Metal Music Reviews from aglasshouse

SWORDMASTER Postmortem Tales

Album · 1997 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 2 ratings
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aglasshouse
Here's a funny story: when I was seven or eight years old, I fantasized about having my own rock band. I had consumed volumes of Breaking Benjamin and Green Day, and I aspired to one day be mentioned alongside the likes of Benjamin Burnley and Billy Joel Armstrong. Said desire isn't really part of my life anymore, but what I can tell you is that during this time I was a kid who loved to plan out things. Hardly any of these things came to fruition, but regardless I loved plotting my dreams in large itineraries and graphics. For this rock band dream, I conjured a single-word name for the band, being...well, Swordmaster. I drew covers of explosions and fire and flying eagles for imaginary "Swordmaster albums", and it entertained the hell out of me.

Well, flash-forward to about a decade later and here I am, with a disc in my hand from a band called Swordmaster titled Postmortem Tales. And would you look at that- explosions on the cover. Go figure.

It's safe to say my past alone propelled me toward this particular album, but I remained curious to discover the actual contents. What lies inside this particular album is at least partially interesting- Swordmaster is apparently a Swedish death-thrash band that made their marks prior to this 1997 studio debut with a black metal themed demo and a split with the Norway-based Zyklon-B. While their genre shift is definitely evident from this record, palpable nuggets of their black metal past are still present in areas like Andreas Bergh's vocal work and the droning ripple of the dual guitars. Upon first listen, I was a bit skeptical of the whole piece and it's nature as an "obscure but boring thrash release". While listening through though I was pleasantly surprised at a variety of satisfying tidbits that did well to throw a wrench into the mix of what would otherwise be a dreadfully monotonous work.

For one, Terror (aka Niklas Rudolfsson) on the skins is quite the piece of work. Owe it to the production (which is quite good for such an indie release) or what have you, but his zealous, machinery-esque drum sound is quite entertaining and fitting, and is heeded by the fact that he is quite impressive with the more rapid fills and tempo changes. Another great part of this album is its surprising eclecticism. Swordmaster not only dabble in death metal and black metal, but also in some more melodic parts such as on 'Blood Legacy' and 'Past Redemption', the band hits some notes that would not be out of place on a power metal album. Such elasticity is extremely refreshing, keeping you on your feet at all times prepared for a different sonic onslaught. The third and final noticeable feature of Postmortem Tales is the above-par songwriting. As previously mentioned, the album has a rather eclectic nature and isn't shy to pull in different metal sounds to create a fun ride. But such eclecticism wouldn't be able to function if it weren't for the songwriting, which is particularly enjoyable due to how fast everything travels. Sometimes it feels almost progressive in terms how many guitar solos and drum fills can be jammed into a simple minute of playing time.

But Postmortem Tales isn't all great, because a few things indeed hamper it. Sometimes the drums and tempo lean a bit too heavily on the thrash 4/4, a metal cliche that haunts even the best of bands. Luckily as stated before, sophisticated drum fills do well to add at least some flavor, as do the melodic guitar solos. Sometimes the vocals can grow a bit cliche as well, but honestly I wouldn't expect much more from a band still clinging a bit to their roots and is still trying to find their sound.

In all, this little gem is a romp that packs quite a punch in some areas. Definitely a punch big enough to give it the edge over much of Swordmaster's peers. I'd say check it out if you've got 45 minutes to spare.

ATHEIST The Best of Atheist

Boxset / Compilation · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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aglasshouse
Ever wanted to own a major chunk of Atheist's discography without needing to purchase 2005's The Collection for upwards of $60? Fear not, a solution is here!

After seven long years following Atheist's last studio album Jupiter, the band finally decided to digitally release their first ever compilation album to date- and what a compilation it is! In true-to-form fashion Atheist grab the most sonically insane and cosmic songs from their studio albums (as well as a live version of 'Mother Man' from Live At Wacken 2009) in a massive 22-track corpus. Forthright this puts The Best Of leagues ahead of other death metal contemporaries' works like Death's Best Of in '92 or Nile's Legacy of the Catacombs in '07, granted both rather good releases, simply from the vastness of the song selection. Especially considering Atheist's relatively small discography, 90 minutes of pure action may seem a bit hefty at first, but for only $10 (roughly €8.50 for you Europeans) from Bandcamp it is a fairly free-and-easy deal compared to another compilation that would front you the same price but with half the content.

This album is a perfect introductory release for beginners and also a good pickup for familiars. The only gripes I have with it are the fact that there's no physical release, because I prefer lending actual tangible material to a hypothetical beginner depending on the circumstances, and the fact that my favorite song 'Why Bother?' from Piece of Time is not present. Maybe they took the title a bit too literally?

TANK Honour & Blood

Album · 1984 · NWoBHM
Cover art 4.10 | 8 ratings
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aglasshouse
"Do you remember that I felt so bad that you'd been blown away for good?"

Tank's story is one of frontman and bassist Algy Ward slowly detaching himself from his past in The Damned- slinking slowly farther and farther away from the punk rock he had been playing a year prior to him forming Tank. But, just like contemporaries Motörhead, the band stayed attached to their roots firmly, combining the newborn New Wave of British Heavy Metal with the youthful exuberance of punk.

As Tank moved more and more onward however so evolved their music. The punk sensibilities became thinner and thinner as they broached further into the 80's, and by the time 1984 rolled around Tank had dropped the tomfoolery. This new album, brazenly embossed with an explosive military-style cover that would make even Sabaton blush, shows Tank at their most balls deep in this new medium. The vivacious Honour and Blood bears the brunt of some of the most badass metal to come from the early 80's. Each drum hit clicks like the hammer of a gun, no matter how simplistic the beat (which they are often not, thank god) may be. Each layered guitar lick reflects off itself and it's rippling bass counterpart to create a cacophony of chaos at each turn. This is of course without mention of Ward's vocal work, which is reflected particularly well on the force ten hurricane opener 'The War Drags Ever On' and the title track. No screeching or castrato stuff here- just brash, primitive growls...as it should be.

The sharp sonic assault created on multiple occasions are some of the finest that this particular scene has to offer, and can work in both a rapid gallop, or a slower, sludgier jog like 'Chain of Fools' or 'When All Hell Freezes Over'. Whatever your preference, it's likely Tank has you covered fairly well. But with almost every album, a few listens-through provide a few strikes against it. Ward's vocals, while almost always good, can get a bit silly the more guttural he goes. This is sometimes a shame because his clean vocals (seen on 'W.M.L.A.') are often equally as fitting for the music as his bellow. As a NWoBHM album, Honour and Blood occasionally delves into contrivances with some of the guitar work, but it remains almost always creative even at it's worst (even 'Too Tired to Wait for Love', possibly the closest they get to a ballad is fun as all hell). Of course we also have to take into account the time period; it's pretty obvious that the 1980's inanity would weave itself into the music at certain points, such as the glam vocal choruses and sometimes ridiculously cheesy lyrical themes (though 'Kill' is an extremely dark tune lyrical-wise for the time). These factors might bog a lesser album down to a much lower quality, but Tank's sound and presence is just so much more creative than others that, even through the lowest points, you're still cheering these boys on.

And so, the war drags ever on.

A PERFECT CIRCLE The Doomed

Single · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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Thirteen years of baited breath and whispered rumors followed A Perfect Circle following their 2004 cover album eMOTIVe and subsequent hiatus. This effect followed both them and Tool, the other project featuring the frontman vocalist extraordinaire Maynard Keenan, as both bands of which fell into what seemed like an irreparable slumber filled with insubstantial announcements of various happenings, none of which came or seemed would come to fruition.

But Tool in fact came back with a bang with a surprise reunion tour in January of 2016, and it was only expected by the collective conscience of Keenan to give a fair shake to his sister band as well. As expected, a little over a year later APC also received recognition with not only a similar tour but one supporting the release of a new single (/rumored album) titled 'The Doomed'. Remember, this single is the first thing this legendary act has created in almost a decade and a half, so expectations are higher than an elephant's ear.

'The Doomed' has arrived at a perfect time, particularly for me, at a time when I am personally starved of new and enthralling uniqueness on the rock scene, let alone the hard rock/metal scene. It has got to be one of the most interesting songs released over the span of this entire year, and this is for a variety of reasons. First, for those who care to know, this song does in fact synthesize previously established sounds on other APC records, particular the past two. In other words Thirteenth Step and the good stuff from eMOTIVe, especially the original song from the latter, 'Passive'. This means great big burly drums (by new member Jeff Friedl replacing long-time member Josh Freese) that shift from simplistic beginner fills to war-like timbre that fills the stage heftily. This coincides perfectly with Keenan's vocal delivery- one of his absolute best in my opinion- which similarly shifts from scratchy and raw (akin to the Tool trademark) to almost saddened, quiet bridges. These bridges lament of a rapture-like event, as a "new Christ" comes to bless/doom those he deems worthy or not. The blessed are portrayed as undeserving (the fornicates, the rich, the envious, etc.) as they sit on the proverbial skeletons of the deserving doomed (the pious, the pure-of-heart, the peaceful). This lyrical environment is not only fresh but also almost bemusingly expressive. Although such greatness is unsurprising from such an act as A Perfect Circle, the content they deliver is straightforward yet thought-provoking, panicked yet collected, emotional yet headstrong. All in perfect harmony with eachother.

I'm not sure why I felt the need to write such a massive review for a single track, but a band that is so important to me and my past releasing such satisfying content is something I'm not willing to slip under my radar so easily. Fantastic.

NOTHINGFACE Nothingface

Album · 1995 · Nu Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Nothingface's little-known 1995 debut unsurprisingly shows them at their most vulnerable and creatively amateurish. As a result the band seems to play much of their sonic onslaught safe, leaning heavily on their contemporary influences to guide them through the ordeal of a studio debut. These influences mainly revolve around the increasingly-popularized Korn sound with stocky, punchy drum fills and semi-reserved riffing to make way for what is generally the most-sought piece- the vocals. Such a production choice is a bit of a problem though as Matt Holt in his earliest stages really hadn't quite perfected his scream nor his clean vocals, both of which would become hallmarks of the classic Nothingface sound. At his best, Holt sounds like a mediocre proto-Chad Grey-esque character, with his emotional value not nearly being up to par with his future work.

The band occasionally hits some marks though- mainly because these lovable bastards are so talented- with really well-thought-out constructions in their music. For example, 'Severed' is likely the most epic and impressive tune out of the bunch, showcasing not only Houck at his best with his blistering syncopation but also a rather fantastic and roaring breakdown that makes the track hold up to even some of their greatest hits. I cannot for the life of me understand why it wasn't chosen as a track to re-record for Pacifier in '97. Another highlight is the atmospheric 'Communion', another very Korny track where Holt channels Jonathan Davis with a warbling, weak-sounding whisper layered on with microphone distortion effects, creating quite the formidable atmosphere for fresh-out-of-the-underground band. But while these tracks are indeed great and a fun romp either way, Nothingface 1995 is still an album that could do with much improving, which is almost certainly to be expected with such a new band who hasn't quite found their footing at this point in the music world.

MINISTRY Filth Pig

Album · 1996 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 3.52 | 5 ratings
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A string of fantastic albums preceded what is likely to be Ministry's least experimental yet their most brash release they've ever put out- 1996's Filth Pig.

Up to this point, Ministry's music had been extremely eclectic, installing them permanently as one of the greatest industrial metal acts to ever be. Psalm 69 marked their entry into the 1990's, as well as the third album to achieve fantastic reception and hailed as fantastic upon it's release. Four years later however Filth Pig changed that landscape as Ministry opted for a much more caustic and barbaric version of themselves- one that skipped the pleasantries of unusual influences and time signatures and skipped straight to the meal. This meant much more focus on down-tuned guitars and a newfound (and rather perplexing) sludge metal synthesis. This means that much of the "industrial" sound that made Ministry unique was replaced with a much more by-the-numbers heavy metal approach, replete with pounding drum hooks, throbbing guitar riffs- the whole shebang. But such a drastic change is hard to actually accomplish with a straight face...and it seemed that not even the great Ministry could manage the feat.

When it comes down to it, Filth Pig lacks the substance it's predecessors. The track 'Lava', while being a guilty pleasure song with it's wavering distortion and Al Jourgensen's hissing vocal backdrop, is a perfect example of how fleeting the experience this album brings is, as it follows practically the same structure as most of the other songs like 'Crumbs' and 'Useless'. To contrast, The Mind is a Terrible Thing To Taste had a tracklist that constantly changed from song to song, each one having a unique vibe. Filth Pig's songs seem to just bleed into eachother boringly, to the point where it sometimes becomes hard to tell between one and another. The sludgy hooks and beefy atmosphere seems more often than not bloated and overblown and are not nearly enough to keep the album afloat. The overall result is a group of brooding tunes that leave little-to-no lasting impact with their grandiose potential, but ultimately no extra spice to get them kicking like classic Ministry tunes.

GREAT WHITE Great White

Album · 1984 · Glam Metal
Cover art 3.36 | 6 ratings
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If it weren't for the fact that Great White emerged from the United States, I would certainly confuse this release to be a part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement of the early-1980's. This is because it's clear from their first record that Great White not only synthesized sounds from contemporary glam acts like Mötley Crüe and Quiet Riot, but also from emerging European groups such as Accept and Iron Maiden. This could be because the history of glam metal and the NWoBHM are very similar and happened at similar times, though on different continents.

But what differs Great White's 1984 breakout from albums like Killers or Breaker is the more pronounced hair metal nature of the record; from Jack Russel's catchy vocal hooks to punkish melodies, Great White channels the fabulosity of glam enough to differentiate them from their "darker"-in-tone European cousins. This also goes for lyrical value which, while not seemingly as brash and promiscuous as something Crüe might come out with, is still beautifully cheesy like on songs like 'Bad Boys'.

When it comes time to get heavy though, Great White certainly deliver. 'Substitute''s rollicking drum interlude interspersed with a chugging dissonant riff, the slowly rumbling and oddly dark 'Streetkiller"- these are just a few examples of how Great White uses the glam tradition of being able to please a stadium to bring an enjoyable (and often surprisingly intimidating) performance throughout. Though I will confess that Great White are prone to breaking the great atmosphere they create with awkward segues into uninspired cheesecake sections of pretty-boy rock, admittedly similar to what most glam-style bands do, which are presented seemingly as more of obligations than for sake of actual substance.

Great White's debut is much like a sore thumb compared to the rest of their discography. It's much more heavy, pugnacious, and raunchy than the more commercial style that they would go on to adapt. It remains a rather obscure and underappreciated piece of the sprawling puzzle that is 80's metal.

HELLWITCH Syzygial Miscreancy

Album · 1990 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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Although this album is technically considered to be "thrash metal", it's no big mystery where Hellwitch put their allegiance with, genre-wise. Atheist, Death, and Morbid Angel are just a few of the bands the band pride themselves on sharing the stage with. The influence of these particular bands are evident especially on the band's 1990 debut, arriving in the wake of other such debut releases like Piece of Time and Altars of Madness arriving but a year prior.

However although Hellwitch are clearly inspired by the late-80's technical death movement, they still retain the fan-tribute aura more than I've seen many other bands do. The music is amateurish, almost demo-like, making Syzygial Miscreancy really hard to differentiate from the six years-worth of demos leading up to it, production-wise. This doesn't necessarily detract from the quality, rather it actually sort of renders it it's own charm as a relatively shoestring-budget release. Of course though a not very technically diverse musical landscape can, more often than not, make an album sound rather flat and make tracks sound almost the same, which granted does happen a few times on this particular record. However a few factors make Hellwitch not actually fall on their face.

1. The musicianship. I know we've already rattled on about Hellwitch's influences, but it must be restated as it's extremely important to how they carry themselves. If they are to truly live up to the wrecking-balls that influenced them, they better be able to play like them. And they do. In particular the channeling of Atheist is made clear with the face-melting eclecticism of all three members, especially rapid tour de force on the kit with Joe Schnessel. The almost Voivod-ian guitar solos and the unexpected tonal shifts and guitar hooks all lend a very professional atmosphere even amidst all of the low-fi fuzz.

2. The overall structure of Syzygial Miscreancy is very laudable, with the aforementioned tonal shifts and surprise melodic riffs keep each track very interesting. The album has a short runtime of only 25 minutes, minuscule in terms of most albums of their caliber, yet this short time also makes it so the album doesn't get stale in an instant and doesn't contain filler. It is something I wish more bands would pay attention to- a shorter album could spell great things for how well it ages.

But Hellwitch does make a few mistakes here and there. For instance the random vocal filters Patrick Ranieri uses on some tracks just sound absolutely ridiculous and out of place, and really only serve to get a laugh out of me personally when they're there. Interestingly enough I find that Patrick Ranieri's vocals are the biggest problem with this album, and it could honestly be due to the production. Usually on other albums audio engineers are able to blend the musicians quite well so that, even when one might mess up, it can sometimes go unnoticed, shrouded amongst the music. Amateurish production is more dangerous in this sense because it is sometimes unable to cut the fat. Ranieri's vocal screams, especially on 'Nosferatu' can are extremely strange and silly because often times he sounds more like he's hyperventilating and not screaming. This happens a few times throughout but overall it isn't that huge of an issue as it doesn't seek to degrade any of the instruments, but when these vocal hiccups are there they are still quite distracting.

In all though this particular album is still a winner. Short, sweet, and charming in it's occasionally maladroit delivery, Hellwitch's debut is something definitely to check out.

JUDAS PRIEST Rocka Rolla

Album · 1974 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.58 | 79 ratings
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Judas Priest's 70's albums are usually cast in bronze as some of the earliest and most high-quality developments of heavy metal that have ever been. Not only did they expound on Black Sabbath's discordant proto-doom by evolving it into a faster, more explosive version of itself, but albums like Sad Wings of Destiny, Stained Class, and Sin After Sin all paved the way for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that would dominate the Western charts for years to come.

It's hard to deny how beloved these albums are. They're practically legendary. All except for one. One that sets itself apart from Priest's 70's repertoire in both its obscurity and its strangeness. Funnily enough, it also happens to be the band's breakout first album.

1974's Rocka Rolla is a musical enigma. This isn't to say the music is impossible to understand, because it's not. For one, the album is much more progressively slanted as prog was in sort of phase two as bands like Rush emerged in the same year in the wake of the late-60's uprising. This can be seen on best on the sprawling eight-and-a-half minute long epic 'Run of the Mill' with the Floyd-esque guitar tuning and spacey vibes permeating the first chunk of the track. At the same time however, much of Rocka Rolla is infinitely more laidback than a tightly-strung album like Sad Wings, both lyrically and musically. The swaggering, bluesy knuckle-duster-knockout 'Rocka Rolla' especially exemplifies this side, wherein a young Rob Halford channels Bon Scott's greasy punk aura to deliver one of the oddest moments in Priest history. It maligns itself with any subsequent song Priest put out, but goddamn does it rock.

Not only in this way does Rocka Rolla set itself apart from other 70's Priest albums, but it also does so with it's sheer off-the-wall musical makeup. This is really where the main criticisms of the album come into play, as with an album such as this many are quick to claim it as underfocused and maldeveloped, and in most cases I would tend to agree. I suppose though that where this branches off is honestly dependent on personal taste. I personally love the elements Priest cobbles together on the album- the softspoken and melodious humdrum of 'Caviar and Meths' (an Al Atkins tune which, due to time constraints, had to be neutered from fourteen to two minutes), the snappy, riff-laden heel-clickers like 'One For the Road' or 'Cheater', etc. This is all without yet mentioning that Rocka Rolla showcases what I believe to be one of Priest's finest moments in their entire career- 'Dying to Meet You'. This particular song is divided into two sections: the first being a low-pitched Rob Halford lamenting over dual guitars shifting from muddy and pounding to austere and subtle with satisfying drum fills by one-timer John Hinch taking up the background. The song then shifts to it's second part, a rollicking rocker similar to the title track, and is also reminiscent of 'The Ripper' from Sad Wings with an early showcase of Halford's high notes, albeit in bluesier fashion.

The talented band's earliest incarnation is mainly what the quality of this album is owed to. The aforementioned John Hinch is a fantastic drummer, with his off-kilter, almost jazz-like playing that makes even the most simple of moments on this album seem intricate. I do agree with the band's decision to dismiss Hinch though. Although I think that Glenn Tipton's words of him being "musically inadequate" might have been a bit harsh, his style was not very well suited to the band's heavier future as opposed to someone like Alan Moore. Rob Halford needs no introduction, but I will say that the lower octaves he hits were scarcely replicated in the band's future endeavors, which I find unfortunate because they are pretty good. I quite enjoy Ian Hill's pounding performance on 'Dying to Meet You' especially on the second part, and of course the dual ripcord guitar duo that is Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing are a force to be reckoned with, even with their more synthesizer-fronted sound before their evolution.

Well, this was a bit of a ramble. But in all honesty I've listened to Rocka Rolla more times than I can count and it's always remained a staple in my favorite records, even if it might not be the heaviest nor the most high-quality Judas Priest record to exist. To say I have a soft spot for it may be a gross understatement- I fucking love it.

ANATHEMA Serenades

Album · 1993 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 2.94 | 21 ratings
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Serenades' story is an unfortunate one, mainly due to the album being unknowingly doomed from the start to be cast aside because of how much of a reputation Anathema would gain with preceding albums. I'm not the first one to say it, but it's fairly cut-and-dry that Anathema's debut does not match up in quality to nearly every other release the band had following it. This goes for not only Anathema's progressive rock material but also in terms of their doom metal albums, because they made leaps and bounds with their previously half-baked ideas with the Silent Enigma two years later. So really what makes Serenades generally thought of as bad?

Well aside from the aforementioned comparisons it gets to later material (that is usually judged to be much higher quality), Serenades is generally not very interesting. It's unnaturally melodic in unfitting places with overly loud guitars drowning out dull, growling vocals from Darren White, making for a seemingly confused doom metal album that shows a different genre within it but refuses to show it to it's full potential, in this case the progressive side of Anathema. I will admit on first listen it packs quite a punch- the double kick, crisp drumming from John Douglas really contrasts well with the very large-sounding guitar duo of the Cavanagh brothers. And then they do it again. And again. And so forth. It really is a neat concept that could use more exploring, but here it's just really maldeveloped. The melodies also get stale extremely quickly. 'Eternal Rise of the Sun''s opening hook isn't anything really special, but it is substantial. Then it gets repeated so much that it just gets annoying.

Honestly I think the biggest problem is Serenades doesn't want to be a gritty, Death-esque album with very low production value and little eclecticism. Young Anathema wanted to be more than that, obviously, but how they show that is with an underwhelming release that can't decide whether it wants to be complex or simple. And don't even get me started on the twenty-three-and-a-half minute long pseudo-orchestral snooze-fest that is 'Dreaming: The Romance". Usually when you see a song of that length you'd assume something spectacular. Instead you get almost a half-an-hour of flat, programmed strings with very little variation, and sounding like an intro or interlude stretched out twenty minutes too long. Really it's a disappointing ending to an already disappointing album.

Serenades is an album remembered among really only fans, and not really for a good reason. It's an underdeveloped...well, I wouldn't really call it a "mess" but more along the lines of a misstep. It was corrected fairly well but it's a tangled debut with bigger aspirations than it can fit in it's tiny box.

NOTHINGFACE Violence

Album · 2000 · Nu Metal
Cover art 4.48 | 5 ratings
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With nu metal, the quality can go one of too very polar-ended ways: either it is structurally basic, repetitive, laughably edgy, or just plain uninteresting, or it's surprisingly competent and able to incorporate more interesting elements than the genre is known to allow. This is not an original observation by any means, but it is important to keep in mind as to distinguish quality nu metal releases from the mountains of drivel that also occupies the genre. And this pile of drivel is enormous- so enormous that I wouldn't really put it past someone to dismiss the medium in it's entirety. In my case when I find something actually good that happens to be golden-age nu metal, it is surprisingly and extremely refreshing. Today's pick is Nothingface, an act arising from the surprisingly vivacious hotpot of Washington D.C. They were rather early to the scene with their 1993 emergence and shot a slew of well-judged bullets through their 90's career, and didn't even end of up petering out by the time An Audio Guide to Everyday Atrocity came out in '98.

Then came Violence. This breakout disc was the band's second to last release but also happens to be their most caustic, interesting, and violent. Right off the bat it's clear from the title and the minimalist cover bearing only the album and band's titles and a strip of a Roy Lichtenstein-esque illustration that Violence is about as blunt as a ball-bearing cosh swinging at your skull at 25 mph. Fear not, the music certainly reflects that. Thematically it is very reflective of the era's newly born alternative metal scene with somber and often times volcanically pugnacious lyrics, which blend very well with Matt Holt's low-pitched and melancholic self-harmonizations. The raw aggression is conveyed through snarling guitar licks and barely-restrained yet pretty complex at-times drum fills from Chris Houck (who has probably become one of my favorite nu metal drummers of all time). Also, some of the hooks on this album in particular are extremely catchy at times either with the vocals or the guitar. I think 'Can't Wait For Violence''s chorus had been stuck in my head for several days after listening all the way through the album. Going back to Matt Holt; harmonizations are present but something that really brings the apoplectic rage is his extremely raw vocal screams, which would likely not sound out of place on any other more respected metal album. Not only are these screams very well done and do well to get my heart kicked up a few notches at some points, the unapologetic use of juvenile curse words is a good motif and a conveyance of a sort of loss of humanity amidst the animalistic fury that is used on this record. I think the line: "FUCK! SCRAPE OUT HIS EYES!!" from 'Hidden Hands' will go down in my books as one of the unabashed incitements of ultra-violence I've heard in music.

Violence, as well as Nothingface in general, is a real diamond in the rough and I hope they do get more recognition, especially considering Matt Holt's horribly unfortunate death a few months ago. Even nu-metal naysayers I believe are safe near this record.

VOIVOD Killing Technology

Album · 1987 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.05 | 28 ratings
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In the short time span of a year following Voivod's second album the band reinvented themselves drastically and almost frighteningly well in time for their third release. It marked a short lived second generation of Voivod, one that mediated the hardcore punk infused, lo-fi thrash that they represented in their earliest years, and the eccentric and boundlessly creative prog thrash that would garner the group their most popular image. Thus Killing Technology represents a half-and-half mix of both sides, still bearing anarchic similarities to Rrröööaaarrr but also bearing the fruits of a more technical, progressive edge in its earliest Voivod incarnation.

The actual music of Killing Technology though is, at times, hard to swallow, and it's not hard to see why it can be polarizing to some. The riffing is obviously enthusiastic and full of youthful energy, but it's also rather unmelodious and rather unpleasant (the metal kind, more as in interesting than bad) at times. The searing scratch of the guitar can broadside the vocals at a completely different melody to what Snake is singing, creating at times an almost black metal vibe such as on songs like 'Tornado'. To counter this, Piggy's guitar can rip into a battering crunch that blends perfectly with the even faster and furious drumming but also the heavy twang of Blacky's bass creates a monstrous, pulse-pounding combo. Not only this but with the unspoken quasi-concept of the dark and horrifying unknown side of space attached like a tag onto many of the songs does well to give Killing Technology an almost alien feel comparative to many of the bands other releases. This is of course what gives Voivod such uniqueness as it hits home the point that very few Voivod releases sound similar, giving the band an ever-present freshness that many other bands of their caliber could not achieve.

Nonetheless it cannot be denied that Killing Technology was the mark of a truly upward slope in quality for Voivod, it terms of quality, creativity, and overall success. One of thrash and prog metal's biggest names are on the fast-track to the upper echelons of greatness and it seems nothing can stop them.

VOIVOD Rrröööaaarrr

Album · 1986 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.62 | 15 ratings
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Rrröööaaarrr is a very interesting followup to the band's 1984 debut album. It's certainly an improvement in recording quality, as even though the band remains firmly set in lo-fi thrash territory, their abandonment of the then-young Metal Blade Records for the even younger Noise Records kept them there while also making them sound better. The music has an overall presence that it didn't have before, all while retaining the garage-thrash feel they obviously are going for. But the inability for the band to leave their comfort zone creates an album that is more or less a continuation of War and Pain, even featuring an almost identical album artwork that, instead of featuring the band's mascot, depicts a rusty looking robot instead. There is not that huge of a boundary leap in terms of maturation of sound, and instead Rrröööaaarrr just makes it seem like Voivod's trying to pull the same trick twice.

Granted a maturation is shown in a few areas, like the song-writing's ever increasing gravitation towards progressive eclecticism that would sprout particularly in the coming albums, and in general there's a better selection of fun songs. 'Ripping Headaches' in particular is to me the most aggressive bit from the whole piece, showcasing not only vigorous power but also a few interesting tonal shifts that do well to pique my interest and come back often. Said tonal shifts would become commonplace of course, so it's fun to see the early stages of Voivod's massive appeal. Also it has a great guitar solo, plain and simple. 'Horror' is another good track that would have better fit on the first album in terms of lyrical value of combat and vicious, otherworldly conflict, and also has some of the best guitar-work of the album in whole. But that aside, Rrröööaaarrr is an album that, if the band didn't have an explosive epiphany following it, almost seems like Voivod running out of ideas. Like War and Pain, it doesn't really have the chutzpah to rival something like Dimension Hatröss. But I will say that it comes a bit closer to doing so.

VOIVOD War And Pain

Album · 1984 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.56 | 22 ratings
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Adorned with what can only presumed to be a hellish-looking Voivode (hereafter named "Korgull"), the Quebecois metal act Voivod's 1984 debut is often forgotten by those other than hardcore fans of the band, which can be for a few reasons. For one, it does not sound like the Voivod that would become to be well known around the end of the decade with Nothingface. In fact it's quite bare-bones in its thrash metal delivery, in strict adherence to the sounds of hardcore punk and the extremely popular wave of heavy metal from Europe in the latter part of the 1970's. Very scratchy guitar licks and vocals that border on the edge of actually being vocals (granted Snake would go on to abandon his Chris Rock impression for a more humble style later on) head off the release, similar to other Canadian contemporaries like Razor or even like a stripped down version of Anvil's early work. The banger track on here for me has got to be 'Nuclear War', a song fueled by Cold War sentiments and fears of it growing into what it's named after. Although it's not exactly a complex view into society's emotions or any of that hoo-ha a la Pallas' The Sentinel, it is a rapid fire, machine gun track that burns out almost gracefully as a stupid fear mongering track to rival the likes of 'Electric Funeral'. In all War and Pain is a punchy splash into the metal pool and is a firecracker showcase of the band's talents, but doesn't nearly stand tall next to the complexities of later progressive-oriented albums or the bigger thrash hits like Killing Technology. Stupid fun.

INCUBUS (CA) Enjoy Incubus

EP · 1997 · Funk Metal
Cover art 4.66 | 4 ratings
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The raucous MTV era that started in the early 1980's came to a peak in the 90's, producing some of the most well known radio hits and music groups ever to exist. Alternative music was at it's peak popularity, as not only acts like Beck and Radiohead became much more popular, but grunge also made it's breakout early in the decade with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, et cetera. But what this "MTV era" produced and promoted more than anything was eclecticism and creativity. Basically, the more interesting you were, the more popular you were (as long as you didn't break into the inoperable avant-garde side of music as that was not exactly greeted with open arms by a TV network).

In the midst of crazy music videos and shocking musical acts came Incubus, making their debut in 1995 with Fungus Amongus. Incubus, for the most part, wasn't anything exactly special in comparison with the rest of the grungy hard rock being aired and getting radio play by the time they arrived. Not only that, Fungus Amongus was an independent record, and didn't see a major label release until 2000, half a decade later. So, the debut didn't do so hot, with zero tracks making the charts whatsoever. Incubus picked up the ball rather fast though, and cranked their dirty funk metal style up a few notches for an early second coming.

Enjoy Incubus, a six-track EP, was released two years after the band's debut and followup two-track EP (Let Me Tell Ya 'Bout Root Beer, the band's first 'professionally' recorded release) in 1997. The intended purpose of Enjoy Incubus is likely to act as a satiation while they worked on their second album, which would start recording subsequent to this EP's release and then released itself later in the year. But it's also likely that this is a testing of the waters for the professional music world by Incubus, as all the tracks are re-recorded tracks picked straight from Fungus Amongus. Although it is debatable whether these versions are superior to their originals, as many prefer an amateurish recording style to a more streamlined one, what is evident is that Enjoy Incubus made up for the wrongs the debut made in several objective areas. It's more dynamic, interesting, and thought-provoking than its predecessor. Not only that but it set in stone an underground cult following that was responsible for sending S.C.I.E.N.C.E., the followup studio album, into a gold certification. It was truly a change of pace for the band- in a good direction.

The main reason Enjoy Incubus is so, well, enjoyable, however, is the music itself. With a simple track list of only six songs, this EP is perhaps the most satisfying and effective release the band ever made. From the parodying cover of a coffee advertisement inviting you to "Enjoy Incubus: the best in hi-fi quality" (which is very representative of 90's quirkiness) to the music, this EP is chalk-full of free-wheeling, creative alternative rock / metal that bounces constantly between a gamut of different themes. The saxophone / brass samples used on 'Azwethinkweiz' especially showcase the sophisticated eclecticism in which Incubus do their work. It is very clear that Incubus is a band that does what they do for fun, evident from the constant audio tidbits at the end of each track that are entirely odd and almost out of place. But this translates extremely well into their music as well, especially in vocalist Brandon Boyd's mess of lyrical writing that acts as scat more than anything actually substantial, the no-holds-barred drum fills of Jose Pasillas II, the slap bass of Dirk Lance, and especially the record scratches by Kid Lyfe, which in particular make this EP extremely surreal and symbolic of the time in which it was released. It also must be noted that the "metal" of "funk metal" is not forgotten in the slightest, but it's not exactly always present at every moment either. In fact metal, although predominant, is used sort of like another outside element that's factored into the beautiful entanglement that this EP is. In other words, it's not an average metal release that has constant crunching almost always present at every given time One second you could be listening to a crisp alt rock drive, the next it bursts into a roaring frenzy of manic riffing. It's a release that keeps you on your toes at all time in a thematic sense, so it's likely to register many listen-throughs to totally grasp a solid knowledge of what it has in store.

My personal opinion is that this EP is the highest point Incubus ever reached, and to a lesser extent their followup album a few months after. Enjoy Incubus represents a changing time for music with music that remains fresh and excellent even after twenty years.

WINTER Into Darkness

Album · 1990 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 3.80 | 6 ratings
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Winter embody every negative aspect of the season they name themselves after: the coldness, the darkness, and the immaculate freezing blanket that covers the ground day and night. Speaking as someone who lives in New York, where this band originates from, the winters here are nothing to scoff about. Though perhaps not as gruelingly whittling as Winter may make it out to be, it ain't fun, in simple terms. So why not make an album about it? I can only presume that Winter's 1990 debut Into Darkness is that album. Maybe.

Doom metal is a genre that fits well with a theme of winter because of it's ability to convey the aforementioned somber themes particularly well. However where the true magic comes from is the fusion of death metal in the mix to make it a truly hallowing release. The muddied, very lo-fi guitar of Stephen Flam (whom I heard of funnily enough with his work with the obscure industrial outfit Thorn in 1995) contrasts beautifully yet unsettlingly with the scanty, spacey keyboards by Tony Pinnisi. This comes mainly from the post-punk, college-like recording quality of Into Darkness, which walks just on the edge of being black metal levels of quality and professional, clean cut work. It really makes the album shift around at times, especially when it comes to either having the different instruments meld into a single, trudging unit or when it comes time for things like the vocals to stick out from the rest. The rollicking drums of Joe Gonclaves are perhaps the best part of the mix, having a modest yet not an overbearing amount of fills at any particular time, yet still having a massive weight to them any time they're prominent.

My personal favorite parts of this album come from the tracks like 'Goden', where bassist John Alman's death-like gut-bellows (which I like so much because they don't sound as silly as one might think) coincide fantastically with the droning guitar and bass and the previously mentioned rolling drumming. This especially works on one of my favorite tracks, 'Destiny', where the pace is kicked up a notch into grooving trot. This as well as interspersed returns to a slow, doomy atmosphere lend this song and the album as a whole to be wonderfully quick-witted and able to keep you on your feet and interested. On the flip-side though many of Into Darkness' slow parts are its weak points- sometimes the hard-to-tell-apart-the-instruments recording style of the album makes the slow parts almost mediocre in a way, at least when vocals aren't there to lend a hand. Some of these slow parts have a minimalist style that broadside harshly with the complex stuff that either precede or succeed them, making them sound pretty misplaced and often misused. In all though these negative areas are few-and-far-between and rarely deter the fun and enjoyable ones.

Winter, in my honest opinion, is a much better example of good death-doom than many of their contemporaries (yes, maybe even My Dying Bride). Definitely a stellar release deserving of much more attention.

FANTÔMAS Fantômas

Album · 1999 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 3.32 | 8 ratings
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If you're at all familiar with famed avant-garde metal act Mr. Bungle or it's mastermind Mike Patton, then you shouldn't be at all unaware as to the contents of Fantomas. Or maybe you should. Who knows at this point.

Fantomas originates from the titular character in a 1964 French film (or the 1913 thing, whatever you please), which was directed by the late Andre Hunebelle who just so happened to be a master glass-maker. Who would have guessed? Anywho, after the group Mr. Bungle sort-of kind-of broke up in 1999 (even though, not really- 2004 about) and avant-garde fetishist Mike Patton wanted another way to oust his urges since Faith No More wasn't really cutting it. Thus, Fantomas was born from a horrifying musical Caesarean section unto the world. Seeing as the last album of Mr. Bungle (which came in the same year, 1999) had combinations of doo-wop and thrash metal, it's safe to say that whatever this 'Fantomas' thing can't exactly be called 'normal'.

A first question I asked upon first inspection of this self-titled record was, "how the hell do I listen to it?" At first glance the first connection you might draw towards is grindcore, a similar genre with very short track times as well. Don't. It's not that.

Allow me to take a moment of clarity for a second. Like any avant-garde album, criticism is hard to levy towards it. I mean, something so erratic can't be easily pinned down. Lyrical quality is of course non-existent, although I do commend Mike Patton for his impeccable variation between "KI-KI-KI-KI-KI-KI-KI" and "hyena screeching after being impaled with four spears" impression, both of which are like audio serenades. It is definitely metal, for sure. Dave Lombardo, drummer of Slayer, is of course delivers a very powerful performance (at least when he's actually on the mic), especially when the music goes full monty on the metal aspect. Other than that differentiation of bass and guitar by Trevor Dunn and Buzz Osborne is practically impossible amidst all the noise. They are rather nice when they get a minute's time to shred and hit a crazy solo.

But the aforementioned noise is the centerpiece of this. For what it is, which is practically nothing, it's well-produced. Mike Patton is a man who is very fond of nothing, such as that one time when he recorded himself for 43 minutes clapping and screaming in a hotel room in '96*. When he gets a chance to do some neat stuff, he does it rather well. Every time the album goes silent the silence feels heavy, which is a very dismal yet cathartic experience you won't find in really any other genre. The ambiance of the piece yields interesting material as well, like film audio-samples (presumably from Fantomas or films of its caliber) and other industrial noises, all which create an example of metal degradation, something I'm sure Mr. Patton was going for. Although there are many motifs in Fantomas, such as a certain falsetto that Patton does occasionally and extremely high pitched screaming, which do tend to lose their effect after a few listens.

Although I can't really pin down specific tracks that I feel most in-tune with, I won't list any others than 'Page 26', which is so eerily...evil in it's intensity. Rarely have I found any other musical pieces that have instilled genuine discomfort in me more than this particular piece. Very interesting.

All in all I apologize for the disjointedness of some of my thoughts. I am someone who likes to write reviews of music while listening to the music itself. In doing so I sometimes channel the musical nature of it into the reviews themselves. What you just read is the product of a Fantomas-laden mind, and I'm sorry. As for the album itself, I suppose it hit its mark as a discomforting or overly-pretentious production, but it doesn't really break through any boundaries past that. Is it even worth proof reading this?

*THIS IS ACTUALLY TRUE

BLACK SABBATH Tyr

Album · 1990 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.06 | 48 ratings
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Tyr's name originates from the Norse god of the same name who, in an effort to bind him, famously had his right hand bitten off by the abominable wolf Fenrir. This along with several allusions to elements of the mythology, like Valhalla and Odin, made Tyr one of the oddest releases for the fractured late-80's/early 90's Black Sabbath. Even though bassist Neil Murray denies the connection, Tyr's heavy use of mythos did well to spur the "viking metal" genre that gained cult status in the greater part of the 90's.

Silly although it may sound, Tyr is packed full of extremely talented musicians. Whether their past merits stand out here though...that's to be decided.

This album came about at a time where Black Sabbath was featuring heavy lineup changes. While this is not unfamiliar for the group, in the 80's it was practically fractured and by the time Tyr came out one original member consistently decided to be a part of it- guitarist Tony Iommi (although Dio did join back for a one-off on Dehumanizer). Tony Martin was seemingly a semi-permanent fixture at least, seeing as he had lasted longer than both Ian Gillan and Glenn Hughes, which really isn't that hard considering they were both on for one album each. Not only was the lineup destroyed, the 80's Sabbath showed huge fluctuations in quality from album to album. First you'd see a pretty good album like Born Again in '83, next you get a total face-plant with Seventh Star. It was fairly hard to tell how it would turn out until the music actually came out. So where does Tyr lie on the spectrum?

Like most of these albums, the quality of the music that they house can't exactly called spectacular or really outstanding at all, and Tyr does nothing to break this characteristic. It continues the Rainbow / Sabbath fusion sonically that was established a few years prior, but not even the mythological reference don't seem to mix it up. This leaves Tyr in sort of stale state, wherein greatness is heard in bursts but it doesn't have the ability to put it at the forefront. For one, the slow, symphonic heavy metal sound it has never varies, and many of the songs end up sounding like carbon copies of another. Same signatures, same drum fills, same vocal harmonies. If this sound is very friendly to you and you feel comfortable with it, you might find solace on this album. If you find it distasteful, by god you will hate it. As for where I stand, I'm not a fan of heavy repetition nor over-indulgence in a certain musical medium, and Tyr's dabbling in both is something I'm not particularly fond of. At times though, like I said before, the power really shines through. Iommi's solos sound particularly good on this album not only compared to the other 80's/90's albums. Not sure why that is, but I'm not complaining. Martin's vocals are particularly good at times, and I've never professed myself as a hater of his. Quite the contrary- I think that Tyr is some of his best work, following closely behind 1989's Headless Cross (which is undeniably the best Martin-era album).

Other than that though, these factors really leave Tyr at "okay". Nothing more, nothing less. Sabbath would go on to continue the trend of ups and downs, but overall quality of the group actually seemed to stabilize somewhat. Tyr is a sign of an aged, but legendary group that sometimes shows it's former glory, but all in all is fairly average.

LORDI Get Heavy

Album · 2002 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 4 ratings
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Tell me; do you truly understand what it means to...get heavy?

Finland's Lordi are perhaps one of the goofiest bunch of misfits in the last 20 years of the metal world. If I were to describe Lordi, I'd say think of GWAR, and then imagine them taking themselves even less seriously. Lordi sprung up in 1992, but didn't deliver their debut bombshell until the Winter of 2002. This album, Get Heavy, is still likely unmatched by any other album Lordi has released thus far.

Get Heavy is a collection of overly-indulgent, testosterone fests of stupid energy and blunt assault. The only difference between an album of Get Heavy's ilk and Get Heavy itself is the pure catchiness of every single song. If you look back to Lordi's past in the early 90's and their influences, it's pretty easy to guess where they get their flare. The band that particularly influenced the band's system of operations is KISS, seen most vividly on songs like 'Rock The Hell Outta You' with the turgid theatrical vibe of the song, replete with even the background yell-choir. Yet it would be silly to dismiss this band as a KISS ripoff, as even they themselves wanted to diverge from that arena-rock style. While this is kind of silly to think that they really wanted to diverge to a great extent considering a noticeable similarity to KISS on the final product, they did differentiate themselves with a variety of elements.

Part of Lordi's appeal is their appearance. They're over-complex demon armor is very similar to U.S. contemporaries GWAR, who themselves made their debut fourteen years prior. Another element is their attitude. Lordi is very unequivocal about how silly they are. For Christ's sake, they have a song where they're talking about how the Devil himself is their bitch. These guys are the spitting image of stereotypical metal machomen, and I love it.

The final but likely most important aspect of Lordi's sound is their, well, sound. As I mentioned before the album is extremely centered around very catchy hooks and choruses, the most famous example of these being the fantastic 'Would You Love a Monsterman', a symphonic firestorm of raw emotion replete with Tomi Putaansuu (or "Mr. Lordi")'s unforgettable chorus of "Would you love a monsterman / could you understand the beauty of the beast?" Lordi also channels the sexy, rebellious attitude of 80's glam like on 'Biomechanic Man' or 'Devil Is a Loser', where the concept of being subtle is out of the window. One other note-worthy element of Lordi is their exceptional drummer Sampsa Astala (Kita), who has exceptional skill when considering how not serious the album he debuts on is.

Looking for a good time? Lordi's got you covered. Don't have much else to say. Just listen to it. Please.

AVATARIUM The Girl with the Raven Mask

Album · 2015 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.07 | 15 ratings
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Avatarium's second release came in the wake of their semi-breakout self-titled debut, yet in terms of construction is rather different from it's predecessor. For the most part, the massive doom metal elements are gone. Instead, Leif Edling and friends have pulled in a more progressively-oriented, space rock sound as the focal point. This is clearly recognizable in the Floyd-esque, glittery guitar work of Marcus Jidell and the rapturously synthesizer-laden keyboard of Carl Westholm. As a whole, The Girl With The Raven Mask sounds much more akin to a reinvigorated 70's hard rock album with better production qualities than what one might expect a doom metal album to sound like. On the surface this may sound very appealing, especially to someone like myself who is a loud-and-proud fan of the aforementioned, and to be fair the majority of people are drawn heavily to this album because of these elements. Though on listening for myself following my lackluster opinion of their debut album, I'm afraid that Avatarium's sophomore album has galvanized my crotchety alter-ego. Prepare to be frowned upon.

It is clear that The Girl With The Raven Mask takes heavy influence from progressive rock and metal bands of the 70's and 80's, like Dream Theater (especially), Pink Floyd, UFO, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Porcupine Tree, and many others. It's not an easy task reciprocating the brilliance of these bands, and similarly their innovations. Avatarium unfortunately fumbles in this area, the opportunity to craft a brilliant latter-day revival album falling through their outstretched fingers.

The main problem that this album has is it's structure. The album is almost completely centered around vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith, who may as well act as the mascot for this album and the band in general. By the way, when I say the album is centered around her, I mean that in the most extreme way possible. The instrumentation molds itself to her voice, and breaks from her are few-and-far-between. In fact, many of the songs on the album like 'The Master Thief' have massive portions of her lamenting over the tune of slow, leisurely rock numbers. The only problem is that her voice isn't that great. Sure, it's passable to a degree, but it doesn't have enough endearing qualities to hang on her every word like I believe the album was trying to do. When her voice is gone from the scenario, the rest of the band just sounds dull. Simplistic 4/4 drum patterns get old extremely fast, and spacey guitar noodling does similarly. Soaring climaxes permeate the album, but they just aren't dynamic at all. They just sound dry and uninspired. The only song I believe is ostentatious enough for me to find enjoyment is on 'Run Killer Run', a satisfying, crunching tune where the band is seemingly free from the shackles of predetermination, especially drummer Lars Sköld who, originally was mediocre at best, brings in perhaps his best performance in the band's history. Also it's got a pretty sweet hook, in simple terms.

For the sake of treading the same ground over and over again, I'll just wrap up now. Avatarium started out as a group with some potential, but mishandled in it perhaps not the most disastrous way, but a way that is nonetheless unenjoyable in it's delivery. Not all hope is lost, though. Some good qualities still remain and Avatarium still has a chance to turn my frown upside-down.

RISE OF AVERNUS L'appel du vide

Album · 2013 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.10 | 6 ratings
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: Album selected by 666sharon666

If I were to say one genre of metal that I'm most connected with, it would likely be doom metal. It's a scene that I love and I believe has the highest amount of hidden and obscure talent currently in the metal world. This is not only due to their heaviness alone as some might think, but due to their creativity. Much of the underground doom scene contains very subversive and skilled musicians, many of which seek to blend doom with a variety of other genres of music, including but not limited to folk, stoner rock, and, in Australia's Rise of Avernus' case, progressive/symphonic metal.

Now, I'm no fan of progressive metal. In fact I believe that in recent years it's become the practical bane of creativity and experimentation, and a genre that has a formula so easy to cut and paste with very little effort. Sure, the musicianship is often good, but sometimes it just seems it's getting put to waste by inventing these sonic landscapes that prematurely age themselves by having the most cheesy structures imaginable. Not only that, but I believe progressive metal is a very hard genre to fuse with others because of it's overbearing nature, i.e. it will thematically downplay whatever other sound the band was trying to accomplish. So you take, like Rise of Avernus has done on their first full-length album, L'appel du vide, progressive metal and doom metal and combine them. It should be clear this is no easy task; doom metal and progressive metal are thematically opposed. One is neanderthalically crude, often channeling brutality without a second thought of subtlety, the other being a genre based (in theory) around complexity and innovation, along with extreme attention to detail. Looking at this they seem antithetical, but it wouldn't be impossible to fuse them. In fact, many bands have already like Katatonia and Opeth, and they did relatively well themselves. In general however, Rise of Avernus passes the ballot pretty alright.

Rise of Avernus focus their assault mainly on the aspects of massive symphonic crescendos and epic melody. This album in particular has a theme of a rally between operatic-like symphonies, represented by clean vocalist Cat Guirguis, and the rough, more archaic doom side with the growling Ben Vanvollenhoven. Sometimes this contrast works in earnest, especially on 'The Mire', a song that goes through a variety of different movements even being one of the shorter songs. 'The Mire' is particularly good in its subtle use of the orchestra, an element that many of the other songs on this album are bit too on-the-nose in their usage of.

The biggest problem with L'appel du vide is that it just isn't very interesting. Sure, there's a lot of material packed into one album and it's fairly progressively eclectic, but it's just doesn't pique my interest to the extent that I believe it should. While the orchestral elements are very neat and add a layered feel to the sound, it's still fairly static given the weapons in its arsenal. I find the best parts on this album are Guirguis' piano interludes with string accompaniment, and the metal elements are just a bit too roughly coincided with them. Not only that, but Guirguis' voice isn't that great either. She can hit the high notes fairly well, but she lacks the dynamic quality needed to convey and This album would have worked much better as a simple classical album or maybe a symphonic rock album. But doom metal? I just think that ups the cheesiness a bit too much to where even I can't make excuses for it.

It's a very interesting fusion what Rise of Avernus have tried to work with here. Although I'm not too fond of this particular release, I won't deny I am intrigued towards a followup. I'll finish by saying that L'appel du vide is a good album with a hefty amount of shortcomings. Shortcomings that can be easily fixed with a subtler tone and a much less overly-bombastic attitude.

ATHEIST Piece of Time

Album · 1989 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.13 | 44 ratings
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Musical intuition and technical prowess catapulted Florida's Atheist into cult status shortly before the 1980's, a decade which was perhaps the most prolific for housing the best metal bands of all time, came to an end. It's not hard to see how Atheist achieved a following so quickly, as the band's influence from both thrash metal and elaborate jazz fusion were quick to differentiate them from their peers.

However with a band with such high quality there comes heavy scrutiny. It's, for the most part, a consensus that out of Atheist's current four releases not a single "failure" exists, but a general hierarchy is constructed for the lot nonetheless. Of this totem, Atheist's 1989 debut is generally thought of as being at the bottom. Not only was Piece of Time a preceding to the band's often-thought-of masterpiece Unquestionable Presence in 1991, but it's often cast aside as the least creative and most sophomoric of Atheist's discography.

I guess I feel that, with this particular album, something should be understood- factoring in more complexity does not always equal a better output. What I believe to be the folly of many metal bands (and tech death bands especially) is their inability to put themselves within boundaries, directly distancing themselves so far from a familiar structure that they alienate themselves from the listener, and just become not fun to listen to. Some jazz fusion bands of the 70's experienced this, and sometimes Atheist does too. Just not on this record.

In a world where the barbarism of death metal and the maturity of jazz fusion is blurred, a world which Atheist creates, it is quite hard not to step over this line. The lack of this overstepping though is what makes Piece of Time the overall best album that they've recorded, or at least on par with following work. Anything but lowest on the totem.

Piece of Time is filled with elements of what Atheist would go on to do, albeit with a much more juvenile and rowdy attitude. Each element of Atheist's sound is a multi-layered shell, with each peeling away to reveal another hidden complexity. The fusion of influences the band takes in gives way to duplicitously intricate time signatures, aided by the zealous syncopation of Steve Flynn's constantly morphing drumming. The album can slip at the speed of light from a crunching thrash-gallop easily to a grueling groove (see 'Why Bother?), as the band seems to act as a singular metal entity that can shift and change it's direction at will...all without sacrificing individuality. I for one believe that is an inexorably great feat that not many other bands have managed to replicate. This is without mentioning the inclusion of the sheer speed of each member, especially the insane pluck-age of late bassist Roger Patterson (see 'Unholy War') and guitarist Rand Burkey (best when combined with frontman Kelly Shaefer's guitar), adhering particularly well to the album's overall quality. Some particularly good tracks on here include "Room With a View', 'On They Slay' and 'Why Bother?'- all of which are prime examples of the aforementioned attributes Piece of Time has.

A masterful debut from a masterful group.

CAVITY After Death

Album · 2017 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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A true theme of hell.

Looking back at Cavity's legacy, they were not revolutionaries. Although they did debut in 1995, a mere eight years after Melvins had essentially invented sludge metal, they did no genre creation or pioneering. What Cavity did do on the other hand was take sludge metal and mold it into an even more brutal, raw version of itself. This is, in a way, an equally commendable presentation of music.

But Cavity's tempest of terror ended quite abruptly in 2001, cutting the throat of a growing underground popularity that had been gaining steam since 1995. After a compilation of unreleased material from the 90's, Miscellaneous Recollections, not a peep was heard from Cavity other than a few blips of live performances here and there. Out of nowhere however in 2016, Cavity announced a comeback set for early 2017. Now it's that time, and what we have is the product of pooled emotions that have been brewing for the 16 year long hiatus.

After Death could not be more appropriately titled as the band is practically rising from the grave to record this, but at the same time it's also not exactly a glamorous return. I can easily chalk this up as the most brutal and barbarous Cavity release to date, and it's for a variety of different reasons: Cavity is a husk of it's former self. Gone is the pugnacity towards their work, of a group of young fellas from Miami with an attitude akin to the Melvins. Now what they are (or at least come across as according to this release) is a bitter, hateful group of...well, you know I'm just not sure. Demons, from the sounds of it. Secondly, After Death is not only the most brutal but also the most simplistic of Cavity's discography. The albums four total tracks are long, droning epics of heavy, repetitive, plodding drums, moaning guitar, and twisted, pained vocals. After Death's experimental use of stripped-down instrumentation, heavily balancing on the repetitiveness of the rhythmic structures, is nothing short of uncomfortable. It's actually quite an intimidating release, so far removed from so many other metal albums that it's actually quite alien at times. Tracks like 'Fangs on Beyond' especially utilize a certain industrial sound rarely seen being used by bands like Cavity. The year's already young but I can see this album being one of the most odd it has to offer.

This album is spine-chilling. It's a theme of Charon crossing the Styx. It's so strange too because After Death has gotten very little publicity since it's release, other than their label Valley King promoting it a little ever since it's announcement in 2016. It's truly an oddball of the year that I think, although I'm doubtful it will appeal to all or even many, is very worth checking out just for the experience.

FAST KUTZ Burnin'

Album · 1987 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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aglasshouse
Quasi-NWoBHM band Fast Kutz arose to a mediocre prominence in 1987, with the legend himself Ozzy Osborne stating in a review for BBC One's that they were "the most energetic band {he'd} heard in ages". This is not praise to be taken lightly, nor is it praise that's easy to earn. So what exactly were these small-time bunch of English enthusiasts cranking out that made Ozzy almost sign the band to a label himself?

Well Burnin', the sole material ever officially released by the group, is admittedly quite a force to be reckoned with. This isn't necessarily due to a legendary revolutionary tactic or style that they employed, because on the surface Burnin' isn't exactly anything special in the writing or creativity department. What the band makes up for this however is in the intensity Ozzy was talking about that still holds up as remarkable even in latter-day. In a nutshell Fast Kutz are a powerful glam and heavy metal fusion band, acted out by a four-piece outfit. While such a fusion is often a recipe for silly and cringe-worthy disaster, Fast Kutz gets away with it with the intricacy and eclecticism of their instrumentation. Every member of the band is quite proficient in protecting each song from becoming monotonous with illustrious solos and powerful rhythms, especially guitarist Kenny Nicholson and drummer Paul Fowler. Songs like 'Dead or Alive' and 'Driving Me Crazy' are what keep this work from being less dated that many other albums of their caliber, and bands that faded into woeful obscurity around the same time this album was released, because they are content to unabashedly play music less from the mind and more from the soul.

Not to say that Burnin' is exactly a thinking-man's album, because it isn't. I myself am one who very much enjoys the company of brain-food tunes, and although I can laud Fast Kutz for making a competent and steadfast release, my personal tastes come to a partial crossroads. In short, Burnin' is a very fun album that I have a lot of fun with when the mood is right, but at the same time can't find myself accessing with relative ease all the time.

Unfortunately Fast Kutz met their demise when their label Ebony Records went defunct around the time the band was to record their second album. The group faded away in a puff of smoke in 1988, leaving unlocked potential six feet under, occasionally rising in similar band Black Rose which Paul Fowler joined subsequently after Fast Kutz' dissolution. However, Burnin' still remains proud and, as a legacy, I believe it was a relatively good one.

IRON MAIDEN Somewhere In Time

Album · 1986 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.20 | 148 ratings
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aglasshouse
Guys, I've got a confession to make.

I don't like Iron Maiden.

I know this statement is akin to dousing a puppy in kerosene and overhand lobbing it into a raging bonfire, but it's true. I've tried my very hardest for almost four years now to enjoy them, to see the awe-inspiring craftsmanship everyone proclaims is prevalent on so many of their classic records...but I just can't. Not only do I think both drummers on Iron Maiden, Clive Burr and Nicko McBrain, plod out some of the most boring and repetitive rhythms of all time, but the songwriting of so much of their work may have worked wonders back in 1980, but like a joke it got extremely old extremely fast with each successive release following their self-titled debut. I think the revolutionary label slapped to Iron Maiden is quite reputable, but at the same time the asserted quality to match that is repudiable.

But, and I do mean a HUGE but -- Iron Maiden's 1986 work Somewhere In Time is one of my all-time favorite metal albums. Period. Strange, right? A band I dislike making one of my favorite albums? It's true though -- I think that Somewhere In Time is a precision-made, calculated masterpiece that distances itself so far from the band's discography that it might well be from a separate artist.

Somewhere In Time is a dystopian-based, Blade Runner-inspired record that came two years after 1984's Powerslave, an album that showed a lot of promise and had a few great tracks, but didn't nearly harness the same effect as it's successor. The Powerslave supporting tour ate up a whopping 187 concerts and excreted a whole lot of exhaustion onto the band following it, specifically Dickinson, who thus was not able to produce quality songwriting contributions. Dickinson had written some acoustic songs, in fear that if they didn't step up their game to a different level, that the band would "stagnate and drift away" (see even the band recognizes their sameness to a certain degree). Although these acoustic songs were not featured, this attitude continued into the eventual recording process, causing Somewhere In Time to be the first Iron Maiden album to harness synthesizers. While this might seem like a big no-no, considering that often it's the case that once a band starts leaning on the synths it's akin to them just committing creative suicide, but it's quite the contrary; Somewhere In Time's utilization of synthesizers gives a wondrous air of mysticism to the album, as it acts as a supreme background element to the its futuristic setting. It's also a key component in the massive epics that permeate the album. The title track opener, for instance, is a blazing fireball of a gallop that is one of the most prime examples of a perfect setting of the mood on any album, unheeded by the furious scream of synthesizer bursts. 'Wasted Years' is one of three contributions by guitarist Adrian Smith, and is the most lasting relic of this album's legacy. It does have a slightly poppier vibe, which may owe to this fact, but Dickinson's beautiful chorus and the magnificent guitar hook is nothing short of a knockout punch. One more highly recommended track is 'Stranger in a Strange Land', a bass-heavy, groovy romp which acts, in a way, as a better track representative of the theme of being "caught somewhere in time" than, well 'Caught Somewhere In Time'. Perhaps this is because of the lyricism of being in a mysterious world in which the rules are unknown, which I believe the album was trying to tackle. 'Caught' is still the best track, though. Not taking that back.

The band took their biggest step forward with this album, talentwise. McBrain, who I criticized previously for being extremely repetitive and leaning too hard on a a few stagnant drum patterns, is absolutely mindblowing on this release. His constant shifts between the groovy steel heel-click of the slower songs and the fast-paced explosiveness of the faster ones makes for one of his all-time best work. Steve Harris as always is extremely present and upfront, especially for a bassist. The neat thing about him is that, as a part of the percussion section, actually works off of McBrain to create this almost machine-like twang that follows his groove. Twin guitarists Smith and Murray are of course better than ever, offering extremely intricately-woven shredding that did well to pique my interest. Dickinson, although I'll always prefer Di'Anno, is at his zenith on Somewhere In Time, belting out a sort of sophisticated type of melodic yell that few of his peers have been able to accomplish. Absolutely stunning, all of them.

Many critics readily dismiss Somewhere in Time as being "half-baked", or "a hurried coverup of an atrophying creative muscle". These same critics will turn around and praise Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, an album I believe to be leagues below this one, and compliment it for factors they would say that Somewhere in Time wrongfully utilized. I say, pay no attention to them and embrace this one just like you would say Number of the Beast or Powerslave, because it's definitely up there with the best.

RAINBOW BUTT MONKEYS Letters from Chutney

Album · 1995 · Funk Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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aglasshouse
Among the gimmick-ridden 90's, bands and music were usually either hit or miss. You'd have the most unlikable individuals crawling from the woodwork begging for attention, but the problem was they'd be mixed in with the geniuses and pioneers. Therefore, you had to have a name or title that made you stand out from the rest, one that not only characterized you but also gave you individuality. This spread mainly in the uncouth metal scene of the decade, with the rising popularity of shock rock with artists such as Marilyn Manson and Burzum taking the spotlight. You'd have bands like Pissing Razors easily waving around their titles with ease, and one such Ontario-based band constructed themselves in a similar manner, albeit in a manner that doesn't evoke as painful of imagery.

On the surface, embroidered with three women riding goofy, red-and-yellow tractors as the cover, Rainbow Butt Monkeys' 1995 debut Letters from Chutney may seem immature and childish, and granted to a certain extent it is. But what this band brings to the table is a burly and upstanding quality that has been unsuccessfully emulated by a variety of other bands of the same nature. The sophomoric attitude of the songs such as 'As Far as I Can Spit' and 'Circles' are driven by a funk-metal (and I do me out-and-out funk metal) groove that even if it doesn't appeal to your critical senses, you may still get a kick out of it. That doesn't mean however that the metal side of Letters from Chutney isn't pronounced. 'Spiderprints' in particular is a bone-crushingly heavy gallop filled with spitefulness and anger that should appeal to even the most stern.

It should be noted that this band is quite literally the precursor to Finger Eleven, as the lineup of Rainbow Butt Monkeys remained practically static during the time between Letters from Chutney and Tip in '97, aside from RBM drummer Rob Gommerman being replaced by Rich Beddoe. I think because of this, it's safe to say that if you like Finger Eleven, you'll like RBM. On the flipside though I think the inverse is true. Yes, vocalist Scott Anderson sings in a practically identical style as he would go on to do in F11, but the overall atmosphere of the album is heavier, less melodic, and much less sophisticated than their future alternative metal works, which depending on who you are, can be either a pro or a con.

Letters from Chutney has a little bit of something for everyone, and I think this accessible quality makes it stand out from not only Finger Eleven's discography but also from much of the 90's circuit. Take a gander.

PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS Feed the Rats

Album · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.75 | 2 ratings
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aglasshouse
Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, but seven different pigs.

What Pigs (x7) are in a nutshell is a louder-than-life stoner rock band, in a very similar vein to Motorpsycho, Wolfmother, or maybe even Black Mountain. This is evident from the short track listing, composed of three long amalgams of frenzied panic and mental decomposition in song form. It should be noted though that this Motorpsycho comparison is more directed towards the 90's form of the band, such as Lobotomizer or even Trust Us, as Pigs (x7) doesn't carry the baggage of prog-rock subtleties (or perhaps in this case unsubtleties) of MS's more recent material, instead opts for the more amateurish, noise aspects of what composed much of Motorpsycho's earlier sound.

Don't get the wrong idea though, because I believe Pigs (x7) and their debut Feed the Rats are able to stand out from their influencers, no matter how many various lines can be drawn between them. As mentioned before there is a short track list, unsurprisingly of three songs, two of which are 15 minute (or more) behemoths of drugged-up strength. Even though they are different in run-times, they still revolve around a similar formula -- to assault you with a fuzzy clout on your eardrums. Pigs (x7), like many heavy stoner rock shit-bands, have a sole objective to hit you with as much sound as possible until it knocks you dead, no matter how long it may take. I do believe this was achieved, at least at certain points. 'Icon' in particular had several extremely enjoyable moments, but unfortunately due to it's length I doubt I'd find myself casually listening to it. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't find myself taking a sit-down like I do with many other even longer stoner albums. The double-guitar cacophony of Sam Grant and Adam Ian Sykes becomes almost enchanting in their monotonous crunching, aided by the pained howls of Matt Baty (who's voice is uncannily akin to Steve Brooks of Floor).

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs is an oddly-named but very enjoyable unit whose expression of their craft is very sonically enticing. A no-holds-barred band with a raucous attitude awaits within the embrace of the painted pastor.

FLOOR Loanin' / Figbender

Single · 1994 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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aglasshouse
Floor started their career in the year 1993, releasing their debut single 'Loanin'' to the local Miami music scene. What this particular song and it's B-side 'Figbender' presented was an unprecedented brand of heaviness, one that I believe remains unparalleled today. While not nearly as professionally mixed as their 2002 debut, a factor that greatly contributed to the massive sound and really allowed them to tune it down farther, what this particular single still shows a prototype of what Floor would come to be acclaimed for. Shrieking, dying-animal like screams (granted which got much more clean in the future),spine-crushingly heavy riffs, and the occasional tortured whine of guitar feedback. If this is what you got and you weren't expecting it, I just don't know what to tell you. A one Clint Sutton appears as the gargantuan skin-slammer on this record, but he was replaced with Jeff Sousa a year or two after this release. Either way, Floor shows that it still acted as an extremely cohesive unit even in their earliest days.

INCUBUS (CA) Nimble Bastard

Single · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.00 | 2 ratings
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aglasshouse
It was kind of prevalent on If Not Now, When? back in 2011 that Incubus was moving farther and farther away from their eclectic leanings that they had so well-developed in the 90's and early 00's. A more alternative, softer-centric sound began dominating almost every song they put out, and this was no clearer than on the Trust Fall EP in 2015, whose title-track sounds uncannily like their newest single 'Nimble Bastard' from the to-be-released 8.

Nimble Bastard, like Trust Fall, is a song that loves (a bit too heartily) it's simplicity. A simple hook, simple catchy, emo-style vocals from Brandon Boyd, and dumbed-down alternative-punk smatterings. Simple simple simple. Nimble Bastard works almost like an unintended throwback, except the pop-punk leanings and faux-aggressive lyrics date themselves more than when they were "wicky-wicky"ing on their turntables back in '97. It really is a disappointingly mediocre supposed showcase of what's to come, but perhaps Nimble Bastard is just another example of a debut single being the worst song on the album it's previewing. I for one hope so.

REGURGITATE Carnivorous Erection

Album · 2000 · Grindcore
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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aglasshouse
MMA Reviewer's Challenge: Album Selected by Vim Fuego.

OKAY WAIT. HEAR ME OUT.

This one might be a bit...odd, so just stick with me.

Grindcore is an interesting genre to tackle. It's kind of like that drunk and filthy uncle you see stumbling in your front yard during a family reunion, who no-one in your family really wants to recognize but who's still been there as far back as you can remember and can't really do much about. But musically, Grindcore is a disturbing genre -- you take the dark, occultic roots of 70's metal (à la Sabbath) and boil it down until you get the most heinous and sickening components. All packed into these bite-sized songs (at only 1-2 minutes in length, many times even less) all with an almost overwhelming level intensity and brutality.

But what if we took it one step further, you ask. What if we took this genre that already revels in it's own depravity, and make it even uglier? Enter "goregrind", a genre often thought to have been debuted by Carcass back in 1988 with their album Reek of Putrefaction. Now this is the REAL abhorrent stuff, as in "make your supposedly edgy-music-loving friend keel over and die" abhorrent. Carcass was not the only band to bear the title of goregrind, however. Bands like Exhumed, Impetigo, and Haemorrhage began crawling out the woodwork in mass exodus in the late 80s and early 90s. Goregrind gained it's own following separate from it's parent sub-genre, as people were enthralled by the flippant use of down-tuned guitars and cheesy horror themes. One of the more popular of these bands was none other than Sweden-based Regurgitate.

Regurgitate made their first entrance onto the scene in 1991 with their demo, but didn't really make a breakthrough until their debut studio album, Effortless Regurgitation of Bright Red Blood (...), in 1994. This release was disturbing enough on it's own, but the real treat didn't come until about 6 years later. "But Thatcher," you ask, "how would they even be able to top that debut? What more could they do?" A lot more, it turns out. Carnivorous Erection was the name of Regurgitate's sophomoric release in 2000, on the dawn of the new century. Grindcore was and still is a popular genre, but it was still at it's zenith around this time. So this admittedly exploitative piece of history came out around the perfect time.

As you might have guessed, Regurgitate are not the most subtle bunch, and it's clear in their choice of cover art and in their music. What they display on this release is nothing short of the musical equivalent of death by a thousand cuts (or in this case, 38), and I wouldn't be surprised if someone would be put off by it. Hell, I'm still a bit uncomfortable, and I've listened through it dozens of times. But Regurgitate's work is not without merits, as they do put on quite a show. Jocke Pettersson (skins) in particular is the highlight of the album, and his pure ferocity and speed is extremely entertaining even with the sometime aggravating heading music. The Swedes especially hit their mark when they slam out an incessantly groovy crunch such as on, ahem, 'Fecal Freak'. But a very glaring problem with this release is the "vocal" work by Rikard Jansson. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't exactly my first tango with grindcore, as I'm a huge fan of fellow Swedish grinders Nasum, and I'm very familiar with their screaming vocal style. However Regurgitate and Jansson opt for this sort of watery death rattle. Might sound cool? Perhaps maybe used once, but it's on every single track, incessantly gurgling, sometimes ruining what could be a very powerful and exciting time. I know Regurgitate's sole purpose here is to shock, but there is a clear cut difference between shock and just being plain annoying.

There's really not much more to say about this one. Carnivorous Erection is a trip, sure, and I had quite a bit of fun on a few of the tracks, but isn't nearly as fun as some other grindcore or even goregrind acts I've come across. "Good, but non-essential" is a perfect phrase to summarize. I'm off to go rest for a bit.

TESLA Bust A Nut

Album · 1994 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.57 | 13 ratings
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aglasshouse
Have you ever experienced music that is the epitome of harmless art? I have. Many times these albums are neither good nor bad, rather they walk the fine line that separates truly spectacular music and campy drivel. If you ever ask me for an example I could pull up numerous ones, first of which would likely be Bust a Nut by Tesla.

Decorated with a comically unsubtle double entendre as it's title, this album by Sacremento mid-weights Tesla is quite the piece of history. I mean this not necessarily in the sense that it shows the middle school student-like nature of humor of many bands in the 80s and 90s even though the music they presented was intended to be serious -- relatively I mean this more in the way that Bust a Nut is a perfect example of something many 80s rock bands had to go through as grunge began rapidly becoming the subject of interest. Tesla, while not being exactly extremely early to the 80s hard rock / metal scene, still had their debut Mechanical Resonance released in 1986, a year where alternative music hadn't quite yet burst forth as bombastically as it did a year or so later, but it wasn't far off. The band was already in a way established as a radio-friendly crowd-pleaser, so their uniqueness saving them from being drowned by supposedly more creative music seemed practically out of the question. However Tesla was able to persevere, funnily enough scoring their biggest hits in the 1990s. This was owed in part to their staying power -- not only did they feed off the still-existing glam arena rock sound, they managed to be inoffensive enough to be perfect for casual listening.

This is where we come to Bust a Nut, no pun intended. Released in 1994 subsequent to 1991's Psychotic Supper, a blues-infused Aerosmith-esque release, Bust a Nut returns to the more cleanly produced sound of the band's highly acclaimed The Great Radio Controversy from 1989. Some consider it not to be, but I believe Psychotic Supper was a bit of a misstep between The Great Radio Controversy and this album, as it lacked quite the punch of the semi-serious songwriting, no-holds-barred spectacles, and unique spices to break the monotony of the arena rock scene. That would make this album an undoubted improvement. While the AC/DC - Aerosmith fusion can get stale pretty quickly, that's not to say the album does not have many very well-done moments. Two great examples are the two first tracks, which act as perfect hooks with their crunching bluesy rumble and raw intensity. The album hits a few dated snags here and there like 'Try So Hard' with it's crying acoustic and vocal melodies. There are some clear Aerosmith coattail-riders like 'Mama's Fool', only differentiating themselves not with Jeff Keith's voice but with slightly heavier guitars than their predecessors. The guitar from Tommy Skeoch and Frank Hannon are what make the album pop like it does, and I believe without these Bust a Nut would be reduced to a simple by-the-numbers album. But with them, Tesla makes it clear they are still the tough guys even if they are playing on an album named after male ejaculation.

The enjoyment of a release such as this comes from really whether or not you like slightly-heavy-handed simplicity, because that's exactly what it is. Perhaps it's not the greatest product of the 1990s or hell, maybe even 1994, but Bust A Nut's saccharine and innocuous nature can be enjoyable if you're willing to embrace it.

NICKELBACK All the Right Reasons

Album · 2005 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.65 | 13 ratings
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aglasshouse
This is a re-write review for an album by one of the most hated bands in the circuit they proclaim to be a part of.

Nickelback have been controversial characters for much of their career. At the time of their inception in the mid 90's, they weren't payed much attention to as many post-grunge bands erupted out of the woodwork in the wake of Nirvana's dissolution. Some heavier than others, some lighter and sweeter for a commercial taste, the scene was infested with either mediocre acts or surprisingly good ones. Nickelback, and their debut Curb (1996) directly had the heavy edge but appealed very well to those craving commercial alt-rock tunes. Thus, Nickelback went flying past others on the charts at mach-speed, becoming a concrete part of the 90's hard rock and post-grunge scene. But now it's a few years later, specifically 2005, and Nickelback had released one of their biggest cash-cows yet, All The Right Reasons. This particular album struck gold numerous times, spawning a whopping 7 singles from the 11-song tracklist. The album has become rather infamous for housing 'Photograph', which subsequently became one of the biggest joke songs in the mid 2000's.

To say the album is represented by this song however would be wholly disingenuous, as there are some rather good songs that do deserve to be appreciated. All The Right Reasons is contrived to a borderline insulting degree, but it also is able to have a punch that the band's other albums failed to have. All The Right Reasons starts off with a rumbling double kick thump by the honestly pretty talented Daniel Adair with 'Follow You Home', one of the darkest and likewise aggressive tracks of the whole album. Adair is noted for having performed in the insufferable 3 Doors Down prior to joining, and it's clear that he does a much better job with Nickelback than he did in his parent band. The title track continues this trend, being an unabashed alternative metal riff-off that, while having some pretty soft vocal segments, hardly takes a breath while dealing out some kind of heaviness. But then we hit a wall.

You see, this album is plagued with goody-goody fluff-pieces that can appear at the most annoying of times. In this case, the track that succeeds the title track is the aforementioned 'Photograph', an acoustic memoir piece that has Kroeger melancholically reminiscing out about a childhood that's more bland than the bands music. Apart from the the lyrics being generally uninteresting, Kroeger's genuinely hardcore vocal style juxtaposed with cheesy pop rock acoustic guitar is laughable at best. This tonal shift is prevalent in many annoying spots on the album, making it a rather uncomfortable experience in an album playthrough. Unfortunate yes, but that doesn't mean that there aren't diamonds in the rough still. 'Side of a Bullet' is a tribute to the late Dimebag Darell of Pantera, even featuring an overdubbed guitar solo of his. It really shows that even though Nickelback are known as the unbearable pretty boys, they have their roots in very genuine musicians. To a lesser degree 'Someone That You're With' and 'Animals', the two libido-centric songs are pretty catchy in their own right even though they have about as much subtlety and artistic merit as a piece of cheesecake. There is one exceptional ballad, being 'If Everyone Cared'. Not only well-meaning, the vocal harmonies of Chad Kroeger evoke a very passionate message, even with how heavy-handed it may be. Other than these the album is heavy will vapid material that is unlikely to convince anyone who already hates the band to change their opinion.

Safe? Yes. Predictable. Extremely so. But All the Right Reasons is a guilty pleasure that borders on being actually extremely well thought-out at certain points. If you can get past it's polarizing nature, you may have a decent experience.

NICKELBACK Feed The Machine

Single · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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aglasshouse
"...and it's actually pretty good."

This statement to end all statements was bestowed en masse upon the rock community a few days ago as infamous Canadian laughing stock Nickelback dropped their new single, 'Feed the Machine'. Debates raged, collateral damage ensued, "This is metal you dumbass!" and "This is still hard rock and it blows!" being the primary argument fodder to be launched like feces at the opposing side. This verbal warfare brings up once again the time-weathered fact of a sort of ingrained hate for Nickelback, even though they're not nearly the worst band in the rock circuit currently. Many studio albums and singles Nickelback have released in the past haven't managed to break this proverbial mold of dislike, that is until now.

I suppose after over two decades the hate has died down a bit, and it appears Nickelback have become a bit of new outfit as of late. Though they haven't necessarily ditched the pretty-boy grunge atmosphere completely, they have managed to win many over with their more serious and blatantly heavy output. This I mean in most recent terms possible, as in this only applies to this track. Nickelback's 2014 No Fixed Address flew practically unbeknownst past the ears of everyone, and that includes me. So, Nickelback gets another chance to please people, and they manage to do it to a much greater extent than before.

'Feed the Machine' is one of the heaviest songs songs Nickelback has recorded in previous era. You know the renewed debate on Nickelback's metal credibility I mentioned before? Yeah, all sparked by this song. The damn album hasn't even come out and controversy is everywhere. But this spark has a clear cause- 'Feed the Machine' takes the quasi-political alternative metal vibe up to 11 as the the thunderous riffs blow through the the massive sounding double kick to a savage degree. Chad Kroeger has gotten a lot of blow-back and ridicule over the years because of his "golf ball stuck in the throat" technique that inspired countless others, but I and hopefully others believe that it actually fits much better the heavier the band. His voice's melodious yet no-holds-barred style is very good for what the band is currently producing. The song isn't a cop-out either, with a 5-minute runtime packed with a lot of ferocious passion that some of the even most hardened of Nickelback cynics admit exists in much of their music.

There you have it. Check it out if you want. I don't know how to end this review. It's better than the last Machine Head single maybe? Yeah. That'll do.

MUDVAYNE The Beginning Of All Things To End

Boxset / Compilation · 2001 · Nu Metal
Cover art 3.48 | 5 ratings
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aglasshouse
In 1997 Mudvayne released an 8-track EP titled Kill, I Oughtta. According to the band this was in order to meet a grassroots demand that had been growing for several months before it's release for studio material. The EP was rather good and it eventually led to Mudvayne releasing their actual debut in 2000, L.D. 50, and them skyrocketing in popularity. In the wake of the success of L.D. 50, Mudvayne decided it would re-release Kill, I Oughtta to their now vastly larger fan-base. A well intentioned decision, as the band claimed to protect their fans from scammers and bootleggers who claimed they had access to the EP.

The compilation / EP hybrid would come to be known as The Beginning Of All Things to End, and was released in 2001, a year after the release of L.D. 50. The release is undoubtedly better than the 1997 EP it's based off of, as it contains all it's contents as well as two remixes of Dig (the hit single off of L.D. 50) and a 17 minute long experimental electronic track from which L.D. 50's name was based off of. The remixes are what you'd expect from the early 00's- the first one a techno/eurodance style (not good sounding with a heavy metal band) and the other being a sort of industrial metal remix that disassociates things like the guitar and bass from one another and intersperses them in solo parts of the song. 'L.D. 50' if it were to be compared to something, is like Orbital on either meth or steroids. Maybe both. I'm not sure exactly how I feel about it as I'm not really an experienced connoisseur of avant-garde music, but it's safe to say I don't return to it to much looking for enjoyment.

While we're at it I might as well review the original material that was featured on Kill, I Oughtta, as it was the main attraction for original buyers and is admittedly the best part of this release. Being from the 90's, the music takes elements from then-current nu metal artists. The opener 'Poop Loser' with it's sophisticated motif of "you're a motherfucking piece of shit/and you'll never amount to nothin'" is extremely similar of something Jonathan Davis would, and in fact did sort of do on many of Korn's albums. Granted, Chad Gracey and Davis are much different, but it is more or less an ode to their influencers. 'Seed' is really where the album begins, acting as a much stronger and more powerful opening. From there heavy crunch of the overly aggressive guitar and bass coincide well with the almost drug fueled vocal techniques of Gracey. His voice held, and continued to hold a subtle amount of emotional value as he constantly switches from clean to scream vocals on a dime, often at unpredictable times. The strength of much of the tracks of Mudvayne's catchiness, of which there are a heavy amount. The almost deriding style of the vocals mixed with raw instrumentation such as this make for a sort of masochistic experience. Mudvayne's performance seems like a haphazard and painful one, but in reality it's just a facade, and acts more as an aesthetic. Kill, I Oughtta isn't exactly as progressive as the band would later become only 3 years later, but it is a great slice of what comprised the alternative/nu-metal scene in the mid-late 90's.

The Beginning of All Things to End acts as a sort of alternative debut to L.D. 50, appealing to a more commercial audience and to those who weren't as fond of the band's 2000 album. As a Mudvayne fan myself however, I'd wholeheartedly say it's worthwhile piece of material.

CROWBAR Broken Glass

Album · 1996 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.65 | 5 ratings
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aglasshouse
Sludge metal has had it's roots particularly deep ever since the mid-late 80's. Bands formed in '88 - '91 began releasing albums throughout the 90s, inspired by the sound of Washington-based sludge predecessors The Melvins and particularly the albums Gluey Porch Treatments and Ozma. Being an almost solely American scene in it's early stages, sludge metal began springing up mainly in Louisiana, specifically the New Orleans area with it's bustling and diverse music scene. One of the more prominent bands of this area are Crowbar, who themselves released their debut Obedience Thru Suffering in 1991, preceded only shortly by New Orleans peers Eyehategod by about a year.

It took Crowbar a few albums to get going, though it's contested as to which album it was where the band had made their mark. Obedience Thru Suffering, although highly acclaimed and extremely good, was more or less a tribute to the Melvins. I hasten to say the band's self-titled was where the band just kept getting better and better (sans Time Heals Nothing, not a fan). The bands zenith is arguable yes, but I'd like to think it's 1996's Broken Glass.

Broken Glass is quite the experience. Packed with raw emotion and power, this is album is both a return to basics and inversely and improvement. The album sort of incorporates doom elements on some of the slower tracks, as well as featuring more tuned-down instruments than those on prior albums. It's honestly a unique experience listening to the cohesion of the instruments, even though they each have their own unique recording style. The drums don't sound booming, on the contrary their more akin to a garage-rock style. This is almost amusing (though not mock-worthy) to a certain degree, as the guitars are loud and booming, and the bass is one of the most audible instruments on the album as they both crunch out some of the most cantankerously unyielding riffs that grab you by the balls in the most wonderfully violent way. It's so strange because the album puts you in the sort of stranglehold where you can't just stop listening, but it's consensual on both sides. A strange fact it may be, but a fact it is.

If you are a fan of sludge or really hardcore material in general, I'd say this is the cream-of-the-crop when it comes to Crowbar. Go wild!

AVATARIUM Avatarium

Album · 2013 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.18 | 22 ratings
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Candlemass was a fairly early band to the doom metal scene, debuting all the way back in 1986. The band had quite the lineup, though the member that would go onto be known for his involvement in other projects was bassist Leif Edling. Edling has dabbled in a few different facets of the metal circuit, such as when he worked with progressive metal band Abstrakt Algebra on their 1995 album, however he stayed mostly within the confines of the doom metal style. After a long, nine year stint with Krux, Edling went on to form one of the more highly regarded doom acts of the recent era, Avatarium, in 2013.

Before their debut, all Avatarium had released was a three-track EP in 2013 titled Moonhorse, whose title track and 'Boneflower' would end up in the debut in the same year. So it's safe to say Avatarium was relatively fresh as an outfit going in. A rather well-marketable aspect of the band was indeed their female vocalist, Jennie-Ann Smith, as female fronted doom acts were and are few and far between. Avatarium had shown a lot of potential as a band and, being on the already rather prolific record label Nuclear Blast, were set on the fast track to greatness.

As much as this album is heralded as fantastic, I can't say I can exactly replicate that opinion. Don't get me wrong- the music's okay. Pretty damn okay, I would hasten to say. But that's just it- it's just okay. A problem I've always had with Avatarium as an outfit is their overwhelming mediocrity, sounding less like something unique and more like the more derivative moments of Candlemass in the 90's. Avatarium's debut is replete with overbearing guitar solos, powerful drumming, and energetic musicianship-- but it's just not interesting to me. The album also has a sort of sludge vibe that's hard to pin down and when infused with their already established sound, only sort of turns out sounding half-baked and phony. I have a feeling that Avatarium is meant to be a sort of product of all the groups Edling was a part of during the 80's - 00's, combining the prog of Algebra, the crushing doom of Candlemass and Crux, and a bit of sludge influence as a finish. To some it might sound good but to me it just sounds disgustingly average. The musicians are great, they have a lot of skill, but their finished product was just not nearly as impressive as I expected it to be.

FLOOR Dove

Album · 2004 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 2 ratings
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(This is the second time I've written this review because I realized after I wrote it that Floor's Dove was comprised of songs recorded in 1994, and seeing as much of the said review was me comparing faults of the debut to Dove as if it was some sequel, I had to delete it because so much of it was incorrect. So, second time's the charm.)

"I don't have the wisdom that you think you've got."

The 90's underground scene of doom metal was practically filled to the brim with hard-noggin, shoe-gazing stoners that thriving as long as you looked the part was no big deal. Among the scene were bands that emphasized the fuzzy- a characteristic that even now dominates the genre. This fuzz focused on lumbering chords, linear musical variation, and most important of all- volume. Doom metal prided itself on being the loudest of the bunch, and not in the way that arena rock took the world by storm in the 80's. This, with a lack for a better term, loudness was more conceded than it's bombastic predecessors like Priest, Maiden, or hell even Sabbath, yet focused on power over purity. This latter mentality created a lot of lazy, ill-equipped bands that laid themselves under the moniker that doom metal's 90's scene was plagued with as much quality as it was mediocrity. But once in awhile, you come across a diamond in the rough.

This diamond I reefer to is Flordian act Floor, formed in 1992 in Hialeah. Floor had some differentiating qualities about them that made them stand out quite a bit. If bands like Cathedral, Candlemass and Pentagram's fuzz defined their loudness, then Floor made theirs with sheer distortion. The unrelenting warpedness of Floor was, in simple terms, unparalleled by anyone else. It's a power that's sort of hard to describe in word format, so I'll try to explain their legacy and their sound as best as I can.

Now Floor didn't exactly end up focusing much on personal output as they were more content to record split after split with other bands. In fact, the band's formal debut wasn't released until 2002. However in 1994 the band had scraped together enough material to create a sort of makeshift studio album, later to be released as "Dove" in 2004. Dove is a quirky little thing, sort of like a science-fair project haphazardly created out of glue and construction paper in the efforts to make some sort of tangible product to meet a deadline. It isn't exactly, well, cohesive, and it sure isn't a professionally made product. But I believe this quality is where Dove derives it's strong suits. The band is so amateurish that they didn't really feel the needed to have a damned bassist. Here are some of the charms.

Dove only has a short, 6-track-tracklist. The album only peaks a bit over the half-an-hour mark, with 18 minutes of that dedicated to the title track epic. Tracks 1-5 is where the album shines the brightest:'Who Are You' is less of a serious track and more of an embodiment of the caricature of metal, similarly portrayed by Queens of the Stone Age on the 2002 track 'Six Shooter', but it manages to get a point across pretty well in a short time. It and 'Namaste' sort of bleed into each other, although 'Namaste' does have some neat guitar hooks that give it personality. 'In A Day' is where the album picks up, granted in a more stoner direction, but picks up nonetheless. 'In A Day' is actually one of the more consistent songs of the Floor catalouge- utilizing both a consistent, pummeling drum hook and clever hardcore-punkesque vocal queues. 'Figure It Out' is my personal favorite of the album, as it starts with a wall-of-sound esque attitude blended with a sort of punk vocal style from Steve Brooks. 'Floyd' is more or less a delineation of a blurred line between the rampant distortion of Floor and the conceded form seen on prior tracks. It's good for what it is as I don't mind Floor when they're in no-man's-land.

But track 6 is the definite kicker. 'Dove', the massive 18 minute title track is a purposeful stain on an otherwise rather well-done album. Granted, it has it's moments, but as I once sat through it's entirety I came out with a feeling of discomfort. Not a positive feeling of discomfort one might have experiencing a thrill for the first time, but more along the lines of relief in an experience being over. This after-feeling is the death-stroke for me, and this track subconsciously goes straight into the bin because of it. But I will admit it has it's pros. The opening bit pure and honest Floor, acting like they would on one of their earlier splits. But the track just sort of dies a quarter of the way through, opting for either a confused screech or sad rumble, both of which are more akin to microphone feedback than music. I will give them credit, as they may have been going for a Esoteric-esque fuzzfest, but no matter how how ambitious it may be, it ends up falling ultimately flat. Same goes for 'Nothing I Remember', which is practically a carbon-copy.

Other than that however, Floor's Dove is quite the spectacle. I'd recommend it for fans of the underrated, the bold, the beautiful, and the doomy. Very good.

MOTORPSYCHO Trust Us

Album · 1998 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.49 | 3 ratings
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Motorpsycho is a Norwegian rock band that surfaced around the late eighties. The band named themselves after the 1965 Russ Meyer exploitation film of the same name. The movie follows a veterinarian named Alex Rocco whose wife is raped by a motorcycle gang, and his subsequent revenge plot. This namesake doesn't have the most interesting history, as the biggest reason Motorpsycho picked it was due to all of Meyers' other acclaimed movies having bands forming under their monikers, and "Motorpsycho" was the only one left not taken. However this origin does give a bit of basis into the band's early history. The band started as a stoner/alternative metal band, releasing their debut Lobotomizer in 1991. To call the album special was perhaps an overstatement; it was grungy and rough but also had glimpses of deeper complexity. Aside from the quality, what Lobotomizer marked most importantly was a signal for more to come. As the band progressed through the 90's they almost entirely lost their metal edge, opting for a more and more progressive, hard-rock, Led Zeppelin-esque output. This, in a way, is what made Motorpsycho's albums so unique in their own rights; every single one was like a different era in themselves, unheeded by any superficial tie-downs to any one genre. This is what truly made Motorpsycho an eclectic band.

Now we could take a look at really any one of the band's albums and have an enjoyable experience, but I decided to pick my personal favorite of the bunch. This album was none other than Trust Us, released in March of 1998.

Trust Us is perhaps the most complex of Motorpsycho's 90's material, which is saying something for a band such as this. Usually when it comes to albums released in '98 or '99, I make a point of how the band's sound was changing to fit a new decade, or that they began to synthesize new techniques of that time period. Motorpsycho is unique as Trust Us was not an absolute guarantee in a change of style. It sort of continues where Angels and Daemons At Play left off, albeit with less "indie" attached to it's name. Trust Us takes in a lot of influences, like Pink Floyd and the aforementioned Led Zeppelin. Hans Ryan and Bent Saether's overly-crunching riffs coincide staggeringly with the quieter background music and the overly-intricate drumming of Haakon Gebhardt, but with a few spins it becomes much more cognitively natural as your brain adapts to it. That brings up a bit of a nitpick some might have about Trust Us- pertaining to it's inaccessibility. Many of the tracks are 7+ minutes long and I can see how that could turn casual listeners or those with "musical A.D.D." off. I for one suffer from the latter, yet I'm easily enthralled by the sheer nail-biting talent showcased in some of these songs. '577' is undoubtedly my favorite, starting with the soft croon of Ryan and Saether's harmonizing vocals and leading directly into 4 minutes of unique and complex guitar solos, until finally re-arriving at the vocals. For me it's a true flagship of the bands talent with instrumentation (which undeniably is where they shine the most). However on the less heavy side, 'Ozone' is a bluesy kicker with a dash of White Stripes and a disarmingly fun beat. On the prog side 'The Ocean In Her Eye' fits the bill, an almost post-rock infusion undercutting an over nine minute long exercise of the band's creative muscle. Other tracks hold their own water very well but this praise isn't meant to be dealt by me, at least I don't believe so. Trust Us is a whopping 81 minutes and is nothing short of an experience that should be held at a personal angle rather than given away. I mean that in the most positive way that I can.

Motorpsycho is a unique band and revolutionary in their field. Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend that a first-timer start at Trust Us, I would conversely recommend that anyone looking for a powerful experience whilst stuck in a musical drought, then this album is definitely for you. Good luck.

IRON BUTTERFLY Metamorphosis

Album · 1970 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 4.23 | 3 ratings
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Every time I've seen Iron Butterfly's history, their profile has a whole, and the music they've created, I've always thought of them as steadfast. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, for all intents and purposes, should not have been as successful as it was. An 18-minute long acid trip jam? Many others at the time tried to achieve the same thing and failed, but these Californians somehow managed to turn such a product of the times into a product that stands the test of time (and made a boat-load at that). Something as miraculous as this is hard for anyone to followup, let alone a half-stoned shit rock band like Iron Butterfly was. They managed it though, the following album Ball (1969) charting even higher than it's predecessor in the U.S.

Iron Butterfly managed to make magic happen twice. I guess the obvious question that should and was asked was: "can they do it again?" Yes and no.

There's a difference this time around. Metamorphosis, released the following year after Ball, charted at 16 in the U.S. Now, in any other circumstance this would be laudable, because obviously it's not easy to whip up a record that charts in the first place. But for Iron Butterfly, this was practically dismal. Granted, 'Easy Rider' did chart 66 on Billboard, being I.B.'s biggest hit since 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida', although I personally owe this more to the success of the latter and name recognition as opposed to song quality (who knows, the 70's were easily pleased). So, financially-wise, Iron Butterfly were sort of able to hit the gold once more. However, musically-wise, Metamorphosis is different from all of it's predecessors, even including Heavy. What I was saying about Iron Butterfly's seeming fragility comes into play here, because the band slowly started going downhill after their monster-hit, and Metamorphosis was the last album regarded at least decently by critics. On this particular album, the original line-up is broken, with guitarist Erik Brann parting ways due to band conflicts. Replacing him, flatteringly enough, was four different session guitarists. Mike Pinera of Blues Image and Alice Cooper (as well as Ramadam, a supergroup formed with Mitch Mitchell of Jimi Hendrix Experience), Larry Reinhardt (future Captain Beyond along with Dorman), Bill Cooper, and even producer Richard Podolor on the twelve-string.

Metamorphosis is really the culmination of Iron Butterfly's slowly building up musical consistency since In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. This applies for musicianship (because honestly they weren't the greatest players), production, and songwriting. The production is much higher, and allows for a more dynamic sound in both the experimental and traditional departments. Speaking of experimental, critics tend to refer to Iron Butterfly post-Vida as being more and more musically adventurous, and I would tend to agree. Metamorphosis puts a much greater emphasis on the progressive/space rock side of the band, something I've always found remarkably endearing when it comes to them in particular. Mostly this is on the smash epic 'Butterfly Bleu', a masterpiece of proto-metal and prog music that rivals even I-A-G-D-V (except is much more structured and, dare I say, intelligent?). Still retaining a spaced-out, pseudo complex attitude, 'Butterfly Bleu' manages to be heavy, emotional, and eclectic all in on package. It also funnily enough features one of the earliest uses of a talk-box (yeah, that thing Bon Jovi used on 'Livin' On a Prayer' to make his guitar go "rwoworwowrwow") during a gritty section on the latter half of the epic. Of the traditional we have 'New Day', a Steppenwolf-esque song headed off by a disarmingly good catchy riff. 'Shady Lady' is, at times, your standard brand of funky blues-rock, but it delves into extremely dark tonal shifts at certain areas. The rest of the album is rather expected of Iron Butterfly, being basically cheesy rock n' roll tunes molded by quasi-hippie zeitgeist ('Soldier In Our Town'), but I suppose the big single 'Easy Rider' has it's moments as well.

The band itself does very well for itself on this particular album. As aforementioned, four different multi-talented guitarist make themselves well-known on Metamorphosis. Mike Pinera's (presumably) part on 'Butterfly Bleu' with the talk-box always makes me smile ever time I hear it. It really makes the song have a bigger personality (of course his vocals on the rest of the song is good as well, putting on a zealous, emotional performance). The Iron Butterfly themselves are nothing to scoff about of course, But it's clear that the talents of Ingle, Dorman, and Bushy are not without merit. The band's made their abilities clear ever since 'Vida' in '68, and here they meld almost perfectly with their session musicians.

Some may get turned off by Iron Butterfly's material, but for me Metamorphosis is nothing short of a wonderful surprise. People wanted the Butterfly, and they got the Butterfly.

ELECTRIC WIZARD Electric Wizard

Album · 1995 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 11 ratings
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Day of judgment, it has arrived...

Electric Wizard. A band that countless Doom acts have cited as major influence in their music, an influence that is not hard to see the reason behind. Many bands appeared in the 90's, such as Sleep, Katatonia, Anathema, etc., and began laying into the sound Black Sabbath had debuted years prior. All of these bands had their own interpretations of the genre- some were slower and groggier, some were heavier and more brutally angry. But in my opinion none of these bands grasped the idea as firmly as Electric Wizard. The band's debut is a legendary one, and although it appeared years after the likes of Sleep and Anathema had their say, Electric Wizard's 1995 eponymous gets practically everything I expect of a Doom metal album right.

Electric Wizard is powerful, loping, almost serene in it's trudging splendor. It's slow, fuzzy crunch combines elements of the early 90's metal with the band's reinvigorating sounds. This album's introduction of new ideas was, in layman's terms, revolutionary. The album shines much in the department of epics, specifically the title track and 'Behemoth', which lives rigorously up to it's name as a gargantuan, practically filthy track filled with the best sludge you'll ever hear. The musicianship is excellent; Electric Wizard is a three man team of Jus Osborn, Tim Bagshaw, and Mark Greening. This lineup was one that remained intact until around 2003 (circa We Live), where Greening and Bagshaw departed only to be replaced by Justin Greaves and Rob Al-Issa respectively. This original lineup is perhaps the most dynamic and musically-virtuous the band ever got, for the stamina and skills of these musicians has been unparalleled by many of their peers. The parts where the band shines are particularly in the Sabbath-like sections, i.e. where there's more rock and roll influence, such as title track (as well as 'Wooden Pipe' I suppose) and 'Stone Magnet'. These two act as bookends to the album, being the closer and opener respectively, which sort of adds to both the songs and album's quality. Both have similarities; both are dark, muddy and heavily distorted, However they are sort of the more traditional/easily digestible tracks. They make a listen-through of the album both a comfortable yet and the same time new experience.

EW's debut is nothing short of a spelling out of the greatness of the band's potential. It's a mind-bending, mind-altering experience from start to finish. Highly recommended.

VOIVOD Post Society

EP · 2016 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.84 | 4 ratings
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The Odd Voivods are back with a gargantuan EP, titled Post Society.

Unlike most other bands, Voivod hasn't really lost much momentum as the years have gone by. Owe this to the uniqueness of the band's sound or influence or what you will, but no matter the reason Voivod hasn't (at least to my perceptions) had a dip in stamina.

A lot has changed over the 32 years following the band's debut; Voivod's blurring of the lines between progressive and thrash metal has made fruition of countless genius ideas that seldom other bands have even considered. So with all this taken into consideration- how is their new EP?

For one, Jean-Yves Thériault has been replaced after three decades, instead taking his place is Dominique Laroche. Rocky's metal repertoire is scarce, however he has played for blues musician Steve Hill. Other than that the lineup remains unchanged. Music-wise, Voivod goes back to their roots. The progressive inclinations of prior albums like Nothingface or The Outer Limits are a bit less prominent as they once were. Instead, what Post Society really is is a thrash metal release. This isn't really surprising when looking at Target Earth, an album that was very much just thrash-oriented. The only truly progressive song on this album in my opinion is that of 'Fall', an epic that goes through a variety of different stages in real Voivod fashion. Combine this with the classic monotone vocals of Snake, then you've got a song for the ages. The other songs are good too, but like I said they're all more run-of-the-mill thrash songs (which might I add is not in fact a con) which might be enjoyed more by others. Other than that the Hawkwind single 'Silver Machine' gets a cover on here, also true to Voivod's name. Something I've always praised the band for is their covers, and they haven't disappointed me yet. It is a bit lesser than the original; lacking the space-rock element makes the cover have a more stripped down feel than the original. Nevertheless the band cleans it up and makes for one hell of a song. Fantastic.

Like the eternal beast, Voivod walks on. Is there a stop for them in the future? Who knows. At this rate these guys show no obvious signs of stopping. Post Society is pretty good. Yeah.

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD E Pluribus Funk

Album · 1971 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.02 | 5 ratings
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One of the better power-trios out there, Grand Funk Railroad (like many other hard rock blues rock bands) made their debut in the late 60's, specifically 1969. Bands of their caliber were popping up left and right, including but not limited to Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie, Gun, etc. but GFR were able to make something of themselves rather well. A year after it was released the band's debut hit gold certification in 1970, their second album following suit. In 1971 GFR hit what was possibly the most prolific moment of their career, performing a live show at Shea's Stadium, with their ticket sales equaling that of the Beatles and their show in 1965. The only difference being The Beatles' took weeks to achieve, whilst Grand Funk took only three days. So it is pretty safe to say that the band was at their peak in the early 70's, at least commercially. When it comes to reviewing the music however, sales from other people are irrelevant to personal opinion, so here's my opinion on Grand Funk's first three years.

Grand Funk was doing very well for themselves it's true, but their album faced mostly critical panning regardless of their sales. This could be for a variety of reasons, but most likely the band was thought to not distinguish themselves from the flood of hard rock bands emerging in 1969. Now don't get me wrong, there were factors that differentiated these bands, but they were rather general and well-encompassing. On one side you have the loud and proud, bands that relied mainly on distorted guitars and blasting sound. On the other you had bands that experimented a bit more, incorporating more classic blues/bluegrass into their heavy style- a more progressive style if you will. I believe Grand Funk belonged mainly to the former category, while Humble Pie, Zeppelin, and Uriah Heep belonged to the latter. In general the bands from the more eclectic camp were lauded by critics and were (anecdotally) more likely to be cited as influence for bands in the future. Grand Funk, Thin Lizzy, and other bands like them remained more a product of their time rather than a lasting emblem of history. This is not to say that Grand Funk should not be given commended for their style, which as aforementioned they were in their early days. However it was obvious that after 1973's We're An American Band, thought of generally as the band's opus, GFR started to sag under the weight of their overbearing swagger and cockiness, becoming almost comical in their musical undertakings. Regardless it is always a treat to explore bands in their prime, and luckily in the same year of that famous performance, GFR released two albums, the second of which we'll be checking out today.

E Pluribus Funk, whose title is a jeu de mots of the United States' then-motto "E pluribus unum", was released in November of 1971. As previously mentioned, it is the second album the band released in 1971, the first being Survival. Survival wasn't as much of a commercial success as albums that preceded it, nor was it a creative one. For example, drummer Don Brewer never quite enjoyed the sound of the drums on the album due to producer Terry Knight's insistence that he cover the skins with tea-towels, a technique he learned from Ringo Starr in the 1970 Beatles film Let It Be. E Pluribus Funk tosses these inane ideas and substitutes it for a more raw and conventional construction. Knight's production quality is very organic, like many other blues bands at the time, making the record easily retain a 70's quality of sound. The track list for this album is quite short, but makes up for it with a few extremely good choice tracks. 'People, Let's Stop The War' is a funky, crunchy power trip, titularly repeating the same jargon in circulation throughout the decade. You know, hippies might have been taken more seriously if they made more music like this- just saying. 'Loneliness' is one of GFR's best; an orchestra-aided ersatz-progressive rock epic who's slow tone actually musters up some pretty legitimate emotional material.

All in all if you've heard of Grand Funk and you wish to get involved this isn't the worst place to start. It's a good introduction, and a good showcase of the band's talents. I'd say "magnum officium" to this one.

ENGINE Engine

Album · 1999 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.38 | 4 ratings
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The reason I've found that most people even know about the band Engine is mainly the band's singer, Ray Alder. Alder is best known for his work in the progressive metal outfit Fates Warning, taking over from previous vocalist John Arch in 1987.

The 90's were a strange time for Fates Warning, especially at the time of nearing the 21st century. 1997's A Pleasant Shade of Gray was an album that was all over the place, a collage of neo-classical industri-prog that split their audience down the center. But with all with Fates Warning going all out artistic on their albums, somewhere along the line, Alder decided to take a break and do something a bit different. Enter Engine, a supergroup formed by Alder himself. On board was some familiar faces of the past few decades. These include Armoured Saint's Joey Vera on bass, Agent Steel's Bernie Versailles on guitar, and punk band Face To Face's Pete Parada on drums.

Now if you're expecting something similar to the complex prog that I mentioned before on this album, you're sorely mistaken. Engine's first (and most notable) album was released in September of 1999, and is the most blatant alt metal album you could find at the time. Unapologetic post-grunge influence combined with the dark, edgy stylings of seasoned metal veterans- what could go wrong? Not much to be honest. The songwriting isn't complex, lyrics aren't overthought or needlessly poetic, Engine is just a 9 track collection of some pretty good alternative metal material. Like I said before there is a palpable dark quality to the album, mainly given off by Alder's somber vocals and Versailles' slow, echoing riffs that seem to blend into each-other as each song progresses. Engine draws from a variety of influences, such as 90's Soundgarden, Staind (particularly on my personal favorite 'You're Awake'), and a variety of other hard rock/ alternative metal bands at the time. Sometimes Alder's voice reflects a bit of Jonathan Davis' at times. Melodic tones are also used to great affect, notably 'Tree of Life' and 'Falling Star'.

This isn't progressive material, and if you're looking for that kind of stuff I suggest just keeping up to date with Engine's members' original bands. But if you're looking for some supergroups formed by great musicians, then I suggest you check out this little-known group. It's worth it.

CHIMAIRA The Impossibility Of Reason

Album · 2003 · Groove Metal
Cover art 4.29 | 9 ratings
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The Impossibility of Reason was Chimaira's first record to transition the band from metalcore to groove metal, and it's obvious which genre fit the band more as subsequent releases followed the same line of thinking. It's not hard to understand why The Impossibility of Reason was such a breakthrough record for the band; it's almost perfect production quality bringing out never-before-seen qualities of Chimaira previously not seen under their banner.

Chimaira's 2003 album showcases a new and improved set of tracks, tuning down electronic elements to create a more clean yet powerful album. Rob Arnold has mentioned that bands they've toured with's influence on the band, these compatriots including the likes of In Flames (whose history is almost like the reverse of Chimaira's) and Soilwork. The influential melodic death metal style of these bands is evident on The Impossibility of Reason, an album littered with brash unforgiving sonorous riffs give way to energetic spectacles of raw power. The band holds a candle to the likes of Mudvayne, in fact this album in particular is very similar to Mudvayne's then-studio output (i.e. The End of All Things to Come), albeit with less experimental qualities.

The tracks are nearly all stunning. Not one misses a beat and keeps the sort of power-trip (funnily enough a track on the album) like theme of the album going. The dark, film-score like nature of the album's #1 single 'Down Again' is endearing, as well as the anger-filled 'Pure Hatred' (which I first heard on an episode of Mythbusters in 2004). It might be a bit cliche but Chimaira's closing epic 'Implements of Destruction' is an actual epic, not five minutes of music with eight minutes of silence/noise/sound effects, and is highly recommended. It goes through a variety of drum pattern and stylistic changes, all in an instrumental format. I'd suggest listening to the album to get a taste of it for yourself.

Lastly, the band itself. Chimaira's raw style is owed completely to Andols Herrick on drums and Rob Arnold on guitar. This as well as the Chad Grey-like Mark Hunter on vocals. The guitar section of Chimaira is where the band stands out the most, with the aforementioned Rob Arnold accompanied by Matt DeVries, both of whom would go onto play live guitar and bass respectively for Six Feet Under in 2011 and 2012.

A highly respectable release and a key contributor to the New Wave of American Heavy metal movement, Chimaira and their 2003 album are not to be underestimated. Mind your mind when entering this territory.

OBLOMOV Mighty Cosmic Dances

Album · 2005 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 3.60 | 11 ratings
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: September 2016

Before we get this review underway, I'll just let you know that I myself am not a fan of black metal. In fact, I'll even say that I dislike most of the material that comes from it. So as a person who holds a certain distaste for black metal, a positive review of an album from the genre means it is particularly exceptional, so much so that it transcends my prejudices against the genre.

Oblomov's debut is quite the interesting record. It's more of a power-thrash album that features some actually pretty decent black metal vocals (a screech and growl between Pavel Dlabaja and Honza Vanek). Both vocalists/guitarist have prior experience in black metal, with Dlabaja being in Sacrist and Vanek being from Panychida, so don't expect amateur material from these guys. Now the idea of space and the metaphysical isn't new territory for black metal, but Oblomov does well to differentiate themselves with some extremely clever ideas. First off, Mighty Cosmic Dances is more atmospheric than most black metal albums, not to mention that it's combined with it's melodic power metal double guitar riffing. The screech of the black metal vocals coincided with a practical space opera-esque symphony of discord to back it up makes for quite the impressive auditory spectacle. Combine this with both the strange but oddly fitting inclusion of saxophone and didgeridoo in the vocal breaks is quite a touch. A song that really stands out and uses these elements best is on the track 'Starsend'.

I must say Oblomov, you impressed me. This album is truly the greatest black metal record I've ever heard so far, at the very least the best of the 2000's. Even for someone who doesn't like black metal that much this was truly a journey for me from start to finish. My heart truly has grown three sizes.

MOSS Sub Templum

Album · 2008 · Drone Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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Now for something completely not different. Moss is a band hailing from the weirder side of doom metal- the occultist side. This area of doom has created some pretty weird and admittedly disturbing material, and UK's Moss is no exception.

If you've heard slow doom metal, you've never heard it like this. Most of the band's second album Sub Tempulum's monolithic 73 minute LP is devoted to the low rippling guitar screeches of Dominic Finbow with the slow cymbal crash on occasion. What I presume to be "vocals" of Olly Pearson's are distant, hoarse screams with indiscernible lyrics (not a big surprise). Honestly even with your basic "doom metal tools" laid perfectly out there for them Moss just seems to make a below-average album. Something I noticed is that Sub Templum is rather similar to Sleep's Dopesmoker, except just more repetitive, lower quality, and less fun. I myself as a fan of doom metal should know better than to expect much more from an obscure occult metal band, especially one from the doom genre, but I was nonetheless disappointing. This was even after I saw the decent album art. I'll pass on this one.

RUSH Signals

Album · 1982 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.77 | 36 ratings
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It's obvious that Rush's zenith was none other than the 1980's, a time considered emphatically by most to be the worst ten years for progressive rock (and admittedly there is some truth to the hyperbole). What gave Rush the edge over the rest of those who hit a low point in the 80's was their ability to be simplistic yet deeply complex seemingly at the same time. A record that exemplifies this well is none other than '81's Moving Pictures. It was a refreshing glimpse into the hard rock scene, and was what I like to call the second coming of Rush, where the legendary trio was once again able to meld the entire rock scene with pure power. Now I am a fan of Moving Pictures but I actually have somewhat of an unpopular opinion, because I believe that their following year follow-up, Signals, is in fact an even better record than it's predecessor.

Signals is very similar to Moving Pictures in many ways. For one, Lifeson sounds nigh identical to how he did on the latter, with the same echoey twang that's become signature for Rush. But what I thing Signals did so much better was the balancing of the instruments. I will admit sadly that the bass guitar, an obviously necessary instruments gets buried in progressive rock, and a lot of that comes from how many filters and sounds are layered over it. Signals is one of the few records where I can honestly say that Geddy Lee presents his full blown talent to us on the bass without fail, while still keeping Lifeson's guitar at the helm. Peart is somewhat receded in his playing which to a drummer like myself sort of does get under my skin because I know that his simplistic drumming on Signals is a bit of a facade, though he still does still have some great rolls even with his constraints.

Most of the songs are either fast-paced swinging rockers or slow, intricate jams. 'The Weapon' showcases one of the catchiest beats by Peart I think I've heard by far, and some of those pseudo-poetic lyrics that I know the band loves dearly (as do I). The two man-centric songs, 'Digital Man' and 'New World Man' are quite different, the former being practically a cheesy b-side from a Moving Pictures track (not a bad thing), and the latter being slow methodical tune that talks about the development of technology and the wonders of one certain man who has harnessed it to his own will. 'Countdown' I love so much but it infuriates me in equal measure. This particular track irks me because of it's potential to become an epic (one that could maybe even be a 20-minute long spectacle). It has so many different coinciding musical themes to it that bounce off each-other, and practically are an introduction to a suite where these different themes will be displayed in their own unique and powerful movements...but alas nothing of the sorts happens. The only song I dislike in any way is 'Losing It', which granted starts out with a particularly creative intro Kraftwerk-like techno tune, but shifts into a particularly annoying ballad halfway-through. Unfortunate because I found the first third and the last third to be dreadfully catchy and particularly good background music. Not exactly 'bad' but definitely not a high point of an otherwise great album.

If you show someone who you know who by some mystifying means doesn't know Moving Pictures, and afterwards inquires for more of it, give them Signals. Depending on how well-versed they are with Rush or at least Rush's sound, they may like it the same, or in my case more than other 80's Rush works. Two thumbs way up.

KING CRIMSON Beat

Album · 1982 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.82 | 15 ratings
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Not much is needed to be said about King Crimson's 1982 album Beat, other than it is more or less the same as many other 70's bands' absorption of 80's sound. Beat is infamous for it's split between fans of King Crimson; some say it's good musicianship pulls it through even with the musical styles it harnesses , others say it's just a sellout album that only features a modicum of King Crimson's actual talent. Personally I don't belong to the KC fan clique but I sure can tell you this a terrible album. Dated and extremely wince-worthy, Beat showcases perhaps every single way you can mess up 80's pop rock. The instruments sound watered down, annoyingly twanging out heavily effect-laden chords, the electro-drumming from Bill Bruford, who I know is a fantastic drummer, sounds completely artificial, and the keyboards and "Frippertronics" add a terrible atmosphere to the whole piece. The album has a pseudo rock-and-roll vibe, showcased mainly by Andrew Belew's croon (and in a way his attire shown in the band's live performances of the album). The album needs not one, not two, but three different guitarists (if you count Tony Levin's Chapman stick as one) to keep it afloat. Even with such a plethora of strings the album is weak. The whole album also has a sort of selfishness that differentiates itself from it's kin. It's minimalist album art, it's structure as an album. This may be just King Crimson still not getting over the fact that they made artsy bollocks in the last decade and can't go a single album without showcasing it like a bunch of prudes, but I really can't say for sure.

Frankly it's insulting to see these talented musicians go under just to please a certain audience. Perhaps this was all a Fripp plan and has some art rock meaning behind it. Perhaps it's a botched follow-up to 1980's Discipline. Perhaps it's just a bad album and that's all. The world may never know. But I'll take a shot in the dark and say it's the third option. All in all it's just my interpretation of 80's cheese. Sometimes it's innocent and fine, other times it's infuriatingly stuck-up and full of itself. This is one of those other times. Not recommended.

TILES Tiles

Album · 1994 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.62 | 5 ratings
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Tiles came out in the mid-90's, a time where a modern form of hard rock was starting to spring forth in the wake of the grunge explosion. At this time most bands went the commercial route and just pounded out cliched music that that has become a bit of a joke in recent years. Tiles however, did not. With their influences taken not from Nirvana but from the classic penultimate hard rock band Rush, Tiles's debut was released in 1994. The influence from the 70's hard rock circuit for Tiles is palpable, especially on their first album. These influences aren't limited to Rush- the symphonics the band uses are very reminiscent of Styx, even vocalist Paul Rarick sounds uncannily like Dennis DeYoung. It's not unwelcome to me but I will say if you have a distaste for Styx's sound, perhaps this may not suit you. The progressiveness of Tiles comes in the same package as much of the heavy prog bands on the site, loud and proud arena rock spectacles with rich lyrical content in every word spoken. Chris Heren doubles as keyboardist and guitarist; with the latter he's a bit secluded at times especially when it comes to solos. Solos on Tiles' debut aren't limited to a solo per-say, more along the lines of instrumental breaks. Mark Evans channels Neil Peart with his powerful drum-work, and guest bassist Kevin Chown is great even though he is sometimes obscured by the music.

Really a good lesser-known gem of the 90's rock circuit. I recommend it.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 13

Album · 2013 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 3 ratings
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Buckethead's Pike 13 is one dedicated to his indisposed father (who died not long after it's release), Tom Carroll. Buckethead, a guitar virtuoso who can be described as a freakshow with the musical stamina of a demigod, turned down his sound into something a bit more lackadaisical and emotional.

Pike 13 is a collection of ambient quasi-progressive rock songs which are all untitled, so they're generally referred to as "Track ___" depending on where they land on the album. They are all extremely slow and melodic, with a space rock vibe, but where most would fail with this laidback concept but Buckethead uses it to his advantage to create some pretty emotional pieces. Much of the album is very compact, usually only with Buckethead's echoing guitar doing the work. The longer parts, mainly the fantastic 'Track 6' is where he uses some simplistic yet effective drum fills for background sound.

Pike 13 is a short but sweet album from the recent years and is good for any occasion you want peace and quiet. I'd recommend to fans of soundtrack music (very Buckethead) or just soft prog in general.

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