursts of classic metal, especially the latter. It just explodes right out the door, and has an absolutely driving main riff that pulses with energy. While it's close with that song, the best on the album would probably have to go to "Overdrive", which has such a massive drum sound that makes it impossible to not stomp your foot.

Something that I absolutely love about the first three Riot albums, is how much personality there is. A lot of that personality comes from Guy Speranza's vocals. He has such a unique voice and has the perfect combination of metal attitude and beautiful melody. The closest comparison I can make is James Young of Styx, who sang on the band's heaviest tracks. "Overdrive" and "Heart of Fire" have that great heavy metal attitude blended with wonderful melodies, while "Gypsy Queen" has one of the most beautiful melodies in 70's metal.

Like with many debuts, Riot's is another one that has gone underrated. Ignore the atrocious cover art, and get ready for a ride of awesome classic metal that screams of personality. It's a great start to a fantastic career. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

SCREAM No More Censorship

Album · 1988 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Scream were one of the most notable bands of the D.C. Hardcore scene in the 80's. However, once 1988's No More Censorship came along, they had a big change in sound. Perhaps this was in part due to Dave Grohl joining the band as drummer, which makes it strange that these last two albums are so unknown. Before joining Nirvana and forming Foo Fighters afterwards, Dave Grohl brought a pedal to the metal in Scream.

While some punk elements are still here, No More Censorship is primarily an 80's hard rock record with some metal and aforementioned punk elements. It all comes together beautifully, and perhaps better than you would expect from a band taking such a different direction. Some of the songs meld everything together, and one of the best at doing that is "Fucked Without a Kiss", which opens up with a barrage of double kick drums and a speeding bassline that sound like a thrash attack is going to strike in no time; however, punk edged hard rock guitar riffs come in.

Some of the songs sound like they would not be out of place on a NWoBHM album, such as "No Escape". A great punky bassline opens it up before hard rock riffing blended with almost Diamond Head-esque vocal melodies take the stage. Though it all has this heavy metal energy, especially with the pounding drums at the end with one killer scream. The best song on the album is probably "Something My Head". How this isn't known as one of the greatest hard rock songs of the 80's, I have no clue. The vocal melodies are beautiful, the screaming metal guitar solo is fantastic, and the whole song has an explosive energy. The title track is just pure 80's hard rock at its best, with an almost AC/DC-sounding main riff. "Binge" is up there as well, which sounds straight out of an early Iron Maiden album for the first 30 seconds, then is followed up with more high-energy hard rock action.

After the album ends on an interesting note, with the short "In the Beginning...", which is basically a catchy drum solo with bass twangs, you're left with an extremely underrated heavy rock album of the 80's. If you're looking for some great catchy 80's hard rock that's a bit different, I highly recommend checking out this gem. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

MORBID ANGEL Kingdoms Disdained

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.18 | 6 ratings
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The Pillars Crumbling...

Death metal pioneers Morbid Angel have finally returned with their first studio album since 2011's ill-received Illud Divinum Insanus. While I think that's a decent album for what it is, many fans didn't like the additions of an industrial sound and thought it was an overall weak effort. Frontman David Vincent has once again been replaced with the return of Steve Tucker, so fans probably didn't know exactly what to expect.

Thankfully, this is largely a return to the classic Morbid Angel sound that every old school death metal fan knows and loves. What you get is an absolute pummeling of brutal yet grooving riffing, constant machine gun drums, chaotic growls, and a couple fantastic new additions to keep it fresh. At times there are some massive syncopated grooves that wouldn't sound out of place on a Meshuggah album, and some classic rock/metal-styled guitar solos. In fact, the contrast between the crushing death metal grooves and almost 70's sounding guitar solos is my favorite part of the album.

"The Pillars Crumbling" is the best example of the aforementioned contrast. After the majority of the song crushes the listeners bones with its main crunching groove, the end of the song switches between pounding drums and kick ass solos that sound right out of a 70's or 80's guitar jam. As much as screeching death metal solos have their place, old school death metal mixes surprisingly well with even more old school guitar solos. Opener "Piles of Little Arms" also has one of these solos at the very end of the song.

Of course, the main focus of the album is absolutely crushing old school death metal of the best variety. Honestly, this is probably Morbid Angel's best album since 1993's Covenant. It's impossible to not headbang to pretty much the entire album, and it simply never lets up. Riff after riff, it's all represented well on the album cover. It's hard to pick highlights apart from "The Pillars Crumbling", which has easily become one of my favorite Morbid Angel tracks. "Garden of Disdain", "Architect and Iconoclast", and "Paradigms Warped" are a few of songs with some of the best and most massive grooves that the band has delivered. The latter especially has some killer bass lines, perfectly placed between walls of guitar sound.

Morbid Angel is back, and with one of the best modern death metal albums. Kingdoms Disdained blends the old school spirit with the brutality of bands like Nile and Meshuggah into a perfect mix. If you're looking for some crushing death metal that remembers what the genre is all about, this is an essential listen. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

PITCHSHIFTER Submit

EP · 1992 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Just a year after their debut hit the scene, simply titled Industrial, the band came back with an EP which already got the band into more of their own sound. While it is an EP, it is longer than the debut if including the silence on the last track. Even if you don't count those, it's only about 10 minutes shorter. While their debut could be a bit too derivative from Godflesh for some, Submit increases the thrash and death metal influences to make Pitchshifter a force to be reckoned with.

Apart from "New Flesh PSI", which isn't really much of a song, this album never lets up with crushing industrial fury that punches the listener to the floor. "Gritter" is a real teeth grinder, which sets the stage for all of the gritty and crunching riffs that permeate through the album. It's also almost impossible to not want to growl along. "Deconstruction" is probably the best on here, and one of Pitchshifter's best tracks in general. It really shows what was to come on the next album, with a driving nail of a riff and J.S. Clayden's chaotic vocal attack. "Dry Riser Inlet" is another one of the band's best tracks, which is a foreboding industrial death metal masterpiece. The bass is driving, but the guitar and vocals are stark during the chorus. The last song "Silo" is an instrumental sludgy dirge that is a great end to the album.

Submit has just the right amount of Pitchshifter's own flavor to make it stand out more than their debut. Some of the best death metal-infused industrial metal out there is on this record, and it should be an essential listen for any industrial fan. As fantastic as this EP is, the band would reach their peak with the following album. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

SNAPCASE Snapcase

Demo · 1991 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Typically, demos are rarely seen as including some of a band's best material. This isn't always because of the band finding their sound and just starting out though, many times it is the terrible production on many demos that keep them from being very enjoyable. Snapcase's self-titled demo from 1991 is an exception, as this houses some of the band's best stuff.

Before switching to their own unique take on hardcore in the late 90's and early 2000's, the band was a lot more thrash-based. Perhaps nothing displays that better than this demo, as this is an onslaught of punishing beat-you-to-the-floor crossover thrash. "Die Laughing" is the best song on here, with a machine gun barrage of double bass that drum into your skull. The guitar riffs shred and proceed to punch you in the gut, and Chris Galas's vocal spitfire has all the attitude and strained screams of classic hardcore/crossover fashion.

The bass work gets its glory in "Undertow", which is given a menacing tone with the production that blends perfectly with the rusty distortion of some of the riffs. The production is raw and crushing, but you can hear every instrument and vocal line incredibly well. It sounds like a well produced studio album, and that's impressive, especially for a first demo.

If you're looking for some crushing underground crossover thrash to get you through the daily grind, give a listen to this fantastic demo. A great start to one of the most underrated bands in hardcore. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

HELLOWEEN Walls of Jericho

Album · 1985 · Speed Metal
Cover art 3.97 | 70 ratings
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"Give me wings to fly, ride the sky!"

When people think of classic power metal, Helloween is usually the first band to come to mind. After all, they did release the legendary Keeper of the Seven Keys Parts 1 and 2, which have since became known as two of the greatest metal albums of the 80's. However, before leading the way of the German power metal scene, Helloween released one of the most melodic yet at the same time heaviest thrash/speed metal albums at the time of 1985.

After a short orchestral intro title track, you're thrown right into a storm of riffs and cannonball drums that rain down upon the listener that is called "Ride the Sky". This might simply be the greatest and heaviest song Helloween ever wrote. It really sets a mood, conjuring up images of dogfights in the sky with bullets flying at top speed. It's followed up with "Reptile" which pounds itself into your head, with a real marching stomp of a main riff. That's what you'll get on this album, it will either shred at blinding speeds or pound a stomping groove through your skull. "Heavy Metal (Is the Law)" could not be titled better, as this is a speeding masterpiece that continuously throws catchy guitar and bass riffs and crazy solos. This is a song made for the stage.

While it's hard to beat "Ride the Sky", "Gorgar" may actually take it's place. Talk about a headbanging anthem! It instantly reels you in with a groovy hook, and it becomes impossible to not headbang and scream along. Add in the fantastic metal rendition of Edvard Grieg's classic Hall of the Mountain King as the bridge, and you've got a masterpiece.

This is the only Helloween album that features Kai Hansen on vocals, so this sounds more like what would end up being Gamma Ray then the Helloween most people know. He has a unique and distinct voice that really suits everything that the music does, whether it be thrash, power, or speed. Markus Grosskopf really gets plenty of time to shine on the bass end, you can almost always hear the rumbling, clicking, and shredding basslines. In particular, the closing epic "How Many Tears" highlights this best. "Heavy Metal (Is the Law)" gives some time for some showing off with bass riffs a plenty.

As much as I love the classic Keeper of the Seven Keys albums, Walls of Jericho has always been my favorite Helloween album. It's got the edge of thrash, with the melody of power metal. It's a match made in heaven, and never worked better. If you want to get the definitive version, be sure to get the one that includes their amazing self-titled EP and the blazing classic "Judas". Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

NIGHT SUN Mournin'

Album · 1972 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.89 | 5 ratings
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What happens when you combine Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin, and mix it together in a crazy early heavy metal album that was ahead of it's time and also fit nicely with other early 70's metal bands? You get the German Night Sun's sole studio album, Mournin'.

The German music scene during the early 70's was home to Krautrock, an experimental rock movement that birthed bands such as Can and Neu! as well as electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. With Mournin' being produced by Konrad Plank, known for producing albums for many Krautrock staples, you would think it would fit into this scene. However, it's an amazing and blistering slice of early metal.

Night Sun immediately wants the listener to know that they aren't fucking around, as "Plastic Shotgun" is faster, heavier, and spits more than anything else from 1972. It sounds like what is probably the earliest example of thrash metal, having nearly the same force and aggression of an early thrash opening track like Metallica's "Hit the Lights". There's of course the Deep Purple-esque organ and Robert Plant meets Ian Gillian vocals that lets you know what year this is, but the main riff is jagged and crushing and would open a mosh pit right up had this been released more than a decade later.

That's the song that makes this album groundbreaking, but the majority of the rest of the album is up there with the best of early 70's heavy metal. "Got a Bone of My Own" begins with a three minute long dark and haunting ambient section that rivals the brooding atmosphere of Black Sabbath's self-titled song, before raining down gargantuan doom metal riffing that crushes the listener's skull. "Slush Pan Man" and "Come Down" follow similar suit, with the latter beginning more softly before bringing in the heavy artillery. "Blind" and "Nightmare" pick the speed back up, less proto-thrash but still blisteringly fast heavy metal/hard rock.

The last song, "Don't Start Flying", is a bit of an oddball. It still maintains the heavy riffing, but blends in a lot of horns that take a little while getting used to, but sometimes has the same swing of a song like Gentle Giant's "Peel the Paint".

If you're looking for some heavy, dark, and crushing heavy metal from the 70's, Night Sun's lone wonder of Mournin' is an essential listen. Will these guys ever reform? Who knows, and who knows if it will even be heavy metal if they do. As of now, they're a one album legend. And with an album as groundbreaking and amazing as this one, there is no problem with that. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

RATT Invasion Of Your Privacy

Album · 1985 · Glam Metal
Cover art 4.38 | 16 ratings
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Ah, glam metal/hair metal/pop metal/whatever you want to call it. It's a part of metal that's been long shamed, and it's easy to see why with bands like Poison, Warrant, White Lion, and the more recent Black Veil Brides being part of it. Though, that was mostly the second wave of the scene. At the start, you had the likes of Motley Crue, Lita Ford, Y & T, Great White, Quiet Riot, and my personal favorite Ratt.

This is when hair bands were metal, taking a lot more from the NWoBHM than what would come later. With a penchant for razor-sharp guitar riffing, catchy as hell melodies, and tight rhythm section, Ratt was at the top of their game during the 80's. Many prefer Out of the Cellar, which yielded the hit single "Round and Round", but as great as that album is, I find Invasion of Your Privacy to be superior and one of the best albums of the 80's.

The album immediately opens up with what should be a metal classic, "You're in Love", which is simply one of the best opening songs on any album. The guitar and drums perfectly play off of one another, making it almost impossible not to headbang with the syncopation. Speaking of, Bobby Blotzer brings in not only a gigantic loud drum sound, but also some really cool cannon/thunder effects. The twin lead guitars of Warren DeMartini and Robbin Crosby lays down (pun not intended) killer riff after riff and singing solos after another. Juan Croucier's bass brings a nice bounce in the bottom end, and Stephen Pearcy is easily my favorite glam metal vocalist. Pearcy's vocals remind me of a more melodic Dave Mustaine, as he has that same sort of nasal-y tone.

The whole album is flawless from beginning to end, but if I had to pick highlights besides "You're in Love", the other single "Lay It Down" is certainly one. The chorus is simply beautiful. "What You Give is What You Get", "Dangerous but Worth the Risk", and "Closer to My Heart" are also masterpieces. The latter especially has sweet contrast between the main riffs.

If you've been apprehensive to check out glam metal, give Ratt's first four albums a try, especially this one. This one is up there with Powerslave, Screaming for Vengeance, Balls to the Wall, Metal on Metal, and Shout at the Devil as 80's heavy metal classics. This is pure metal all the way. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

ELDER Elder

Album · 2008 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 4.19 | 4 ratings
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Sadly, there are many bands that suffer from the unfortunate fate of that "sophomore slump", and never get out of it. Some bands stagnate, and some get worse. One such band that belongs to the latter, in my opinion, is Elder. While many disagree and prefer the neo-psych/prog rock styling of their recent material (their 2017 album in particular), Elder had an amazing winning sound on their self-titled debut from 2008.

This is pure distorted, fuzzed out, and groovy stoner metal at its finest. Nick DiSalvo brings somewhat of a sludgy Crowbar-esque delivery with his gruff vocal performance, but it's blended with riffs that are right out of the holy gospel of Tony Iommi. The solos are often pretty bluesy, but sound as heavy as the rest with the crushing distortion. There's an amazingly heavy bottom end, with the bass rumbling at your feet, while the drums keep a constant punch. Right at the beginning of the album, "White Walls" rises from the pit with a rumbling bassline that fire right into a stoner-doom plod. "Ghost Head" is a masterpiece of stoner metal, and probably my favorite on the album. The crash cymbal perfectly opens up the song, and the fuzzy guitar riffs groove like there's no tomorrow. DiSalvo's vocals switch from gruff to a more Floor-esque style, and really fit the somewhat bouncy groove.

The production is just what you would expect from a stoner metal album, full of powerful and punchy distortion. It's as groovy as Black Sabbath, fuzzy as Blue Cheer, and as heavy as Soundgarden. If you're looking for some great stoner metal that you may have missed over the years, this album is right up there with the best. It's a damn shame that they didn't continue with this sound, as this is absolutely killer. If this review doesn't explain enough, just try not to instantly get addicted to the blistering riffing of "Hexe" (Or the whole album for that matter). There's no need for drugs, when the music can do the work for you. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

MYRKUR Myrkur

EP · 2014 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.28 | 3 ratings
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Sometimes, music is more of an experience or a journey than anything else. There's nothing quite like entering the mosh pit for an Anthrax or Exodus classic, or gaping in awe of a neo-classical shredder on stage. There's also an introspective and contemplative side, which can transport the listener to a whole different world and setting. Myrkur, a Danish one-woman black metal band, rests on this side.

Myrkur takes the listener to dark hollow Gothic chambers and secluded forests, with no sign of other life. It's a spine-chilling trip among harsh black metal dirges and mystical Scandinavian folk tunes, which is one of the best and most fitting combinations I've heard. Myrkur's vocals have the perfect contrast, switching between caustic black metal shrieks and soulful choir vocalizations, both sending chills down the spine. As opposed to some black metal that is just constant chug and fast same-y guitar riffing, Myrkur creates both beautiful and stark moods with each riff, with some particularly crushing yet atmospheric hooks. The bridge and end of "Latvian Fegurd" in particular blends the heaviness of a doom metal riff, with ominous aura. "Nattens Barn" has a guitar hook that's close to thrash, which surprisingly fits on an album like this, maybe because of the layering of atmosphere.

The production suits the EP perfectly, having a crackling rawness yet, just enough cleanness to be completely audible unlike many black metal albums. The black metal tracks utilize this perfectly, while the short folk pieces speak with much clarity despite the raw edge.

If you're looking for some beautiful yet heavy black metal, Myrkur is a must listen. Take a break from the daily grind, and visit some Gothic chambers and dark forests in the comfort of your home, car, library, or wherever you enjoy listening to music. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

ELDER Reflections of a Floating World

Album · 2017 · Heavy Psych
Cover art 3.05 | 9 ratings
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Reviewer's Challenge Selection: August 2017

What's worse than bad? I didn't know before, but this album answers that question.

Some people will say that a boring album is worse than a bad one, which I personally disagree with. I'd rather listen to a really boring album than a flat out terrible one, but guess what? This album manages to somehow be both boring AND awful, and how do you ask? Well join me on this masochistic journey, through the seas of mediocrity.

Mastodon's new album mostly rested on the lame side, and Coheed and Cambria has some pretty mediocre stuff too. So take that, and make it worse. Add in some generic ambiance that does nothing but act as filler to justify the long song lengths, making the listener ask where the actual music is, and you've just about got it. Guess what though? The music isn't any better than the droning ambient parts, so you may as well just turn it off and stare at a blank wall. Most of the songs sound pretty much the exact same and follow the same pattern. Synthetic rock riff, emo-esque vocals, droning ambiance, then repeat. It just all sounds so soulless, and doesn't have any riff, melody, hook, or anything that gets me into the music or brings out any emotions. There is one song that stands out though among the boring stuff. That is "The Falling Veil", and it stands out it all the wrong ways.

Why is it so bad? First of all, it takes like two minutes for the actual song to start playing, but when it starts, you'd rather go back to the ambiance. The riff sounds like some sickening happy melody for the newest summer pop hit. It sounds way too flowery for an what an album like this is trying to do. For a little while it goes away, so you just get some more boring riffs and vocals, but it comes back. Oh yeah, this is the main riff, so be prepared to wish that you are falling with that veil and falling right off a cliff. Coupled with a stale polished production, this is not what I look for in a supposedly "hard rock/stoner rock" album. Also, every song is way too long. If you can make it work, go ahead and make an album with all songs being 8+ minutes. However, when you make the listener need to cleanse their ears within two minutes, it's clearly just not working.

There is little music that annoys as much as this album, but when I listen to this album I just feel depressed. Usually I listen to depressing and sad albums when I feel the same to make me feel better. This does the opposite, I was in a pretty good mood before listening to this. Now I just feel annoyed, but maybe it's because this album doesn't sound like what was advertised. This album is considered stoner rock, but it's really not. The only brief moment that is stoner in anyway and sounds decent is a 30 second riff around the 3 minute mark of "Blind". Besides that, it's a pretentious indie/prog rock album that's trying to disguise itself as a stoner rock album. If you want real stoner rock, check out some Clutch or Fu Manchu. Unless you want the Top 10 indie rock hits but made overly long, I would avoid this album.

RAVEN Rock Until You Drop

Album · 1981 · NWoBHM
Cover art 4.28 | 8 ratings
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Forming in 1975, Raven blasted onto the NWoBHM scene in 1981 with the release of their debut studio album Rock Until You Drop. These guys are pure old school heavy metal, owing much of their sound to Judas Priest while already having their own identity to make them stand out as one of the leading figures of the quickly growing 80's British metal scene.

Most of the album displays a perfect performance of classic heavy metal at it's finest, with influences of late 70's Priest and sometimes a nod to the catchy hard boogie rock of Bon Scott-era AC/DC, with opener "Hard Ride" in particular. It sounds right out of one of those classic AC/DC albums complete with gang shouts and some pretty Angus Young-esque guitar riffs. Speaking of riffs, Mark Gallagher is a master, just take a listen to the godly riff during the bridge of "Over the Top" or the epic gallop at the end of "For the Future". These two tracks are contrasted with a nice little classical guitar interlude "39/40" placed in the middle of the album.

John Gallagher and Rob "Wacko" Hunter provide a killer rhythm section that sounds very loose and free-flowing, which fits perfectly for an album that just wants you to rock till you drop. The bass has a nice thump throughout the album, while you can hear how "Wacko" probably got his nickname with an absolutely pummeling drum performance. John Gallagher's vocals are a bit like a punky Rob Halford, this punk edge can be heard especially in "Hellraiser/Action". Occasionally the band gets into some proto-thrash areas, mainly in the riff during the bridge of "Lambs to the Slaughter".

Every song on the album is killer, but if I had to pick highlights I'd choose "Hard Ride", "Hell Patrol", "Over the Top", the infectiously catchy title track, "Lambs to the Slaughter", and the epic album finisher that is "Tyrant of the Airways". The title track is a slamming rocker that immediately starts the headbanging, and "Tyrant of the Airways" is like a driving drill with a great mellow bridge as contrast.

Already on their debut Raven were at the top of their game, and Rock Until You Drop is easily one of the best records of the NWoBHM. If you're looking for some raw and pure heavy metal, check this killer album out. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

ROCK GODDESS It's More Than Rock and Roll

EP · 2017 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Despite every metal fan knowing about the NWoBHM, most of the bands that belonged to it are sadly forgotten these days sans Iron Maiden and Saxon. Some people will know about the first two Def Leppard albums and the first Diamond Head album, but try and ask someone about any other bands and it will just get harder and harder. This is such a damn shame, as bands like Girlschool, Raven, Jaguar, Satan, Tygers of Pan Tang, and Rock Goddess delivered some of the greatest classic metal albums of the 80's. Out of those bands, Rock Goddess is back with their first release of new material in 30 years, and boy, do they deliver.

This is what I call classic heavy metal, no flash and flair, just pure old school metal. Jody Turner's vocals and guitar work is of classic metal tradition, filled with both raw attitude and melody. Her solos are beautifully melodic, while the main riffs always have a gritty crunch or piercing bite. Tracey Lamb's bass gives each song a great bottom end, enhancing the crunchy heaviness. Julie Turner gives an absolutely pounding drum performance, especially on the final track "We're All Metal". The title track is epic in it's delivery, and the killer "Back Off" is probably my favorite on the EP.

Everything about this release screams classic metal, and this is how it should be done. If you're looking for some killer 80's style traditional metal, this is the best you'll find. I can't wait for what Rock Goddess have coming next, because this is already some of the best classic heavy metal I've ever heard. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT Heaven Forbid

Album · 1998 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.40 | 13 ratings
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The last decade of the twentieth century weren't exactly the kindest years to classic rock acts of the 70's. Albums from these bands weren't very well-received, therefore they usually fade into obscurity. I mean, not many people are talking about albums like Heart's Desire Walks On or Van Halen's Balance these days. Most of these albums are forgotten, and often for good reason. One album from a classic 70's rock band that was forgotten, but I find to be a surprisingly great album, is Blue Öyster Cult's 1998 studio album.

Being the band's thirteenth studio album and (at the time) their first in a decade, it would be expected that Heaven Forbid would just be another bland album that tries to recapture past glories. However, it presents itself as a surprisingly varied album. Of course there are quite a few stale moments that just sound uninspired, but there is thankfully an equal amount of fresh, catchy, and just plain enjoyable songs.

The album opens right up with what may be the band's heaviest song, "See You in Black", which almost reminds me of something that could be on a Metal Church album. The driving main riff is pure classic heavy metal, and is up there with the band's best. "Hammer Back" and "Power Underneath Despair" are a couple more heavy metal-oriented tracks that are among the highlights. "Still Burnin'" is a great old school hard rock track, while an oddball is "Real World". This almost sounds straight out of a Phish album, with one of the catchiest acoustic guitar hooks I've ever heard.

While it's no Tyranny and Mutation, Heaven Forbid is a pretty great album. There are some mediocre moments on the album, but that's to be expected from a 90's album from a classic rock band. If you're a fan of classic hard rock and heavy metal, this is well worth the listen. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

INCUBUS (CA) S.C.I.E.N.C.E.

Album · 1997 · Funk Metal
Cover art 4.03 | 8 ratings
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While Incubus gained a huge surge of popularity with the release of their 1999 album, Make Yourself, the band already had two EP's and two studio albums under their belt before they reached alternative rock stardom. However, if you're getting into these early releases from the band, don't expect it to sound anything like what the band is mostly known for. This is eclectic funk metal at it's finest.

Along with the equally amazing Enjoy Incubus EP from the same year, S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is, simply put, an explosion of creativity. For starters, there's an incredibly wide range of styles here. It ranges from many styles of metal, funk, hip-hop, lounge, and even a bit of trip-hop. All of these styles are blended seamlessly, always sounding like they naturally belong together. Each song stands out perfectly on its own, even if it's just with a little unique embellishment. An example of this is the slight middle-eastern influences on the opening track "Redefine".

Each musician is in absolute top form, delivering one of the best albums of the 90's. Brandon Boyd gives one of his best vocal performances on this album, especially on "Glass", "Nebula", "Deep Inside", and "Calgone". Dirk Lance earns his place among the bass gods on this album, and S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is one of the best bass albums out there. Listen to any song on the album, and you'll get some of the tastiest and funkiest bass licks available. "Glass" of course has some of the best, as does the smooth "Deep Inside". Jose Pasillas II absolutely slays on drums, displaying insane amounts of syncopation. Mike Einziger is a riff making machine, even bringing in some hooks that edge pretty close to thrash on songs like "Favorite Things" and "Calgone". Finally last, but not least, is Gavin Koppell. While some may find the turntables annoying, his electronic embellishments and turntables add a lot to the uniqueness of the album.

It's almost impossible to pick highlights due to how the album has a perfect flow and every song could be called a highlight. What I can say, is that "Glass" is probably my favorite Incubus song. "Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song)" is probably the song that stands out the most in style, as it takes a break from the metal, taking on a lounge-funk sound that is catchy as hell. "New Skin", which was originally seen on the Let Me Tell Ya 'Bout Root Beer EP from 1995, is incredibly catchy as well. The only slightly weaker moment on the album is "Magic Medicine", but even that song works within context of the whole album.

The lyrics and even the title showcase the same boom of creativity. At first the lyrics seem absurdist, after all, what else would you expect from and album title that's an acronym for Sailing Catamarans Is Every Nautical Captain's Ecstasy? However, once you look into them more, some of them can be interpreted as clever metaphors. Going back to the opening track of "Redefine", there's lyrics such as "Imagine your brain as a canister filled with ink", which don't make much sense until lines like "I'm sick of painting in black and white" come in. Even if the lyrics don't make any sense, you will still find yourself singing along anyways. Best examples for me are "Glass" and "A Certain Shade of Green". "Deep Inside" very well may have one of the greatest lines in music history, with "I know exactly where we are...the fuck are we?".

This is an album that takes multiple listens to fully sink in, and I'm still noticing different things every time I listen. Once it does sink in, this is one of the best and most eclectic funk metal albums. While Incubus would make a couple more fantastic albums later, this is a one-of-a-kind that should be essential listening for any bass and funk fan. One of my all time favorite albums. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

SLAB! Descension

Album · 1987 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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After releasing a few singles in 1986/1987, British industrial group Slab! took their sound in a much darker, sludgier, and more dissonant direction than their more upbeat singles had shown. Mind you, this was still 1987. Godflesh hadn't formed yet, and Ministry still had no metal elements in their music. I can only imagine how jarring Slab's studio album debut would have sounded to music fans back in 1987.

Slab's Descension is adorned with a simplistic blue album cover, which seems to showcase the urban legends of giant mutated reptiles coming out of the sewers to roam the streets free. This fits, as the album has a massive sound that wreaks about as much havoc that one of these giant beasts would. Descension still showcases all of the influences that their singles featured, industrial, metal, funk, jazz, and even the avant-garde, but cranks up the industrial and the metal.

The album opens right up with the misleadingly titled "Tunnel of Love", which is one of the heaviest and most dissonant tracks. The mechanical, crunching, and crashing dissonance is contrasted perfectly with an infectiously catchy beat that immediately gets the listener grooving. This song, along with "Undriven Snow" and the misanthropic "Flirt" predate Godflesh, yet sound like they could have come straight from a classic Godflesh album.

The greatest song on the album, and one of the greatest industrial tracks is easily "Dolores", which will change the way you think about funky bass playing. The main riff is infectiously catchy industrial funk, but right after the main chorus the bass remains funky and catchy as hell yet becomes so dissonant. It's impossible to not get lost in the locked in groove. Some other highlights on the album is the jazzy "Dr. Bombay", the ominous "Gutter Busting", and "Loose Connection Somewhere".

While unfortunately Slab! remains an obscure band, Descension is perhaps the very first industrial metal album. It provides somewhat of a missing link between the early material of Killing Joke and KMFDM with the primal sound of Godflesh and Ministry. For industrial metal fans, this is essential listening. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

SLAB! Smoke Rings

Single · 1987 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Before Godflesh and Ministry took the metal scene by storm in 1988/1989, there was a little obscure band by the name of Slab! who started all the way back in 1982. Before releasing their debut studio album, the band had a few singles under their belt. These singles were characterized by a unique sound that I doubt anyone would expect to exist as early as 1987.

The two songs on this single are of course the title track, and Abbasloth. The title track is a catchy as hell industrial and jazzy funk metal tune, which has some of the tastiest bass licks that will ever grace your ears. There's such a gigantic sounding beat, that you can't help but stomp your foot or bang your head. The vocal melodies are infectiously catchy, and the saxophone plays off of the funky bass perfectly to bring a jazzy swing to the song.

The second song, the instrumental Abbasloth, is the song that lays on the more avant-garde side. The saxophone has little melody here, instead just sounding like it's being tortured. While avant-garde jazz fans will eat this up, I'm not a fan. What I am a fan of though in this song, is the interesting contrast. The bass remains catchy and funky, though dissonant. Both songs include fantastic screeching and discordant guitar solos which sound straight out of the cult classic 90's Adult Swim show Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.

Slab! would make their masterpiece with their debut studio album in the same year, but this is a great single with a interesting contrast of catchiness and the avant-garde. If industrial funk metal with jazz sounds cool, check this out. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

RUSH Power Windows

Album · 1985 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.01 | 29 ratings
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Power Windows is the eleventh studio album from hard rock/progressive rock band Rush. Going further and further down the synth-rock route, Power Windows shows the band remove some of the stark ominous vibe of the previous two synth-led albums, instead opting for a more pop-oriented sound. Not that this is a pop album, but it certainly fits in with the popular music at the time.

Don't worry though, this album still has most of the essential elements of a Rush album. Geddy Lee's bass slaps are especially excellent, adding a nice bounce to some of the tracks like the single "The Big Money" and "Marathon". While Lifeson does take a bit of a back seat as far as riffs go, his solos sing with so much feeling. Speaking of feeling, Power Windows features what I think are two of the most beautiful songs the band has written. These two songs are "Manhattan Project" and "Mystic Rhythms", the melodies from both the vocals and instruments are some of the most emotive the band has done. Peart's lyrics are strong on this one as usual, "Manhattan Project" in particular.

The only real issues with the album are that the keyboards can sound very dated on a few tracks and that the album isn't as consistently good as the previous two albums. There's not really any bad songs, but only about half the album really stands out and stays in my mind after listening. As far as dated keyboards and synth goes, "Grand Designs" is a good example of that. It's a fine song, but the dated synth can get a bit grating after awhile.

If you're a fan of the previous two Rush albums and/or 80's synth-rock/new wave, this album is well worth a listen. Like Hemispheres had exhausted the band's complex progressive rock sound, this album had exhausted their synth sound. Unfortunately, the band didn't realize that and ended up producing their first dud two years later. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

POWER TRIP Nightmare Logic

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.19 | 10 ratings
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Is it 1988?

Power Trip takes the listener back to the days when extreme metal still had all of its crushing fury, there was no such thing as an overproduced extreme metal album, mosh pits were still chaotic, and knew that complexity meant nothing if you couldn't still rip out the listener's guts and shove them down their throat. There's no sterile modern tech death/grind/core drumming here, no overproduced modern Kreator-choruses, and no bullshit. This is pure fucking thrash metal.

Taking the heaviness of riffage from Ride the Lightning, slow destructive dirges from South of Heaven, the pure rapid aggression and screeching solos from Razor's Violent Restitution, and the grooves of Vulgar Display of Power, Power Trip is completely old school. The album opens ominously with the thunder and static of "Soul Sacrifice" before crushing every one of the listeners bones with a crunching riff that has the force of a slab of concrete. Soon the guitar turns from slow and crunching to razor-sharp and traps the listener into a tornado of rapid-fire aggression.

That song is just the beginning, as Nightmare Logic is the modern Reign in Blood. It's only about 33 minutes long, but it's 33 minutes of skin-tearing riff after riff. "Firing Squad" sounds just like the title, the guitars and drums rain down upon the listener like a multitude of bullets. There's also some groovy hooks and blistering solos throughout the whole album. The title track brings to mind the masterful riffing of Slayer and the groove in the middle of "Crucifixion" would not sound out of place on a Pantera record. Pretty much every song features guitar solos that will destroy everything in their path, and are like speeding cars on a raceway ready to spill some blood.

Riley Gale roars and screams on every song, where usually only the title of the song is audible in the lyrics. His voice is filled with so much rage and anger, that you can't help but get pumped and want to thrash and mosh. His vocal fury combined with the shredding instrumentation just makes for one wild ride into the pit.

If you're sick of all the overproduced and derivative extreme metal albums that plague today's metal scene, give Power Trip a listen to be reminded of what extreme really means. This is all old school and ready for moshing, get ready to thrash! Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

STEVIE T. Album of Epicness

Album · 2015 · Metalcore
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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While heavy metal has its fair share of comedic acts, with the likes of bands such as Psychostick and Tenacious D, metal hasn't really had a band or musician parodying in the vein of Weird "Al" Yankovic. Sure, most comedic metal bands have a sense of parody to their humor, but Steve Terreberry (Stevie T.) may just be the Weird "Al" of rock and metal.

With an album titled Album of Epicness, which features a cover with Steve looking like some deathcore dude-bro, this clearly isn't something that's going to be intellectually stimulating. What we have here are hilarious parodies of various rock and metal bands/genres all played with great musicianship. There's a mix of various styles here, the most prevalent being metalcore/deathcore. "Emotionless and White" is a parody of Motionless and White, "A Night to Forget" jabs at A Day to Remember, "White Veil Grooms" takes on Black Veil Brides, etc. "Heaviest Song Evar!" mocks the standard technical and brutal death metal bands that sound just like the other, and contrasts the brutal music with the opposite on the lyrical end.

Each parody really nails the source material, and Steve takes no prisoners when it comes to mocking these bands. The best one, and one that I didn't actually know who it was mocking until I looked them up, is "Gangsta Djent". It's a pretty hilarious rap-metalcore song, and it became even funnier when I heard the source material, Attila. It's spot on, and it's not even an exaggeration. Be sure to watch the music video for this one, it makes it that much better. Another one of the best is "All Alone, and No One to Bone". This song brings a long-needed jab on the breed of whiny alternative rock bands that have dominated rock radio since the 90's.

While Stevie T's Album of Epicness most likely isn't going to be an album that will be in constant rotation on a listeners stereo, it certainly makes for one hell of a good laugh. Combined with the videos, these songs are a great slice of musical mockery. If you want a laugh (and can take a joke if you like some of the bands parodied), then check this album out. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

THE WHITE SWAN The White

EP · 2017 · Doom Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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After a promising debut EP in 2016, Kittie drummer Mercedes Lander's sludge/doom band The White Swan has returned with their second EP. As opposed to the more atmospheric sludge vibe of the debut, The White cranks up the heaviness and focuses more on beating the listener over the head with crushing blows of sludgy guitar. Lander is no stranger to doom metal, as Kittie experimented with a bit of doom metal on "Pink Lemonade" from their 2001 masterpiece Oracle.

Each of the songs just blast through the speakers so much, that they create a heavy reverb that shakes the floor. Speaking of floors, The White Swan perfectly makes use of the contrast between crushing doom metal and screeching feedback distortion that is reminiscent of the sludge/doom band Floor. The two tracks that use this contrast are the opener and closer, the instrumental "North Carolina" and the seven-minute long dirge of the title track. The latter is up there with the best doom metal tracks, as that's how you make epic doom metal. It's an instant headbanging anthem, which is so crushingly heavy. It pounds the skull with riff after riff, chromatic walks, booming gong effects, and Lander's massive drum sound which is just as muscular as ever.

Mercedes Lander also plays guitar, keyboards, and sings along with drumming, and is quite the multi-instrumentalist. The keyboard effects often heighten the heaviness of the music, and her singing can sound both soulful and misanthropic. The other two band members, Shane Jeffers and Kira Longeuay, are no slouches either. Jeffers' guitar solos sing beautifully, especially the one in "Lions", while Longeuay's bass blends with the crushing guitar to maximize the heaviness.

In only a short year between EP's, The White Swan has created a masterpiece. If you're looking for some crushing and sludgy doom metal with a bit of atmosphere and melody, do yourself a favor and check out The White EP. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

NASTY SAVAGE Abstract Reality

EP · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.83 | 2 ratings
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Graced with an ominous Salvador Dali-esque landscape as it's cover, Nasty Savage's Abstract Reality is quite a unique hidden EP gem in the 80's thrash scene. Creating a perfect balance between technical soloing and pure thrashing rage and moshing, you're entering the Abstract Reality.

The guitar and rhythm section switches between piercing razor-sharp trashing and technical syncopation and soloing, which doesn't sound too dissimilar to what Death would do just a few years later. Nasty Ronnie's vocals for the most part are spitting and snarling, but sometimes he reaches King Diamond-esque falsettos. This is mostly heard on the third track, "Eromantic Vertigo". The preceding tracks, the title track and the punchy "Unchained Angel", are more pure shredding and spit-fire.

The best song on the EP, and maybe the band's best song is the rampaging closer "You Snooze, You Lose". This is a song that's out for blood, slamming the listener to the ground with a downpour of crashing Slayer-esque riffing. This is contrasted with singing guitar solos during the bridge, which are a lot more melodic. When this is all mixed together with some catchy guitar hooks and muscular drumming, it all works as one six-minute thrashterpiece.

The production is a bit muffled, but with music this good, it's not hard to get past that. If you're a fan of raw and caustic thrash, tech thrash, or the later material of bands like Death, this should be an essential listen. While not a full album, sometimes EP's hold a band's finest work. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

HAVOK Conformicide

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 7 ratings
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Taking their longest break between albums so far, four years since 2013's Unnatural Selection, Havok is back for the ultimate thrash attack. The years waiting were well spent, as this may very well be the band's greatest work yet and a new classic thrash metal masterpiece. It has everything that's needed in thrash metal, as well as some not as common elements in thrash.

Where to start? First off, Nick Schendzielos is a bass virtuoso and basically the Flea of thrash metal. Being introduced by bands like Suicidal Tendencies and Mordred, funk has been used in thrash before, but not to this extent. Schendzielos's funky bass licks groove and pierce the skin at the same time. Just take a listen to "F.P.C." and that funktastic opening to "Hang 'em High", and you'll see what I mean. The bass is always incredibly audible, and that makes the album essentially a bass player's heaven. "Peace is in Pieces" features a really cool fading bass run that sounds right out of an old school sci-fi movie. Perhaps the best bass moment on the album comes during the bridge of the finale "Circling the Drain". Damn, the sheer speed of the catchy and funky as hell bassline just immediately makes it impossible to not air-shred along to it.

David Sanchez and Reece Scruggs both deliver killer riffs that punch you in the gut. Every song is a book of riff after riff, that will be shredding through your head long after listening. Most of the time, the guitar grooves like a beast, with punishing hooks that slam you to the ground. Check out the chorus of "Ingsoc", and the grooves will crush your skull. Combine that with some odd-time signature riffing, and you've got a masterpiece. The soloing and harmonies often bring Dimebag to mind, especially the main riff of "Wake Up". One of the most fun songs is probably "Claiming Certainty", which sounds straight out of an old school thrash album in every way. The bass rattles in the back, while the guitar just shreds like there's no tomorrow. This song is not without a monstrous groove though, and like the rest it is absolutely teeth-crunching.

Pete Webber joins the ranks of Dave Lombardo and Gene Hoglan as a master of thrash drummers. There's the thumping double-bass, but it's sometimes mixed with the syncopation of funk to make it fit with the funky basslines. "F.P.C." probably shows this best, but there is no shortage of punishing drum fills. Returning to "Ingsoc", the drum syncopation is insane, and the rest of the drumming pounds into your head like a jackhammer. "Claiming Certainty" blasts the listener of their seat, and into the abundance of double-kick wizardry which is spell-binding. Just take a listen to the bridge, and try not to bang your head the the groove created by the excellent cymbal use.

Vocalist/rhythm guitarist David Sanchez sounds like a cross between Death Angel's Mark Osegueda and Dave Mustaine, nailing both primal screams and pissed-as-hell snarls. He gives one of the best vocal performances I've ever heard, and just spits pure anger and fury. He screams with so much conviction, that you can't do anything but either scream along or shut up and listen. Meanwhile, his snarls are the perfect sardonic Peace Sells-esque sneers. There's a lot to be angry and cynical about, and the lyrics are needed now more than ever. In a world where politics are like a big unfunny joke, Havok calls it all out. "F.P.C." attacks the growing issue of censorship and the effects of P.C. culture on society, and nails it beautifully. "Intention to Deceive" is a long-overdue rant on the blatant agenda-pushing of the mainstream news, where facts don't seem to matter as stated with "Never mind what the facts are. I made a story that needs to sell, journalism is an afterthought." "Dogmaniacal" takes on religious extremism, while "Hang 'em High" and "Ingsoc" tackles all of the inner political corruption.

Conformicide is really, in every way, a modern classic of thrash metal. The musicianship is all-around mind-blowing, and the production is piercing and razor-sharp. It's probably the closest I've heard for a modern thrash album sounding like the production on the classic late 80's and early 90's thrash albums. While Havok's always delivered killer albums, Conformicide sees the band come into their own sound. This is an album that really only sounds like Havok, and no one else. Along with Overkill's The Grinding Wheel, this is the best album you'll find in 2017. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

PLEASEEATTHEFUCKINGSANDWICHBITCH PETFSB 4

Album · 2016 · Cybergrind
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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PleaseEatTheFuckingSandwichBitch gave me a great impression of how varied the cybergrind genre can be with the debut album, and was more on the instrumental side. PETFSB 4 includes more vocals, in a mix of distorted and glitched screams/growls as well as digitized voices. This does not sacrifice much of the interesting bits of the music though.

"Redneck 420" plays mostly in digitized grind, but the best part of the song actually comes in a short and strangely fitting bridge. It's a pretty simple little sci-fi melody of bleeps and bloops with a cool bassline, but damn is it catchy. Not to mention it's pretty feel good, which creates a pretty hilarious contrast when it's immediately followed up with a return to grind with the growled line of "Okay motherfuckers!". My personal favorite track on the album is the cleverly titled instrumental "PayEmilyTenFlyingShrimpBooks 4", which is an incredibly catchy track in the vein of the debut album.

Overall, PETFSB 4 is a pretty good follow-up to the debut, my only complaint is that I would have liked a bit more room for the instrumentals to shine. Not that you can't hear it, but the digitized voices (Not the growls) can get a bit overbearing sometimes. This is a minor complaint though, so If you're a fan of cybergrind, I highly recommend this album and PETFSB 1. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

BLIKSEM Gruesome Masterpiece

Album · 2015 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Forming back in 2007, Belgian thrash metal act Bliksem blasted onto the scene with their debut studio album Face the Evil in 2013. Two years later the band released their second and unfortunately final studio album before breaking up in 2017. While being their final album, they thankfully went out with a bang and delivered one of the greatest modern thrash metal albums with their Gruesome Masterpiece.

Rampaging thrash with a strong sense of melody and variety is the name of Bliksem's game here, and they master each level. From mosh-pit ready thrash anthems like "Kywas", "Twist the Knife", and "Fucked Up Avenue" to doom metal dirges like the almost ten-minute long "Morphine Dreams", they've got it all. Along with the blend of thrash and doom, there's also a mix of stoner, classic metal, and alternative metal. The closest comparison I can make is a band like Death Angel, who perhaps first mastered the combination of thrash and alternative.

Duel guitarists Jeroen De Vries and Toon Huet smack the listener across the face with killer riffs and hooks, case in point, the stomping thrasher "Room Without a View". It just gets even better once bassist Jan Rammeloo and drummer Rob Martin comes in with a slamming rhythm section. Speaking of Rob Martin, he is a master behind the kit. Just take a listen to the blistering "Twist the Knife", he just attacks the drum set like there's no tomorrow. The end of the song especially amazing, and features an fantastic crashing beat that is impossible to not stomp along to. Of course, one can't forget vocalist Peggy Meeussen who masters both melodic clean vocals and roaring thrash vocals. Her vocals remind me a bit of the Guano Apes' Sandra Nasić.

If you're looking for some melodic yet blistering thrash, Bliksem's Gruesome Masterpiece is an essential listen. While the band did call it quits in this year of 2017, they fortunately left behind a modern thrash classic. You done good Bliksem, you done good. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

SKEPTICISM Stormcrowfleet

Album · 1995 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art 4.43 | 11 ratings
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: Album selected by siLLy puPPy

Doom Metal is a slow and dark genre to begin with, having its start all those years back in 1970 with Black Sabbath's self-titled song from their debut. Sometime in the 90's, however, a handful of bands wanted to go even slower. Adding ambient atmospheric passages to this slow and brooding delivery, bands like Esoteric and Skepticism became known as Funeral Doom.

Skepticism came onto the scene in 1995 with their debut Stormcrowfleet, whose text-less album cover doesn't explain much. The only thing you can really gather from it, is that this is an album shrouded in mystery and darkness. Presented in lo-fi drone, are massive vibrating guitar riffs and lumbering drums. All brought together with low, deep, unintelligible and gravely growls and somber organ and keyboards that are dripping with lugubriousness.

Much of the album strikes up images of a war march, or even old school sci-fi and horror films with the eerie atmosphere. "Pouring" plods along like an army feeling defeated, yet still going out to the desolate battlefield. Meanwhile, "The Rising of the Flames" sounds like a lonely and perilous journey across the ocean, or perhaps in this case, the river styx. Back to the old school sci-fi/horror imagery, I think the final two songs showcase this best, with their majestic yet ominous keyboard use. Sync those keyboards up with a classic sci-fi or horror film from the 50's-80's, and it would really not sound out of place.

Stormcrowfleet is one of the best funeral doom metal albums you'll find, and really puts the "doom" in doom metal. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

SOUNDGARDEN Ultramega OK

Album · 1988 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.42 | 17 ratings
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"All your fears are lies"

The late 80's were one of the best times for metal in my book. Thrash Metal was at it's height, and the grunge, stoner rock/metal, and death metal scenes were all kicking off. The metal scene in Washington birthed many now classic bands, with one of those bands being Soundgarden, one of the greatest metal acts of the late 80's and early 90's, and of all time. After contributing to the Deep Six compilation (which also featured grunge/sludge metal pioneers Melvins) and releasing the Screaming Life EP in '87, the band unleashed their debut studio album in 1988.

Unlike most metal bands of the late 80's, Soundgarden had zero elements of thrash or the hair bands, and instead contributed to the slowly growing doom/stoner/sludge metal genres birthed all those years ago by Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer. Soundgarden featured the fuzzy distortion of old school psychedelic rock, the dark crushing riffs of Black Sabbath and Budgie, the attitude of The Stooges, and the screaming siren of vocalist Chris Cornell that was reminiscent of 70's classic rock vocalists such as Robert Plant and Burton Cummings.

UltramegaOK is a raw, rough, rockin', and varied debut. It really takes all of the band's influences together, and makes each song stand out with it's own sound. The album opens right up with the groovy rockers "Flower" and "All Your Lies", which are among the band's best early cuts. The former has one of Kim Thayil's grooviest hooks, rumbling bass from original bassist Hiro Yamamoto, Matt Cameron's always tight drumming, and Chris Cornell's beautiful melodies. The band was already in top form on this first record. "Beyond the Wheel" and "Incessant Mace" are pure doom metal, and absolute favorites of mine and classics of the genre. The former is a haunting dirge with some of Cornell's most spine-chilling screams, and the latter song's crushingly heavy riffs sound straight from the riff master himself, Tony Iommi.

"He Didn't" has a main swirling riff that is quite reminiscent of the ominous theme song of The Twilight Zone, which fits perfectly in a metal setting. The band brings it to a speed metal pace with the shredding "Nazi Driver" and "Head Injury", with the latter being a bit punky. Both tracks have absolutely groovin' bass runs, rampaging razor-sharp guitar riffs, and Cornell's raw siren screams dominating those and most of the album. Soundgarden has done many amazing cover tunes, and this album's cover of the blues classic by Howlin' Wolf, "Smokestack Lightning", is no exception. It's a masterpiece of soulful blues metal, with Thayil delivering metallic blues riffs with much conviction and Cornell really shows his amazing vocal range here. He goes from a bluesy croon throughout most of the song to high-pitched screams that rival Rob Halford's vocals on the early Judas Priest albums.

You may be wondering what's with the weird album name, and it partly has to do with the production. The band didn't think the production turned out all that well, hence the name UltramegaOK. I personally have no issue with the production, I think it fits perfectly fine with the raw and dirty heavy metal that this album displays. The album was remastered though, so even if it does bother you, it sounds a bit cleaner on the 2017 remaster.

Even on their first studio album, Soundgarden made a masterpiece. There are a couple of minor issues, those being the short interludes that just act as a few minutes of filler. "Circle of Power", which is a more hardcore punk-sounding track with Yamamoto on vocals, kind of breaks the flow a bit but it's still a good song that sits in okay with the variety of the album. If you're a fan of old school 70's metal, classic blues rock, grunge, or doom/stoner metal, do yourself a favor and check this album out. It's a near perfect album that deserves more attention. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

FLOOR Dove

Album · 2004 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 2 ratings
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With doom metal and it's sludge and stoner brethren being pretty underrated to begin with, there's bound to be amazing bands that get forgotten about even among the genre's cult following. One of these bands is the Floridian band Floor, who just so happens to mix doom, sludge, and stoner all into one.

While their self-titled debut album was released in 2002, the band has been around since 1992. While most of their recordings before '02 were singles and splits, they did record Dove in 1994. For whatever reason the album wasn't released until a decade later in 2004, the year the band broke up, only to reform in 2010.

Dove is one of the heaviest albums I've ever heard, yet features no bass. It's hard to believe, but all of the distortion, feedback, and crushing brutality is just completely brought by guitars and drums. The opening two tracks "Who Are You" and "Namaste" are short but destructive rampaging blasts of sludgy chaos, which feature screeching feedback alongside Sabbath-esque riffing that is cranked up to 11. This is followed and perfectly contrasted with my favorite on the album, the more laidback "In a Day". This track has more of a stoner vibe, but not without more high-pitched distortion breaking in from time to time in the song. The main guitar riff sounds incredibly close to a bass with a distortion pedal, but it's not, surprisingly. "Figure It Out" also mixes some stoner elements, and Steve Brooks' vocal style on these two tracks really contribute to the overall stoner feel.

Most of the doom metal is saved for the end of the album, which would contain "Floyd", the title track, and "I Remember Nothing" (Which is omitted on the vinyl version). All three of these tracks kind of blend together, with "Floyd" being the most enjoyable of them. The title track could be an almost perfect eighteen-minute behemoth of sludgy dirges, but it ruined by wasting probably about ten of those minutes. For the first eight-minutes, it slowly crushes your skull with pure force, and if it was just that it would be perfect for when you're in the mood for slow and meandering doom. However, it ends with random annoying talking, which I always find annoying when it appears, as well as just incoherent feedback and drone. The end of the title track pretty much sums up "I Remember Nothing", and unfortunately that title fits pretty well.

Despite the album's shortcomings with the final two lengthy tracks, Dove is a masterpiece of doom/sludge metal. If you love screeching distortion and feedback and crushingly brutal slabs of riffs, Floor is up there with the best and is definitely an essential listen. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

MESHUGGAH The Violent Sleep of Reason

Album · 2016 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.07 | 11 ratings
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When people talk about extreme metal, they usually mean thrash, death, and black metal. However, doom metal and groove metal are a couple of genres that can be among the heaviest music out there yet get forgotten in discussions of extreme metal. For the latter, it's Meshuggah that has to remind listeners that groove metal can harbor colossal brutality on the same level if not more so.

The band wastes no time in beating you over the head with a mixture of jackhammer riffing, drum attacks, and sludgy dirges. It's business as usual for the band, with insane syncopation, downtuned dirges, groovy hooks, piercing thrashings, and Jens Kidman's brutal screams and roars. "Born in Dissonance" may as well be the band's theme song, it pretty much displays what the band is all about. The sludgy "By the Ton" is another perfect representative for the band, as they sure deliver their destructive grooves by the ton. If they tuned the strings any lower, they'd break the sound barrier. "Monstrocity" is the main highlight, with the main riff sounding like a much heavier Korn, it's about as catchy as you can get while still crushing every listener's skull. "Our Rage Won't Die" is a groove-thrash fest to the most crushing degree.

There's really nothing else to say. It's brutal as fuck, it's heavy as balls, it's skull crushing as hell, it's Meshuggah. Basically, if you liked the last couple Meshuggah albums or just like uncompromising brutality you won't be disappointed. Warning: May cause intense headbanging and extreme whiplash if you have long hair. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

TREPONEM PAL Higher

Album · 1997 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Few industrial metal bands really broke through into the ears of other music scenes, hence why you will rarely hear mentions of bands in the genre apart from the big-name acts like Ministry, Godflesh, Rammstein, and Fear Factory. This is always unfortunate, as one of the best releases in the genre came out in the year of 1997 from one of the more obscure acts when the golden age of industrial metal was nearing its end.

That band was the French group Treponem Pal, with their 1997 album Higher. Higher is probably one of the most varied industrial metal albums out there, with a blend of all sorts of stylistic elements that work side by side one another. There's jagged thrash and groove riffing that hits you like a slab of concrete, delivered with the rhythmic groove of funk and tribal music. Some of the electronics have a strong almost Orbital-esque beat to them, which fit perfectly alongside the guitar riffs, making sure that these songs never leave your head. Add in some middle eastern instrumentation and killer soloing, and you got all the elements of this record.

Michel Bassin is an unsung hero of industrial metal guitarists, as few bands have the pure forcefulness that he has here. His guitar hooks are catchy as all hell, but pummel you to the ground at the same time. It's like getting beaten over the head with a sledgehammer, and when his power riffing combines with Marco Neves' commanding vocal attack it packs a real mean punch. This pure groove/thrash crunch is contrasted well with the rhythm section. The bass is often funky, while the drums usually have a tribal sound to them. Most industrial solos are screechy and distorted, but Bassin's solos are surprisingly clean and traditional sounding. As good as a screeching solo can be with some gritty guitar, it's refreshing to hear more traditional sounding metal solos incorporated into industrial metal.

It's almost impossible to pick highlights with albums like these, because the whole album is equally catchy and crushingly heavy. I would say The first five songs as well as "Funk Me", "Sick Train", and "Psycho Rising" are the main highlights if forced to choose. "Unchained" shows some excellent syncopation with the main riff, while the same riff switches to more of a straight thrashing during the chorus. "Lose Control" has the perfect punchy hook that swings you into the song's groove, and may very well be the best on the album.

Despite being released near the end of industrial metal's golden age, Higher is one of the best albums in the genre. It has both the crushing heaviness and the catchy hooks to make it very memorable. It was produced by KMFDM frontman Sascha Konietzko, and I certainly see why one of the industrial metal spearheads would want to produce this album. If you're looking for a heavy, catchy, and unique underrated classic, nothing fits that better than this. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

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