Metal Music Reviews from Unitron

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 4.07 | 69 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 4.16 | 4 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 4.03 | 15 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 4.23 | 3 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 4.17 | 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 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.76 | 7 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 4.18 | 7 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 · Traditional 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 3.13 | 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 4.58 | 7 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 · Industrial Metal
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 3.28 | 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 4.09 | 6 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 4.95 | 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 3.19 | 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 · Grindcore
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 4.15 | 10 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 3.14 | 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 3.90 | 9 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!

XIBALBA Diablo, Con Amor​.​. Adios.

EP · 2017 · Metalcore
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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These days, it can be difficult to find death metal that retains the rawness and brutality of its heyday in the late 80's and 90's. As time went on, death metal bands felt the need to get more technical or melodic. While natural development is important for any style of music, as it continues and production values get higher, essential parts of the music can end up getting lost while the monotony continues. When this happens, it can take only one band to give the genre a kick in the ass and return to its roots. For death metal, it appears like Xibalba is that band.

While classic bands like Obituary, Vader, and Sinister have always successfully delivered old-school death metal with punishing brutality, as well as bands like Nile, I haven't really found any new death metal bands capturing the old-school brutality like the classic bands do. Xibalba has done that though on their 2017 EP, Diablo, Con Amor...Adios. With the title being made up of the three tracks on the EP, Xibalba pummels the listener to the ground with sharp riffing and gargantuan grooves. In this case, less is more, as there is no time to waste during the 10-minute running time. All you get on each track shows what death metal is all about, skull-crushing guitar crunch, piercing riffing, colossal percussion, and roaring vocals.

Adorned with artwork from the master himself, Dan Seagrave, Xibalba retains the old-school spirit while also having their own sound. Classic Morbid Angel and Sepultura can definitely be heard, with Nate Rebolledo's vocals reminding me of Sepultura's Derrick Green at times. The production gives the EP this really low and deep crunch, where you can feel the power and reverb from the gritty slabs of noise. While all three tracks are killer and will slam you to the ground, "Adios" is probably the standout. Just try not to bang your head to the pummeling groove.

If you're looking for some modern death metal that will punch your face in like the old school greats, give a listen to the mighty Xibalba's Diablo, Con Amor...Adios. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

AEROSMITH Aerosmith

Album · 1973 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.63 | 23 ratings
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Before Aerosmith gained lots of success in the 70's with Toys in the Attic and Arena Rock hits in the late 80's hair days, the band had somewhat humble beginnings with their first two records. Rooted in an almost pure hard blues rock sound, these first two albums really showcase that kind of rough garage-y sound of a band just starting out, the debut especially.

The album is mainly known for the hit single "Dream On", which has since became a staple of classic rock radio. Strangely enough, the album wasn't very well received upon first release in January 1973. The band was compared in an unfavorable light to bands such as The Rolling Stones (Who did influence the band). However, the album has since been better received, perhaps due to "Dream On" bringing in more popularity when the single was re-released in 1976.

This album is a gold mine for deep cuts, as the aforementioned "Dream On" and "Mama Kin" were the only singles released from this album. The band sounds quite a bit different on many of the songs than from what they would be known for later on. There is much less sleazy swagger here, it rather has that raw and immature charm of a band just getting started and finding their sound. Even on this debut, Aerosmith knew how to deliver catchy riffs and hooks with tight rhythm, and it's really easy to get caught. "Make It", "Somebody", "Mama Kin", and the cover of Rufus Thomas's "Walkin' the Dog" will all get you stompin' to their bluesy swing.

However, my two favorite tracks are "One Way Street" and "Movin' Out", with the latter being one of my all-time favorites from the band. Both of these songs standout in the band's discography, "One Way Street" is the band's longest song as well as being pretty close to pure blues. "Movin' Out" is both heavy and beautiful, having a perfect balance between heavy blues licks and touching vocal and guitar melodies. Speaking of vocal melodies, Steven Tyler's vocals are much more raspy here, fitting in really well with the more rough sound of the guitar.

While not my absolute favorite from the band, it is an easy second best as well as one of their most consistent albums. If you're looking for a more pure blues rock album with great hooks and a garage-y charm, give this gem a listen. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

IRON MAIDEN Somewhere In Time

Album · 1986 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.20 | 148 ratings
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"Make you an offer you can't refuse, you've only got your soul to lose... Eternally... let yourself go!"

The 80's certainly were the golden age for metal. Heavy metal, thrash metal, and power metal classics were plentiful, as were early masterpieces in the death and doom genres. 1986 in particular was an amazing year, with classics like Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood, Peace Sells, Somewhere in Time, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Orgasmatron, Russian Roulette, Rage for Order, and many many more. While I love every one of those albums I listed, there are four of those that are among my all time favorite albums. Perhaps the best one of those is none other than Iron Maiden's masterpiece Somewhere in Time.

Few albums can legitimately claim to have a futuristic atmosphere. Many bands have tried to create this kind of sound, but still retain the qualities of whatever year they were recorded. Somewhere in Time however, manages to have a cyber-punk futuristic atmosphere while remaining timeless. The guitar tone on this album has never been replicated, not even by the band themselves. It's a bit hard to explain without listening to it yourself, but it has this spacey effect partly caused by the guitar synths used. Not to worry though, the synth is purely used for atmosphere here and always blends perfectly with the main instruments.

The riffs maintain Maiden's usual gallop, but on this album those galloping guitar runs place you in the world the band has created. You're right there, running the long-distances in this mysterious future world. Right at the beginning you are caught somewhere in time, and when is up to the listener. The album is full of memorable hooks, and perhaps most notable is the iconic main riff to the classic "Wasted Years". Steve Harris's bass is probably at it's most prevalent on this album, often playing very audible licks different from the guitar. There's even a short solo bass intro to the swing of "Stranger in a Strange Land". The drums are ever powerful as well, enhancing the grandiose sound that the album sets up.

Bruce Dickinson's vocal melodies and lyrics are at their very best here, just listen to any of the eight songs on the album for proof. "Wasted Years", "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner", "Deja-Vu", and the title track especially all feature beautiful and memorable vocal lines that you'll be singing along to for days. "Heaven Can Wait" is also spectacular with it's synchronized chants during the bridge. The lyrics are perfectly written, as they can all fit into the mood and atmosphere of the album while being incredibly powerful on their own as well. "Wasted Years" and "Deja-Vu" are probably the two main highlights for me, even making me tear up when I listen to them.

The album art deserves a mention as well, being filled with tons of little details and references. Featured are many references to past Iron Maiden songs and albums, such as "Ancient Mariner Sea Food Restaurant" and "Aces High Bar". There are also little tributes to Led Zeppelin, Doctor Who, and of course Blade Runner hidden around the art. There are many more things to be found, and because of that, this is an album made for vinyl.

While sadly often overshadowed by the albums that bookend it, Somewhere in Time is Iron Maiden's magnum opus. The three albums that preceded it are also masterpieces and among my all-time favorites, but Somewhere in Time has the edge over them all as the best one. It nails everything perfectly, and is simply one of the greatest pieces of music ever recorded. If you love classic epic heavy metal and have not heard this album, do yourself a favor and listen to this absolute masterpiece of music. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

WHIPLASH Power and Pain

Album · 1985 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.22 | 7 ratings
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"Thrash, to kill! Blood, will spill!"

Forming back in 1983 under the name Jackhammer, the New Jersey thrash/speed metal act renamed to Whiplash only a year later, although both names fit well with their sound. They electrified thrashers in 1985 with the release of their debut studio album, whose name of Power and Pain describes what these guys are coming to deliver. Despite being from the US, Whiplash has a lot more in common with the early material from German Teutonic thrash bands like Kreator and Destruction than most US acts, although Kill 'em All-era Metallica should be noted as a valid reference point.

Whiplash you will get after thrashing to the band's incredibly rapid attack. Rivaling Razor when it comes to pure aggression and speed, frontman Tony Portaro's riffs pierce the skin and speed through your veins like motorcycle gangs on the highway. Portaro fills the vocal spot also, viciously barking out mosh pit calls. Amongst all the ripping solos and shredding, there's a tight rhythm section to keep it all together. The whole album will spit through your skull, but highlights definitely include "Stage Dive", "War Monger", "Spit on Your Grave", and the colossal "Red Bomb" which punches you in the gut with it's opening riff.

If you want a classic thrashing from one of the more underrated bands of the US thrash scene, check out Whiplash's Power and Pain. It's a pure, raw, all-out, no-bullshit romp through the pit. Who needs to dive in the pool, when you can Stage Dive? Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

MYRKUR M

Album · 2015 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.26 | 10 ratings
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Myrkur - M

"M" is the debut studio album and overall second release (excluding singles) from black metal musician Myrkur. I was absolutely blown away by Myrkur's 2014 EP release, so I was eagerly awaiting a full-length studio album from her. I initially loved it, then was a bit disappointed, now back to loving it.

"M" pretty much continues the atmospheric black metal-folk hybrid of the EP. A big thing that makes Myrkur stand out in the black metal genre is her extensive use of clean vocals, which appear in both the shredding black metal sections and Scandinavian folk passages. There is of course a mix of clean vocals and stark black metal screams but I'd probably say that the clean vocals appear more then the screams or at least equally, already giving it a unique sound.

While you may think that the folk passages and black metal sections are completely separate from each other, they actually play in unison often throughout the album. Just take a listen to songs like 'Hævnen' and 'Onde børn', the former being one of my favorites from the album, and you'll hear how both styles work together to bring a unique blackened folk metal sound. Speaking of folk, the short folk songs that transition to other songs are among the most beautiful on the album, some featuring great piano work along with Myrkur's calming vocals. There is some variation besides the black metal and folk, as the songs 'Skøgen skulle dø' and 'Jeg er guden, i er tjenerne' both have elements of doom metal which fit in perfectly with the rest of the sound of the album. The song 'Mordet', which features Chris Amott of Arch Enemy on guitar', is an amazing combination of killer thrash metal and stark black metal. This is probably my favorite on the album.

I usually don't mention other criticisms of albums in my reviews, but I feel like I should mention it here. I've seen a lot of comments about how this is "hipster black metal" and even some comments attacking Myrkur as a person. Regardless of opinions on the music here, I think the comments against her are very rude and mean-spirited and completely unwarranted. As far as the "hipster" comments go, I find this in no way "hipster", I simply see Myrkur as doing something new with the genre.

Overall, while I still prefer her debut EP, "M" is still an amazing album and I highly recommend this album to anyone who enjoyed the debut, really enjoys black metal and folk, or wants to get into black metal. Myrkur's music really got me into the genre, and I can't wait to see where she goes with her next release. Hope you found this review helpful.

(Reposted review due to accidental deletion, originally posted April 2016.)

OVERKILL The Grinding Wheel

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.36 | 10 ratings
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"I grabbed a tape from the floor of the car, jammed it in the dash it played Highway Star. With a foot of lead and that Chevy hop, never gonna stop!"

The Mean, Green, Killing Machine is back with The Grinding Wheel, so Let's All Go to Hades to listen to the Finest Hour. We listeners may get into some Goddamn Trouble while taking The Long Road, but forever Shine On. Come Heavy as The Wheel spins while the Red, White, and Blue waves. Overkill's back after a bit longer of a wait than usual, and it's worth it. As this is simply one of the greatest albums the band and music itself has ever produced.

Opening with the rampaging thrash of "Mean, Green, Killing Machine", this album pretty much never lets up with speedy rapid thrashings and groovy swaggering. The no-bullshit romp and stomp of the track "Goddamn Trouble" is essentially Overkill's own Highway Star and just makes you want to step on the gas and blast away to some tunes that are on absolute fire. This is a band that's been around for well over 30 years, but has more energy than most modern bands can claim to have. Take the rampaging punchy thrash that the band has been blazin' through since 2010's Ironbound, and mix it with a southern bluesy swaggering groove and a bit of Iron Maiden-esque epicness, and you got this killer record.

It's pretty much impossible to pick highlights, as every song slays and has an unbelievable amount of energy. Just try and not to get pumped and ready to conquer the world when listening to this album. Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth gives one of the greatest vocal performances ever, spitting both epic and energetic fun vocal lines. It's impossible to not chant along to songs like "The Long Road" and "Red, White, and Blue" with the delivery of lines like "We're goin' down the mountain, boys" and "Give us liberty, or we can give you death!". D.D. Verni's basslines are just as fantastic as always, and keeps a catchy as hell rhythm section with Ron Lipnicki absolutely walloping the drum kit like there's no tomorrow. Dave Linsk and Derek "The Skull" Tailer both shred and swing like the thrash masters they are, and are among the very best. The thrashings are brutal, the bluesy grooves are just swingin', and the epic moments couldn't be more epic. The title track that closes the album is the definition of a fantastic finale, it maintains the crunch and speed in places of the rest of the album all the while being a nearly 8-minute epic worthy of classic Iron Maiden or Rush's Cygnus X-1. The orchestration and vocals will send shivers down the spine at the end of the massive conclusion to The Grinding Wheel.

As much as some bands may try, nothing says consistent like Overkill, with only Anvil coming close to matching the classic thrash metal act's consistency. Overkill goes beyond consistency though, and makes one of the greatest damn albums ever made. It's an equal to The Years of Decay, which is another one of the greatest albums ever made. If you are a fan of real, no-bullshit metal, listen to this album. You know, even if you just need a reminder about what metal is, Overkill is metal in it's most powerful form. Even on their sixteenth studio album, Overkill continues to deliver the old school thrashing goods. Just like those lyrics from "Goddamn Trouble", Overkill ain't never gonna stop. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

FILTER Short Bus

Album · 1995 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 4.17 | 3 ratings
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In the land of industrial rock and metal, many bands get unfairly compared to Nine Inch Nails. While those who are more familiar with the genre will find that these comparisons are often silly and nonsensical, these are probably simply due to NIN being the one that really "made it big". Sure, other bands have had their fair share of popularity over the years, but NIN remains the most remembered and popular.

One of the many industrial rock/metal bands to get these comparisons was Filter. True, frontman Richard Patrick was a live guitarist for NIN before forming Filter, but Patrick felt there was something missing in Reznor's sound. Once you finish the first song on the album, the hit "Hey Man, Nice Shot", it's quite apparent. That which was missing was a crushing metallic slab of guitars, blended with menacing industrial soundscapes. This continues throughout most of the album, think less NIN and more Godflesh and Pitchshifter. The crunch of the riffing, drum grooves, and screeching industrial distortion all makes it fit right in line with the classic industrial metal sound, while also having just the right amount of that misanthropic angst that industrial music had at the time.

The aforementioned hit that opens up the album is of course probably the top highlight, but there's many other songs here that slam your face into the pavement. "Under" is one of the best of these, with an awesome pummeling groove. The two surrounding songs of "Dose" and "Spent" are also among the highlights and deliver with great force. All of these mentioned songs along with "Gerbil" and "White Like That", all have this absolutely massive guitar and colossal drum sound blended with Richard Patrick's raging screams, which is this album's strength.

Unfortunately, not all these songs display the power riffage and edgy screams that this album is great for. Right after a crushing number like "White Like That", you get a double-whammy of pathetic whimpers in "Consider This" and "So Cool" which both fall flat on their faces. The former has electric guitars, but they may as well not be there, while the latter is an acoustic ballad that sounds like a rejected Porcupine Tree ballad. "Stuck in Here" is another one of these tracks, but maybe a bit less annoying.

Despite there being a few terrible tracks, all the punchy groovy industrial behemoth tracks make up for those mistakes. If you're looking for an industrial metal album that balances out the heaviness and distortion of Godflesh and Pitchshifter with the extra edge of alternative metal, Filter's Short Bus delivers. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

JURASSIC JADE War by Proxy

EP · 1987 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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As far as music goes, most people think of J-pop stars when they think of Japan. When it comes to metal, most people think of Babymetal, which is basically the same thing with metal instruments. However, Japan was once home to some of the greatest underground thrash acts to have ever graced the 80's metal scene. One of the greatest of those acts are Jurassic Jade, who released their War By Proxy EP in 1987, one of thrash's best hidden gems.

Right from the start with "Who Saw Him Die?", Jurassic Jade is out for blood. The riffs rip and tear, and Hizumi's vocals are among the most raw and commanding in thrash. She can go from vicious barks to banshee shrieks that rival Tom Araya on the classic Slayer albums. "Call Down Curse", while only being two and a half minutes long, is perhaps the best with some excellent crash cymbal that really stands out during the chorus. The only time this EP ever lets up is with a short but sweet classical guitar outro that closes it out. Usually thrash bands start out with a classical intro, but I guess Jurassic Jade wanted to let the listener have a little relaxing time after the punishing thrashing.

The production is raw, sharp, and to the point. It makes the riffing that much more piercing, although it makes the album punchy and crushing in the right places as well. An example of that is with "Ao Shoku Haijin", which has such a deep low crunch for the drums. This song also is more of a mid-paced thrash track, being a bit of a break from the speed from most of the EP, which needs that punchy production to make it more effective. "Dead Men Tell No Tales" balances out the crunch and gritty speed, and has both a forceful and piercing sound.

Not only is War by Proxy one of the greatest Japanese thrash releases, but it is up there with the greatest thrash releases in general. Just like the US and German thrash scenes were quite different, so was the Japanese thrash scene. If you like your metal to shred your skin and punch you in the gut, check out this underrated masterpiece. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to commment!

AKPHAEZYA Anthology II : Links from the Dead Trinity

Album · 2008 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.31 | 7 ratings
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: Album selected by adg211288.

Avant-garde metal is usually an interesting listen, as you never quite know what to expect. It's home to bands that exceed the boundaries of other genres, often incorporating many elements of non-metal music beyond the usual classical music and jazz fusion technique of instrumentation. Now, interesting doesn't always mean good, and I often find avant-garde metal to be a mess of ideas. Because of this, it can either be fantastic when those ideas are all incorporated into a cohesive whole, or very painful to listen to when those ideas are scattered all around with nothing to put them together.

French avant-garde metal band Akphaezya unfortunately ends up sounding like the latter in the first song after a sort of ambient intro. "Chrysalis" sounds like separate jam sessions placed over each other in a smorgasbord of styles that lack the cohesion that could put all the pieces together. One second there will be a calm and serene folk melody, then without warning black metal blastbeats and growls come in like you just turned on a different album. This keeps repeating throughout the song with various styles. It's a real shame, as I love the jazzy lounge/swing metal moments when they come in, but nothing lasts long enough to get the listener really invested.

The album isn't entirely like this however. Thankfully, there are several songs that each stick to one style for the most part. I think this is what generally works better. Mixing a slew of ideas is great, but it can be much more rewarding when each song uses one or two of those styles rather than trying to stick as much as you can into one song. "The Golden Vortex of Kaltaz" is the highlight of the album, and it takes on a somewhat thrashy symphonic metal sound. The guitars have a gritty crunch, while the vocals range from melodic clean vocals to growls a couple times within the song. "The Secret of Time" is another one of the best tracks, this time with a middle-eastern vibe.

Besides the lack of cohesion on several tracks, what often kills the album for me are the vocals. The instrumentation is very often great when it all fits together, but Nehl Aëlin's thick accent and eclectic use of vocal techniques end up ruining some songs that would otherwise be great. Take "Reflections" for example. There's some killer guitar licks, but I find it's easy to get distracted and annoyed when the vocals are switching from bouncy J-pop, to maniacal squealing a la The Mars Volta, to simply average melodic vocals. While vocalists who have this eclectic range of tones and styles to their voice are often lauded, I often find the multiple singing styles works better overall when multiple singers are applied, as usually the singers can play off of one another, making them all blend well. However, I will give credit where credit is due, as her vocals on the two songs I mentioned in the previous paragraph are pretty great.

Akphaezya's Anthology II: Links from the Dead Trinity is certainly an acquired taste. While it will probably be an excellent album for the staunch followers of the genre, this may be a bit of a tough listen at times for those who like a bit more cohesion in their music. It's nowhere near the worst of the genre, but nowhere near the best either. If they focused in on one or two styles for each song and didn't include crazy vocals, I think this could be a great record. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

ANVIL Worth the Weight

Album · 1992 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.36 | 8 ratings
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Anvil brings on the thrash!

Canadian heavy metal act Anvil is one of those bands that often gets forgotten yet maintains a strong cult following. Since their inception, Anvil has never stopped delivering fist-pumping heavy metal and has always been consistent, think the traditional metal equivalent to Overkill. The band has made use of a few other metal genres over their career, but it rarely took dominance within the band's own sound. There are a couple albums in their career where they have more of a lean towards thrash/speed metal.

Anvil were no strangers to thrash metal by 1992, as they dabbled in thrash on 1988's Pound for Pound, but Worth the Weight shows the band take that influence further. One possible hint towards a more thrash-y edge are the longer track lengths, with two of them going over the seven minute mark. Some of the lyrics also take a darker tone, but Anvil wouldn't be Anvil if they didn't keep their humor and slight-sleaziness in a couple tracks.

The general sound of this album is somewhere between the band's own sound, Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, and Megadeth. The best example of this comparison is in my favorite on the album, "Bushpig", which is one of the greatest speed metal tracks I've ever heard. The guitar and drums just race by like a speeding car, while Steve "Lips" Kudlow nails both Dave Mustaine's sneer and King Diamond's heady screeches all the while being the Lips Anvil fans know and love. The guitar solos rip throughout the album, and the speed of much of the album is contrasted with colossal grooves. Check out "AZ #85" for proof of that, the crunching stomp of Robb Reiner's drums pound like a nail while the solos rapidly shred.

The production has that early 90's thrash album vibe to it, having that powerful and punchy sound that made albums like Cowboys From Hell, Horrorscope, and Persistence of Time so heavy. This production really makes the grooves so much punchier, and the speed so much more sharp. "Sins of the Flesh" highlights this sound well, with the bass getting a bit of time to shine during a bridge. The band would actually continue to have this awesome production on many of their future albums.

While the classic Metal on Metal or This is Thirteen would generally be the best place to start for getting into Anvil, Worth the Weight would be an excellent entrance point for a thrasher looking to get into the band. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

ARCH ENEMY Doomsday Machine

Album · 2005 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 3.58 | 19 ratings
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"Watch the skeleton dance."

Many people seem to see melodic death metal as a real hit-or-miss genre, rarely being middle of the road. It either misses like a miscalculated golf swing, or hits hard as steel. I see it no differently. While the genre is home to many albums that just fall flat, there's always a handful of hole-in-ones that makes up for any bad shots that may be prevalent.

One complaint I have for melodic death metal, is that it often loses a lot of that raw and aggressive punch that is so essential to death metal. However, Arch Enemy's underrated Doomsday Machine should be the guidebook for how to make a death metal album that has a melodic sensibility but still kicks your ass. As you enter the machine, you're greeted with some of the most piercing and grooving riffing that has ever been present in death metal. I could name off any song to showcase this, but perhaps one of the best examples is the screeching homing missile attack of a main riff of "Nemesis". "My Apocalypse" may very well be my all time favorite death metal song, and just crushes the listeners skull with it's pummeling groove. That aggression is contrasted perfectly with a quiet atmospheric bridge, which features echoed-tone chords and a sublime guitar solo. The similarly toned chords that open up "Mechanic God Creation" is one of the best moments on the album, and is just as satisfying to hear every time I listen to it.

Speaking of, the Amott brothers' guitar playing is absolutely phenomenal and among the finest in death metal. Unlike the normal constant chugging of many modern technical and brutal death metal bands, these guys have infectious thrashing hooks and virtuoso soloing. I'm sometimes reminded of Rust in Peace-era Marty Friedman and Dave Mustaine's leads with some of the melodies. Sometimes there's even references to neo-classical shredders, such as the main riff in the instrumental "Hybrids of Steel". Angela Gossow's vocals are at their best on this album, and are among the most brutal in metal. Her growls and snarls pierce the skin just as much as the guitar licks. Her vocal performance on the first few songs and "Skeleton Dance" is especially fantastic. The whole album just sounds so damn colossal. The rhythm section is commanding, and the production is loud and almost mechanical sounding. The album really feels like a machine being constructed in a clanking and rattling factory.

Doomsday Machine is not only a unique melodic death metal album, but it's quite a unique album in general. I haven't heard an album that blends melodic guitar leads, death, thrash, and groove this well before. The tones and overall sound of the album as well is something that I've yet to hear replicated. If I had to choose, this is probably my all-time favorite death metal album. It's got raw brutality, groove, and crushing aggression all with a sense of harmony. It's a modern classic that still sounds fresh over a decade later. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

IRON MAIDEN Dance Of Death

Album · 2003 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.67 | 99 ratings
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"Don't judge a book by it's cover."

While the above quote is a terrible cliche, as book cover artwork (or in this case album art) should reflect what's inside, there's a great deal of books and albums that come across as something else with what's shown on the front. I think we all know the story of Iron Maiden's infamous cover art for Dance of Death, the cover artwork is in its unfinished state and for some reason the band wanted it as is. The artist understandably didn't want to be credited for the monstrosity that is Dance of Death's front cover, and it went down in history as one of metal's worst album covers.

Maybe the band was just drinking a few too many beers, but whatever the case, they ended up making the cover of their 2003 album appear to be from an early 2000's power metal band who just discovered Photoshop and MySpace and was trying way too hard to be Helloween. However, despite all the colorful jokes that a comedic metalhead could shoot at the album cover, there is something about it that does somewhat fit the album. Just like the cover is left in an unfinished state, Dance of Death actually feels like it's a bit of a stripped-down album in a way.

By stripped-down, I don't mean that this is some garage rock album in the vein of The White Stripes, but it's the one modern day Iron Maiden album that feels like it has all the elements and spirit that made the band's classic albums so great. It has the energy of The Number of the Beast and Piece of Mind, as well as the epic heavy metal of Powerslave and Somewhere in Time. There's none of the excess of most of the band's post-1986 albums, what you have here is simply a killer epic heavy metal album, that well represents what the band is all about.

Unlike most of Maiden's modern albums, there's a perfect blend of the band's epic tracks and more energetic and fast-paced pure heavy metal tracks. "Wildest Dreams", "Rainmaker", "New Frontier", and "Montsegur" all get the listener pumped while "No More Lies", "Paschendale", and the title track are all worthy of the band's best classic epics. "Journeyman" is a bit of a unique track for the band, being all acoustic, and actually ranks among the best on the album. "Montsegur" and "Paschendale" are both historically-themed and coincidentally the two best. The former is about the cruel crusades against the Cathars, a dualist sect of Christianity during the middle ages, while the latter is a tale of The Battle of Passchendaele during World War I told in the view of a soldier.

While usually seen as the black sheep of the modern Maiden albums, I find it to be the most memorable and having a great balance between the band's musical elements that isn't really seen in many of the band's post-1986 albums. There's a couple songs that aren't as memorable, but for the most part this is Iron Maiden's modern classic in my book. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

SEPULTURA Machine Messiah

Album · 2017 · Groove Metal
Cover art 4.35 | 12 ratings
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Sepultura hasn't gotten a whole lot of appreciation since 1993's Chaos A.D. While Roots does get a bit more appreciation from those who don't have an issue with nu-metal, you won't hear many talking about any of the post-Cavalera albums. Four years after the release of the lengthy titled The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart, which was seen as Sepultura's return to a thrash metal-based sound, the band returns with the much simpler titled Machine Messiah.

Machine Messiah features quite a variety of musical elements, inside and outside of metal, and actually comes across as quite experimental. There's a blend of tribal groove metal and crossover thrash throughout the majority of the album, the latter being most prevalent in "I Am the Enemy". It's one of the most crushing songs the band's released in a while, and instantly got me hooked with its chromatic death metal riffing, rumbling bass sound, and punk-thrash pace. Want more thrash, "Vandals Nest" brings some total old-school thrash mixed with some great melodies towards the end. I must also give mention to the guitar tone on this album, it's got such a razor-sharp punch to it, while having a dissonant tone for the slower bits.

The album opens up and ends on an odd note for Sepultura, with both the title track and "Cyber God" being melodic heavy metal/alternative metal tracks with a bit of a metalcore vibe. This may be seen as a negative for some, but I think it works great and makes these among the best on the album. "Sworn Oath" is another song that displays some of this influence at the beginning, but soon picks up a killer groove with majestic symphonic instrumentation. Derrick Green's melodic vocals on this track are really deep and emotive, and creates a nice contrast to his usual gruff barks. Speaking of said vocals, his gruff vocals on this album remind me a lot of Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke at his most raw and are delivered with great conviction. Just check out his performance on "Silent Violence", that's what I call pure raw power!

Also among the best on the album are "Phantom Self" and the instrumental "Iceberg Dances". The former is a groovy tune that has a middle-eastern sound to it played by an instrument that I can't tell if it's just a guitar or something else. "Resistant Parasites" also features a bit of middle-eastern instrumentation towards the end. "Iceberg Dances" is the best instrumental track I've heard in a while, blending a tribal groove with some unexpected influences. Most notable of these would be the organ that surprisingly fits right in, who knew organ and groove metal would sound so awesome together?

Sepultura's done it, they've made a masterpiece to rival their 80's and early 90's classics. Instead of trying to imitate their classic material, the band blended a wide range of styles and influences that ended up mixing together perfectly. If you're looking for an eclectic groove metal album, look no further than Machine Messiah. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

NEANDERTHAL Get a Move On

Album · 2017 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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While stoner/groove metal band My Ruin seems to be on hiatus, the band's husband and wife duo of Mick and Tairrie B Murphy have dedicated themselves to releasing their own solo stuff. Tairrie B released her first solo hip-hop album since 1993 back in 2015, and now Mick Murphy (under the moniker of Neanderthal) has released his first solo album since 2007's Take the Ride.

While Mick Murphy has already proved himself to be a guitar virtuoso and one of the most underrated guitarists out there with plenty of My Ruin's material, he presents a very eclectic and varied album with Get a Move On. There's a little bit of something for everyone on this release, with styles ranging from bluesy stoner metal, thrash/speed metal, neo-classical metal, and even a bit of a punk attitude. It's all instrumental, as Murphy's guitar sings better than any vocalist could on this album.

Often times the styles blend together in one song, as his playing on My Ruin's albums did. He'll be playing bluesy stoner metal, and rival Yngwie Malmsteen at the same time with his neo-classical soloing. "Anti Pop Culture Manifesto" and "Alarm Bells" are great examples, as they are both groovy upbeat tracks, with very classically-styled solos. "Triptych" is pure neo-classical metal, which begins and ends with some of the best classical guitar playing I've heard in a while. "Party Knights" may very well be the most impressive song on the album, blending blues, funk, and thrash metal all while remaining coherent and infectiously catchy.

It's not all upbeat though, as there are some quite emotional moments on the album. "Euphonious Dissonance" blends somewhat of a bluesy-grunge sound with the atmosphere of some melodic doom metal to create an unsettling vibe. "Song for Sam III", which is dedicated to Mick Murphy's late brother Sam M Murphy III, does this best though. Its mix of brooding doom riffing, atmospheric somber harmonies, and bluesy soloing really brings home the emotional feeling.

Get a Move On is not a long album, only clocking in at about 35 minutes, but that helps it in leaving no room for filler and delivering a wide range of styles for any metalhead to find something to enjoy. The production has a nice raw garage rock tone to it, making the aggression sound that much heavier and harmonies that much more atmospheric. If you're looking for an eclectic album with a masterful blend of various styles, this is an essential listen. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

KMFDM [symbols]

Album · 1997 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 4.02 | 2 ratings
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[symbols] is the tenth studio album from industrial metal band KMFDM. The actual name of the album is five unpronounceable symbols, hence why it is often referred to as simply Symbols in brackets. While Xtort marked the end of the band's string of amazing albums that began with 1992's Money, KMFDM wasn't finished with releasing industrial metal/rock of high quality afterwards.

Xtort showed the band experimenting more, especially on the electronic end of the spectrum. [symbols] continues developing that sound, with less of a focus on the thrash side of their sound than previous offerings. Opener "Megalomaniac" for example, still has metallic guitars, but the techno and various electronic elements begin to come upfront here. It could be called a remix of "Light" from the band's seventh album, Angst, as most of the guitar riffs are somewhat glitched versions of the ones from the aforementioned song.

The majority of the album actually follows in this fashion with the guitar, despite being aggressive, quite often sounding buried under the electronics. That's not to say there aren't some really great tracks here. "Stray Bullet" is on the more melodic side of things, with some quite nice laid-back guitar work that contrasts well with the catchy upbeat techno breakbeats. "Mercy" is another highlight, which has bit of a electro industrial-vibe to it and an infectiously catchy and groovy chorus.

The band does thrash on a few tracks, the two most notable being "Spit Sperm" and "Waste". Both songs pack quite a punch, but the latter especially beats you over the head with chugging riffs. The best part of "Waste" is bassist Abby Travis's vocal performance, which is of a total old-school thrash delivery. It makes me wonder why she was never in a thrash metal act, her vocals just kick so much ass on the aforementioned track.

While a bit inconsistent and a bit of a step down from masterpieces like Angst, Nihil, and Xtort, [symbols] still holds some really great tracks and is certainly no weak album. If you're looking for some industrial metal that relies more on the electronic end of the spectrum, [symbols] would be a great choice. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

ANNIHILATOR Criteria for a Black Widow

Album · 1999 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.01 | 16 ratings
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Annihilator is one of those bands, you know, the ones where people only remember them for their first couple of albums and then couldn't care less about them? I'll often feel otherwise towards these bands, as I think Annihilator has plenty of fantastic albums. Despite Annihilator not getting much love for their post-Never, Neverland albums, Criteria for a Black Widow seems to be overall a bit better received.

Despite it's amazingly horrid campy album cover, which I can't decide if it's trying to be scary or sexy while failing miserably at both, this is no campy album. Criteria for a Black Widow is probably the angriest and most disturbing album in the band's discography next to their debut, Alice in Hell. Randy Rampage, who sang on said debut, is back on the fold and sounds as pissed off as ever. His sneering vocal attack matches the likes of Dave Mustaine on the first couple Megadeth albums.

Opening up with the groovy dirge of the rampaging (no pun intended) stomp of "Bloodbath", this album does not let up with the crushing and shredding riffage. There's a return to The Fun Palace from Never, Neverland with "Back to the Palace" which is just as great as the original. It shares similarities with it's predecessor without being a complete re-hash, rather fitting in with the rest of the album. The first half of the album is the best, with "Punctured" being a groovy track that starts out with acoustics before hitting the listener over the head with crunching riffs. The title track is downright dirty and disturbing, with a nasty bass groove that dominates the song. Finally, "Schizos (Are Never Alone) Part III" is another thrash-tastic instrumental that works as a perfect sequel to Alice in Hell's tracks.

The rest of the album is great, but those first five tracks are definitely the highlights on the album. The production sounds clean, yet is raw and meaty at the same time, which fits the album perfectly. If you're a fan of Alice in Hell, or just raging and groovy thrash in general, don't judge the album by it's cover and check it out. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

SIGH Scenes from Hell

Album · 2010 · Symphonic Black Metal
Cover art 3.97 | 13 ratings
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"Fire is so cold though my blood is boiling in my veins. Vice on virtue, victory on vanity. Answer me now, I will laugh in pain."

Few bands can claim to be as eclectic as the Japanese extreme metal band Sigh. While the band's main sound is based in black metal, the band has made use of a wide variety of influences which includes but is not limited to: classical music, thrash metal, power metal, jazz, and doom metal.

Sigh may be presenting Scenes From Hell, but who knew hell would be an orchestral assault of thrashing black metal riffing. No other song on the album beats the rampage of the opening "Prelude to the Oracle", which never lets up with its rapid thrashing and chaotic orchestrations. After opening with spoken word, "The Red Funeral" blends brooding doom metal and melodic black metal with more strings and orchestra. The latter is pretty much prevalent in the whole album, making the album play out like some sort of demented symphony or movie score, ending with the raging title track as a grand finale.

The production couldn't be any more perfect for the sound of this album, as it has a real dirty and filthy sound that gives a nice contrast between the grimy riffing and also prevalent melody throughout the album. "Prelude to the Oracle" and the title track in particular show this contrast quite well. The murky basslines and stabbing thrashing in the latter are particular great.

If you're looking for some eclectic black metal that lies on the more melodic and thrashing side of the spectrum, you can't do much better than Sigh. The band has many great albums, but to me Scenes From Hell is one of their finest records and most focused. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

RUSH Grace Under Pressure

Album · 1984 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 33 ratings
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Grace Under Pressure is the tenth studio album from hard rock/progressive rock band Rush. Two years after 1982's Signals, Rush drifts farther down the river of synth and the 80's New Wave scene. Bearing smaller and smaller resemblance to their classic sound, the band has nearly completely embraced the 80's sound by this point. Despite that, Grace Under Pressure is still a pretty great album and includes some of the band's classic tracks.

Opener "Distant Early Warning" has always been a favorite of mine and one of the first songs I heard from the band, and really represents some of the best of the band's synth era material. The mini-guitar solo about three minutes through the song is surprisingly pretty metallic and almost Iron Maiden-esque, but of course that's the only reference to anything remotely metal on this album.

Speaking of that guitar solo, Grace Under Pressure still shows Alex Lifeson delivering some great guitar riffing and occasional solos. "The Enemy Within", "The Body Electric", and "Between the Wheels" in particular showcase great balance of the band's own sound and their incorporation of contemporary trends to keep up with the times. The only times that this balance stops and it fails to work, are with "Kid Gloves" and "Red Lenses". The former is honestly one of the most annoying songs in the band's discography with a real sappy-sounding guitar motif that reeks of the cheesiest bands of the 80's. The latter is substantially better, but something about it just doesn't work. It's catchy enough, but I can't say the pseudo-funky sound with Cold War lyricism really works that well.

Most of the music on the album is quite melancholy sounding, so it makes sense that most of the lyricism is on the darker side of the spectrum as well. Much of it deals with environmental disaster, nuclear war, paranoia, as well as loss of loved ones as heard in the touchingly somber "Afterimage". The album cover fits the mood well, as it's a somewhat gloomy contemplative scene with the use of lighter (yet pale on some editions) colors.

Grace Under Pressure continues the pretty good consistency from Signals, and the continuous slight updating of sound works well for the most part. The updating of sound would show to be a bit more drastic on the following album, but if you like Signals, chances are you'll like this one too. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

MASTODON Leviathan

Album · 2004 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.19 | 72 ratings
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"Into sight 60,000 years of light, fascination with a mountain put to sea. Built to slay and conquer, all with teeth of beasts."

...and built to slay and conquer they were back in the sludge metal era of their career. Now one of the most successful metal bands of the past decade and current one, Mastodon brought back sludge metal in full force at the beginning of the 2000's. While the band has since mellowed out a bit, Mastodon once combined the intensity and pummeling force of Crowbar with the atmospheric brutality of Neurosis. Add in a bit of alternative metal in the vein of Alice in Chains or System of a Down for taste, and you've got yourself Mastodon's classic sound.

Mastodon were a pretty unique band, so these aforementioned influences are mainly just references. The majority of the album is pure raw sludgy brutality, as best exemplified in classics like "Blood and Thunder", "I am Ahab", "Naked Burn", and my personal favorite, "Iron Tusk". The experimental/alternative metal elements come along in the form of plenty of odd time signatures and rapid chromatic riffing that is played in a style akin to SoaD or other bands of similar ilk. This combination of two often separated styles is part of what gave Mastodon such a unique sound when they came out, giving a brutal yet fresh sound during a time when the metal world was still at the end of the reign of generic nu-metal bands (although those would soon be replaced by generic metalcore bands).

The only times the album lets up with the chaotic sludge attack is with the final two tracks, the nearly 14-minute long behemoth "Hearts Alive" and the classical/acoustic guitar ending "Joseph Merrick". These two tracks showcase a more experimental sound in the vein of Neurosis, albeit being more melodious. Speaking of, Neurosis's frontman Scott Kelly makes his first guest appearance on this album as he would on the band's future albums. Other guests include Clutch's Neil Fallon with additional vocals (Blood and Thunder), Matt Bayles on Organ (Joeseph Merrick), and Phil Peterson on Cello (Hearts Alive).

Only their second album, and Mastodon were already in their prime. While the following Blood Mountain is my favorite, both that and Leviathan are up there with the best sludge metal albums and are already considered modern classics. If you want some forceful and sludgy brutality that's a bit more recent than sludge masters like Crowbar and Melvins, the first three Mastodon albums are essential listening. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

RED WIZARD Cosmosis

Album · 2016 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 4.75 | 2 ratings
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A relatively new band in the constantly growing yet underrated stoner metal scene, Red Wizard released their debut full-length studio album in 2016 after being around since 2010. The band delivers their own unique take on the usual stoner metal sound, and in doing that, one of the best albums of 2016.

Red Wizard masterfully combines the always lurking bluesy doom metal of early Black Sabbath, the majesty of Candlemass, and the driving groove that's often essential to stoner metal with a bit of space rock in the vein of classic Hawkwind for taste. The opener "Tides of War" immediately starts the album off amazingly, taking the spot as my favorite on the album. All the instruments keep an infectiously catchy groove, as they do on the majority of the album. Sometimes they go into space metal jam mode, as heard best in the ten-minute long title track. The three parts of "The Red Wizard Suite" that closes up the album has plenty of great catchy riffing, awesome drumming, fantastic soloing, killer bass grooves, and Travis Baucum giving a beautifully emotive vocal performance.

Travis Baucum brings an excellent vocal performance up there with the best stoner vocalists. His varied tones are part of what makes Red Wizard so great, as he can deliver multiple vocal styles with much conviction. He's perfectly able to nail the majestic Candlemass-esque vocal style on the track, "The Temple of Tennitus", which is more of an old-school doom metal tune. His vocal performance on "Blinded" is a bit reminiscent of Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity, and his harmonica playing is killer and adds a perfect blues touch.

The production is as perfect as can be for a stoner metal album, having none of that annoying polish that's way too prevalent on metal albums these days. It's a bit fuzzy, dirty, and all rock 'n' roll. The production could be compared to classic Soundgarden records as well as most stoner rock/metal albums. The production and album cover should fit the music, and it does that job perfectly here.

Red Wizard may be a recent band on the scene, but they're already up there with the classic bands. If you're looking for some varied stoner metal, or are a fan of the genre in general, you should not miss out on this masterpiece. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

SPECTRAL LORE III

Album · 2014 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.68 | 8 ratings
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"A breath, formed into the atmosphere, rained down into the oceans. Was led into a little stream, that fed a spiral fountain."

Atmospheric black metal generally isn't my thing. I love black metal, but I like mine to be gritty, have thrash-leaning riffing, and punchy. That's the reason why most of my favorite black metal bands end up on the melodic, thrash, or old-school side of things. Apart from a few exceptions like Myrkur, I generally find atmospheric black metal to be forgettable, derivative, contrived, and overall boring. I get that it's a genre that's supposed to take you on some sort of journey, but apart from Alcest's Kodama which I don't even consider to be metal, I've never really gotten that feeling from this stuff.

Many of these atmospheric acts are one-man/woman bands, and Spectral Lore comes as no exception. Released to critical acclaim, Ayloss' (the man behind Spectral Lore) strangely titled fourth album leaves me somewhat in the middle. There is some fantastic stuff to be heard here, as well as some that is very typical of the genre. Interestingly, I find the best track to be one that is not metal at all, "Drifting Through Moss and Ancient Stone". This is a very beautiful instrumental folk tune that may remind one of the classical guitar playing of Steve Howe or Still Life-era Opeth. There is also some great piano work that blends nicely with the classical guitar, as well as atmospheric chanting-type vocals at the end.

The opening track on disc two, "The Spiral Fountain" continues from where the aforementioned last song left off. It begins with a similar classical guitar motif, but soon brings the black metal in. This song is blasting with melodic guitar leads, surprisingly guttural roars for black metal, and having a perfect atmosphere. What makes the atmosphere work so well here is the fact that it's the beautiful melodies of the guitar that creates the atmosphere rather than a synthetic echo effect that drones over the rest of the music. I can't stress how great the guitar riffs and melodies are in this song enough, it sends chills down my spine.

Unfortunately, most of the rest of the album either falls in place of typical bland atmospheric black metal or features some good ideas mixed in with said sound. Thankfully though, there is one more great song other then the aforementioned tracks. Spectral Lore's III ends with another beautiful track as the finale, "Cosmic Significance". The first half of this song is comprised of sweet melancholy keys that do make me feel like I'm on a lonely yet alluring journey through deep space. The banging and surprisingly catchy beat of the drums slowly announce for the other instruments to come in. Some of the guitar melodies actually remind me of Eloy here. It certainly gives the album an epic climax.

While the three songs I described are among the most beautiful songs I've ever heard, that's only a half-hour of a nearly 90-minute album. It's a real shame, because if Spectral Lore had honed in his sound and maybe made an album with those three songs, it would be a masterpiece. Fans of atmospheric black metal will of course eat this up either way, but for those of you like me who prefer your black metal to have more hooks and memorable riffing, give this a try. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

TONER LOW II

Album · 2008 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 4.75 | 2 ratings
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"One, two, five, three"

Number order really doesn't matter when one's stoned out of their mind, but seeing as this is music not math, it really doesn't matter here anyway does it? On the music end, Toner Low manages to take the Dopesmoker formula to the next level. Droning, sludgy, vibrating, groggy, and even spacey; these are all descriptors that could be used for Toner Low's almost droning brand of stoner-doom.

Despite being separated into four tracks, Toner Low's II may as well be listened to in one go. Shifting from the usual doomy Sabbath-esque riffing, to slow droning sludgy pounding that may be heard on a Boris record, and the band's own unique space-doom metal touch, the band hits all the check-boxes for a great stoner-doom album. That unique sound is given from the sound effects that are placed among all the tracks that sound straight out of an old 50's Sci-fi movie. The band's spacey sound is only increased by the robotic-sounding vocals that are featured in "One", which can only be described as a robot who smoked a bit too much of that dope while listening to Dopesmoker.

While the band mostly brings the dazed sludgy-doom goods, they certainly have some fantastic use of subtleties. The best example of this is on "Two", which has an absolutely fantastic bass dirge that just sends chills down my spine. The bass maintains a lethargic chromatic plod down the scale, while subtle jazzy touches are sprinkled in to give it a cool taste. I've never heard doom metal and jazz work together so well before, but it just sounds incredible here. The bass dirge is brought into the crashing sound of the fuzzed-out guitar and roaring vocals blasting back into the song after several minutes of Toner Low's Masterpiece Theater for bass.

Ultimately, Toner Low masters the art of stoner-doom. It's heavy, lethargic, and droning like the best. However, the band knows how to throw in their own unique touch to avoid sounding like a standard average band. If you want to get stoned with music, this album does that job quite well. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

RAZOR Violent Restitution

Album · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 3 ratings
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"All the pool hall, hustling dough. I'll beat the panzies and then I'll go."

Searing through the listener's skin just like the sharp blade that the band gets their namesake, Razor certainly performs all the violence they describe with their high-tension lighting speed thrash assault. Violent Restitution is the final Razor album to feature original vocalist Stace "Sheepdog" McLaren, due to inner conflicts within the band.

Ah, but what a swansong for one of the most underrated vocalists in thrash. As soon as you turn the album on, the first thing you hear is the piercing hell-scream of McLaren that opens up the mainly instrumental opener "The Marshall Arts". This long scream carries the song into the rapid-fire rampage that sets the tone and sound for the rest of the album. McLaren's high-pitched screeches rival the likes of Tom Araya on "Angel of Death" and his dirty fast-spitting vocals rival those of Cronos of Venom.

Of course, the vocals need to be spit out in order to catch up with the insane speeds of the instruments. Razor may very well be able to claim the spot as fastest thrash band around, as your head will be torn right from your neck if you try to headbang to the majority of these killer shredders. Occasionally the band slows it down to a fast catchy groove, but slow for Razor is still pretty damn fast. Apart from those occasional grooves, this is mostly pure grinding frantic thrash. The gang vocals during the choruses are perfect and act as a bit of a hook to compliment the blinding speeds of the riffs and jack-hammer drums. Just check out "Out of the Game" for an example of this.

Razor takes the stage as one of the best and most underrated of the Canadian thrash scene, which also housed such classic bands like Annihilator and Voivod. Compared to Violent Restitution, when it comes to speed and brutality, everything else is Out of the Game while the listener is left Tasting the Floor. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

FU MANCHU California Crossing

Album · 2001 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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"Twenty years or more, we had a plan, To build the finest street ride in the whole damn land."

There could never be any truer statement. California Crossing is as cool and collected as stoner rock/metal can be, as well as perfect driving music for the open roads. Most stoner rock and metal has some sort of laidback vibe to it, whether in the form of smoking your brains out with Sleep's classic Dopesmoker or going on a spaced-out Powertrip with Monster Magnet. That is one of the reasons why it's so great and Fu Manchu is no different, yet they may very well be the epitome of that vibe.

California Crossing is entirely made up of powerful stoned heavy rock/metal, but remaining laidback throughout the 40-minute ride. It's not hard to imagine driving down a desert road, with the only sound being the cool tunes coming from your speakers. It's hard to pick highlights for a near-flawless album, but the driving "Hang On" is certainly one of those. With riffing that sounds like an upbeat version of a fast Black Sabbath tune, and Scott Hill's fun and smooth vocals, this one's a winner. The same can be said about other favorites like "Mongoose", "Squash That Fly", "Downtown in Dogtown", and the title track.

My very favorite though is probably the final track, "The Wasteoid". This mostly upbeat driving record ends with a more stoner-doom instrumental offering, which maintains the core sound of the album while adding a bit more grit. Also, there's a killer drum solo during the bridge before hearing the sole words spoke in a robotic voice, The Wasteoid.

Even if you're nowhere near a desert, there's no need to travel. Fu Manchu's desert rock/metal sound is sure to bring that atmosphere to you. If I just want to relax but still want something heavy, there's nothing better than bands like Fu Manchu, Clutch, and Monster Magnet to deliver on the front. Also, it's just damn good music for any mood, just pay the California Crossing and enjoy the ride. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

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