Metal Music Reviews (new releases)

STORMHAMMER Welcome to the End

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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DippoMagoo
Even as a huge fan of the genre, there are always going to be some bands I miss along the way, one such example being German power metal band Stormhammer, who I hadn’t heard of until their 2015 release Echoes of a Lost Paradise, despite the band being around for over two decades up to that point, and having released four albums previously. That release was fairly solid, if a bit standard at times, and I found the heavier moments were generally the most interesting, and that proves to be even more the case on their upcoming sixth full-length release, Welcome to the End, another solid release that shows potential towards being excellent at times, but doesn’t quite get there.

I don’t remember too much about Echoes of a Lost Paradise, except that it was a fairly heavy power metal album at times, and that the riffs tended to be the most memorable parts of the tracks. Welcome to the End is similar in that regard, though I find it does have more memorable songs overall and it has a nice variety between tracks. This is very much on the harder hitting side of power metal for most of the album, and it also has occasional elements of classic heavy metal on some tracks, and obviously there’s quite a bit of thrash influence in the guitar work at times. The vocal melodies are solid, though I find the best tracks are the ones that strike a nice balance between the thrash riffs and big melodic power metal choruses, and those tracks tend to be excellent. Otherwise, the instrumental work is solid all around and the production is solid, though not a lot stands out on the slower and less aggressive tracks.

Vocally, Jürgen Dachl does a pretty solid job throughout and he can vary his voice quite a bit. He usually sounds a bit rough, but with a powerful voice that fits the music well, and he can do a very good job of carrying the more melodic sections and choruses. Sometimes he sings with a really deep voice that sounds a bit cheesy, though it still works in a weird kind of way. There are also many sections where he reminds me a bit of Hansi Kürsch, except his voice sounds a bit rougher and not quite as smooth. I especially notice this on “Watchmen”, which is probably my favorite track on the album, and the track where I think Jürgen sounds at his best.

The songwriting is where the album struggles a little bit, though it’s still mostly good. Opening track “Northman” is a solid track that I wouldn’t call overly speedy, though it moves along at a decent pace and it has some good thrashy riffs and powerful vocals. Next is the title track, a rather slow to mid-paced track which has more of those thrashy riffs during the verses and very deep vocals, though for me this track kinda drags for the most part, with only the fast paced and fun chorus being particularly enjoyable. Following that is “The Heritage”, one of the more heavy metal influenced tracks on the album. It starts off with a calm, slower passage before speeding up a bit and leading to a section with solid backing vocals from guest Natalie Pereira dos Santos, and then the chorus has a very melodic guitar line that feels straight out of a classic heavy metal track and is actually the highlight of the track. A very solid track on the whole, with some obvious Iron Maiden influence.

The rest of the album mostly varies between the three different styles, though the power metal elements are the most prevalent throughout. Some of my favorites include “Watchmen”, a mostly mid-paced track with some very thrashy riffs during the verses and a very catchy addictive chorus, “Soul Temptation”, one of the faster paced tracks and one where the thrash elements dominate during the verses and the chorus is very melodic, and the speedy, classic power metal tracks “Road to Heaven” and “The Law”. The latter of these is the longest song on the album and has a very epic feel to me, as well as one of the best choruses on the album. The only track I’m not overly fond of is “My Dark Side”, a power ballad where Jürgen uses his deeper vocals, but while they work fine elsewhere, here they sound comically bad and feel terribly out of place, which brings the track down. The chorus is actually quite good, but those deep vocal sections are just very strange and off-putting. The rest of the tracks are solid, if unremarkable, with “Black Dragon” in particular being a little bit underwhelming for a closing track. It has a nice chorus, but otherwise, it just feels a bit bland and forgettable.

Overall, Welcome to the End is a solid album which features a nice blend between speedy, melodic power metal and some aggressive thrash riffs, along with occasional heavy metal elements. It has a couple weaker tracks and I wouldn’t consider it an album of the year contender or anything, but it’s still a solid album overall and one I’d recommend to power metal fans looking for something a bit heavier and who don’t require all songs to be really fast. Hopefully, Stormhammer can develop this sound further on future releases and produce something even better in the future.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/03/22/stormhammer-welcome-end-review/

SHED THE SKIN Harrowing Faith

Album · 2016 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Harrowing Faith" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Ohio based death metal act Shed the Skin. The album was released through Hells Headbangers Records in May 2016. Shed the Skin was formed in Cleveland in 2011 and their first release was the "Rebirth Through Brimstone" EP in 2014. "Harrowing Faith" was mixed and mastered at Unisound Studios, Sweden by Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity, Nightingale, Witherscape...etc.).

The material on the 12 track, 38:53 minutes long album is relatively standard early 90s influenced death metal. It´s well performed, very well produced (the sound production is powerful, clear, and detailed), and the songwriting is decent too. It´s in the latter department where Shed the Skin could improve though. As written the material is decent enough in terms of being powerful and brutal death metal (mostly mid-paced with both brutal growling vocals and higher pitched screams), but when "Harrowing Faith" has finished playing, I don´t really remember any tracks off it. That´s not unusual for a death metal album, and it´s not always a major issue, as long as the album is enjoyable while it plays, and "Harrowing Faith" certainly is that, but I can´t help thinking of the album as a release with some brilliant moments but also a lot of generic ones. It just doesn´t stand out much.

When that is said, "Harrowing Faith" is still a quality release on most other parameters, and as mentioned above entertaining while it plays. So while my description above may sound a bit negative, "Harrowing Faith" is overall a pretty strong debut release by Shed the Skin. The lack of hooks mentioned above is meant as a constructive criticism in terms of Shed the Skin hopefully adding more catchy moments to future material. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

EPICA The Holographic Principle

Album · 2016 · Symphonic Metal
Cover art 4.87 | 9 ratings
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Kev Rowland
I can’t put my finger on it, but there is definitely something that lifts this 2016 album to a higher plane than the one that came out just two years earlier. The intensity is still at the very high level, but Simone seems to be more in control on this one, as opposed to sometimes being swept away. It is bombastic, it is massively over the top, and the guitars have reined in just ever so slightly, although at times they still race off like bolting horses that have been given their heads. It is an overpowering aural assault on the senses, and I love it. The closest way I can think of describing it is like being at a version of Handel’s “Messiah” with full choir and orchestra, but with Slipknot also being involved!

I was playing these two albums back to back the other day, and even without looking I knew when this one had started as there is a definite lift, a step up in just about everything. Symphonic over the top progressive metal just doesn’t get any better than this. This is not something that can be played as background music, but rather demands full attention of the listener at all times, as this is all-consuming, and not for the fainthearted. I really do hope that the guys decided to come down to this part of the world for a show one day, as they must be incredible in concert. This is essential, nothing more, nothing less.

PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS Feed the Rats

Album · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.25 | 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.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 257 - Blank Slate

Album · 2017 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 257 - Blank Slate / 14th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 6 tracks / Clocks in at 30minutes 19seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead

“Blank Slate” (5:54) starts with a cheery anthemic guitar lick and a beefy bass and drumbeat and then ups the ante with some serious distortion and alternative metal riffage. The main gist is the less distorted intro lick inserts itself into the more distorted grungefest from time to time and the two styles switch off. After a while it picks up speed a little more and has a bridge type of change-it-up. Not a bad track. Has some good songwriting on this one

“Opened To The Air” (6:57) begins with a cleaner more subdued guitar and subtle cymbal action. It stays warm and cozy for a while as a melody takes its time to slowly unfold. After a long two minutes of warming up the drums get a little excited but then NOTHING! Well nothing new that is. It reverts back to cute and cuddly lullaby time again. Was hoping for some dynamics shifting around but this one stays in the clouds with no earth, wind or fire to be found. Well some electric guitar work does finally make an appearance at the end but too little too late and this one is waaaay too long

“Wind Of Hollow” (3:30) begins suspiciously close to the last track only this one is more ethereal with ambient swirls of sound swishing around in the background. The tempo is slightly more upbeat but still in the land of lollygagging. Still though, the atmosphere is more Floydian and therefore a space rock vibe complete with Waters and Gilmour guitar worship in action. Tempo remains fairly mid-paced at the peak of things

“Task In Trunk” (3:30) is another on clean guitar and slo-mo mode. Drums seem a little too strong for the light and fluffy stringed instruments. Melody seems to be canned as it sounds like a gazillion other tracks in the PIKE series. Meh

“Solar Staple” (7:31) offers a much needed uptempo step up from the dreamy filling of this PIKE. It begins with a feisty drumbeat and bass accompanied by a jittery guitar riff and then some power chords kick in. It continues a receptive chord sequence that eventually allows the lead guitar to take the stage to solo around. Another predictable and overdone style of PIKE track at this point. Meh

“Lockun" (2:57) totally goes against the grain and cranks out some ferocious thrash metal with staccato chord and blistering blitzkrieg riffs that remind me of classic Pantera before turning into a spidery guitar lick that slips in between thrashy riff sections. While not the most brilliant track of BH’s career, this IS the best track on this PIKE but too little, too late to save this PIKE from being a cold turkey. At least there’s one track that i truly love and this is it!

This PIKE is totally pleasant but unthrilling suitable for background music but pretty ho hum and uninspiring. Nothing original, just recycled PIKE ideas that weren’t really needed to be repeated

STEEL PANTHER Lower the Bar

Album · 2017 · Glam Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
So… Four albums in, and if you don’t get the Steel Panther joke by now, you’re never going to.

The formula is quite simple. Steel Panther have the sound, look and attitude of so many of the hairspray abusing bands of the past, but instead of beating around the bush singing songs about cherry pies, roses with their thorns, and white snakes going off again, Steel Panther deal in genuine, unadorned pornographic filth. It is the perfect piss take revenge for teenagers of the 80s (yes, you’re probably in your 40s by now) who got sick of sitting through those endless lame hair metal videos to possibly catch a rare-as-hens-teeth Megadeth or Iron Maiden or Motörhead video. If those pussies were going to whine about their girlfriends, while often wearing exactly the same hair and make-up AS their girlfriends, they could have at least described what it was like to have sex WITH a girl! It would have gone some way to making up for the limp, derivative music.

So that is what Steel Panther delivers. ‘Lower The Bar’ lowers the bar on common decency right from the first track. “Goin’ in The Backdoor” is a none-too-subtle ode to anal sex. Michael Starr asks very politely “Hey baby, do you mind if I dip my nuts in your chocolate?” “Anything Goes” lists a number of highly unlikely, uncomfortable, and possibly illegal sexual acts including “Steal a Saturn 5 and fuck an astronaut/Zero G anal and weightless cumshots”. “Poontang Boomerang” examines the societal difficulties of short term sexual relationships, and the unintended infatuations resulting from such liaisons.

“That’s When You Came In” is the compulsory power ballad, replete with strings, acoustic guitars, and finds Starr lamenting “After all the critics said, our debut record was our peak/Now I couldn't hit the high notes/Sometimes I couldn't even speak” and life was starting to seem futile and pointless, until he once again met the girl of his dreams, who “…came in and blew me… You blew me away”.

The rest of the albums continues in a similar grubby style. It is childish schoolboy humour. It is full of dick jokes, treats women as sex objects put on this planet only to please men, and panders to every teenage boy’s most unrealistic masturbatory fantasy. Steel Panther differs from hair metal of the 80s only in it being completely honest. The band don’t pretend to be doing it for any reason other than to have a good time and get laid. The parody is pitch perfect. Anyone who finds it offensive is getting exactly what they deserve. The godfathers of 80s glam Cheap Trick showed they appreciate the sideways tribute, with singer Robin Zander contributing back-up vocals, and a transvestite appearance in the video, to the cover of “She’s Tight”.

As an album, this isn’t earth shatteringly brilliant. Sure, the song writing and execution are infinitely better than many of the hair metal pretenders it is extracting the urine from, but if you know anything about Steel Panther, you already knew that would be the case. Fans will love it. The humourless won’t. Critics will be divided. Some people will say the joke is wearing thin. Steel Panther won’t give a flying fuck.

OBITUARY Obituary

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.51 | 4 ratings
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Nightfly
I must admit that I don’t usually get excited at the prospect of a new Obituary album, interested yes but rarely more than that. Considering their importance in death metal, one of the originals etc, I find this strange to say the least. First of theirs I ever bought was Cause Of Death back in 1990 (didn’t hear Slowly We Rot until later as it happens), generally regarded as one of their best and my penchant for Celtic Frost style guitar riffs certainly helped me enjoy that but John Tardy’s strangled growl wasn’t an easy listen for me, though time has tempered that feeling and his voice for that matter. Since then I’ve heard good and not so good Obituary and there’s at least a couple of their albums I don’t recall hearing at all. Now don’t ask me why but some reason my interest was piqued by this eponymous new release and I even pre-ordered a vinyl copy. I’m really glad I did as it’s brilliant!

There’s no particular reason why this self-titled album should be better than the last few as they haven’t deviated from their formulaic no-nonsense traditional death metal with groove approach. It’s Obituary doing pretty much what they’ve always done. That Celtic Frost guitar sound is still present - not quite as obvious as in the past, though there are moments where it’s unmistakeable and Tardy’s vocals are less extreme these days too. Why it’s so good is for starters the production is spot on - Clear and powerful with everything sitting well in the mix. Mostly though it’s a killer collection of songs that make it. Ten songs at only thirty three minutes is a short album but fortunately they don’t waste any of it. Brave and Sentence Day make a strong start. Both pretty pacey, packing powerful and memorable riffs and the pair of them all done in less than five minutes. There’s also the slower groove based stuff the first being A Lesson In Vengeance and features some fine lead work from Kenny Andrews. End It Now is the best of both worlds with its fast rolling triplet kick drum pattern though slowing down for a more groove orientated section. Without going into every song individually the rest of the album maintains the high standards set early on making it one of, if the not the most consistent Obituary album since the early days.

If you’re looking for innovation look elsewhere, there’s no great leap in style from past Obituary but if you enjoy this band this is an essential album for you. Right now I’m enjoying this more than any Obituary album and put it up there with their best no problem. My only complaint is at the length of the album the bonus track No Hope on the CD could have easily fit on the vinyl version too.

DYNFARI The Four Doors of the Mind

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Dynfari plays black metal influenced, heavily atmospheric music, and since their formation as a duo in 2010 this Icelandic has grown to become a full band. Their music shifts and moves between many different styles, and this their fourth album is also a concept, and one that so much thought has gone into it that the only way to explain it is to allow singer and guitarist Jóhann Örn do so himself.

“It would be a cliché to say that this album is a journey. But it explores a subject that's been an inspiration to countless heavy metal lyrics. Though here, instead of depicting pain, madness and death as something ugly or morbid, it is construed as something beautiful and important. Some would say that it's counter-intuitive that the first half of the album includes the most obvious black metal influences, while that part deals with the doors of sleep and forgetting, while the more mellow, beautiful second half is about madness and death. But it is quite logical and intentional. While sleep and forgetting are the first reactions to pain, sometimes they are not enough, and pain is still thriving. In such circumstances, it is not until you reach the doors of madness and death where you will ultimately find peace.

The last song of the album exemplifies this, where at first it seems as if death is something eerie or even scary, but it is then accepted and welcomed as something beautiful and inevitable. There is nothing to fear in a state of bliss and peace. This song actually used to have the working title "Geislun" ("Radiation") which is a concept closely related to illness and death, making sense in relation to the idea of acceptance of one's fate and in that process finding calmness through it.

Of course, the core of these ideas on the album's concept are not mine, but a combination of two sources. Firstly, the poetry of early 20th century Icelandic existentialist Jóhann Sigurjónsson, and secondly contemporary fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss' theory put forth in his novel "The Name of the Wind". Coincidentally, the archaic word "Dynfari" is a name for wind or storm. Furthermore, the Icelandic poet Jóhann Sigurjónsson has the same first and last name as myself. Seeing the similarities in comparing his poetry to the idea in Rothfuss' book, it just seemed too much of a coincidence not to do anything with it. The music we were creating at the time was very much in tune with these musings and heavily related to my personal state of mind. So, as I was finding it difficult to relate my own writing at the time to our music, this seemed to fit so perfectly that it was impossible to let it go.

Some might ask what makes an Icelandic man in his 20s to want to dabble in writings about pain and devote his music to the subject. The truth of the matter is that I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and as a by-product of it and its treatments I have endured pains that some medical experts describe as more painful than childbirth. I am quite healthy now, having found the right balance between three different kinds of medication. But I have found it difficult to not relate my music creation somehow to this fact and the philosophical mind games it induces. Even in the wake of intense pain, it is the battle against your mind that is the most challenging one. The battle for positivity is a constant one - and it is just a little bit funny that one of the most successful strategies on that battlefield, I've found, is accepting your fears, accepting your fate, and believing that while the current situation may be beyond bloody shitty and intense, there is ultimately peace to be found. It is the only thing that is certain. No matter what.”

It is a mesmerising album, full of depths and hidden layers in the music alone, before one starts considering the lyrical backdrop to all of it. There are small incidentals within the album, which refreshes the ears – cleansing the musical palette, before the band are back at full force. This lightness provides real contrast to the darkness either side, which reinforces the power and presence of the rest of the material. The combination of the two writers' thoughts is embodied in the union of the drive of black metal with more traditional soundscapes of acoustic guitar, accordion, flute and bouzouki.

If you are a fan of atmospheric black metal then this is essential.

OVERKILL The Grinding Wheel

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.40 | 8 ratings
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Unitron
"I grabbed a tape from the floor of the car, jammed it in the dash it played Highway Star. With a foot of lead and that Chevy hop, never gonna stop!"

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

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

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

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

CELLADOR Off the Grid

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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DippoMagoo
It’s always exciting to see bands that have either been long thought dead or have been on a very lengthy hiatus, seemingly quiet for years, make a sudden comeback and release a new album. That isn’t entirely the case for American power metal band Cellador, admittedly, as they had been hinting at a new release for quite some time, but after their highly praised debut Enter Deception was released in 2006, they weren’t heard from again until they reappeared in 2011 with a new lineup and released an EP, Honor Forth. Since then, the band had largely been quiet again for a while, but now after over 10 years of anticipation, they are finally set to unleash their second full-length album, Off the Grid, and I can assure fans that it most certainly delivers!

A lot has changed for Cellador over the years. Obviously, the previous vocalist Michael Gremio left before Honor Forth was released and guitarist Chris Petersen, the only original member remaining, has taken over the mic. No other members who played on Enter Deception appear on Off the Grid, so obviously, it’s safe to expect a much different sound this time, but while I certainly wouldn’t call this album a carbon copy or even a logical continuation of its predecessor, it’s not exactly a radical departure either. Instead, it feels like the band has retained their focus on pure, speedy power metal and their knack for neatly balancing between heavy riffs and melodic vocal lines, but their approach feels a bit more polished and more mature this time.

Where Enter Deception fell on the more extreme and silly side of the genre, often being compared to the likes of Dragonforce, as while it was entirely guitar driven a lot of the melodies felt similar, this release actually feels closer to classic Euro power metal in how a lot of its riffs sound, though the band has also included some keyboards to give the album a bit of a modern feel. With that being said, while keyboardist Diego Valadez does a nice job and gets to do some great solos, for the most part his keyboards feel more secondary, mostly in the background and giving way to the duo guitars, which dominate with some pretty heavy riffs at times, though there’s also some very melodic playing at points as well. There isn’t much experimentation here, with most tracks being straight-forward speedy power metal with addictive choruses, and all tracks fall around the 3-5 minute range, so it’s a very focused, no nonsense kind of release, that certainly doesn’t waste the listener’s time.

I was initially worried about the change in vocalist, as I wasn’t too pleased with Chris on Honor Forth, but on the new album, I find he does a pretty solid job. He has a fairly deep, powerful voice and mostly stays in mid range, only occasionally stretching for some higher notes. His voice fits in pretty well with the music, though I find he’s best when using his grittier vocals, as sometimes when he tries to go for higher notes he ends up sounding a little bit over the top, such as on “Good Enough”. It’s the sort of thing that fits in well for power metal, though it doesn’t sound all that great. Aside from that, though, he does a pretty good job throughout the album and carries the melodies well, especially on tracks like “Shadowfold”, “Wake up the Tyrant” and “Swallow Your Pride”.

The songwriting is fairly straightforward, with few surprises, though in this case that works fine as every song is great and everything flows together well enough that it’s certainly an easy album to listen to in its entirety over and over. Opening track “Sole Survivors” instantly kicks in with some classic metal riffs and moves along at a breakneck pace right out of the gate, making it the kind of instantly satisfying track you’d expect to hear at the start of a power metal album. The riffs are great and Chris does a solid job on the chorus, so it gets the album off to a flying start. I won’t list all tracks on this album in detail, as most tracks are fast, hit a nice balance between being heavy and melodic and have addictive choruses, so to mention everyone in detail would be pointless, but suffice to say even tracks I won’t mention much like “Break Heresy”, “Shimmering Status”, “Swallow Your Pride” and the title track are all excellent tracks.

Moving on to highlights, the first track that really impresses is “Shadowfold”, which starts off with a thrashy lead riff that carries on through the opening verse, before giving way to a very melodic chorus, and then in the second verse the keyboards actually take over for a bit, which makes for a nice change of pace, and the solo section features both guitars and keyboards and is excellent. Probably my favorite track on the album. Right after that is “Wake Up the Tyrant”, another track which has some slightly thrashy riffs, and as usual moves along at a very fast pace, with intense verses that give way to a very epic and super catchy chorus. Another one of my favorites and the solo section is awesome, probably the best on the album. Coming after the one oddball track on the album, which I’ll get to in a bit, “This Means War” is back to business and is another one of the faster, heavier tracks, feeling very much like a classic power metal track. Closing track “Running Riot” is another super fast track, where the verses are very addictive and fun, and the chorus is frantic and very enjoyable, though I do think it’s one of the times where Chris goes a little bit overboard with vocals. Still a great track, though, and a fun way to end the album.

Lastly, we have “Good Enough”. This track immediately stood out to me as feeling a bit weird, as it starts off at mid-tempo, with some bouncy rhythms and is much more keyboard driven, so I instantly knew something was off. Then the chorus comes in and while it’s super fast paced as always, Chris sounds extremely over the top and it feels like a pop track. It made me wonder if the track was a cover of some sort and after a bit of research I discovered that it is, in fact, a cover of aa Cyndi Lauper hit, which makes sense. Reviewing it on its own merits, the track feels like a bit of an oddball, though it did eventually win me over, and when you consider it’s a cover of a pop song, I think the band did a nice job of keeping some of the feel of the track while also sticking somewhat within their usual sound. So overall, a pretty cool cover.

Overall, Off the Grid is a great comeback album for Cellador, which retains the core power metal sound of their debut, while also feeling much more polished and more mature. It’s hard to say if I think it’s a better release than Enter Deception on the whole, but it’s definitely a logical release for the band to put out right now, and I think longtime fans of the band should be happy with it. I’d recommend it to all power metal fans who want something straight-forward, fast and furious, and with some great vocal melodies, as that’s what this album delivers.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/03/15/cellador-off-grid-review/

BUCKETHEAD Pike 256 - Meteor Firefly Net

Album · 2017 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 256 - Meteor Firefly Net / 13th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 4 tracks / Clocks in at 29minutes 42seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead

“Image From The Void” (5:53) enter the slow and echoey guitar with a slight distortion and joining it is a bass and drum that weaves a melody and steady rhythm that maintains a somewhat slow pace as a lead guitar embellishes the melody even more. After a slight slow breakdown the melody picks up steam and the distorted chords hold for a while as the other instruments take a break. Nice guitar work but predictable chord progressions and nothing remotely surprising. Nice track but nothing outstandingly interesting either “Mountainous Mine” (7:08) begins slow and sweet with twangy clean guitar, intermittent bass and cymbals with an ambient backdrop but then abruptly changes into a mid tempo rocker with somewhat of a swinging sensation as the power riffs rock and roll. The track has all the traditional song fixings as it has somewhat of a chorus / verse / bridge type of construction although the main emphasis is on the melody and the guitar licks, fills and solos that embellish it. Ultimately it ends up wearing out its welcome despite an ok way of kicking things off

“Meteor Firefly Net” (9:56) also begins with a slow and almost folky type of clean guitar with an ambient backdrop albeit the bass and drum slowly ooze in early on. The guitar then breaks into some sort of rockabilly type riff before erupting into metal riffs and screeching solos. The chord progressions make interesting melodic build ups that change keys and time sigs occasionally as well. Everything builds to a frenetic crescendo and then suddenly changes back to the soft and serene elevator folk that began the track but of course, this is a BH PIKE and not for long. It erupts full fire into blistering metal riffs and guitar wankery once again but then has some progressive changes where it keeps the monotony at bay and the interesting mood enhancing elements fresh and exciting. Once again the fury is extinguished by placid dreamy clean guitar interludes with floating ambience before inevitably, you guessed it! Back into the moshpit where dragons bang their heads in the dead of night. This title track is by far the most sophisticated on the PIKE and despite having an oft dreaded lengthy time length has more than enough oomph to keep this one on full attention alert throughout its entirety. Excellent track!!!

“Nail Bridge” (6:45) starts with an unusual heavy riff that sounds like a progressive metal version of a cartoon theme song and then alternates the heavy riffs with higher register licks. After a bit of energy is expended it slows down and does a little melodic dance with clean guitar, bass and less frenetic drums. Of course nothing lasts long in BHland so as you probably guessed, IT GETS LOUD AGAIN!!! This one is pretty cool and it’s all because of the strange exotic musical scale that is utilized to give a rather bizarre feel to the whole thing. Another winner!

This one is a mixed bag. I find the first two tracks rather mediocre but not horrible either. The last two tracks are quite creative and deliver a musical punch. Very nice indeed and a rare glimpse into BH’s ability to deliver pleasing melodies with unorthodox creativity turned up to the max. I wish the whole PIKE was like these two finales. Since together they constitute almost 2/3 of the PIKE i’ll give this one a 3 but it would be higher if the first two excited me in any way

BUCKETHEAD Pike 255 - Abominable Snow Scalp

Album · 2017 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 255 - Abominable Snow Scalp / 12th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 7 tracks / Clocks in at 29minutes 20seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead

“Abominable Snow Scalp” (4:10) begins with a heavy metal epic riff sounding like something from the 80s with a similar type of melodic march incorporating crunchy chops with solos and fills. Very decent but would sound better with vocals as it seems like the missing dimension. Near the two minute mark it slows down with some nice arpeggiated guitar work and then picks up steam again with some ruff-and-tumble riffage. Very traditional metal sounding here

“Floorascents” (3:02) after a huge pause between tracks, this one finally jumps in with a similar 80s style classic metal sound complete with the melodic crunch of the riffs and nice fret work that has a rather epic style of flavor. It also has a rather 70s hard rock with bluesy touches as well that is amplified by a bluesy solo

“Headless Reflection” (6:32) begins with a rather Hendrix inspired sound effect but quickly jumps into heavy metal riffs with some jittery Van Halen type runs all peppered with quirky BH styled solo runs. This one has some nice changes and makes a nice mix of classic 80s metal with 90s industrial and alternative type styles

“Pluriverse” (3:22) is mellower than previous track with an anthemesque type melodic development and then changes it up between softer and harder passages. Another nice track that focuses on the melody instead of acrobatics

“Crator Ridge” (5:29) is a harder and heavier 90s grungy sounding alternative metal track with some more focus on classic 80s metal melody. It has a nice run of lead guitar. Towards the middle a nice slide and slower passage that really adds some variety to the track. The chord progression is slightly progressive and sounds a bit jazzy at times. One of my favorite tracks

“Door Along the Wall” (1:58) is a short little heavy metal rocker that has nice riffs but ultimately comes off as unnecessary filler

“Pincushion” (4:47) is even more upbeat with heavy riffs and sizzling solos and keeps up a frenetic pace with hyperactive riffs throughout its entirety. Nice melodic delivery and changing of riffs, licks and solos. Very well done

This is a well done PIKE that shows BUCKETHEAD’s mastery of traditional metal styles and focus on the melodic aspects of music with nice counterpoints to keep it interesting. While many of his PIKEs are rather by-the-numbers or extremely experimental this one shows how well he can pull out the classic tricks as well. I’m loving this one and one of my faves of 2017

BUCKETHEAD Pike 254 - Woven Twigs

Album · 2017 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 254 - Woven Twigs / 11th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 9 tracks all titled “Twigs” / Clocks in at 30minutes 02seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead

“Twig 1 (3:10) begins with a quickened brooding bass line with a guitar creating textures above it while a drum slowly joins in and then the guitar becomes heavy metal riffage before breaking into a sizzling solo and alternates between creative riffs and solos. The guitar parts are quite interesting as it changes up the general melodic patterns with different time signatures, tempos and patterns. The weak part is that the drums sound canned from a machine. As it goes on funk guitar enters the picture as do those clean echoey arpeggiated fills against a silent backdrop. Towards the end classical guitar even enters the soundscape

“Twig 2 (3:30) as with many of these PIKEs that use a single title for all the tracks, these run together imperceptibly and could qualify as one continuous album run. “Twig 2” simply continues the change-it-up approach as this one enters funk territory, blues licks and heavy metal riffs with hyperactive solos. As time elapses, the styles change up more often and sometimes metal riffs are accompanied by clean funk guitar or squealing solos

“Twig 3” (2:54) although imperceptible as a new track does begin with a heavier riff and then starts changing around with clean sections alternating with heavier ones. The usual suspects as heard previously only mixed up in different orders and new creative touches with soloing and time frenzied tempos

“Twig 4” (2:13) likewise bursts back into metal riffs with some clean guitar licks filling in the cracks. This one is short but has some amazing guitar workouts with speed-of-light solos accompanying jazz guitar chords and tripped out licks that come and go

“Twig 5” (2:48) also changes the previous track into a heavy monstrous crusher of metal and then floats on with a rather ordinary riff but abruptly turns to funk with some grungy slide guitar behind it. Of course nothing plays out too long anymore so after a few measures it’s time for some slower doomy type of metal only with some frenetic solos along for the ride and then time for some clean freaky echoey guitars again and so on and so forth

“Twig 6” (3:24) continues the tradition of beginning the track with a return to metal riffs but soon becomes rather progressive with all kinds of guitar antics whizzing around like a decapitated beast in the throes of battle. It continues with funk, blues, metal and slinks around like a caffeinated cobra in a tent filled with vermin

“Twig 7” (3:23) continues as slow creepy echo guitar with some pick slides for extra tension. It picks up steam but remains dark and mysterious until it erupts into metal riffs with some funk chords thrown in and then solo time! Towards the end the different guitar styles play together and then plays chameleon again often

“Twig 8” (4:19) continues as a heavy stomping riff monster with the same cheesy drums but then turns into a solo and then changes into the echo guitar thing and then changes again and again and again! This one is nice as it changes the melodies, the tempos, dynamics and everything

“Twig 9” (4:21) continues as a heavy metal rocker with those same cheese drums and i think you can safely assume by now that things change it up and often! And you would be correct to do so and this last segment of the “Twig” tales predictable follows the unpredictable with all the usual suspects juxtaposed into twisted tales of sonicity.

This is the type of album i love most by BH as he displays his guitar playing skills and why he is in the top of his game however this one has particularly annoying drum machine percussion that really needed some attention paid to the dynamics and playing for that matter since the guitar parts are well executed as is the bass with some creative tricks oozing out as well. My favorite type of BH style PIKE but not balanced enough to get the highest honors

PURE WRATH Ascetic Eventide

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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Indonesia musician Januaryo Hardy is not someone whose music I have personally encountered before, but it seems that even at just twenty-three years old at the time of writing that he's already built up a quite impressive CV within the scene of brutal death metal. He is a member of the groups Cadavoracity (playing bass and doing drum programming) and Omnivorous (doing vocals) and has a solo project within the style as well, Perverted Dexterity. He also has a number of mixing and mastering credits to his name, mostly for fellow Indonesian artists (he is the owner of Insidious Soundlab).

Hardy's latest musical venture of his own is a second solo project. It may carry the rather corny and angry sounding moniker of Pure Wrath, a name that kinda implies something in the ballpark of his other work, or at least something quite violent sounding, but the cover art of debut album Ascetic Eventide (2017) alone should be enough to tell prospective listeners that this project marks a departure from the brutal death metal pastures of his other groups. The artwork brings mind to nature themed black metal acts such as Winterfylleth and Saor and that's exactly the kind of music the album contains: Januaryo Hardy has released his first attempt at an atmospheric black metal album.

I say attempt, but really that sells what Januaryo Hardy has created a bit short, as Ascetic Eventide is quick to show that it's a stunning debut record for the Pure Wrath project. Hardy shows that he's very adept at creating excellent atmospheric black metal right off the bat with the opening Colourless Grassland and then continues to deliver across a further five tracks. Expect in addition to traditional atmospheric black metal guitar rhythms some use of folk elements, haunting piano parts and ambient sound effects that really promote the whole naturalistic vibe. The formula isn't changed up all that much across the six tracks but at forty-three minutes the total length of the album is about right for it to work very well at being something the listener can lose themselves in for a time. The highpoint for me personally though is the closing track, Between Water and Winds. Here, Pure Wrath goes all out and ends up creating a mini-masterpiece of the genre.

You'd think that Hardy had spent all his time creating atmospheric black metal rather than the very different style of brutal death metal based on Ascetic Eventide. The album sees me coming away with the thought that it's one of 2017's most surprising gems of the atmospheric black metal genre. I'm definitely eager to hear more from this project now.

VANGOUGH Warpaint

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland


I can’t remember how we first got in touch, but singer/guitarist Clay Withrow and I have been in contact since the time of their stunning debut ‘Manikin Parade’ some eight years ago, and I have been fortunate enough to hear all their albums, of which this new release is their fifth. The first thing I noticed is that the rabbit is back, having been on the front of their third album ‘Kingdom of Ruin’, and the EP ‘Acoustic Scars’ (where he was joined with the raven from the debut). But here he seems to be way more menacing, ready for the battle that is coming as suggested by the album title. Vangough are quite a rarity in the prog field, in that firstly they are a prog metal band without a keyboard player, but also, they are a trio. Now, that’s not too uncommon in some ways, as often a trio will double up on instruments in the studio, but while Clay may have put a few guitars on the same track, all we are getting are drums (Kyle Haws), bass (Jeren Martins), guitar and vocals. Before I get into the music I must also comment on the production, which is superb. There is real separation in the music, and songs such as “The Suffering” just blow away the listener with the move from gentle acoustic notes that have been plucked and gently fade to hard riffing. It is also great to be able to clearly hear the bass and drums, and the impact they are having on the song structures. This isn’t a wall of mud turned up loud, this is finesse played with skill and care.

They have been cutting their teeth in the live environment, and it comes through on this album as it is easy to imagine all those songs moving well onto a stage. After a raucous performance at the annual ProgPower USA music festival in 2014, they set out on their first North American tour with Pain of Salvation and the following year with Fates Warning. The learnings they have taken from these tours have been invaluable, and (nearly) forgives them the four years it took from ‘Between the Madness’ to this one. Here we have a prog metal band with technical influences that aren’t afraid to shift tack quite abruptly within a song, and to be punishingly heavy when it is required or more quiet and reflective as the mood takes them.

I have been playing this album a lot since I first had the opportunity to hear it, and although I’ve never been a fan of a rock band fading out a song (as on the aforementioned “The Suffering”), it does lead into the very different “Gravity” which goes from gentle into a Muse-inspired belter so I think I’ll forgive them. I gave their debut five stars as I was so incredibly impressed, and now is the time to do the same again. Awesome. Why not pop over to https://vangough.bandcamp.com/album/warpaint and give it a listen, I know you’ll agree.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 253 - Coop Erstown

Album · 2017 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 253 - Coop Erstown / 10th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 5 tracks / Clocks in at 29minutes 44seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead

“Coop Erstown” (7:24) starts immediately with a frantic distorted guitar and a fast pace that feels a bit jittery and takes no time to erupt into a frenetic guitar solo that is sorta bluesy but also a little off kilter. After a bit more metal riffage also lollygagging through the land of distortion, it takes a turn into slightly off time sigs and more wild solos. Everything seems a bit off with this one but that’s what gives it a unique personality as the style itself is fairly typical for BH and these offnesses are what keep it interesting for me

“Tinkertrack” (6:32) begins hard and heavy with crunchy metal riffage and a hella beefy bass. The riffs turn into a solo and alternates the two styles. The solos are very melodic and less jittery than the previous track but it does manage to create some off-kilter time sigs and slight dissonance at time. This is a frenetic track with craploads of energy being expended. The way this one is constructed is also of interest as it is slightly off in many ways but still highly accessible. Another interesting track for BH who keeps the bluesy alternative feel fresh all the way thru

“Quadruple Chicken Barn” (4:27) breaks out da funk, mon! Heavy bass but clean guitar that worships George Clinton but ratchets up the technical wizardry to BH levels. Tasty funky groove augmented with clever solos makes this a fun little number with a chicken stuttin’ feel like none other

“Clay Hen” (3:42) takes things back into heavy metal territory with heavy crunchy riffs and alternates with more treble oriented licks and solos. Somewhat progressive chord progressions make this a little more interesting than other PIKEs that utilize this same type of style

“Rooms of Brooms” (7:40) slows things down a lot and delivers an echoey clean guitar effect with some sort of melody that reminds me of Christmas songs :/ Well, only a little. It remains clean with a bass and slow drumbeat and continues to repeat the melodic development that remains calm and placid for the most part but at the end is joined by a ever quickening guitar solo that provides the only break from the monotonous chord progressions. This one is fairly unexciting

Not a bad PIKE except for the last track but it’s also not a blow-yer-socks-off one either. It’s a pleasant enough listen but hardly the best eggs in the chicken coop

BUCKETHEAD Pike 252 - Bozo In The Labyrinth

Album · 2017 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 252 - Bozo In The Labyrinth / 9th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 6 tracks / Clocks in at 30minutes 27seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead

“Mirrors Of The Sleeping Mind” (7:36) takes off in Rancho Relaxo with light fluffy guitars, subordinate bass and dreamy drum patterns that float by like Easter chicks in an Easter basket down a serene brook in a pastural setting. A melody has been initiated in slo-mo and takes it’s sweet time to develop but an ambient background wahs its way into the picture. The tempo picks up with that notorious echo guitar effect and then. After a while. A solo erupts around the same melody that had been established from the beginning. It gets more energetic and builds steam but the chord sequence stagnates and remains the same progression in a looped effect. It continues as such with bluesy solo intact. I await some sort of break from the predictability but pulling hard on the nigh rein only prolongs the misery. Meh

“Cliff Faces” (4:39) begins a tad more energetic with grungy distorted guitars and bass and drums in energetic mode from the get go but has some interesting breaks with slide guitars and staccato action. Echo guitars become more pronounced further on but ultimately this is another track that has a predictable repetitive style of riffing in alternative metal mode with some solos and a few surprises. Meh as well

“Flooded Ballroom” (7:00) is even more grungy and sounds like a Soundgarden track at first but then bursts into a true BH riff shredder. The distortion is extra thick at least for the riffs but the breaks are cleaner. The riffs sound very 70s hard rock in style with a 90s veneer to the distortion. Solos are also very 70s bluesy hard rock in style but overall this is a decent but average BH track that doesn’t need to go on as long as it does

“Branch” (2:25) begins soft and sensual with clean guitars but when the drums come in they’re particularly aggressive in comparison. The guitar turns to that clucking style as ambient swirls float in the background. Bass is quite subdued but there.

“The Chambers” (4:06) sounds like a 70s Van Halen inspired grungy guitar riff monster but rather weak in comparison to the greats of that era and for BH who has done this style many times at this point. Sounds a little flabby like it needs to go on a diet in order to have a little more stamina. Just an average track and fairly unremarkable

“Bozo In The Labyrinth” (4:41) erupts in a super heavy metal riff with bizarre monster noises in the background and then starts changing up the riffs a bit while remaining fast and heavy but just when you think it’s gonna get even heavier it suddenly morphs into an acoustic almost flamenco type of feel but then jumps into progressive tech extreme metal and then back to the gypsy flavored acoustic style and even after a huge pause stays in that style until it’s time for metal again! Heavy riffs with irregular time sigs and monstrous sprawls of riffage finally give way to an alien sounding guitar solo but then suddenly jumps back into acoustic wonderland. This is by far the best track on this PIKE. After mediocre tracks, this one saves the day and is interesting and exhilarating and even includes all the styles of the tracks before and delivers them with gusto. Great track but too late to save the album from an overall ho hum feel

AZARATH In Extremis

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Azarath were formed in Poland by drummer Inferno (Behemoth) in 1998, initially as a trio, and immediately caught attention with their death/black metal assault. Over the years there have been some line-up changes, and currently Inferno is accompanied by Bart (Armagedon, Damnation) on guitars, Necrosodom (Anima Damnata, Deus Mortem, ex-Infernal War) on vocals and guitars, as well as Peter (ex-Lost Soul) on bass Their music has been described as a "demonic mutation of Krisiun and Behemoth with shades of Immolation", and their death metal has large amounts of black metal influences as well, straddling the genres and being masters of both. The only thing wrong with this album is that it has taken so long to arrive! It has been six years since the last album, and I really don’t want to wait another six years for the next one.

There are times, such as on “At The Gates of Understanding” where the attack is completely brutal, completely over the top, with frenetic drumming and riffs yet it still contains a black metal element that gives it a twist away from the normal and an additional touch of class. This is one of the most impressive albums of this style of music I have ever come across, and it is one that I have had real issues getting off my player so that I could listen to one of the many others that I had to review. This may be only forty minutes long, but is a masterpiece and absolutely essential

OVERKILL The Grinding Wheel

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.40 | 8 ratings
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Kev Rowland
2017’s ‘The Grinding Wheel’ saw the same line-up as their previous outing, but there is something different about this album which I can’t really put my finger on. Is it the overall production sound? Well, the final mix was conducted by the maestro Andy Sneap, so maybe that’s it. Or is it the urgency and passion that is really coming from this album in spades? Is it the quality of the songs themselves? I give up. I have most, if not all, of their albums and this is their finest yet. A band that started back in 1980 shouldn’t really be producing their finest work nearly forty years later! But here it is, and a delight it from the start through very nearly to the end (more on that later).

Bobby Blitz and D.D Verni are still writing all the material, but here they have stepped it up a notch and there are audible nods to bands like Judas Priest and Black Sabbath as well as peers such as Testament and Exodus. The chorus to “Our Finest Hour” is “I'll be your conscience I'll be your guide, I'll be the black-hand that stops your genocide, I'll be the understanding undisputed power, I'll hold your hand in this our finest hour”. As they say, it is their finest hour, with loads of power, and this has a hook that makes me want to play it again and again. Some of the others are a bit more tongue in cheek, such as “Let’s All Go To Hades” where they deliberately slow it down for the introduction before speeding up again - reminiscent of some old NWOBHM numbers. This is one that makes me smile each timer I hear it.

My only major groan of the album itself is the title cut, which is the last song on the album. It ends by fading out into a few delicate notes. I have no idea what is going on here, or why, but is no way to end a thrash album. But, in some ways that seems a minor quibble on what is a very fine album indeed. Turn it up, play it loud, this album deserves to be treated with respect.

EVERGREY The Storm Within

Album · 2016 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.74 | 7 ratings
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UMUR
"The Storm Within" is the 10th full-length studio album by Swedish power metal act Evergrey. The album was released through AFM Records in September 2016. It´s the successor to "Hymns for the Broken" from 2014, which by many is considered a comeback album of sorts, because lead vocalist/guitarist Tom Englund reunited with drummer Jonas Ekdahl and guitarist Henrik Danhage after a lineup turmoil in 2010 meant that those two left Evergrey. Apparently the marriage is happy again though because "The Storm Within" features the exact same lineup who recorded "Hymns for the Broken (2014)".

Stylistically the music on "The Storm Within" pretty much continues the anthemic power metal with a melancholic atmosphere, that Evergrey also played on the predecessor. In fact this is unmistakably the sound of Evergrey with Tom Englund´s distinct sounding vocals in front, melodic and occasional thrash metal oriented guitar playing (the thrash metal riffs are more an influence rather than a dominant element of the band´s sound), supporting keyboards for texture, and a powerful and tight playing rhythm section. The quality of the performances is high throughout. Here I´ll have to give a special mention to Henrik Danhage´s guitar solos. He is a brilliant guitar player, and his solos on this album definitely help elevate the music to higher levels.

The songwriting is generally top notch professional too. Tracks like "Distance", "In Orbit" (featuring Floor Jansen of Nightwish), and the atmospheric title track (which reminds me quite a lot of Anathema) are among the highlights, but "The Storm Within" is overall a pretty consistent quality release. The only track which doesn´t quite reach the high quality of the rest of the material is the saccarine power ballad "The Paradox of the Flame" (a duet power balled with Tom´s wife Carina Englund). When Evergrey touch that territory is when they are worst.

"The Storm Within" features a powerful, detailed, and well sounding production, which suits the music perfectly and upon conclusion it´s another quality release by Evergrey. There´s not much development of sound, and I could have done with a few more tempo changes as most of the tracks don´t leave mid-pace, but on a whole it´s still a very professional and well sounding release, and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating isn´t all wrong.

RITUALIZATION Sacraments to the Sons of the Abyss

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Nightfly
With so many new bands coming along and new albums from old bands for that matter it’s easy for something to pass you by. France’s Ritualization have been kicking around for a while now with a couple of EP’s released in 2011 and 2013 and even earlier demos which I haven’t heard. Fortunately I’ve picked up on Sacraments To The Sons Of The Abyss, their recently released debut album. Fortunate because it’s pretty damn good.

After the suitably dark intro Conjuration of the Howling Depths it’s we’re into Last Rites Of The Damned and it’s relentless barrage of riffs and blastbeats make for a strong statement of intent. I’m not hearing anything particularly original here – they’ve no doubt been brought up on the old school death metal of the likes of Morbid Angel and Incantation but this stuff is played with such energy and conviction it’s hard not to be won over. They wisely slow it down now and then like on the intro of Herald Of Betrayal, one of the albums strongest moments as it happens, but this album’s largely a blackened death metal wall of sound. The vocals are typically low death growls but a black metal rasp occasionally rears its head. The standard of musicianship is excellent - inventive guitar solos but it’s more about the complex intricate riffing that’s constantly shifting as ferocious drums follow suit. This album is pretty much relentless from start to finish with the exclusion of the aforementioned Intro and outro Ashes Pouring From The Chalice, an effective way to open and close things. At 43 minutes it’s just about the right length, gets in there and kicks the shit out of you and buggers off. Perfect!

Whilst I was initially impressed it took a few plays for STTSOTA to fully reveal itself. There’s a hell of a lot going on in these grooves but it’s shaping up already to be one of the best death metal albums of 2017 so if you like your death metal on the black side you should really check these guys out. As a side note my vinyl copy came beautifully packaged with an album sized booklet and poster.

SUICIDE SILENCE Suicide Silence

Album · 2017 · Deathcore
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Suicide Silence are one of those bands who have emotionally been through a great deal, as after three albums their singer Mitch Lucker was killed in a motorbike accident. The band decided to keep going, and eventually found a replacement in Eddie Hermida and released ‘You Can’t Stop me’ in 2014. After the trauma, this is the re-set, and they have brought in famed producer Ross Robinson to help them do just that. Now, I saw the original band at a Megadeth-headlined festival in Auckland back in 2010, and cam remember going for a beer as that was more interesting than watching the band. Now, I like deathcore as much as the next person, and I know these guys have recently been touring with Whitechapel who I admire a great deal (saw them support Trivium and it was awesome), but there is something about these guys that I just can’t get past.

I don’t know exactly what it is, but their mix of different styles always makes me think that they’re trying way too hard. They have songs, or at least bits of songs, that just blow my mind, but there are also way too many others where I just don’t see the point. Ross has done a superb job, as always, and I must confess that the more I have listened to this the more I have liked it, but it just isn’t for me. It isn’t for me, and I am sure that there plenty that are going to rave over it, but there is far more music out there that I would rather listen to.

EMERALD Reckoning Day

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Apparently, this Swiss band has been around for twenty years, and this is their seventh album, but it’s my first time coming across them. They have had a few problems recently though, most notably with singers as they parted with their long-time vocalist after the last album, replaced him, and have then had to find a replacement for him as well, although they have included two songs featuring his vocals on here. But as well as the changes brought about by eventually finding Mace Mitchell (Silence Lost, Eddies Beast, The New Source), they also had to replace one of the guitarists and the bass player, so there has been quite a lot going on.

So, it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise if this had been a dog of an album, but nothing could be further from the truth as this is very good indeed. It is power metal, with much more of a bottom end than bands such as Savatage, with plenty of melody and balls. There is no inclination that they have been suffering with line-up issues, as they all know what they’re doing and sound as if they’ve been together for many years instead of just a few. I don’t know who is responsible for the production on this, which is a shame, as whoever it is they have done an incredible job. They have kept it polished and tight, but let the power and bombast come through and also knows what tricks to pull – the backing vocals on “Beyond Forever” example, takes the song to a whole new level, and then they follow that with the breathtaking riffing of “Through The Storm” which owes far more to Helloween than anyone else. This is worth further investigation, and I hope that this provides the momentum for the band to be more active in the future.

BLACK STAR RIDERS Heavy Fire

Album · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland


Back in 1978, at the tender age of 15, I parted with my hard-earned money to buy my first ever hard rock album, ‘Live and Dangerous’. I was soon in trouble with the headmaster at school as when I found a lesson too boring I used to practice drawing the Thin Lizzy logo onto desks. Like many I was shocked at the early death of Phil Lynott, but was incredibly pleased when a decision was taken to get a version of the band back together again and hit the road. Of course, the band were so very well received that thoughts turned to recording an album of new material, but could they do that under the Thin Lizzy name and still be true? Discussions were had, and the result is Black Star Riders, who are here with their third album. Thin Lizzy still tour, as frontman Ricky Warwick and guitarists Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson play in both bands, but for the near future it is going to be all about the new album, as it is superb.

Like many metalheads of a certain age, I remember Ricky first playing with The Almighty, but he has always been a performer of great death, and I urge those who haven’t heard it to seek out his solo album ‘Tattoos & Alibis’. Of course, Scott was Phil’s left arm from the time he first plugged in with the boys back in 1974, and in Damon he has found the perfect foil as they recreate the twin guitar sound that first brought Lizzy so much attention in the first place. I keep talking about Thin Lizzy as this is a classic Lizzy album in so many ways, it doesn’t feel or sound like anyone else. Apart from the production, which is so much better than it was in the Seventies, then this could be the missing link between ‘Bad Reputation’ and ‘Black Rose’. It certainly has a more classic Lizzy feel to the album than ‘Thunder & Lightning’, the last release of the original band.

I haven’t heard their last album, but I do remember enjoying the debut, but this is just so much more than that, in every single way.

The final words are from Scott himself, and if you ever loved the original band as much as I did then this is essential. “I don’t think there’s another band out there doing what we’re doing,” he says. “And I think there’s a value to what we do. If you stood where I stand night after night, looking out at phenomenal crowds losing their minds to a rock ‘n’ roll band, it still looks like rock ‘n’ roll has something to say, and a big part to play in people’s lives. I was lucky enough to be in a great rock band with Lizzy, and I’m fortunate to be part of another great band with Black Star Riders. We’ll always have a debt to our past, spiritually and musically, but this is a band focused very much on the future.”

BLACK DIAMONDS Once Upon A Time

Album · 2017 · Glam Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Black Diamonds came together in 2004, and are a hard rock band based in the Rhine Valley in eastern Switzerland. They released their debut, self-produced album ‘First Strike’ in 2008, containing ten original songs plus a cover version of Chuck Berry's classic “Rock n’ Roll Music”. That album is no longer available, but they reworked some of the songs for this release. Their second album, ‘Perfect Sin’ was released in 2013, and now four yearls later they are back with their third. As soon as this hit the player I found I had a smile on my face, and the reason for that is this a good-time Eighties melodic rock album that any fan of classic Def Leppard will appreciate.

It is as if grunge, downtuning and extreme metal never took place, and intead we have a party band that are playing great riffs, with loads of melodies and harmony vocals. It hasn’t been sanitised out of existence, and so can even be a guilty pleasuer for those who enjoy hard rock, but sometimes want something a little more melodic. Hey, Nickelback do pretty well for themselves and I don’t know anyone who will admit to owning any of their albums, right? (I have just one, but it was sent to me by a label, honest).

It is uplifiting, it is punchy, it has balls and melodies, but more than anything else this is good plain fun, and I still smile whenever I play it. These guys are definietly worth investigating, so go onto their site and see what I mean

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.

ENIGMA Stars Misaligned

EP · 2016 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Stars Misaligned" is an EP release by US, San Jose, California based death metal act Enigma. Enigma was formed in 2014 and "Stars Misaligned" is the band´s first release. The EP was released independently in July 2016. Enigma is a five-piece on this EP consisting of Dan Saltzman (Bass), Harley Blandford (Drums), Ryan McNatt, (Guitars), Byron Leon (Guitars), Petr Oplatka (Vocals).

Stylistically the material on "Stars Misaligned" is technical/progressive death metal with both deep intelligible growling and high pitched screaming. More than once during the playing time I´m reminded of a more progressive oriented and technical The Black Dahlia Murder. The EP features 5 tracks and a full playing time of 28:31, which is a good length in terms of getting to know Enigma´s sound.

"Stars Misaligned" is generally quite an adventurous release and the tracks on the EP feature interesting structures and lots of progressive ideas. The adventurous nature of the material doesn´t have effect on the power nor on the impact of the music, so while you can certainly immerse yourself in the technical playing and the progressive details, the music doesn´t feel calculated and the band skillfully manage to deliver a brutal assault on the ears to make your head bang.

"Stars Misaligned" also features a powerful, detailed, and professional sounding production, so upon conclusion the EP features many high quality elements. For all the adventurous ideas and jaw-dropping technical performances featured on the release, Enigma still lack a more personal and distinct sound though. It´s not a huge issue considering the high quality of the rest of the elements on the EP, but it would be the icing on the cake if Enigma worked on that. As it is a 3.5 star (70%) rating is fully deserved, and that rating may even be a bit low.

METALLICA Hardwired... to Self-Destruct

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.61 | 26 ratings
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UMUR
"Hardwired…To Self-Destruct" is the 10th full-length studio album by US heavy/thrash metal act Metallica (not counting "Lulu (2011)", which is a collaboration album with Lou Reed, and therefore shouldn´t be considered a Metallica album). The album was released through Blackened Recordings in November 2016. At this point in their career Metallica are notorious for taking their sweet time between releasing studio albums, and if you don´t count "Lulu (2011)", it´s actually been 8 years since the release of their last studio album "Death Magnetic (2008)". They´ve also cut down on their touring activities working a schedule which also takes their family lives into consideration. In addition to that the various members of the band also have other projects going like "Kirk Von Hammett's Fear FestEvil" festival and the "Metallica Through the Never (2013)" movie. So they´ve branched out a bit since the turn of the century and their music career is now only a part of what they do. Not all they do.

Stylistically "Hardwired…To Self-Destruct" is part heavy metal and part thrash metal, but it leans less on the latter than Metallica did on "Death Magnetic (2008)". There are still some pretty thrash metal oriented parts here and there though, so it´s just an album where Metallica combines some melodic heavy metal ideas with more aggressive thrash metal ditto. "Death Magnetic (2008)" was a great album in many ways, but first and foremost it was a great album because it felt like a comeback after "St. Anger (2003)", which many fans consider the low point of the band´s discography. "Death Magnetic (2008)" is not an album where you remember many tracks from if you haven´t listened to it often though, and it´s clear to me now that Metallica used that album to make a point rather than creating the best album they could (It´s still a good quality release of course). "Hardwired…To Self-Destruct" feels more natural, less forced and calculated, and it´s a much more simple, catchy, and memorable album than both of its two immediate predecessors, and it feels great to again hear Metallica produce something a bit more memorable.

"Hardwired…To Self-Destruct" is a 2 disc release featuring 12 tracks and full playing time of 77:26 minutes. So the album actually could have fit on a single disc, but Metallica probably chose the 2 disc approach for effect. They are children of the vinyl age, and to anyone who remember those days, it´s bound to fill them with nostalgia thinking of the times you had to rise from where you sat/lay and had to turn the vinyl from side A to B. It may have been annoying back then, but I´ve come to realize in retrospect that you listened to music much more intimately and discovered more details that way, instead of being bludgeoned with 60-80 minutes of music without breaks which many albums of the CD/Digital age feed you. I can´t say for sure if that´s why Metallica have chosen the 2 disc option, but it´s my guess.

As mentioned above the material on the album shifts between relatively melodic and catchy heavy metal riffs (and quite a few harmony guitar sections), rhythms, and vocals, and more aggressive hard edged thrash metal ditto. Sometimes combined in the same song, and sometimes more isolated in the case of particular tracks. Tracks like "Hardwired" and especially "Spit Out the Bone" are for example pretty thrashy tracks, while there are other tracks on the album which only feature thrash metal leanings. There are several highlights on the album like the two above mentioned and "Atlas, Rise!", "Murder One", and "Am I Savage?", but the quality of the tracks are generally high in the regard that they are all memorable and punchy with a great swing.

There´s something about the way Lars Ulrich´s drumming and James Hetfield´s guitar riffs interlock, which work wonders. Sometimes it´s almost too simple and you could wish for a bit more complex rhythm work (in the drum department), but on the other hand Ulrich understands how to make a song swing and rock. Robert Trujillo delivers a solid performance on the bass, although it could be argued that his considerable skills aren´t put to the best of use, but on the other hand slap bass and other crazy bass techniques probably wouldn´t sound that great on Metallica´s music. Kirk Hammett deserves a mention too for his solid guitar solos. It´s not too flashy and there is as usual a lot of wah wha pedal use, but his playing suits the rest of the music perfectly. Last but not least Hetfield´s vocals are generally a joy throughout the album, and I think I hear new sides of Hetfield on this album that I haven´t heard before. It´s great to hear he hasn´t stagnated when it comes to his vocals.

Despite some early reservations "Hardwired…To Self-Destruct" has won me over. Repeated listens have opened the album up to me, and the sound production, which I initially found a bit flat and lifeless, also works pretty well. It´s audible that much time and preperation have been put into writing and creating the album and the sound production too, and upon conclusion "Hardwired…To Self-Destruct" is a high quality release and by far strongest Metallica album in years. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

BATTLE BEAST Bringer of Pain

Album · 2017 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.71 | 5 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Formed in 2008, Battle Beast won the Wacken Metal Battle back in 2010 from when they signed with NB and released ‘Steel’ in 2012, after which they toured with Nightwish. New frontwoman Noora Louhimo joined the same year, and they released their second album the year afterwards, touring with the likes of Sonata Arctica. With their third studio album, ‘Unholy Savior’, the band hit the charts in several European countries (#1 Finland, #23 UK Rock, #39 Germany…), after which they toured with the likes of Sabaton. During that period, they parted company with guitarist and main songwriter Anton Kabanen, but soon revealed Joona Björkroth as a new fulltime member, and feel they have continued in the same vein as previously so there is nothing for fans to worry about.

It is not surprising that they have toured with Nightwish and Sabaton as in many ways their sound is a good mix of both these bands, although with some Lana Lane thrown in for good measure. Noora has a great voice, more Floor Jansen than Tarja Turunen or Anette Olzon, and if they are to be compared to Nightwish then Battle Beast have far more balls. Many of the songs could be lifted as singles, with metallic/hard rock riffs, hooks aplenty and Noora at the forefront of everything. Some of the songs are quite commercial, as if they were written for radio, and it is the others that work best. But, given they lost their main songwriter this is a good effort, and one that I can see myself returning to. This is very much a band I would like to see in concert, as these songs should be that much heavier and raw in a live environment and I do wish that they hadn’t been sanitised quite so much.

MINDMAZE Resolve

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 2 ratings
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adg211288
So, there's this American metal band called MindMaze. I hope you've heard of them, otherwise you've been missing out on one of metal's most promising up and coming groups. If you haven't heard of them now is the time to start paying attention. Led by the brother and sister team of Jeff and Sarah Teets, they've released two albums previously, firstly Mask of Lies (2013) and then Back from the Edge (2014). The two albums showcased what can only be described as a rapid musical evolution, with the former mostly being a melodic heavy metal release and the latter being a full-on progressive power metal album. It was a good change for them to make as Back from the Edge was, at least in my view, the best power metal album of 2014. In fact the only power metal album released since that's managed to achieve the same kind of regard from me is The Fire Within (2016) by Eternity's End. I've been wondering for a long time now how MindMaze could possibly hope to top what they did with the album but now that their third full-length Resolve (2017) is here the answer to that actually seems quite simple:

Reinvent themselves again.

While the musical style of Resolve is technically similar to Back from the Edge, it's only in so far as that MindMaze are still blending the elements of power and progressive metal together. This can't be called a progressive power metal album though, because that term implies a power metal album that is progressive. That describes Back from the Edge perfectly, but right from its opening instrumental Reverie it's clear that Resolve is has been made with a different focus in mind. Call it power-progressive metal if you will. This means that the speedy riffs of power metal are still here, but are just a single ingredient in a much more complex and adventurous sound, which will also explain why they're not used quite as much as on the previous release, and the band are playing more with other ideas. The power metal certainly gives their brand of progressive metal some serious energy, the kind that many modern progressive metal albums are sadly in short supply of. I actually got pretty burned out on the genre over the last few years because most of the new releases I was hearing just didn't seem very exciting and I feel that I can safely say that if all newer progressive metal albums were delivered with as much energy, passion, and technical skill as Resolve then my burnout on the genre would never have happened. This is how progressive metal should be.

And about that technical skill, the musicianship of the band's three instrumentalists really is impeccable and they're not afraid to show it off. This is especially true of Jeff Teets who plays both the guitars and keyboards in the band. There's so many well crafted progressive ideas packed into the album that it's actually really hard to review it concisely. Exactly which tracks can be highlighted in an album that every time I listen to it I find that it takes me a little longer to pick my jaw up off the floor? All I can really say is that when even short one and a half minute long instrumentals like Sanity's Collapse stand out just as well as ten plus minute prog epics like the album closer The Path to Perseverance then there's some serious talent gone into creating the album. Every track is basically like gold dust.

Topping off all the excellent musicianship is the voice of Sarah Teets, whose vocals bring everything together into memorable songs. Her performance on the album is as rock solid as the musicianship. She sounds in full control of her abilities and brings a subtle power to her singing that often has her stealing the show. Her melodious and natural sounding voice goes hand in hand with the guitar tone of Jeff Teets to crate an altogether classic metal vibe for the band's songs. I find that a really refreshing aspect about the album actually: too many modern progressive metal acts are going down the road of overly polished productions and symphonic elements (definite respect to Jeff Teets for his use of keyboards in a truly progressive manner rather than just adding symphonic backings here and there), so what MindMaze are doing here stands out as not following the current trends, while also not being Dream Theater worship.

MindMaze always seemed to me to be at their best when they played their most progressive stuff on their first two albums, and with Resolve, their most progressive release to date, I only feel validated in that belief. This is the album I've been wanting to hear from them ever since the first time I heard Mask of Lies. It's no surprise to me how quickly the album has established itself in my regard as their best yet. It's even fair to say that MindMaze have now made three albums that each belong to a different genre. Not many bands can claim that, especially for their first three albums. What's doubly impressive is that as I've pointed out, Back from the Edge is one of my favourite power metal albums of recent years. Now MindMaze have also made one of my favourite progressive metal albums of recent years. I've even doubtful at this point if the new Ayreon album (which coincidentally shares a release date with Resolve) will be able to come close to this. So to close this review and come full circle with my opening: if you've not heard this band yet, then start paying attention right now. Resolve could very well be my album of the year.

VANDROYA Beyond the Human Mind

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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Brazilian progressive power metal act Vandroya have a history that actually dates all the way back to 2001, but those who know their name probably heard it through their debut album One (2013), released twelve years later. Their only prior release was the Within Shadows (2005) demo. They've again left it a few years but the group is now back with their second full-length album Beyond the Human Mind (2017), though they did release the two track EP Heavenly Shadows (2016) in the meantime.

Beyond the Human Mind basically picks up with where One left off. That means guitar driven, progressively inclined power metal topped with the excellent and powerful voice of Daísa Munhoz. The production seems a little less polished on this album compared to the previous but I actually see that as a positive thing as it gives the guitars of Marco Lambert and Rodolfo Pagotto more grit and that never hurts a power metal band in my view. The band's progressive elements are perhaps a little less obvious this time around, but the band have included their longest song yet which is the title track, which really shows off this side of the band.

Power metal is one of those ironic genres though: it's music is based around speed, yet the bands are also more likely to include ballads compared to other forms of metal. I find that most power metal artist's ballads end up being their weakest tracks, disrupting otherwise strong albums. It's all very well being able to play the actual power metal parts well, but the best artists are the ones who actually manage to get their ballads right. Blind Guardian are the masters of this, but Beyond the Human Mind proves that Vandroya are made of the same kind of stuff when they deliver anthemic power ballads like Last Breath and If I Forgive Myself. Daísa Munhoz is an excellent vocalist for power metal, but its during these songs where she shines the brightest. This is some very emotive singing right here. Some listeners may find it a small issue that a power metal album has two such tracks, but the band do them so well that it shouldn't be too much a surprise that they doubled down on a good thing.

I do think that overall I preferred the band's previous album One by a small margin, but this is an excellent follow-up from Vandroya that shouldn't leave anyone feeling dissatisfied. So far in 2017 power metal albums of this kind of calibre have been in short supply, so Beyond the Human Mind should be a priority for any fan of the genre to check out.

PYRAMAZE Contingent

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 2 ratings
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Danish power metal act Pyramaze haven't exactly had the most smooth of careers. Things started pretty well for them with American vocalist Lance King fronting the band, producing the albums Melancholy Beast (2004) and Legend of the Bone Carver (2006) but then King was fired and a new singer had to be found. Pyramaze seemed to get their big break at this point as they managed to recruit none other than the former Iced Earth vocalist Matt Barlow for their third album Immortal (2008). But it was only a few months later that Barlow was in turn persuaded to re-join his former band (which ultimately didn't last either) and he left Pyramaze. Urban breed was then introduced as the band's new lead singer, but no new album appeared. Then founding guitarist and main writer Michael Kammeyer left the band in 2011. It could have been the end for Pyramaze then, but the band brought in the prolific Jacob Hansen, who had produced the band's first two albums, to fill the dual role of guitarist and bassist. Even then, they didn't make a hasty comeback. When they did it was with another new lead singer, Terje Harøy (Teodor Tuff) and the album Disciples of the Sun (2015). The same line-up now returns with the band's fifth album Contingent (2017). I had expected the band to have perhaps recruited a full time bassist by this point, but Jacob Hansen is still filling both roles.

Disciples of the Sun proved a great comeback album for Pyramaze, showing off a strong power metal sound with leanings into progressive and symphonic metal also present. Unexpectedly, even though they've always had a bit of a progressive slant to their music, Contingent finds the band reinventing themselves slightly to focus more on a progressive metal based sound. They still use bursts of the speedy power metal riffs on several songs on the album but it's no longer a dominating force within their music. The symphonic elements of the last album are still present though. The songs tend to be around the four to six minute mark though; this isn't the kind of progressive metal album that sees the band going all out to deliver a more lengthy epic around or beyond the ten minute barrier. In a sense the structure of the album is still more like a power metal album, exception for the most part the fast riffs aren't there any more, instead serving up something more mid-paced. It's progressive metal without being too flashy.

If the kind of sound the band have on the album seems very familiar it's because this particular arrangement of elements has become quite common within the current progressive metal scene. So called melodic progressive metal, Pyramaze do show themselves to be quite adept at it (they are a group of seasoned musicians so that's to be expected), but I can't say that Contingent does enough to convince me that the shift towards progressive metal was the right move for the band. They were an excellent power metal band. They're simply a decent progressive metal band based on this album. Some of the more note-worthy songs to my ears are Land of Information, Kingdom of Solace, and 20 Second Century, but after the halfway point is passed it does seem as if the album loses a bit of its steam.

Progressive and power metal may crossover a lot but the genres are actually quite different in principle and in many ways Contingent comes across as a power metal album dressed up as prog. I find that to be the case with a lot of these so called melodic progressive metal acts though rather it being a specific issue with this album, which I think goes a long way to explain why this album seems a lot less interesting than the band's prior power metal work, which is a genre that is by design tailored toward catchier, memorable tracks. With progressive metal I tend to look for complex, epic musicianship more than anything and while Pyramaze are definitely a talented bunch of guys that are skilled at their instruments, there's nothing on this particular album that really grabs me as exceptional. I do like the album, but instead of leaving me satisfied I instead find myself hoping that if the new progressive metal sound is here to stay that this is just them finding their feet with it, and that the next album will dispel any lingering doubts over it.

RINGWORM Snake Church

Album · 2016 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"Snake Church" is the 7th full-length studio album by US, Ohio based thrash/hardcore act Ringworm. The album was released through Relapse Records in July 2016. It´s the successor to "Hammer of the Witch" from 2014. There have been two lineup changes since the predecessor as drummer Danny Zink has been replaced by Ryan Steigerwald and guitarist John Comprix has been replaced by Mark Witherspoon.

Stylistically the material on "Snake Church" pretty much continues down the same thrash/hardcore road as the material on "Hammer of the Witch (2014)", although several of the tracks lean a bit more towards hardcore than the case was on the predecessor. "Snake Church" is in fact an album which is hard to label correctly, because sometimes it´s almost pure hardcore with D-beat drumming and fast hardcore punk riffing, and other times we´re treated to Slayer type thrash metal riffing and thrash metal oriented rhythm work. The vocals are in the screaming hardcore camp though, and although they are well performed and James "Human Furnace" Bulloch has a raw and passionate delivery, the vocals do feel a bit one-dimensional after a few tracks.

The material is generally well written and actually a bit more varied than what initial listens might suggest. While the music is one-dimensionally aggressive all the way through the album´s playing time, Ringworm do change pace a couple of times (from predominantly fast-paced to heavy), and there are even a few melodic guitar moments featured on the album too (very few). It is in the variation department the band could improve though and some of the tracks could have been a bit more hook laden and thereby a bit more memorable too.

When that is said "Snake Church" is still a high quality release by Ringworm. The album features a top notch sound production, strong musiciansip, and the band obviously understand how to write a powerful thrash/hardcore tune. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

NEUROSIS Fires Within Fires

Album · 2016 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.74 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"Fires Within Fires" is the 12th full-length studio album by US, California based sludge/post metal act Neurosis. The album was released through Neurot Recordings in September 2016. It´s the successor to "Honor Found in Decay" from 2012.

Stylistically the material on "Fires Within Fires" features very few surprises if you´re already familiar with the band´s atmospheric sludge/post metal style. It´s slow, doomy, and organic music featuring both deep register clean male vocals and harder edged hardcore shouting vocals. The song structures are adventurous and you never really know where a song is going before you reach the end and look back at an intriguing compositional structure. The whole thing is packed in an organic sounding production courtesy of Steve Albini. The sound production takes the meaning of organic maybe a bit too far though, as this sometimes sound like it was recorded live in someone´s garage. I know some people love a stripped down and raw sound production like that, and under the right circumstances a sound production like that can work wonders. Here though I think it takes the power out of the music and even the most heavy and punchy parts of the album, lack energy and conviction.

To my ears Neurosis also seem to have lost a bit of their creative spirit on "Fires Within Fires"...and don´t get me wrong here, because as mentioned above this is still very adventurous music, but it´s like they´ve made this album before a few times, and I´d like to think of them as innovators who take chances and who challenge their audience. We don´t really get much of that here. "Fires Within Fires" is Neurosis playing it completely safe and since they´ve also tuned down on their more aggressive side, the album does become a bit tedious if you´re not in the right mood. However it still speaks volumes of their general qualities that one of Neurosis lesser albums still deserves a 3.5 star (70%) rating, and I´m probably just being a bit hard on them, but that´s only because I expect so much from them considering their impressive back catalogue.

PERSEFONE Aathma

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.41 | 4 ratings
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DippoMagoo
Great music can come from all over the world and from any country, no matter how major or obscure it is. For example, Andorra is not exactly the first country I’d think of when discussing metal bands, but one of my favorite bands happens to be from there, that being Persefone, a progressive death metal band that first blew me away with their sophomore release Core, and everything they’ve done since has been nothing short of excellent. The band has changed their lineup several times since then, and their sound has evolved over time, but through it all, they have managed to be easily the most consistently satisfying band in their genre, and certainly a band I always look forward to hearing new material from. Their fifth full-length release, Aathma, is now out and once again the band has delivered some of the most complex, most technical, most engaging and most satisfying progressive death metal you’ll ever hear.

One thing I’ve always liked about Persefone is how while they have certain elements that are always a part of their music and they never do massive genre shifts, each of their albums brings something new to the table. For example, Core was a massive 70 minute concept album broken down into just three tracks, over 20 minutes each and both structurally and stylistically it very much reminded me of classic Opeth, while the following album Shin-ken felt a bit more accessible, modernized the music a bit and added some unique Japanese flavor, which immediately gave the album its own feel. Compared to those two albums, Aathma doesn’t feel like as massive a leap from its predecessor, Spiritual Migration, an album which felt like the band went into overdrive, featuring some of their most adventurous and most technical instrumental parts, as well as some of their most extreme death metal sections, and some very atmospheric and melodic clean vocal sections. By comparison, Aathma feels rather similar in that it does hit the same kind of balance between all extremes, but the biggest difference is that it feels a bit more subdued in its tempos, with the music never really speeding up the way some tracks on Spiritual Migration did, and the extreme vocals feel a little bit more restrained. Other than that, though, I’d say it very much feels like a natural evolution of its predecessor, where each previous album tended to feel quite a bit different. Not that I’m at all disappointed, though, because Spiritual Migration was an excellent album that at times showed potential to be even better, and I’d say in some ways Aathma manages to be better, even if the end result is about the same quality overall.

Musically, this is a very complex album with quite a lot going on. Obviously, keyboardist Miguel Espinosa is a very important part of the music, as he adds a lot of atmosphere and texture to the music, both with keyboard effects and some very creepy piano notes at times and this is especially noticeable on some of the soft interlude tracks, but also very much an important part of the heavier tracks as well. Guitarists Carlos Lozano and Filipe Baldaia also have a lot to do, of course, and some of the guitar work on this album is extremely technical and very impressive, as always. Just like its predecessor, this album has a ton of heavier instrumental sections where the musicianship really shines, as well as some excellent riffs during the extreme vocal sections, but the softer sections are just as impressive, if not even more so, and there’s just the right balance between heavy and melodic sections on this album, as well as a perfect balance between great musicianship and cohesive songwriting. In fact, on a musical and compositional level, I’d say this album may be the band’s best work to date, and it is just about perfect.

Vocals have always been the biggest sticking point for me with this band, as no matter which album I listen to, there are some parts where the vocals amaze me and some parts where they just don’t quite work. Spiritual Migration was especially notable for this, as Carlos did an excellent job with his smooth, deep clean vocals and every section where he sang impressed me, but lead vocalist Marc Martins while sometimes solid with his extreme vocals, occasionally got to be a bit irritating as he’d launch into some overly screamy metalcore type vocals I wasn’t a big fan of. This time around, both are actually in fine form as Carlos sounds excellent as always and for the most part, Marc is a little more restrained with his vocals, often using some deeper, yet still powerful death growls, and even the more extreme screamed sections feel a bit better than I was expecting. There are also two notable guest performers, who I will be talking about a bit further in the review, but suffice to say, one of them is a very important reason for my overall score being what it is.

Moving on to songwriting, and this is where Persefone has really delivered this time around. Every track here is brilliantly written, from atmospheric, instrumental interludes “Cosmic Walker” and “Vacuum” which do a great job of calming things down and setting the mood, to heavier tracks like “Spirals With Thy Being” and “No Faced Mindless”, everything here is just about perfect on a compositional level. After a brief opening track, dominated by keyboard effects and voiceovers, which I’ll discuss in more detail later on, we get “One of Many…” the first full instrumental track and it immediately sets the tone, mostly with atmospheric pianos, but also with some nice riffs and a great guitar section near the end, and it serves as a great lead-in to “Prison Skin”, as the overall atmosphere carries over into that track, before the band goes into full prog mode for an extensive instrumental section with excellent musicianship. As the track moves on, we get some great death growls from Marc and some excellent clean vocals from Miguel and the track is relatively straight-forward for a bit, until pausing for an atmospheric section and from there the track is just brilliant, making excellent use of all elements of the music and serving as a great first full song.

It’s really hard discussing individual tracks here, as everything flows together so well, but another early standout is “Spiral Within Thy Being”, which starts out with a nice instrumental section before slowing down and giving us some of the most atmospheric death metal sections on the album. Meanwhile, “No Faced Mindless” speeds things up a bit during the first half and has some melodic death metal elements early on, before becoming a bit more technical in the second half, as we get some very proggy instrumental sections and more great clean vocals. The longest individual track (at least on my promo) is “Stillness is Timeless”, an excellent song which goes through many different phases and does a great job of alternating between many different styles, before slowing down near the end and building up for the four-part, 20-minute title track. I’m not sure if the song is meant to be broken into four tracks or presented as one, but my promo has it split up, so I’ll judge it as four parts, Anyway, each part of the title track serves its own purpose, with parts 1 and III representing the bulk of the song, giving us some heavier parts and growls, to go along with Miguel’s clean vocals, while part II is a largely instrumental track, mostly on the softer side, with a brief voiceover section from guest Merethe Soltvedt, who also sings on part IV, a soft closing track played entire on keyboards and piano. Her vocals are very pleasant and fit the music well, giving the album an amazing ending.

One last track I haven’t mentioned yet is “Living Waves”. Its second half is absolutely brilliant, featuring some great extreme metal sections as well as some of the best clean vocals on the entire album. However, it’s the first half that really stands out and that makes an impact on my overall impression of this album. I mentioned earlier that the opening track features some voiceovers. Well, those voiceovers are provided by another guest, Cynic vocalist Paul Masvidal, whose voice I’ve always struggled with as I tend to not like an overuse of vocal effects in metal. Unfortunately, he goes overboard with those effects on this album, greatly distorting his voice on both the opening track and “Living Waves”, and in case that wasn’t enough, the latter track has a brief part where his voice gets high pitched and whiny, and when you combine that with the distortion effects….. Let’s just say my ears disagree terribly with the result, and so the first half of that track is very unpleasant for me to sit through. I hate to harp on this, but when the rest of the album is pretty much perfect, and especially when there are two other vocalists on this album who provide excellent clean vocals without needing to use annoying voice effects, I just can’t help but wonder why the band thought this was a good idea. This is made all the more frustrating by the fact that, as I said earlier, the rest of that track is so amazing, and so I never end up skipping it, instead of forcing myself to endure those painful 2-3 minutes in which Paul appears.

Aside from that one horrible miscalculation, though, Aathma is a brilliant album from a band that continues to impress me, and I don’t want that one paragraph to scare listeners away, or even to upset fans of the band, as on a musical and compositional level this is progressive death metal at its absolute best, and every section not featuring Paul Masvidal is about as perfect as music gets. Persefone have long been one of my favorite metal bands and I hope they can continue to be great for many years to come, and I highly recommend this album and all their other album to all fans of extreme prog metal who like their music to be complex and adventurous. One frustration aside, this is still an early highlight in 2017, and in many ways some of the best work the band has done yet.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/02/26/persefone-aathma-review/

BORN OF OSIRIS The Eternal Reign

Album · 2017 · Deathcore
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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FMOTP
I am grateful to post the first review of THE ETERNAL REIGN. If you're a fan of Born Of Osiris, as I definitely am, I think THE ETERNAL REIGN is a nonessential disc. It's great music, but the original THE NEW REIGN was already great music. Some may criticize the original's sound quality. I assume that THE ETERNAL REIGN is a re-recording, not just a remastering. I don't care much about sound quality as long as you can hear it, and I think the original sounded just fine. If you are just starting to familiarize yourself with the band, THE ETERNAL REIGN is a very good place to start. If you already think Born of Osiris is an amazing metal band regardless of subgenre, the original album works just as well.

STAMINA System of Power

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.31 | 4 ratings
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Kev Rowland
keep seeing this band being described as progressive metal, and I can’t understand that at all, this is power metal with the occasional symphonic overtones, but certainly isn’t prog. The band is the brainchild of guitarist Luca Selitto, who certainly knows how to shred, and states that this album “is the most mature release from us up until now, displaying a slightly more aggressive approach, an even increased level of technical proficiency and a wider sonic spectrum than ever before.” I can see where he’s coming from, but having not heard the others I can’t compare this to them, and having heard this one I can’t see me having any inclination to do so either.

It’s not that this is a bad album, it’s okay, but never any more than that. I only listened to all of it because I had to, not because I wanted to, which is never a good sign. They are all strong musicians, and Alessandro Granato has a strong voice, but there was no honesty to this for me: it was almost as if they were ticking the boxes as they went through. The harmony vocals are off, possibly due to Italian accents? I’m not sure, but it sounds quite strange. One for fans only.

SAILLE Gnosis

Album · 2017 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Belgian act Saille are back with their fourth album, and it is the first one I’ve come across. Having heard this, I am seriously thinking that I need to go back and listen to the others. This is melodic Black Metal with some symphonic influences, punishing and brutal yet also with a lot of care, and even delicacy. This isn’t a simple full-on assault of the senses, but rather something that has been carefully created, and I was not surprised to see that it was mixed and mastered at Hertz Studio in Bialystok, Poland by the Wieslawscy brothers (Behemoth, Decapitated, Vader). It is the production that allows every single guitar note to stand on their own, for the bass to be the driving force, and for the drums to provide the necessary backbone while Dennie Grondelaers is in in commanding form.

As to the lyrics, Donnie says “With 'Gnosis' (Greek for 'knowledge') we venture into the world of the Promethean ideal and its Luciferian counterpart. This album explores a multitude of historical, mythological and fictional sources that tell us about the strife for knowledge and its (potentially devastating) consequences. We also visit several creation myths and scratch the surface of Aleister Crowley's Thelema. The concept was born during research into Russian composer Alexander Scriabin and his works. His 'Prometheus: The Poem of Fire' didn't serve as a direct source for the lyrics, but it lit the fire that made us venture into above topics." Now you know.

The band themselves feel that this is more in keeping with their second album, ‘Ritu’, yet they knew it had to be harder so they deliberately did that with the music and amended their logo, to show the slight change in approach. Unless you enjoy Black Metal then this isn’t for you, but if you are, then you need to seek this out as this is powerful stuff.

CEREBRAL FIX Disaster of Reality

Album · 2016 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
The ‘Fix is fucked. Long live the ‘Fix!

Cerebral Fix never fitted neatly into a single, definable genre of metal. Mixing crossover thrash, death metal and doom, Cerebral Fix would have been equally at home sharing a stage with Bolt Thrower, Cathedral or The Exploited. The closest reference point for ‘Disaster of Reality’ is the band’s first album, ‘Life Sucks... And Then You Die!’ an immature but promising slab of heavyweight crossover thrash, part Cryptic Slaughter, part Celtic Frost. ‘Disaster of Reality’ is a throwback to that previous age, with a casual, under-produced feel to it, with a bit of fuzz and static round the edges, but the band itself is tight as fuck. It has a 1980s crossover thrash feel, mixed with a 90s doom/death attitude, and a fuck-it-all attitude.

First track “Justify” is a solid, heavy hitting opener, a doom/death monster of epic proportions. “Mosh Injury” is Lawnmower Deth-esque silliness, but then without skipping a beat, blasts into the deadly serious “Crucified World”. The song hits one of those slow paced Godzilla grinds which made ‘Tower of Spite’ such a compelling album. And then the band rockets into “Realities of War”, one of the most convincing Discharge covers you will hear. It is followed by “Skate Fear”, which might seem a bit trivial after a serious song, but this cuts right to the core of what crossover thrash used to be- equal parts societal observation and childish fun. And that really is the essence of this band. Fuck only knows what’s coming next, but it’s going to be good.

“Reality Pill” and “Dear Mother Earth” strike a more serious tone again, and are followed by a cover of The Exploited’s “Dead Cities”.

And then when you think you have a handle on things, out comes “Felted Cross”, which wouldn’t sound out of place on Cathedral’s ‘The Ethereal Mirror’, an ode to all the bands of yore which influenced Cerebral Fix’s music.

“Inside My Guts” is a full on hardcore roar of a song, like Agnostic Front with a gutsache. The last track is untitled, a bastard remix of guitar and movie samples, electronica, a throbbing bass line and reggae style vocal shout-outs, with a trip-hop style rhythm. It’s a fucking mess, but it makes sense when you hear it.

The absence of Simon Forrest’s distinctive death/thrash rasped vocals might put some listeners off. Fortunately, Neil Hadden is a strong vocalist, and does not fall into the trap of trying to imitate his predecessor, using more growl than rasp. It still fits in with the band’s bleak, sand-blasted sound, just in a different way.

The word “swansong” often gets used to describe a band’s farewell release, the original definition coming from the belief that a swan gains the ability to produce a beautiful song as it dies. It is bullshit. It would also be bullshit to call “Disaster of Reality” a swansong. Yes, it is Cerebral Fix’s final album, but the music is still as ugly as it always was, and as it should always be.

R.I.P. Cerebral Fix 1986-2017

IMMOLATION Atonement

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.87 | 4 ratings
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Nightfly
How many bands are there like Immolation who’ve been going for thirty years or so and keep releasing great album after great album? Not too many I suspect. Atonement is album number ten and once again they’ve done it – one of their best in fact and up there with the likes of Close To A World Below, Unholy Cult and Majesty And Decay but in truth you could add just about any Immolation album to that list such is the consistently high standard this band keep delivering.

If you know Immolation then you know what to expect – Robert Vigna’s incredibly inventive atonal riffing and soloing. How he keeps coming up with them is amazing. Ross Dolan’s deep guttural growl and not forgetting his thunderous bass playing. Then there’s Steve Shalaty’s complex rhythmic drum patterns following or leading every twist and turn of the constantly shifting song structures. This is death metal as it should be played and at its very best, heavy as hell with riffs that’ll pin you to the wall. Every single song delivers making picking highlights completely futile. These songs have a menace about them that is sometimes lost when bands try to play relentlessly fast all the time. Sure, there’s moments of incredible speed but Immolation play it smart and temper it with captivating grooves, tempo and time changes that will enthral all who have a love of this stuff. This is clearly the sound of Immolation and no band out there can beat them at their own game with the atonal and dissonant thing.

You’ve probably gathered by now that I love this album. I’m even thinking it might be their best but I don’t want to say that as many of their previous albums have had a similar effect on me. Let’s wait for the dust to settle. What I will say though as the benchmark has been set for best death metal album of 2017. I’ve just listened twice today while I’ve been reviewing it and now I want to play it again! If you love death metal you need this album!

MESARTHIM The Great Filter / Type III

Boxset / Compilation · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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adg211288
The Great Filter/Type III (2017) is a compilation release by the Australian atmospheric black metal duo Mesarthim. It consists of two lengthy tracks that were released separately during the tail-end of 2016 as digital only releases. Italian label Avantgarde Music, who has released the physical copies of Mesarthim's other work, has now grouped them together into one forty minute long release.

I've reviewed the two EP's separately before, so if you follow my writing you may have read the next parts of this review before. Having reviewed them I wasn't originally going to review this compilation but I've decided it can't hurt to promote this great band a bit more.

The Great Filter:

Not content with dropping their second full-length album .- -... ... . -. -.-. . (2016) (Absence) and before that the EP's Pillars (2016) and Spire (2016), this year, Australia's enigmatic black metal duo Mesarthim are back again with another new release. The Great Filter (2016), another EP, features a single song, the band's longest track to date at 21:33 in length.

Having come away from Absence a bit disappointed given how much I like Mesarthim's debut album Isolate (2015), and by extension the very similar Pillars EP, The Great Filter finds me appreciating their work a bit more again. Still producing black metal of the cosmic variety this long track moves through various different black metal moods and even some softer sections. At one time you'll hear some spacey synths. At another there's some quite direct guitar riffs for atmospheric black metal. Another time the synths will even sound a bit techno. Then there's a section when it all noticeably speeds up. Then it goes symphonic. Later on there's a bit of Morse Code, a little throwback to the prior album no doubt. On paper it may sound as a load of little smaller ideas thrown together as one track but hey, it works and easily comes across as their most adventurous composition to date. The vocals are the usual indiscernible growl that I'm used to hearing from Mesarthim by this point. Impossible to follow, but their tortured style has always worked well with the blackened atmospheric metal they play and they got back a bit of the majestic feel of Isolate here without rehashing that album and that's definitely a plus.

The Great Filter has brought Mesarthim way back up in my estimations after I didn't enjoy Absence as much as I'd hoped to and I definitely find it to be the best of the Mesarthim 2016 releases up until this point...

Type III:

...Just ten days after the release of the EP The Great Filter (2016) and Australia's enigmatic black metal duo Mesarthim are back already with yet another EP release. TYPE III (2016) is the band's sixth release this year and like it's predecessor sees Mesarthim delivering a single long composition, only a little shorter than the last one at 18:40 in length.

It may initially look as if TYPE III is another exercise in the same sort of thing that Mesarthim did on The Great Filter but this is actually quite a different track within the band's atmospheric black metal spectrum. It feels more structured compared to the chopping and changing ideas of The Great Filter and actually reminds me a bit more of the band's debut album Isolate (2015), especially with the way the synths are used. The guitars, like a bit of the previous EP, take a very direct role in this track though and don't just provide a raw lo-fi atmosphere, but actually bring a surprisingly classic metal feel to parts of the song. There's less different sounds than The Great Filter and you're more likely to hear ideas make a reappearance in this track but as but much as The Great Filter worked I can't help but like TYPE III a whole lot more. I'd go as far to say that it may even be Mesarthim's best track to date.

I certainly didn't expect another Mesarthim release so soon after The Great Filter so they may even surprise us with another release before the year is out the way they are going. But as is I've definitely found the band's EP releases to be more worthwhile this year than the full-length album and despite earlier words in my reviews about The Great Filter being the best Mesarthim 2016 release up until this point the band have quickly supplanted it. Is this it or will they do it again?

Conclusion:

Ultimately Type III did mark the end of Mesarthim's 2016 releases, but with the speed the band works I wouldn't be too surprised to see this year deliver a lot more than this compilation. Both the late 2016 EP's were very recommendable releases and now joined on one CD it's going to be the best time ever to pick them up.

REVOCATION Great Is Our Sin

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.23 | 5 ratings
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UMUR
"Great Is Our Sin" is the 6th full-length studio album by US, Massachusetts based thrash metal act Revocation. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in July 2016. It´s the successor to "Deathless" from 2014. There´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as drummer Phil Dubois-Coyne has been replaced by Ash Pearson. Marty Friedman guests on the instrumental "The Exaltation" with a guitar lead.

Stylistically this is pretty much Revocation as we know them. Technically well played death/thrash with strong melodic sensibilities. So there is very little new here if you´re already familiar with the band´s trademark style. Maybe a few more "clean" vocals (they aren´t really clean, but more a semi-raw type of singing) to compliment the predominantly raw and aggressive vocals on the album, but that´s about it. So the band haven´t developed their style much since the last couple of releases, but what you get instead of stylistic development are well written compositions, high level musicianship, and a powerful sounding production. Revocation are one of those acts who can rip you apart when they set their mind to it or make your jaw drop with crazy fast-paced rhythms, riffs, and guitar solos when they feel like doing that. In other words they are an act who can pretty much do what they want to because they got the skills to do it.

The material on the 11 track, 47:53 minutes long album are generally strong, and it doesn´t take many spins before you´re able to remember most tracks. I still think they could work a little more on the hooks though. There are plenty of melodic moments throughout the album and and also some memorable vocal parts, but it´s probably in the latter department that Revocation could improve a bit. As usual Revocation have included an instrumental in "The Exaltation", which showcases their great playing skills, but also their diversity. "Great Is Our Sin" closes with a cover of "Altar of Sacrifice" by Slayer, and it´s obvious that Revocation feel completely at home playing this track, which I think they do a lot of justice.

"Great Is Our Sin" features a powerful, detailed, and professional sounding production, which suits the material well. To my ears the band have had better productions on some of their preceding releases, but this one is of high quality too. So upon conclusion there´s not much to complain about here, other than a lack of development of sound, but Revocation pull it off with their incredible playing skills and powerful delivery, and when I´m done complaining about the lack of hooks, and other minor issues about the compositions, the material is still top notch death/thrash and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

OBITUARY Ten Thousand Ways to Die

Live album · 2016 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.23 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"Ten Thousand Ways To Die" is a live album release by US, Florida based death metal act Obituary. The album was released through Relapse Records in October 2016. While "Ten Thousand Ways To Die" is primarely a live release, it actually opens with two new studio tracks in "Loathe" and the title track. Both new studio tracks pretty much continue down the old school death metal road of the band´s past material. "Loathe" is a slow, heavy, and relatively repetitive track, while "Ten Thousand Ways To Die" is a slightly more catchy, powerful, and groove laden track. Both are quality compositions, and proof that Obituary still have a lot to offer.

The eleven live tracks featured on "Ten Thousand Ways To Die" are recorded at various shows in the US and Canada. So it´s not a full concert you get here although it could have been because it´s mixed the way it is. The setlist is a good representation of an Obituary live set at this point in the band´s career. There are couple of tracks from "Inked in Blood (2014)" and "Redneck Stomp" from "Frozen in Time (2005)" (which represent the post-reunited material of the band), but other than that all tracks are culled from either "Slowly We Rot (1989)" or "Cause of Death (1990)" (except "Don't Care" from "World Demise (1994)"), which represent the early days of the band. It´s probably a setlist which will satisfy most fans, but personally I miss a couple of tracks from "The End Complete (1992)".

With that little issue aired, the performance of the material is top notch and the sound quality is also of a high quality considering that this is a death metal live album. One of the great assets of the release is that you can often hear the audience, feedback from the guitars, and other natural live "noises", which all help make "Ten Thousand Ways To Die" an authentic sounding release. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

SIX FEET UNDER Torment

Album · 2017 · Death 'n' Roll
Cover art 1.00 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
Six Feet Under will always live in the shadow of Cannibal Corpse. ‘Torment’ has done nothing to drag it out from under that shadow.

Vocalist Chris Barnes was one of the founders of death metal’s biggest band, and contributed a huge part of Cannibal Corpse’s genre-defining sound. His less than amicable split from the band caused great consternation in death metal circles, worried Cannibal Corpse would become a shadow of its former self. For his own part, Barnes had formed death metal’s first super group, his side project Six Feet Under, which then became his full time gig.

However, Barnes leaving Cannibal Corpse did the band a great favour, allowing them to move into far more technical realms, pushing the boundaries of death metal. Barnes himself though, has continued to wallow in the fetid swamps of days gone by.

‘Torment’ is better than the ‘Graveyard Classics’ covers albums series, but not much. There is so little inspiration or effort in the music its surprising even the musicians themselves don’t get bored with it. Yes, it is mostly old school. Yes, it’s heavy, decently executed death metal. Yes, unfortunately, Chris Barnes’ gargly vocals are just the same as they have always been. He is supposed to be the superstar of this band, but is far and away its weakest link.

The indecipherable cupped mic growl was cutting edge in the early 1990s. It was one of the defining features of the still developing fledgling death metal genre, which Chris Barnes so ably pioneered. As musicians experimented and pushed at the edges of all things brutal and heavy, death metal evolved. Vocalists discovered it was possible to be guttural, varied and even comprehensible at the same time, while maintaining the music’s inherent brutality. Chris Barnes, his head fogged in a cloud of THC infused smoke, seems to have missed it. He is still peddling the same monotonous bark which so straight-jacketed Cannibal Corpse.

Barnes’ other innovation of the day was to push the boundaries of good taste and bestial lyrical perversion. Song Titles like “Meat Hook Sodomy”, “I Cum Blood” and “Fucked With a Knife” leave potential listeners in no doubt about what they are about to hear. The lyrics were always violent, often sexual, and always confronting. Sometimes though, Barnes’ murder/rape fantasies missed the mark, and just became tasteless, silly parodies of the truly vile. Songs like “She Was Asking for It”, “Entrails Ripped from a Virgin’s Cunt” and “Necropedophile” were a bit distasteful even to the most dedicated gore fiends. On ‘Torment’ Barnes once again crosses the line, with the tasteless “Bloody Underwear”, a title which conjures unsavoury imagery in any one of several ways.

That’s not to say ‘Torment’ is a total loss. While mid-paced plodding gets a bit monotonous, when the band uses a bit of tempo things improve. “Exploratory Homicide” blasts into life after the dreary opening track “Sacrificial Kill”. “Skeleton” also shows promise, with a militaristic snare and grumbling bass intro, but falls flat on its ass when Barnes attempts a vocal melody, in the loosest definition of the word melody. “Obsidian” also shows a glimmer of inspiration above the dull generic mass surrounding it.

Times have moved on and left Six Feet Under behind. The kindest thing to do would be to quietly euthanise the band. The more appropriate thing would be to scourge, flay, flense, eviscerate, disembowel, gut and fillet Six Feet Under (the band, not the people responsible!), and bury the mangled, maggot infested remains in an unmarked grave, along with glories also long since dead.

STAMINA System of Power

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.31 | 4 ratings
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DippoMagoo
Italy is known for having some excellent power and progressive metal bands, but for every big name band from that country, there are several other bands who consistently make quality albums that tend to go largely under the radar. One such band is Stamina, led by guitarist Luca Sellitto. They have released three albums to date, with their previous album Perseverance being my introduction to them, and it was quite the stellar release. Now they’re back with their fourth release System of Power, with a slightly revamped lineup as well as a slightly different sound than what I remember from Perseverance, but if anything I’d say this new album is even better.

With Perseverance, I remember having a difficult time trying to nail down an overall genre for the music as I was hearing traces of power metal, hard rock, heavy metal and even some AOR to go along with the supposed main sound of melodic prog. With System of Power, though, that isn’t so much the case, as most of the lighter hard rock elements have been removed, in favor of a more predominantly melodic progressive metal sound, mixed in with quite a bit of power metal and the occasional symphonic elements. On the whole, this is a much heavier, more guitar-driven release and it’s definitely a more clearly metal album than its predecessor, though it’s still a very melodic album overall, and the new singer is given a ton of space to work with. There’s some very impressive instrumental work on this album and the musicianship is very technical at times, much more so than I remember from the previous release, with Luca especially shining during some epic solos, though keyboardist Andrea Barone does some pretty impressive work as well, and there are still many sections where the keyboards dominate. It’s a very well balanced and great sounding album overall, with a nice mix between faster tracks with power metal elements, and slower, more progressive tracks.

The area where the band has changed most, though, is the vocals. On Perseverance, there was no lead singer, as the band instead used various guests for all the vocals. In between albums, they recruited vocalist Alessandro Granato, who does all the lead vocals on this release, and he does one hell of a job, for sure. He sings with a very deep and aggressive voice at times and he can also be very animated at times, occasionally using some higher pitched vocals that especially work great on the speedier tracks. In fact, on the whole, I find his vocals work great for power metal and so he does an especially great job on the tracks that focus more on that side of their music, although he sounds very good all around.

Opening track “Holding On” immediately feels like a change to more of a prog sound, as it begins with some excellent keyboards before the guitars eventually kick in and the pace picks up, turning into a more power metal oriented track. This is a fairly heavy, fast paced track with some great instrumental work all around, especially from Andrea, and it also does a great job of introducing Alessandro, as he sounds excellent throughout and especially during the chorus. I mentioned previously that he excels on faster songs, and my favorite of these is definitely “Love Was Never Meant to Be.” The track begins with a rather lengthy intro where the keyboards dominate and help give the track a very playful, sort of theatrical mood right from the start, and the verses are a lot of fun and do a nice job of alternating between fast and mid-paced, but it’s the super speedy chorus that stands as the clear highlight, and it’s there where Alessandro delivers his best vocals on the entire album.

Other great faster tracks include “One in a Million” and “Why”. The former begins with a nice orchestral opening, before turning into one of the heavier tracks on the album. The guitars feel a bit chunkier than usual on this track and add an extra dose of heaviness to the verses, while the chorus is more melodic and fun as usual. “Why” also begins with an extended symphonic intro, though on this track those elements are rather prevalent throughout, which gives the music more of an epic feeling throughout, and the chorus is once again outstanding.

On the slower side, the title track and closer “Portrait of Beauty” are two very solid mid-paced tracks, where the prog elements are more dominant. Both tracks do a nice job of switching between guitar parts and keyboard parts, with both musicians doing an excellent job and they both deliver some great solos. Those tracks are both very good, but I find they pale in comparison to “Must be Blind”, probably the most progressive track the on the album, and certainly the track with the best instrumental work. Right from the start, the guitars sound just a bit heavier and more complex than usual, and that little keyboard flourish at the end of the main riff is a nice touch. The track also has a fun, fast paced chorus, but it’s the instrumental section in the second half where the track really picks up as the musicians go all out and the result is quite stunning. Lastly, “Undergo” (Black Moon Pt.2)” is a very nice ballad, though it’s also the one track where Andrea’s keyboards feel the least prominent. It begins with a nice acoustic guitar section before Luca adds a really nice melodic section with the electric guitar, and then throughout it’s mostly a vocal driven track that serves as a great showcase for Alessandro, and then in the second half, Luca gives himself plenty of space to deliver a nice solo section.

Overall, System of Power is an excellent album that will hopefully bring more attention to Stamina, as it’s a great blend of melodic progressive metal and power metal, with some excellent musicianship, great vocals, and consistently strong songwriting. More importantly, it represents a slight step up from the band’s already very good previous release, and now with a new lineup I’m hoping for more great things from the band is the future. Highly recommended for power metal fans and prog fans who prefer the more melodic side of the genre.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/02/22/stamina-system-power-review/

LOCUST LEAVES A Subtler Kind of Light

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.62 | 4 ratings
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adg211288
Record labels don't usually get me excited in themselves. Most of my long-time favourite bands don't share a label and many have moved between multiple labels in their time and that's if they aren't even just releasing their music themselves, as is common these days. Most of time I probably couldn't tell you what label even my favourite releases were put out on. It's just not something I pay attention to. There's one notable label that has become an exception to this though and that's Italy's I, Voidhanger Records. Home of the likes of Mare Cognitum, Spectral Lore, Howls of Ebb, Lorn and Midnight Odyssey to name just a handful, a string of excellent releases, mostly within the black metal genre, has had me paying close attention to everything this label puts out. I can't say that everything I've heard from them has suited my musical palate but a lot of the stuff has not only been excellent but also some of the most interesting albums I've heard in the last few years. This includes Spectral Lore's mammoth double album III (2014). Already they have put out two of this year's best black metal albums in Lorn's Arrayed Claws (2017) and Todesstoß' Ebne Graun (2017).

The latest I, Voidhanger Records released album to grace my eardrums is A Subtler Kind of Light (2017) by Greek act Locust Leaves. This two piece band that consists of vocalist Nick K. and instrumentalist Helm were previously heard of when they appeared on a split with Spectral Lore in 2012 but until now that was all that has been heard from them. On A Subtler Kind of Light they are joined by sole Spectral Lore member Ayloss on guest lead guitar, but those expecting the double association with their countryman to yield any kind of similar results may be in for a surprise, as A Subtler Kind of Light can only be described as a progressive metal album.

Offering up plenty of technicality on one hand, the band further expand the scope of their music by including elements of a number of other genres and blending them seamlessly together. An atmospheric black metal feel here (opener Light (Fos) actually does have an instrumental section reminiscent of some of Spectral Lore's III), an aggressive death metal element there (especially in third track Fall (Ptosi) which really switches things up towards the extreme side of the band) and even the pure ambient track Flight (Ptisi) to close the whole thing off. A Subtler Kind of Light may be a short four track release of about thirty-five minutes, but it has more ideas packed into it than most albums twice its length. Nick K's vocals share the varied style of the music, switching between theatrical, epic cleans, blackened rasps and death growling. It's a fun album to explore because it quickly asserts that you never know where it's going to go and upon it's conclusion there's only one course of action left: listen to the whole thing again to make sure you really just heard that.

I've been thinking that progressive metal was stagnating over the last few years with nothing really awe inspiring and original coming out of it any more. Some good albums but nothing that really blew me away. Locust Leaves just changed that with A Subtler Kind of Light. This one has more extreme metal elements than the kind of albums I was really feeling that stagnation thing about, but the first two clean vocal dominant tracks do place it more on the same page as the traditional progressive metal acts out there than the extreme progressive death and black metal types (from which there have been some very good albums in the same time period), so consider the genre to have just been given the good kick up the arse it so desperately needed.

SVANGUR KVÖL Wreck of the World

Album · 2017 · Black Metal
Cover art 1.00 | 1 rating
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adg211288
A one man black metal act out of Australia, Svangur Kvöl is the project of one Guðmundr. A couple of EP's, a demo and a single were released during 2016, but Wreck of the World (2017) is the project's first actual album. Despite carrying that branding, Wreck of the World isn't actually all that long. It's six tracks spread across a dead twenty-seven minutes. The prior EP release Mourn (2016) wasn't all that shorter at almost eighteen and a half minutes long with half the amount of tracks.

The material found within initially shows itself to be of the ilk of rough and raw black metal that has been done a thousand or more times and counting by this point in the genre's history. A passage of ambience is heard at the end of opener Out Of The Darkness... The Wolves Came Whispering, with an electronic sounding beat added to it, but the album doesn't seem to offer much else on first listen that hordes of others aren't also doing. Scratching the surface by persevering with the album reveals that there's a bit more to it than that, such as leanings into the depressive black metal sub-genre, some death metal and even a little bit of punk. The reason I didn't pick up on any of that the first time around is that, as I pointed out: it's rough and it's raw. Even by black metal standards the recording quality of Wreck of the World seems to be more like demo level, with fourth track Fences and Windows going so far as to cut off so abruptly it actually gives the impression that part of the track is missing opposed to an intentional sudden stop.

The music does have a much more chunky sound production than is typically heard from black metal acts (they usually go for something a whole lot more cold sounding), so it does have that small different factor going for it, but that's about it. The different ideas are there but the flavour they add is small because those details aren't too easily picked up upon, making it very easy for the release to be dismissed out of hand. Overall it's simply one of those releases where you can hear the potential if you go looking for it but can't take much actual pleasure out of through listening to it.

Svangur Kvöl is a fairly new act and like many in the genre (or metal in general) Guðmundr is working without the backing of a label and releasing his music for free/donation so is probably just doing the best that he can with what he's got. Unfortunately the results he's come up with for Wreck of the World show that he's still got a lot to learn before he produces something worth going back to. For me the album served the purpose of discovering the name Svangur Kvöl and that there is potential to be found within this first album, so the name will be in the back of my mind should I run across the project again in the future, but that's a common story I find myself reliving with a lot of artists in similar situations and the chances are even if that does happen I won't remember too much about this album at that stage.

BATTLE BEAST Bringer of Pain

Album · 2017 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.71 | 5 ratings
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RuneWalsh2112
So how did Battle Beast manage as songwriters after firing their main songwriter Anton Kabanen after the release if their previous album? To tell you the truth, my expectations were low since I doubted that the band would be able to top their material on "Unholy Savior" and was expecting the new songwriter contributions to make this record into a weird mash-up of all the individual members styles. Luckily this is not entirely the case since "Bringer of Pain" does offer the familiar sound of Battle Beast and the compositions aren't as bad as one might expect them to be.

The opening track "Straight To The Heart" kicks things off on a right foot with strong Power Metal vibe and almost makes me forget that Kabanen is out of the band. Things continue in the right direction with the title track and the album's first single "King For A Day". "Beyond The Burning Skies" and "Familiar Hell" don't have the same punch to them, as the previous three tracks, but are still pretty solid numbers.

Unfortunately the quality of the material begins to drop halfway through the album with "Lost In Wars" which features a guest appearance of Tomi Joutsen from Amorphis. This track sound really weird and doesn't fit in at all with the rest of the material... almost as if the band wanted to collaborate with Joutsen and thus made a song that would fit his style more than that of Battle Beast.

"Bastard Son Of Odin" is another lesser track as the band is clearly trying to be tongue and cheek but this only undermines their sound. "We Will Fight" is a fine Heavy Metal number which clearly shows that Battle Beast aren't ready to completely leave their Traditional Heavy Metal roots and be labeled as a Power Metal act. "Dancing With The Beast" is a continuation of "Touch In The Night", from the previous album, but I don't find is as enjoyable this time while "Far From Heaven" is a fine ballad that closes the album.

I was surprised that two of the three bonus tracks that were released were actually really strong tracks. Both "God Of War" and especially "The Eclipse" features all the momentum I was missing on some of the album tracks. I would have easily enjoyed this album more if "Lost In Wars" and "Bastard Son Of Odin" were replaced by "God Of War" and "The Eclipse". "Rock Trash" on the other hand is another joke song and it's enough to hear it once and completely forget that it ever existed.

Overall I'm actually surprised that Battle Beast managed to make a pretty good album with "Bringer Of Pain". Granted I do enjoy their two previous albums a bit more but this release is definitely better than their debut album "Steel". Hopefully they can continue in the same direction on future releases!

***** star songs: Straight To The Heart (3:31) King For A Day (4:33)

**** star songs: Bringer Of Pain (3:04) Beyond The Burning Skies (4:39) Familiar Hell (4:04) We Will Fight (3:26) Far From Heaven (4:20) God Of War (3:56) The Eclipse (4:30)

*** star songs: Lost In Wars (4:34) Bastard Son Of Odin (3:34) Dancing With The Beast (3:42) Rock Trash (3:13)

WATCHTOWER Concepts of Math: Book One

EP · 2016 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"Concepts of Math: Book One" is an EP release by US, Texas based technical/progressive metal act Watchtower. The EP was released through Prosthetic Records in October 2016. Watchtower was formed in 1982 and released the two groundbreaking albums "Energetic Disassembly (1985)" and "Control and Resistance (1989)" before disbanding in 1990. They reunited in 1999 (first with original vocalist Jason McMaster and from 2009 onwards with "Control and Resistance (1989)" vocalist Alan Tecchio) and there have been rumors of them working on new material ever since. In 2010 they released the one track single "The Size of Matter" and in 2015 the three one track singles "Arguments Against Design", "M-Theory Overture", and "Technology Inaction" followed. "Concepts of Math: Book One" features all four single tracks plus the track "Mathematica Calculis", which is exclusive to this EP release.

Stylistically Watchtower more or less continue where they left off in the late 80s/early 90s. The music is fusion influenced technical/progressive metal in the more raw and occasionally thrashy end of the scale. Lead vocalist Alan Tecchio is still a force to be reckoned with. Although he doesn´t sing as many extremely high pitched notes as he did on "Control and Resistance (1989)", he is still an incredibly powerful singer, with a distinct sounding voice, and he can still hit the high notes when that is called for. The musicianship is generally out of this world and there are several jaw-dropping moments on the EP. Intricate technical drumming and bass playing, and Ron Jarzombek´s almost avant garde guitar playing will keep you on your toes throughout the playing time of the EP.

It´s no surprise this is music which requires a few spins to sink in. The song structures are complex, and it takes a while before hooks begin to appear, but if you´re familiar with the band´s back catalogue you wouldn´t expect it any other way. Despite the 5 tracks on the 28:55 minutes long EP being recorded at different recording sessions, there is a great overall flow on the release and the sound production is similar on all tracks too, which results in a nicely consistent listening experience. Regarding the sound production it´s powerful, clear, and detailed, which suits the material perfectly.

So upon conclusion "Concepts of Math: Book One" may not be the full-length fans of the band have been waiting for in years, but it´s pretty close and with a playing time nearly 30 minutes long, you do get quite a bit of quantity for the money. Add great quality to that equation and we have a strong comeback release on our hands. Watchtower was once one of the most adventurous acts on the metal scene, and while most listeners today probably aren´t as surprised by their incredible playing skills and intricate compositions, as audiences were in the 80s (a lot of development in the technical/progressive part of the genre has happened since those days), they still deliver very intriguing and powerful technical/progressive metal and they are still among the kings of the genre. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

MY DYING BRIDE Meisterwerk III

Boxset / Compilation · 2016 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Meisterwerk III" is a trible disc compilation release by UK doom metal act My Dying Bride. The compilation was released through Peaceville Records in October 2016. As the title suggests "Meisterwerk III" is the third compilation in a series of compilations where "Meisterwerk I" from 2000 and "Meisterwerk II" from 2001 were the first two. "Meisterwerk III" comprise both the material from the two preceding compilations in the series and a third disc with freshly compiled material.

The material from "Meisterwerk I (2000)" and "Meisterwerk II (2001)" are tracks from the early part of the band´s career. Some of them in demo versions or slightly altered versions compared to the regular studio versions of the same songs, and there are a couple of rarities thrown in too. The third disc on "Meisterwerk III" features later period material, which includes tracks like "Feel the Misery", "The Manuscript", and "Bring Me Victory". So it´s a compilation with a combination of regular album studio tracks and some rarities. The tracklist is as such interesting enough, but at this point in the band´s career, it´s almost impossible to cover all releases in the band´s discography and thereby gain a good understanding of their recording history.

Personally I would have prefered either a purely "best of" compilation or a "rarities/B-side" only compilation, instead of this mixture, which to my ears ends up being a bit redundant. Newcomers won´t be interested in demo versions and rarities tracks, and the hardcore fans won´t be interested in listening to studio tracks, because they already own the albums. Therefore a 3 star (60%) rating isn´t all wrong. There´s nothing wrong with the quality of the material, but the idea behind the compilation is lost on me.

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