Metal Music Reviews (new releases)

HAMMERFALL Dominion

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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DippoMagoo
Swedish heavy/power metal band Hammerfall have become very reliable over the last 22 years, releasing one great album after another, without showing any signs of slowing down. They first splashed onto the scene in 1997 with their critically acclaimed debut, Glory to the Brave, and ever since they’ve been both very prolific and consistently entertaining, proving themselves to be one of the absolute best in their field. While I tend to enjoy some of their albums more than others, they always manage to have their fair share of excellent tracks on every release, and so I always look forward to hearing new music from them. I was particularly impressed by their previous release, Built to Last, which proved to be a big return to form following the much-reviled Infected, and the solid but somewhat underwhelming (r)Evolution. Their eleventh full-length release, Dominion, is nearly here, and after several spins, I can safely say it not only improves upon its already excellent predecessor, but it’s an amazing album in its own right and one that can easily stand toe to toe against any of the band’s best works!

Hammerfall has a pretty distinct sound at this point, striking pretty much a perfect balance between 90’s-early 2000’s Euro power metal, with slight modernization here and there, and some classic heavy metal. The only album that didn’t quite fit that description was Infected, which had a much darker, slightly heavier and more modernized sound, overall. Dominion, however, continues where Built to Last left off, showing the band at their most melodic, and the most energetic they’ve been in quite some time, channeling their younger selves at times, while still having some sight modern twists, as well as a couple of their heaviest songs to date. The guitar work is, of course, excellent, as always, with some amazing melodic lead guitar work, some great solos, and some very heavy riffs, and while there are times where the music takes a slightly modern twist, for the most part, the songs have a very classic feel to them, which works perfectly. There are a few points where the music approaches Infected levels of heaviness and darkness, but the band always counters it with some excellent, uplifting vocal melodies, and so anyone turned off by that release should not be disappointed by this one. As far as pacing goes, the album is very much what any Hammerfall fan should expect from the band, with a perfect mix between speedy power metal, some slower, hard-hitting heavy metal, a couple of tracks which alternate between the two, and a couple of ballads. Perhaps the strongest aspect of the release, though, is the vocals, with Joacim Cans sounding clearly at the top of his game, delivering the kind of epic, soaring power metal vocals he’s always excelled at, and especially shining during the choruses, which are easily some of the band’s catchiest, most melodic and just plain best in quite some time. Production and performances are of course excellent across the board, as always, and everything sounds perfect.

Leading up to the release, the band has delivered three singles, all of which would suggest a move away from their typical power metal sound, though all three of them are excellent tracks, in their own right. First up, lead single “{We Make} Sweden Rock” is a rather upbeat, moderately paced heavy metal track, with a slight hard rock feel to it. It has some nice heavy riffs throughout the verses, which give way to a very melodic, extremely catchy chorus, and while the lyrics may be a bit cringy for some, the performances and overall songwriting are more than strong enough to help make it a winner, and the guitar solo and chanting in the second half are quite excellent. The second single is “One Against the World”, which starts with some pretty cool modern sounding keys, before slowing down and turning into one of the band’s heavier tracks. The verses plod along at a slow pace, but with some very powerful guitar work, and they do a great job of building towards the typically great, uplifting chorus. The track picks up in the middle, with an epic speedy section that brings classic Iron Maiden to mind, and then it only speeds up further from there, going into full power metal territory for a truly awe-inspiring final run through the chorus. The third and most recent single is the title track, another very hard-hitting track, with a killer lead riff that falls somewhere in between Black Album era Metallica and classic AC/DC, as well as being some of the band’s most brutal guitar work ever, aside from Infected. The track moves along at a fairly slow pace, with calm, melodic verses, enhanced by some cool choir vocals chanting the name, and then the chorus comes in and is beautiful, with some of the band’s best vocal melodies of all time, and some very funny lyrics. The solo section in the middle is also epic and brings back some of the heavy riffs from early on. Overall, it’s my favorite song on the album, as as well as probably my favorite heavy metal track they’ve ever made, aside from maybe “Patient Zero”, from Infected.

The singles may cause fans to expect less power metal on the album, but thankfully that is not the case at all. First up, we have the explosive opener, “Never Forgive, Never Forget”, which starts with a nice soft intro, where the music immediately gives off a slight old Western vibe, and this remains throughout the entire track. Following that intro, the tempo immediately picks up, with the verses galloping along at a fast pace, while the chorus is very fun, melodic and quite fast-paced, with the track only briefly slowing down for some nice instrumental work in the second half, followed by an extremely fun and intense vocals section, which gives way to some great solos. Two tracks later, “Testify” is the heaviest of the power metal songs here, moving at a fast pace throughout and delivering some pretty crushing riffs, with a slightly modernized sound, overall. The highlight of the track is the chorus, with some pretty cool gang vocals delivering the title. It’s very fun and intense track, overall. On the more melodic side of things, “Scars of a Generation” has a very classic Hammerfall feel to it, moving at a nice pace with some moderately paced verses, before going full throttle for a very speedy, yet extremely melodic chorus, which is sure to please many power metal fans. It’s a very fun track, with some awesome vocal melodies, and is one of my favorites. The last two speedier tracks on the album are “Bloodline” and “Chain of Command”, both of which strike a nice balance between being fast-paced, melodic and having some heavy riffs and very melodic, catchy choruses, as well as some great instrumental work during the solo sections. Both tracks also have some excellent choral vocals throughout, and both are excellent tracks, overall.

Aside from the singles, the only real heavy slower track is “Dead by Dawn”, which has more of a classic Hammerfall sound to it, with some pretty heavy riffs during the verses, but with more of a traditional feel to them, while the chorus is quite fun and intense, and has some more great choral vocals. On the softer side, Built to Last ended with the incredible power ballad “Second to None”, which the band decided to follow up on this release with “Second to One.” While this track isn’t quite as epic as the aforementioned masterpiece, it’s still a very nice ballad, starting with some nice piano work and vocals, which remain throughout the first two verses and chorus, before guitars take over for a very emotional solo. The chorus is excellent, and the verses do a good job of building up to it, while the instrumental work is excellent. It doesn’t have any speedier passages or any real metal elements, at all, unlike “Second to None”, but it’s an excellent ballad, in its own right. Closing out the album is the second ballad, “And Yet I Smile”. This one starts with some excellent melodic guitar work, and it’s a slightly heavier track, overall, with some nice bursts of heaviness, particularly in the second half, while still clearly falling into power ballad territory. It balances nicely between soft and heavy sections, with Joacim delivering some brilliant vocals throughout, especially during the chorus, the instrumental section is extremely well done. Overall, it’s a very strong, if somewhat predictable, way to end the album.

For the longest time, I used to consider Hammerfall as one of those “singles” bands, where each of their albums would have maybe 2-5 excellent songs I played over and over, while ignoring the rest, but over time I’ve grown to enjoy almost all of their work, and while some of their albums do still feel a bit inconsistent, the band has proven their ability to deliver some great, more consistent releases over the years. Dominion is yet another triumph, with some of their best tracks to date, including some excellent speedy power metal, some slow, crushing heavy metal with excellent vocal melodies, and a couple of excellent ballads. Longtime fans of the band should be very pleased, while anyone looking for some fun heavy/power metal is highly recommended to give this album a shot, as it’s one of the band’s best works to date!

Originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/08/10/hammerfall-dominion-review/

VLTIMAS Something Wicked Marches In

Album · 2019 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.42 | 6 ratings
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UMUR
"Something Wicked Marches In" is the debut full-length studio album by multi-national death metal act Vltimas The album was released through Season Of Mist in March 2019. Vltimas was formed in 2015 by guitarist Rune "Blasphemer" Eriksen (Mayhem, Aura Noir, Nader Sadek). Eriksen conceived the idea of the band and wrote some material which he send to drummer Flo Mounier (Cryptopsy, Nader Sadek) and asked if Mounier would be interested in joining, which he was. Shortly after Eriksen contacted vocalist David Vincent (Morbid Angel, Genitortures), who was fresh out of his second stint with Morbid Angel, and thus the trio lineup who recorded "Something Wicked Marches In" was completed.

With Vincent on vocals it´s almost impossible not to think of early 90s Morbid Angel, and references to that band and that era of death metal actually aren´t completely off when describing the sound on "Something Wicked Marches In". Eriksen´s black metal past and influences shine through on some of the riffs, but other than that this is old school influenced death metal through and through. It´s technically well played, but not with a focus on technical playing. The complexity of the riffs and rhythms are more a means to an end. Vincent predominantly uses his distinct sounding and intelligible growling vocal style, but there are clean vocals on the album too, which are sung in a deep kind of gothic rock/metal style. It´s nothing which takes away the focus from the death metal brutality and authenticity of the music though, just a little extra dark spice, which works perfect on the album and provides variation and atmosphere to the music.

The material on the 9 track, 38:22 minutes long album are well written, detailed, and intriguing death metal. Multible riff styles are employed, the guitar solos are very well played, and Mounier´s drumming is powerful and creative (the album features many breaks, tempo changes, but also great restraint as Mounier understands when to play more simple, when that is called for). While all tracks feature catchy hooks which return more than one time during a track, the song structures are a bit more adventurous than your regular vers/chorus formula structure, and the creative song writing ideas and intriguing compositional details make "Something Wicked Marches In" an interesting and entertaining listen throughout. Highlights include the opening title track, "Monolilith", and the delightfully fast-paced "Truth And Consequence", but all tracks on the album are more or less of an equally high quality.

"Something Wicked Marches In" features a well sounding production, which suits the material perfectly. There´s the right balance between power, clearness, and an organic touch. So-called supergroups often fail to deliver what the names and previous output by their members often promise, but Vltimas are, based on "Something Wicked Marches In", a shining example of the opposite, where a supergroup actually works and produce a memorable release. "Something Wicked Marches In" reeks class in every way possible and a 4.5 star (90%) rating is fully deserved.

FLAW Vol. IV Because Of The Brave

Album · 2019 · Nu Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kingcrimsonprog
I really enjoyed the 2001 debut album Through The Eyes from Kentucky Nu Metal band Flaw, they were always one of the more underrated bands from that particular subgenre and the quality of their debut is up there with any of their more famous peers. I saw them live in 2002 and they were really good. Maybe the market was just saturated, at the time, maybe they didn’t get the right exposure, who knows? Maybe the manager didn’t land them the right tour…who knows? All I know is it sure as hell wasn’t for lack of brilliant songs that they aren’t as big as they should be. The follow up, Endangered Species was pretty good, but it came out when Nu Metal was falling off the map and hardly anyone heard it. I wanted it but didn’t ever find it in any music stores at the time, and this was before the internet was an obvious way to get albums. I’m sure you could, but I didn’t think of it yet.

Cut another 15 years forward to 2019, the band have gone through line-up changes (Wikipedia lists 19 ex-members, that’s up there with Cradle Of Filth and Annihilator for turnover), solo albums, a self-produced album and a reunion/comeback. The second album since their comeback, Vol. IV Because Of The Brave is now out, and it reminds me once again what a solid and dependable band Flaw are. It reminds me what an excellent vocalist Chris Volz is. It reminds me how entertaining Nu Metal can be when its done right.

It’s a decent album. 35 minutes, doesn’t overstay its welcome. Fair production job. Good solid songs. A typically excellent vocal performance from Chris Volz. There’s also a few surprises. ‘Wake Up’ for example sounds a bit more like Korn than Flaw. The album closer, ‘Lest We Forget’ is pretty interesting too. Its sort of mid paced alternative metal with spoken word kind of reminds me a tiny bit of what Queensryche were doing on American Soldier.

Highlights include the opening one-two punch of ‘Persistence’ and ‘Walk The Line’ as well as single ‘Conquer This Climb’ (which seems to be a bit more modern and almost slightly Djent flavoured for the first few seconds before it turns to the classic Flaw sound – but with a rather tasty guitar solo).

If you have any inclination to check out Flaw for the first time, then obviously, go for their by now classic debut first. This is good but its not as good as the first two albums. But if you are a fan you can relax knowing the band are still here, still putting out music, and aren’t disappointing. Overall; A welcome addition to the Flaw catalogue, if you are into that sort of thing (which I certainly am).

POSSESSED Revelations of Oblivion

Album · 2019 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.74 | 3 ratings
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Vim Fuego
When Possessed went through their various bust ups, there was a feeling among fans that the band’s true potential was never fully realised.

Through the legendary “Death Metal” demo, the influential “Seven Churches” album (NOT the first death metal album. No, it just fucking wasn’t, even if this site says it is!), the slightly more polished “Beyond The Gates” (which has one of the stupidest album covers ever), and the mellower “Eyes of Horror” mini album, Possessed had created a small, powerful, but occasionally patchy catalogue of evil, high energy thrash.

The band first split in 1987, not long after the release of “The Eyes of Horror”, with a variety of fates befalling the various band members. Guitarist Larry LaLonde joined fellow San Fran thrashers Blind Illusion, and then to rock weirdos Primus. Guitarist Mike Torrao continued with the Possessed name, but the band’s reputation had declined to the point where they suffered the indignity of playing support to an up-and-coming unsigned band by the name of Machine Head. Bass player/vocalist Jeff Becerra was shot in 1989 during a robbery, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Swept away in the great metal purge of the early 1990s, it seemed this legendary band had died young and left a beautifully ugly corpse.

But then an unusual thing happened. Possessed came back from the dead. “Revelations of Oblivion” is the result. The wheelchair-bound Becerra decided that 32 years was long enough for the world to be without a new Possessed album, so put together a band, wrote some songs, and recorded this little beauty. It all looks so easy when written like that...

When the creation of this album was first announced, the naysayers were quick to jump in with opinions on how bad it would be. After all, there’s only one original member left in the band, often not a great recipe for success. However, the most important element is the one that’s left – Becerra’s distinct shout/scream vocals. Have you ever tried singing sitting down? No, not just at a birthday party or in church (eek!), but really SINGING. Ever notice that professional singers always stand? Look at opera singers, choirs, and pretty much any band or performer you ever see. Singers stand. Why? Because that’s where the power comes from. Volume and breath control comes from being able to stand and move freely. See where this is going? Jeff Becerra is confined to a wheelchair. Listen to his vocals. The difference between 2019 and 1987 is negligible. Yeah, studios, recording methods, technology and all that shit have advanced immeasurably in those three decades, but you can’t work wizardry unless you have the right noises to work with in the first place. Becerra still sounds angry, evil, and most importantly, powerful. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of what he has achieved here.

And the naysayers can fuck off. “Revelations of Oblivion” finally realises the full potential of what Possessed always threatened. No, this won’t have the impact or influence that the band’s earlier work did, mainly because there’s a shit-ton more top quality extreme metal in the late 2010s than there was in the late 1980s. Extremity has sprouted in numerous black, dead, grinding, and technical directions since that time, and any single release now will have a more specific audience than back in Possessed’s initial run. However, if old school thrash which dabbles in cartoonish Satanic themes is your thing, then you won’t top this.

“Chant of Oblivion” is ye olde traditional spooky intro track. Tolling bells fading in with spooky horror movie orchestration and chants. So far, so clichéd, so fucking good!

And then the album bursts straight into the speedy evil “No More Room In Hell”. The first and most obvious thing is that while the sound is sharp and clear, it’s distinctively Possessed. No one else wrote or played wrist snapping riffs like that. Spiky, sharp guitar riffs, courtesy of Daniel Gonzalez and Claudeous Creamer, fly off each other. And that’s the great thing here. There’s nothing these two do which would have been out of place if done by LaLonde and Torrao. It’s Possessed, done in the style of Possessed.

Drums were always the weak link in the original Possessed line-up. Mike Sus was enthusiastic, but never very technically proficient, and couldn’t quite keep up with the rest of the band. No longer. Well, Sus is no longer in the band anyway, having gone on to become a psychologist, but drummer Emilio Marquez doesn’t miss a beat, which is a dreadfully clichéd way to describe a drummer, but this guy is faultless and powerful, and clichés become clichés because they fit.

Drums and guitars aside though, this is really the Jeff Becerra show. “Damned” has a great vocal melody, with rapid fire rhyming couplets, which gives it a weird evil Dr Seuss feel, but it’s near flawless. “Shadowcult” features a wicked chant. “The Word” blasts in with a great opening riff, but as soon as Becerra’s rasp hits, it’s obvious the guitars are only there as a vehicle for this voice.

In 2006, Celtic Frost surprised the metal world with “Monotheist”, easily their strongest album, a decade and a half past their supposed prime. Strongest, yes. Most influential, no. It was never going to be since times had changed. The same thing has happened here with Possessed. “Revelations of Oblivion” is stronger and more consistent than anything Possessed created in the 1980s, but despite finally realising the band’s full potential. it’s not going to have the impact of the previous albums. Unlike Celtic Frost though, let’s hope Possessed don’t call it a day after this.

WITHIN TEMPTATION Resist

Album · 2019 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 2.71 | 3 ratings
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Kev Rowland
I have been a fan of this Dutch outfit for some fifteen years, since the release of their third album ‘The Silent Force’, so when I realised they were back with their seventh (it has been way too long since ‘Hydra’) I was incredibly excited as I have always loved the vocals of Sharon den Adel and their symphonic almost gothic approach to metal. Then I listened to it. According to Sharon, “After ‘Hydra’ we didn’t feel inspired anymore, up to a point where for the very first time we could see the end of the band coming near. After so many years of making music, only creative inspiration and innovation can motivate you to make a new record. And a very long break, no hasty decisions plus refilling your battery with new experiences. Like I did with recording my solo record ‘My Indigo.’ It eventually turned the tide. Our hunger to create and innovate awoke again. With this record, we’ve taken inspiration from modern music and gave it a face - a very dark one. Sometimes it feels that today’s pop music lacks a rebellious edge. Our main goal was to collect pieces from sounds we did like and roughen it up as much as we could. ‘Resist’ is our take on metal in a new way: to give modern music its rebellious edge.”

Which is all well and good, and I always want bands to change and move, but this just feels too artificial, where production and manipulation of sound has become more important than the end result. I am sure, I hope, that when these songs transfer to the live environment then they will be quite different, but as they stand at the present, they lack emotion and direction. The keyboards sound as if they have come straight from the electronic realm as opposed to the symphonic, the music feels ragged with sharp edges, and although Sharon’s vocals are as strong as ever, here they don’t have the impact they used to. I am sure there are plenty who will be pleased with the new direction of the band, but it just doesn’t work for me at all, and will watch with interest what happens with the next album. But given it has taken five years for this one to be released, I’m not sure when/if that will happen.

ROTTING CHRIST The Heretics

Album · 2019 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 4.61 | 5 ratings
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Kev Rowland
I was fairly late hearing Rotting Christ for the first time, but even I have been a fan for twenty years now. It is incredible to think that Sakis Tolis (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and his brother Themis (drums) formed this band as long ago as 1987, and now in their thirty-second year they have surely produced an album which is going to make the metal world sit up and take notice. The Greeks have brought in a couple of guests to help out and have then somehow produced one of the most incredible melodic black metal albums I have ever had the privilege to hear. The album opens with monks in their cloisters, a voice describes heretics, and then suddenly the band are crunching into “In The Name of God”. This is one of the most blistering, melodic and heavy black metal numbers I have come across as the riffs blast through in perfect unison, crunching everything into mush beneath the sheer power.

It is an incredibly brutal album, yet it is wrapped in symphonic majestic black metal power, a real iron fist inside a silk glove as it is incredibly commercial yet totally uncompromising all at the same time. That this has been picked up by music buyers and has catapulted it into charts all over the world is not a surprise to me, as any metalhead who hears this (no matter what subgenre they normally listen to) will just be blown away. Irina Zybina makes her presence felt on “Vetry Zlye” with some delicate additional vocals, adding yet another touch of class to what to my ears in a faultless album. I have been playing this a great deal, and I just can’t tire of it, each and every time I listen to it I am blown away by the sheer scale as this is something that feels to be far more than just music. This is a real force, an artistic creation which is monstrously beautiful. Now if only they could tour down here so I can hear this in the live environment then it would feel complete. This is one of the most important albums within this genre ever released, as it cuts through and across so many areas and is an amazing achievement.

OVERKILL The Wings Of War

Album · 2019 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.88 | 5 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Overkill are back with their 19th studio album and show no signs at all of slowing down. They have a new drummer since ‘The Grinding Wheel in Jason Bittner, but given he has played with the likes of Shadows Fall, Anthrax, Toxik plus Flotsam and Jetsam his metal credentials are definitely established, and he drives the band from the back (even though the actual drum sound is more than a little suspect). D.D. Verni and Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth will soon be gathering in their pension, having formed the band as long ago as 1980, but even guitarists Dave Linsk and Derek "The Skull" Tailer will soon be celebrating 20 years, so here is a band with incredibly longevity and consistency. They have long since stopped trying anything significantly different, and as soon as the Overkill logo is sighted then one knows that here is thrash as it should be played, hard and fast and little in the way of anything fancy.

I was a huge fan of their last album, which I felt was the best of their career to date, but this one hasn’t grabbed me in the same way at all. It is okay, in fact it’s quite good, but it doesn’t have that touch of brilliance and class from the last one. I can’t put my finger on it, not sure if it is the songs, the arrangements or the production, as Bobby certainly hasn’t changed his approach and his rough-edged vocal style is still at the centre of all they do. I can’t imagine them ever releasing a bad album, but for me this certainly isn’t as essential as some of their others.

SLIPKNOT (IA) We Are Not Your Kind

Album · 2019 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.36 | 3 ratings
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Kingcrimsonprog
I’ve said it before, but I don’t think in my life I have listened to any album more than Slipknot’s 1999 debut. I got into the band my first year of high-school and for my generation they were the biggest and most important band in the world, the way Metallica and Maiden were for people starting school in the ‘80s, or Pantera were for people starting school in the ‘90s, or Zeppelin and Kiss were for people starting school in the ‘70s.

Slipknot were more than a band; they were so much more in my mind. I can’t count on two hands the number of pictures I drew of them, or discussions I had with school friends about them or magazines I bought just because they were in it. The first time I saw them live, on the Iowa cycle at Belfast Odyssey Arena, is one of the most memorable concerts I have ever been to. I don’t want to throw around terms like life-changing in my old and cynical age, but if I was to apply such an epithet to any band, Slipknot would be the one.

To some extent I like everything they have ever done. I am a bit of a lifer and so this review isn’t exactly going to be impartial or unbiased. But I am not 100% blind and unwilling to think critically either so I’d like to say you can trust what I say. I will admit All Hope Is Gone is not as good as the others. I’ll be happy to admit that there quite a few lyrics I dislike and sometimes Shawn’s video projects are a bit too arty and pretentious and that maybe a straighter take might do the band more favours. I’ll even admit that some songs I like have choruses I dislike even if the rest of the song is enjoyable. (‘Sulpher’ for example has a chorus I always seem to resent, as it represents the band going a bit too far away from what made me like them in the first place). I did get a bit sceptical when a few too many clean vocals started creeping in and what were amazing and refreshing moments of clean (‘Me Inside’) amongst the heaviness became the norm and it started to seem almost every song had to have a radio chorus.

A lot of people aren’t so keen on the band’s last two albums, All Hope Is Gone and .5 The Gray Chapter, so you can expect the reviews for this will all certainly feature some kind of ‘return to form’ or ‘best since’ line or two. Now; as I said, I like every album Slipknot have ever made (and probably every song too, its just some parts I am not keen on)… but I both can and can’t see why this ‘return to form’ thing is going to be so prevalent.

Now; I think The Gray Chapter is brilliant. I’ve been reading a lot of negative things about it online in the build up to We Are Not Your Kind’s release. I don’t agree with the narrative that it was a rushed or undercooked or too much like Corey’s other band Stone Sour. Tracks like ‘Custer,’ ‘Sarcastrophe’ and ‘The Negative One’ are rabid and savage, and even though I sort of resent them, I can’t deny the radio moments like ‘The Devil In I’ are damn catchy… However; In the same way I initially hated ‘Psychosocial’ when I first heard it for the big clean radio chorus that felt like a change in what the band was trying to be and what they represented, I can see how the cleaner moments on the Gray Chapter would put people off. I mean in isolation I like almost every one of them anyway, but I just wish on principal that on the last three albums there were a few more ‘Disasterpeice’ and ‘Metabolic’ style choruses and a few less ones like those of ‘Dead Memories’ and ‘Before I Forget.’ I reckon a lot of other older fans feel the same way.

We Are Not Your Kind seems to be blowing a lot of people’s skirts up for its heaviness and brutality. There is plenty of it on here. ‘Orphan,’ ‘Red Flag’ and ‘Nero Forte’ all connect like a haymaker to the face. Corey did say in interviews while it was being written that it reminded him of Iowa and on these songs you can sort of see why he might have thought that if they were the ones he was working on at the time.

But this album has plenty of clean moments too. Hell; the first real song (track 2) on every other Slipknot album is always one of the fastest, heaviest, most brutal ones on the record, and yet here, track two is the big single ‘Unsainted’ with its absolutely huge radio chorus and festival sing-along intro. So the public’s different reaction to ‘Gray Chapter and We Are Not Your Kind can’t just be about heavy vs. clean.

One thing that is clear is that the songs on this, their sixth official studio, album are just really good. It might be that simple. The first distorted verse to ‘Unsainted’ is fierce as honey badger and the drums throughout are really impressive and energetic. The way Jay flails sideways into the china cymbal at unexpected times reminds me of what made the band’s debut so damn exciting.

You know what else makes this album so good? (Now; I’m not saying it wasn’t there on the last two albums, but…) on this album the amount of time given over to the band’s extra members and how high they are in the mix seems to be higher on this record. Lots of Sid’s DJ scratches. Lots of additional percussion from the two extra percussionists. Lots of samples and sounds from the mysterious Craig. It feels like this album really goes out of its way to justify having all nine members and revels in what makes Slipknot unique… After the massive success of Vol. 3 and its radio singles and ballads, it felt like on the follow up, All Hope Is Gone that the band were trying to be more of a ‘normal’ band instead of celebrating their uniqueness. Here they seem to shine a spotlight on them more often.

What else is great is that the band aren’t afraid to do new things. ‘Birth Of The Cruel’ for example sees the band discover ‘90s Groove Metal, and lean into the sort of riffs and drum beats that would fit on Burn My Eyes or Chaos Ad at times, with bendy riffs, and stomping jarring rhythms. Obviously through a Slipknot filter, but still…

I think the best thing about the album though might well be the fact that Corey isn’t holding back with his vocals so much. On the first album he screamed his head off so much that we were told he wasn’t allowed to talk between shows so he could rest his voice. By the time Vol. 3 came around he had to find a way to scream without damaging his voicebox and came up with the new voices that he has been using on that and all subsequent albums. It feels at times though that on this album (and maybe ‘Custer’ off of the last album… because as I said, I don’t get the hate for that one) that Corey is back to shredding his throat to pieces like back in the glory days. Some of the vocals on ‘Red Flag’ and the start of ‘Orphan’ could be straight out of ‘People = Shit’ or ‘The Heretic Anthem’ and that is the sound I fell in love with all those years ago. That was a big part of the initial magic that hooked me in and made me such a lifer for this generation defining band. Corey howling himself hoarse is just one of the best noises in all of heavy music and its nice to hear it so much again.

The production is also good, it keeps the mix clear without losing the frenzied and chaotic feel too much on the heavier tracks. You can hear each beater on the kick drum, you can hear the bass under the vocals, but you can also tune out and just be swept away in the energy of the whole thing. It doesn’t feel like the edges have been sanded down too much.

One little minor niggle against the album is the exclusion of the track ‘All Out Life’ (which was separately released back around Halloween 2018, but it contains the title line ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ repeatedly chanted). Admittedly; There was one bit I didn’t like in it, where they slow down and there is the spoken word ‘‘I will not…’’ section that was a bit similar to the intro of ‘Pulse Of The Maggots.’ Otherwise however, that track was quite a rager. I really love how driving the first verse is and when he sings that ‘’the horizon is coming like a hellbent killing machine’’ you really feel this sense of urgency and momentum. I have just added the track in as number 15 on my iTunes and phone so I get to hear it every time I hear the album (which has been pretty much non-stop since release). If you want it on CD though, you’d have to buy the special Japanese bonus track edition. Bit of a shame though that everyone doesn’t just get it as standard, because it’s a great song that I’ve really grown to love and it fits into the album well.

I feel it’s a bit weird to leave it out, as the biggest complaint I have about The Gray Chapter is that it needs just one more heavy song to balance the album out. It’s a bit frustrating to see them make the same decision again. I mean don’t get me wrong; I like ‘A Liar’s Funeral’ and ‘Not Long For This World’ and their atmospheric build ups. (Slipknot have always been the master of that, with the likes of ‘Gently’ and ‘Skin Ticket’ in the good old days, and ‘If Rain Is What You Want’ recently). But what right-minded metal fan wouldn’t want the majority of a Slipknot album to be flailing double kicks and gnarly riffs?

Now I don’t want it to be exclusively speed and power. Slipknot’s diversity is as big a draw as their ferocity. The band have always had a creepy experimental side (often driven by Shawn) to balance out Joey and Mick’s love of Deicide and Morbid Angel. All the way back to ‘Tattered And Torn,’ ‘Frail Limb Nursery’ and ‘Scissors’ from the debut and evolving into things like ‘The Virus Of Life’ and ‘Danger Keep Away (Extended Version)’ they have been balancing out the aggressive songs with nightmarish moments. They have also been experimenting with clean and subtle moments on recent albums like ‘Killpop’ and ‘Goodbye.’ So you can sort of see the legacy and evolution there and so it isn’t a total bolt out of the blue, when this album takes the cleans and mixes them with the creepy to come up with a new sound. I have read a lot of reviews of this record saying this record is dominated by experimentation. You can sort of see why. The album is full of creepy nursery rhyme-meets-experimental electronic tracks. ‘Death Because Of Death,’ ‘What’s Next,’ ‘My Pain’ and ‘Spiders’ for example come across at the same time as being both something that the band has never done before but also as a continuation in their long line of broadening the scope of their albums by adding in something more esoteric.

This album is certainly diverse; you have the four aforementioned quiet creepy ones, you have the two above-mentioned atmospheric ones, a selection of ragers as discussed prior, the huge big radio single with the surprisingly heavy verses and great drumming to open the proceedings. There’s also ‘Critical Darling’ which toes the line between radio and rager with its chorus reminiscent of Alice In Chains’ track ‘God Smack,’ and then there’s the album closer ‘Soloway Firth,’ which is a sprawling, strangely structured and winding song that goes in many different directions and which requires a good few listens to even pin down and follow what’s going on. Its not prog, but its certainly not three-chord trick, verse-chorus-verse, rock either.

All in all it is a very interesting listen (even without adding in ‘All Out Life’ for heaviness sake). I don’t want to go and say ‘’The best album since…’’ because I am really fond of all their albums, but it is certainly really good. Really, really good in fact. As a bit of an over eager fan it certainly satisfies, but objectively it is a damn fine record with a good flow, a good balance of different directions, a good sound and fantastic vocal performance. It not only meets my high expectations but exceeds them.

VOLBEAT Rewind, Replay Rebound

Album · 2019 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Kingcrimsonprog
I am not the oldest Volbeat fan, I only discovered them last year at Download Festival 2018, but I have been listening to them absolutely non-stop ever since.

Volbeat cds for birthday and Christmas, Volbeat t-shirts under my work clothes pretty often, Volbeat on the car stereo during every road trip to visit relatives, Volbeat in the car ride to work almost every work day. Overall; I’ve listened to over 2,900 times in the past year. Something that few other bands can boast. Since records began in 2011 (when I started tracking it via LastFm), they are my 9th most listened-to artist. So basically; I’ve listened to them more in one year than I have some of my favourite ever bands, almost any other band in fact, in the last 8 years.

So you could say, that coming into this new album, which is the first new one to be released in my time as a fan (not counting the amazing live album, Let’s Boogie! Live from Telia Parken), that I was more than a little excited.

…So imagine my surprise when the first time I listened to it, I didn’t really care for it. At all.

Now, that was partially my own fault, first of all I was lifting weights on a red hot Summer’s day, with a noisy fan on while I did so, so maybe it wasn’t really hearing it in the best conditions. Additionally; I was beyond hyped, so I wasn’t really going in with realistic expectations.

Having listened to it a good few more times, some of them while driving, some while exercising and some just sitting there in a quiet room paying close attention, it has definitely grown on me more.

There are some stand out tracks that I am really happy to have in my Volbeat collection and which I would be excited to see live. ‘Die To Live’ is probably the best of them. I mean, how could it not be, featuring as it does guest vocals from the mighty Neil Fallon from Clutch. It is a jaunty up tempo rock n’ roller with tinkly piano reminiscent of Illusion era GnR and fun saxophone reminiscent of the Boomtown Rats but a basic bouncy pop punk structure for the rest of the song that wouldn’t be out of place on a mid period Green Day or Rancid album. Real fun tune.

There is also the singles ‘Parasite’ which is a 40 second punk statement with punctuated vocals and oodles of energy, and ‘Leviathan’ which is just an absolute sing-along anthem up there with previous gems like ‘Heaven Nor Hell’ or ‘Thanks’ or ‘Lola Montez’ in the Volbeat-sound-like-fun stakes. The band are always great when Jon gets pounding on the floor toms. It is the kind of smile-inducing big stadium shouter that makes you remember how fun Rock Music is when you are 13 years old.

Another great thing about the album is the lead guitar work, Michael and Rob’s lead guitar lines and solos are utterly majestic at times (think the Guitar solo from Anthrax’s ‘Safe Home’ and you’ll know what I mean)… the kind of magical guitar solo that transports you to another place.

That said. I don’t think I would be out of place in saying this is the band’s worst album. Well, if not worst, then, least good. The first point against it in my book is really subjective, but it is just not heavy enough. There’s maybe two Metal songs on it. ‘The Everlasting’ and ‘Cheapside Sloggers’ (with guest guitar from Exodus’ Gary Holt!) are the heaviest tunes, but they stand sort of alone in that front… and even ‘Cheapside Sloggers’ is only Metal in the second half once the guitar solo section kicks it up a notch.

The second thing against it is they re-use a lot of things from previous albums. Single ‘Pelvis On Fire’ for example will be real good fun if it is the first Volbeat song you ever hear but it is exactly halfway between ‘Devil Or The Blue Cats Song’ and ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’ and you kind of feel they are ripping themselves off a little bit. Haven’t I heard that vocal melody before? Hasn’t he done an Elvis voice before? That slow down speed up thing sounds familiar.

The third thing, again subjective, is that they do too much of the overly earnest big American radio rock style. On the previous album they did it a bit on tracks like ‘Goodbye Forever’ or on the album previous to that, with ‘Cape Of Our Hero’ but they did it really, really well and in small doses. Here they do it so much it kind of overwhelms the album. They do inject Volbeatness into those songs, but just not enough for my tastes. It makes the album sound a bit bland. Usually a Volbeat album is a rollercoaster going from sounding Psychobilly, to Pop Punk to Groove Metal to Stoner Metal to 1950s Rock N’ Roll to Metallica-Worship and back again, all in a seamless package where it all flows together and you don’t even realise its weird that bagpipes have entered the mix.

On this album it feels like a radio rock album with a few detours. Initially at least. The more I listen to it the more I get into it. I also feel like me saying they do too many radio songs is a bit like Millicent Stone in the TV show Bunheads telling the ballet dancers they are doing too much of a certain step (when she herself has no knowledge of dancing). And saying there isn’t enough metal is a bit silly when the tracks I have said where the best songs, ‘Die To Live,’ ‘Parasite’ and ‘Leviathan’ are in no way metal and are still brilliant. And some of my all time favourite Volbeat songs from across the discography like ‘Lola Montez’ and ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’ and ‘Still Counting’ aren’t metal either.

That’s perhaps a conflicted mess of a review. To summarise I would sum it up thusly, the gut reaction was negative but its a grower and although I would certainly not make it your first Volbeat album unless you love earnest radio rock, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a disappointment and it has at least 5 or 6 songs I am really happy with and will be happy to include on future playlists, and would be happy to see live. However; if all you liked about Volbeat was the heavier side of them, like ‘Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza,’ ‘Slaytan’ and ‘Wild Rover Of Hell’ …then maybe this album might not be an instant hit with you either.

MEMORIAM Requiem for Mankind

Album · 2019 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Nightfly
When Memoriam released their debut album “For The Fallen” in 2017 I was expecting great things from them. After all they had two former members of Bolt Thrower in their ranks, the best death metal band to come out of the UK. Whilst it had its moments I was somewhat disappointed – it was certainly heavy but lacked the Sledgehammer bludgeon and strong hooks Bolt Thrower always delivered. Follow up “The Silent Vigil” likewise and felt a bit rushed arriving the following year with a weak production. For album number three, released only a year later again, they have finally nailed it.

The first thing you notice about “Requiem for Mankind” is the production. Here they’ve hired the services of producer Russ Russell and it’s really paid off. The sound is big and for the first time they’ve really captured some of that Bolt Thrower bludgeon. Not only that, but as is immediately evident from opener “Shell Shock” they’ve got the riffs to back it up. Here they really crush and hit hard with just enough melody for them to get firmly under the skin. It’s mainly mid-tempo stuff, injected with groove, also like Bolt Thrower, heaviness taking precedent over speed. Best of all, they keep it up for the whole album with every song earning its place. The band turns in a strong performance – guitars, bass and drums all sounding crushing with Scott Fairfax’s guitar work being particularly good. There’s quite a bit of war themed stuff here but the lyrics also get political on the self-explanatory “Austerity Kills” and delivered with conviction by Karl Willetts.

Despite my earlier comments the first two albums weren’t bad, just ordinary. Here though Memoriam have released an album that can stand head and shoulders with the best death metal the year has to offer. Here’s hoping that album number four, due in 2020 if their current prolific streak keeps going, is just as good if not even better.

PISSGRAVE Posthumous Humiliation

Album · 2019 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
Having lived and worked on farms most of my life I think I’m a pretty good judge of the gory and gruesome.

I have picked swarms of maggots from the putrefying flesh of living animals. I have been splattered in grey matter (yep, calf brains) and guts, bathed in piss, and showered in shit. I have removed rotted placenta and foetal material from the birth canal of a half-ton beast. I have cleaned up two inch deep jellied blood from euthanised sheep. I have killed animals with blunt force and firearms alike (clarification: never, ever for fun - always from necessity). I now work as a medical writer, dealing with pictures of gonorrhoeic genitalia, ulcerated eyes, suppurating sores, and scathing skin rashes. Blood, pus, viscera, excreta, it’s all part of life. Someone has to deal with it, and quite often that someone has been me.

Pissgrave have achieved something with the cover of their second album “Posthumous Humiliation”. They caused me to look away in disgust. Yep, the cover of this album is utterly revolting. Well done!

Why “well done”? Because it’s hard to get a reaction of disgust out of me, without resorting to inhuman and inhumane cruelty (I don’t go looking for torture and murder for fun). While the victim of the illustration here is obviously dead, it looks like the result of a violent accident rather than a willful act of violent depravity. Cannibal Corpse left the imagery of a hammer smashed face to the listener’s own imagination. Pissgrave brought that image to life... er, death.

And after a cover like that, you’d probably expect a vile mishmash of formless near noise, right? Not this time.

Pissgrave’s thing is some pretty fucking solid death metal, accented with guttural beyond goregrind vocals. This differs from your usual loose labial grinding gore mess in that it’s tighter than a gerontonecrophiliac’s nutsack at the site of a plane crash full of senior citizens. The music is structured, and the riffs are actually pretty fucking good. If you’ve ever thought “I wonder what Autopsy would sound like if they had been a bit faster and tighter”, then here’s your answer. Of course, part of Autopsy’s charm is the way the band always skirted the edge of total disaster, but still...

Pissgrave’s riffs are tight and focused. This is proper death metal, and while not up to the quality of something like Cannibal Corpse or Morbid Angel (what is?), it’s streets ahead of the heavy-for-heavy’s sake deathcore/slam multitudes. There are solos in the frantic Rick Rozz style of old school Death and Massacre, strings squealing on the verge of snapping. The drums aren’t mindless blasting or a robotic mechanical rattle. Don’t worry – there’s more than enough blast beats and double kick drums to go round, but there’s enough space left in the mix for contrast and definition.

The vocals are the big point of difference. The pitch-shifted guttural growl is amped and fuzzed within an inch of white noise oblivion, almost completely blown out. A lot of grind bands do this by accident with a mushy, muffled sound. In this case, it’s voice as instrument, like John Tardy’s early Obituary efforts, except a shitload faster, and more mangled and manipulated.

Pissgrave are really at their best when they hit a high speed groove, like in second track “Canticle of Ripping Flesh”. The music is frenetic and chaotic, but from it a sub-melody emerges. It’s the kind of groove death metal pioneers hit, and new school tech-deathsters miss. That’s why a lot of people still love the old shit and get left cold by a lot of the new stuff. It brings death metal to life. And despite the dead bad luck of the unfortunate cover model, this is an album full of life. True, the “life” is probably gangrenous, highly infectious, and purulent, but this is an album which is much smarter than it may appear at first glance. If you’re brave enough to take a second glance, Pissgrave have distilled the essence of old school death metal and spiced it up with some new school flavours.

Just don’t look at the album cover while trying to eat...

QUEENSRŸCHE The Verdict

Album · 2019 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"The Verdict" is the 15th full-length studio album by US prog/power metal act Queensrÿche. The album was released through Century Media Records in March 2019. It´s the successor to "Condition Hüman" from 2015 and the third studio album by Queensrÿche featuring lead vocalist Todd La Torre after Geoff Tate was fired from the band. Drummer Scott Rockenfield had a child and after the touring cycle supporting "Condition Hüman (2015)" chose to take a leave from the band to care for his child. However when it became time to record "The Verdict", Rockenfield did not feel ready to begin playing with Queensrÿche again, and as the rest of the band felt it was time to record a new album, they had to look for an alternative solution on the drum post. Fortunately La Torre is not only a brilliant vocalist but is also a very capable drummer, and therefore the band opted to let La Torre record the drums for the album, instead of bringing in a session drummer.

Stylistically the material on "The Verdict" continue the melodic US power/heavy metal style of the two direct predecessors (which also feature La Torre on vocals). All three albums are actually very similiar in sound and style, and while I was relatively satisfied with the first couple of La Torre-fronted Queensrÿche releases, we´ve come to a point, where it would have been nice with an album which doesn´t sound almost one to one like the last couple of releases.

No one can dispute the high quality of the music though (including me). Queensrÿche are a very well playing act and La Torre is a top tier heavy metal vocalist. "The Verdict" is well produced too, featuring a relatively powerful and detailed sound, which suits the music well. So it´s the songwriting which lacks the last catchiness and memorable hooks. Some tracks of course stand out more than others, and the band also try a few new things on the album, but there are simply too many tracks on the album which are very similar in style and sound, and which don´t stand out. A 3.5 star (70%) is still deserved though.

SABATON The Great War

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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DippoMagoo
Sometimes, even my favorite bands will leave me a bit disappointed, which happened with Swedish power metal band Sabaton in 2016. They’ve been among a short list of my few absolute favorite metal bands for close to 10 years now, so I always have sky high expectations for them, which means even an album that could merely be called “very good” instead of “incredible” will leave me feeling somewhat disappointed. Sadly, that’s what happened with their sixth full length release, The Last Stand, as while it was still a highly enjoyable release, with a few particularly amazing tracks, it felt a little low in energy and inspiration compared to normal, and it had some songs that simply never grabbed me the way the band usually does. Despite that slight setback, I was excited when I heard the band had a new release coming in 2019, and I was hoping they could get back on track and blow me away once again. Early indications, from the first single as well as hearing the concept of the album, had me very optimistic, and now that I’ve listened to their seventh full length release, The Great War, 20+ times, I can officially say that whatever happened last time did not happen again, as this release represents the Swedes at their best, most energetic and most fun, while also having some truly powerful and awe inspiring moments!

There was a slight lineup change in between albums, with guitarist Thobbe Englund departing and being replaced by Reinxeed singer/multi-insturmentalist Tommy Johansson, who of course does a fantastic job, as always. I’m not sure if it’s specifically because of his presence, or just a general burst of inspiration, but the performances on this release feel even stronger than normal, with some otherworldly good melodies at times, as well as some of the most inspired solos I’ve ever heard from the band. They’ve always been known to have some incredible memorable choruses, but on The Great War, even the verses are infectious, as well as the bridges. In fact, there really isn’t a moment on the entire album that isn’t memorable or epic in some way or another. With all that being said, though, it’s still fairly similar to their previous few releases stylistically, in that the tempos are generally a bit more restrained compared to some power metal bands. In fact, the tempo rarely goes full speed on this release, aside from on a couple tracks, but instead, most tracks end up feeling fairly upbeat and move along at a pretty nice pace, without fully speeding up. It very much reminds me of Heroes, with how the songs are short, straight to the point and move along at a good pace, with each track having plenty of memorable moments, while all going by quickly enough to let the album flow from highlight to highlight.

As with many of their previous releases, The Great War is a concept album, and in that regard, the band has really gone above and beyond with how well they’ve covered their main theme. Obviously, all Sabaton songs (with a few exceptions) are about historic battles in one way or another, with most albums tending to focus on one specific theme. This time around, they’ve chosen to make an entire album focused on World War I, which is obviously a very important, logical topic for the band to tackle, and they’ve done it perfectly, covering many important moments, as well as historical figures, units and the like. While all their albums have very good lyrics, I think this one might have their best yet, just due to the important of the topic, as well as because of how well they’ve covered it. The album really feels like it flows together perfectly, and the concept helps everything to feel unified, while still allowing each track to stand out in their own way, which is pretty much exactly what I want from a concept album. Obviously, the production is as perfect as always, all musicians do an amazing job as always, and Joakim Brodén’ deep, powerful yet melodic vocals are as epic and amazing as always.

While I’ll always love Sabaton’s core sound and Joakim’s voice, their songwriting tends to be one of their biggest strengths, as well, so I was hoping The Great War would deliver in that area, after The Last Stand was a bit disappointing, and thankfully it does. Similarly to Heroes and The Last Stand, it’s a fairly short album, containing 11 tracks and clocking in at just under 39 minutes, which causes the tracks to fly by in a hurry, and of course that also makes it very easy to play the album several times over in one sitting, to really dig deep into it. Kicking off the album is “The Future of Warfare” a fairly slow paced, atmospheric track with some excellent keys throughout. The verses move along fairly slowly, but are filled with some very strong vocal melodies, while the chorus opens up and is very fun and epic, as always, while the solo section in the second half is very energetic and a lot of fun. It’s a very catchy, very enjoyable opener, and it kicks the album off quite well. Next is “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, a slightly speedier track, with a very classic feel to it, including a main melody that feels like it could have come straight from the band’s “Metal” trilogy of songs, spread across their first two albums and Coat of Arms. This feel is especially true for the main keyboard melodies, and it sticks around for most of the song, while the guitar work is a bit heavier than on the opening track, the verses move along at a pretty nice pace, the chorus is extremely infectious and catchy, the bridge is awesome and very inspired, and of course the guitar solo in the second half is excellent. It’s an awesome track, overall, and an early album highlight.

Things only get better with “82nd All the Way”, another speedier track with some excellent keyboards, as well as some nice melodic guitar work. It moves along at a slightly relaxed, but nice pace during the verses, with more excellent vocal melodies, and then the chorus is quite fast and it’s simply a treat, with some awesome keys, awesome vocals and some amazing melodies, and just like the previous track, there’s an excellent bridge, which gives way to a very melodic and fun guitar solo in the second half. The first real slow track on the album is “The Attack of the Dead Men”, and it has a slightly unique feel to it, with much darker, more atmospheric sounding keys, and indeed the track has a fairly grim feel to it overall, and the band pulls it off quite well, with slow, but heavy verses and a fairly strange but quite interesting build up to the chorus, which is of course every bit as upbeat, melodic and super catchy, as always. The track has a particularly inspired instrumental section, which goes on for quite a while, with some very classic sounding melodic guitar work, as well as possibly the heaviest, most technical passage on the album and it’s one of the highlights of the album for sure. Next is “Devil Dogs” and it’s yet another instant classic. It again has a familiar feel, opening with an epic tease at the chorus, before the pace picks up during the opening verse, which contains some very epic choir vocals, as well as some heavy riffs, and the song moves along at a nice pace, with another huge, epic chorus, as well as a very fun instrumental section, preceded by an epic, triumphant vocal section, which is followed by an over the top, but quite funny voice over, as well as more excellent solo work.

Next is second single “The Red Baron”, and some fans may not have heard the normal album version yet (for reasons I’ll explain near the end of the review), which contains an epic hammond organ recreation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Little Fugue in G Minor” during the intro. Following that, the track introduces a rather playful keyboard melody, that has a bit of a swing feel to it, and it carries on throughout the track, giving the track a very cheerful feel. The song moves along at a fast pace, with very fun verses, one of the catchiest choruses I’ve heard so far this year, and it has yet another excellent instrumental section, with more playful keyboards and some excellent melodic guitar work. Following that is third single, “Great War”, which is one of the slowest, yet also most epic tracks on the album. It moves along at a slow pace during the verses, with more atmospheric keys and strong vocals from Joakim, and then the chorus is of course unbelievably powerful and epic, with strong symphonic elements and some excellent choral vocals, to help give it a more dramatic feel. The pace picks up again with “A Ghost in the Trenches”, which is one of the faster tracks on the album, with a nice gallop to the verses, as well as another very upbeat, very fun chorus, and more great instrumental work throughout. It’s definitely one of the catchier songs on the album.

The band did something which I think may be unprecedented with lead single “Fields of Verdun”, by having cello metal band Apocalyptica record a cover, and then releasing that cover a couple days before the release of the original track, itself. The cover was actually an amazing, very beautiful and atmospheric piece, with a nice use of varying tempos, while the Sabaton version is fairly straight-forward, very fast paced and quite fun, with an excellent, super catchy chorus, a very strong guitar solo, and fun verses. Both versions of the song are excellent, and it’s easy to see why it was picked as the first single. The last full length song on the album is “The End of the War to End All Wars” and it’s another very epic track, opening with some soft piano and slight symphonic elements, before turning into a full blown symphonic metal track, which gets more and more epic as it goes on, complete with some orchestral elements and some very epic choir vocals. It’s definitely one of the most epic, cinematic tracks the band has done, while still fitting their style perfectly. Verses are fairly dark, atmospheric and a bit heavy, while the chorus is extremely fun and theatrical, with the choirs taking full charge, and there’s a very epic, classical flavored guitar solo in the second half (I suspect it is taken from a classical piece, but I can’t figure out which it is) and overall it’s a very beautiful, powerful track, which gives way to an outstanding ending to the album. This outstanding ending comes in the form of “In Flanders Fields”, a choral performance of the classic poem, written by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. It’s a very beautiful cover, done entirely a Capella, with a choir, and it’s an absolutely wonderful way to end the album.

Before concluding this review, I’d like to point out that there are actually two version of the album: A normal version, which has all tracks uninterrupted, as well as a “History Version”, which includes some narration. The latter effectively makes the album feel similar to The Art of War, with a woman briefly introducing the topics for each track, and these narrations are fairly brief, so as not to disrupt the flow too much, while giving a bit of insight and historical context for each track. For the most part, the songs themselves are exactly the same on both versions, except that the History Version removes the Hammond organ intro for “The Red Baron”, and that’s the version the band used for their video. I generally prefer the normal version, for its overall flow, but the History Version is definitely worth a listen or two, for the narrations.

Sabaton will always be one of my all time favorite bands, with even a disappointing album like The Last Stand still managing to entertain me time and time again. Thankfully, though, The Great War is a big return to form, containing the same mix of speedy and slower tracks as Heroes, along with the seamless flow of that album, moving from highlight to highlight, while also having a very important concept, and executing it to perfection, with optional narration, excellent lyrics, and a stunning ending sequence. At the same time, there are plenty of amazing individual tracks here, as well, so anyone just looking for some addictive power metal, with little care for the lyrical themes, will also find a lot to enjoy here. It’s too early to say where it ranks among my all time favorite albums, but The Great War is definitely one of my top three favorites from Sabaton, along with The Art of War and Heroes, which is already saying a lot, and it’s far and away the best album I’ve heard in 2019 so far, with any upcoming releases having next to zero chance of topping it.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/07/15/sabaton-the-great-war-review/

FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE Veleno

Album · 2019 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
Perhaps more than any other extreme metal band on the scene the Rome based Italian band FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE has been the most instrumental in keeping the symphonic branch of death metal in the spotlight and three years after the release of the band’s previous album “King,” returns with a brand spanking new slab of molten technical infused death metal along with the expected piano, choral vocals and operatic symphonic touches. VENENO (Italian for “poison”) is the band’s fifth overall full-length release and it carries on exactly how one would expect, that being an equal rich tapestry of classical music components that scanned the horizons of the past and channeled the compositional fortitude of the masters such as Paganini, Bach, Mozart and whoever else the trio led by Franceso Paoli could incorporate. Of course, for us brutal death metal lovers, it is the bombastic roar of the guitar, bass and drum that created the harsh counterpoints that was the draw with the orchestral parts providing Dr. Jekyll aspect while the Mr. Hyde metal created a neoclassical death metal firestorm.

While VENENO follows suit, what’s instantly noticeable is how the orchestral parts have been tamped down a few notches and take a backseat to the fiery metal fury as heard on the opening “Fury” which completely eschews the long-winded orchestral classical build ups and just gets down to business with heavy crunchy death metal guitar riffs pummeling along at breakneck speed. In fact this is the album that emphasizes the orchestral parts the least of FLESHGOD’s decade long string of albums as they don’t really become a major tour de force until the fifth track “The Praying Mantis’ Strategy” which is a short intermission and respite from the distortion fueled metal that dominated the soundscapes prior with only faint background traces. The symphonic elements carry over to “Worship And Forget” and then slowly retreat to the backdrop again however careful listening reveals that these classical elements are always lurking in the background and the main impetus for constructing the melodic flow, it’s just that on VENENO they are suffocated by the pummeling death metal aspects which gives this album a different feel than its predecessors.

Another aspect that differentiates VENENO from the past is that album hosts a couple of guest musicians with Veronica Bordacchini on vocals and newbie Fabio Bartoletti on more guitars with Francesco Ferrini handling piano and orchestrations, newbie Paoli on vocals, guitars and drums and Paolo Rossi on bass and the sporadic clean vocals that pop up. Once again FLESHGOD creates an album that is graced with the perfect production job that allows the beautiful clean aspects to reverberate perfectly with the filthy raw bombast of the death metal that doesn’t sound too polished. Perhaps it comes off as a little muddy at times, especially in the opening tracks but i think that’s what the band was going for this time around. A full string quartet, a classical percussionist and a Baroque choir provide the symphonic touches and once again seamlessly meld with the death metal. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the album is the closest thing to a ballad the band has ever created in the form of “Pissing On The Score” which starts off as an opera with Veronica Bordacchini’s diva tenor vocal talents taking the lead and then turns into a beauty and the beast duet. The track sounds more like something from Phantom of the Opera and never integrates the death metal. Hmmm… could these be a new phase? If so i don’t like it but it’s not bad as a one off for contrast.

All in all, VENENO is yet another exciting chapter in the FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE universe that continues the band’s now rather infamous mashup of death metal and classical elements and tweaks them into a slightly different sounding album. VENENO is by no means going to win over any fans who have already fled the growly vocal fueled bombast of the death metal paradigm but neither will it offend those who have already signed up for the fan club. VENENO delivers all the expected goods and despite a feeling of the recycled riffs and overall feel of been there done that, VENENO cranks out enough spontaneity to keep my interest while retreading the rather lonely niche of performing extreme bombastic death metal with a full symphonic orchestra integrated. The performances on VENENO are top notch and although the ballad is the one track i could live without, the album is chock full of beautiful melodies and ugly brutality all swirled together like a copulating yin yang sign at the circus and for me that’s good enough. While the actual album ends with the Chopin inspired title track which is mostly a piano workout, some albums include two bonus tracks including the Rammsteain cover of “Reise Reise” which is quite an interesting take on the German industrial band’s 2004 song from the album of the same name. VENENO is yet another great album from FLESHGOD!

DARKTHRONE Old Star

Album · 2019 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.73 | 2 ratings
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Warthur
Perhaps Arctic Thunder was just something Darkthrone had to get out of their system - a necessary creative purging before moving on to this. Old Star sounds much more like the followup to The Underground Resistance that a lot of us were expecting than Arctic Thunder does. Whereas the latter album felt more like "blackened heavy metal" than a full-on black metal release, this time around Darkthrone deliver up black metal with a strong influence from the genre's roots in thrash (via Bathory or Venom) and traditional heavy metal (via Mercyful Fate), with more of an emphasis on the thrash this time than on Arctic Thunder. I wouldn't put it above The Underground Resistance, which I consider to be the pinnacle of Darkthrone's current sound, but it's pretty damn good in its own right.

OVERKILL The Wings Of War

Album · 2019 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.88 | 5 ratings
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UMUR
"The Wings Of War" is the 20th full-length studio album by US, New York based thrash/heavy metal act Overkill. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in February 2019. It´s the successor to "The Grinding Wheel" from 2017 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as drummer Ron Lipnicki has been replaced by Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall, Anthrax, Toxik, Flotsam and Jetsam).

"The Wings Of War" pretty much continues the energetic and raw thrash/heavy metal style of "The Grinding Wheel (2017)" (and the style on quite a few albums before that one), with hard edged thrash/groove/heavy metal riffs, blistering solos, and a strong playing rhythm section. It´s sharp, it´s raw, and it´s powerful. The icing on the cake is as always the rusty "fuck you" attitude loaded vocals by lead vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth. His voice is like listening to nails put through a grinder but at the same time he is able to put enough melodic hooks and catchy phrases into the songs, to always keep a good balance between the raw and the more accessible.

There´s little out of the ordinary featured on "The Wings Of War" but all tracks are of a relatively high quality. Highlights include the opener "Last Man Standing", the heavy groove laden "Distortion", and the fast-paced and energetic "Welcome to the Garden State", but all tracks are pretty much of an equal quality and catchiness. The band are as usual incredibly well playing and obviously very passionate about what they do, and that´s one of their greatest assets.

Upon conclusion "The Wings Of War" is yet another high quality release by Overkill and I´m still amazed that they can continue to produce music of this quality, keeping in mind this is their 20th full-length studio album. There have been small ups and downs in quality over the years, but they are more or less the definition of solidity. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

DEATH ANGEL Humanicide

Album · 2019 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
When the title track kicks off the album one starts to wonder if they are in the right place, as it is incredibly Maidenesque, but soon the interplay stops and the guitars are being riffed and again we are exactly where Death Angel want us to be, deep in the world of thrash. This is serious thrash metal, with loads going on with the carpal tunnel guitars, but just listen to Damien Sisson and what he is doing with the bass. He is providing counter melodies, nuances here and there, while at others he is firmly locked in with drummer Will Carroll to provide the heartbeat and foundation of the band. Simply put, this opening five minutes in some of the finest thrash one will ever come across, from a band who have been together in one form or another since 1982!

The guys jut refuse to let up from here on in, and although I loved their last album ‘The Evil Divide’ there is no doubt this one has seen them lift it to a new level. Each song contains real intensity and desire, as they show there is still real venom and passion in all they do. Here is a band who have stuck to their roots and have brought something which reminds me in many ways of Testament’s ‘Dark Roots of Earth’ in the way that it shows a classic band taking the movement to a new level. This is class from start to finish, with hooks, anthemic choruses, even the use of a piano, as they strive to drive the genre onwards and upwards.

Death Angel were there at the very beginning and show no signs whatsoever of slowing down or throwing in the towel. This isn’t a band who are going to keep touring the world living on past glories, but are creating new glories for a whole new generation of fans. Superb.

CHILDREN OF BODOM Hexed

Album · 2019 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
The band couldn’t stay as a quartet outside the studio as their sound needs that double hit of guitars, so in 2016 they brought in Daniel Freyberg (ex-Naildown and ex-Norther). It must be a hard job settling in with a group of guys who have been together longer than many marriages, but certainly when it comes to the sound, he seems right at home having spent the last three years on the road with them. Straight from the off on this this record, one thing that is immediately noticeable is the seeming higher presence of keyboard player Janne Warman. Laiho agrees, “Yes, he’s played a big part of every single album, but this time this might seem even more prominent only because of the sounds that he uses. Because the funny thing is that on, let’s say, ‘I Worship Chaos’ or ‘Halo of Blood’, the keyboards were there all the time, but you might not even know that they’re there because he’s doubling my guitars with some insane, super-low octave sound that doesn’t really stick out. So maybe he pops out more on this album, and I guess he has more of a main role in a lot of parts of the songs.”

This album feels more melodic, more commercial in many places, than some of their previous albums and it is hard to know if this is down to the larger emphasis on keyboards, the production, or the new member of the band. Certainly, Raatikainen is hitting the drums as hard as he has for more than quarter of the century, and his double bass blastbeats are there in evidence, but one has to really listen to them as he has been pushed more into the background. The band have used Mikko Karmilla to mix their sound for years, but here it feels muddier and not as clean – it is really noticeable when playing this album straight after the last one, as the sound is quite different indeed. Interestingly the band have also gone back in time and have revisited a song they had recorded before, 2002’s “Knuckleduster”, as it was felt it wasn’t treated correctly first time around. Unfortunately, Laiho didn’t have the lyrics for the verse, so had to write new ones. This is the last song on the album and shows the band with some of their heaviest elements, which contrast well with the keyboards. When Children of Bodom get it right there are few in the world to match them, and even when slightly under par they are one of the best bands in the metallic universe.

Although I would have liked to have heard this with slightly different production, yet again Children of Bodom have produced the goods.

AVANTASIA Moonglow

Album · 2019 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.11 | 5 ratings
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Kev Rowland
2019 saw Sammet return with the next album from Avantasia. Again, there are plenty of guests, including past collaborators ex-Queensrÿche singer Geoff Tate, Pretty Maids frontman Ronnie Atkins, Michael Kiske of Helloween, Jørn Lande (ex-Masterplan), Eric Martin (Mr Big) and Magnum’s Bob Catley. This time around we are also introduced to Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian, Kreator’s Mille Petrozza and Blackmore’s Night frontwoman Candice Night. Work started on the album following the previous Avantasia tour. As Sammet says, “For the foreseeable future none of my bands were scheduled to do anything but an anniversary celebration of Edguy. For the first time I had no deadline or contract… nothing. I was completely free. The plan was to take a break, but the freedom I found presented me with more and more ideas. The material had time to grow. It was a very relaxed way of working, especially because with the help of Sascha Paeth I had built my own studio which helped me to work at my own pace whenever I came home from creative breaks in England, which I found to be extremely inspiring.”

“In a way, its lyrical topics are quite dreamy,” theorizes Sammet. “There’s no end of the world touch; I see these songs as having a Tim Burton-esque eeriness.” Another commonality with 'Ghostlights' is that 'Moonglow' is conceptually based. “Each song is a chapter based upon a creature that is thrown into the world but fails to find its place. It cannot connect with that environment and turns instead to the dark in the hope of finding shelter there. The lyrics are very personal but wrapped up in a fantastic surrounding inspired by writers of dark romanticism, especially gothic novels of the Victorian era by the likes of Arthur Machen or Algernon Blackwood. Yes, it’s a concept album but don’t expect elves walking through the forest,” laughs Tobi. No elves, but there may be orcs, as in many ways the word ‘Moonglow’ is a great title as this is an album which musically and lyrically can be very dark, but never overpoweringly so and there is always that hint of light, that glimmer which shows the way in the dark.

While all his albums are linked in terms of style, this feels as if in many ways it is just a continuation of the last album as the heavy over the top Steinman, Wagnerian and Mangum-esque styles are here again in spades, yet there are plenty of times when Sammet also reverts to the more power metal style associated with his day job. The use of different singers is again a real strength of the album, with “Book of Shallows” (one of the outright heaviest songs on the album), definitely benefitting from that approach.

But, there is something very important you need to understand before playing this album, and that is not to play the final song. Just play the other ten and all will be right with the world, you don’t really need to listen to a symphonic metal version of “Maniac” – yes, the same one from ‘Flashdance’. They try, they really do, but nothing can get away from the fact that it is still the same song. It’s a real shame as it is a great album until that point, but at least they put it at the very end, so it is easy to ignore. Another incredibly solid album from Tobias Sammet.

MAJESTY Legends

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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DippoMagoo
It can sometimes be very shocking, when a well established band, known for a very specific sound, suddenly decides to shift gears seemingly out of nowhere. It’s happened with countless numbers of well known bands before, and will almost certainly happen countless more times, as bands continuously look to evolve and distinguish themselves from everyone else. One band who always had a clear, distinct direction to their music is German heavy/power metal band Majesty, formed in 1997, and with eight albums in their discography (or nine, if you include their Metalforce album, which had a different name, but was largely similar to their other releases.) While the band had made some very subtle changes on some of their albums (such as the more laid back Sword & Sorcery, or the pure, intense knockout of an album that was Hellforces) their main sound was always immediately noticeable, falling somewhere in between classic Manowar and early Euro power metal.

So, when the first single for their upcoming ninth album, Legends, was released and proved to be a dramatic change in direction for the band, fans were shocked, and in some cases disappointed to hear the band seemingly abandoning their usual sound. Personally, I found the change interesting, as I do love the band’s earlier releases, and found their previous album, Rebels, to be easily their best since Hellforces, but a potential shift in sound didn’t bother me one bit, as long as they could pull it off well. Now that I’ve heard Legends several times, I am left with mixed feelings, as there are moments where the new sound works wonders and takes the band to new heights, but there are also some misguided experiments, as well as times where trying to mash old and new elements together don’t quite work out. The album ultimately feels like a new beginning for something that could pay off on future releases, but at least for now, the band hasn’t quite nailed their new sound down as well as their old one.

Longtime fans of the band were certainly in for a shock when they heard the rather cheesy keyboards used on lead single “Burn the Bridges”, and while not every song falls in line with that one, there’s certainly a lot more where that came from. On each of their previous albums, Majesty played a style of music that could best be described as a mix of classic Manowar and Euro power metal, with a bit more speed and intensity compared to the former, while at times being a bit more laid back than the latter, while still being very epic and melodic at all times. Their lyrics were often in line with their heroes, as indicated by such album titles as “Keep It True” and “Reign in Glory”, and so Legends is already a big chance of pace, being a concept album centered around a post apocalyptic wasteland, complete with little bits of narration. This is the first sign of trouble, as the album lacks some of the fun and wackiness of their past albums, while the narration is very forced and irritating, especially on the very skippable intro track, which gets the album off on the wrong foot.

Musically, the band still has traces of their classic metal sound, but the songs all have a more modernized feel to them, with keyboards aplenty, and some of the guitar work has a slightly chunkier, more modernized sound to it. I actually find the album works best when the band goes all in with their new sound, as they do have the ability to write some very fun, energetic tracks with a slightly more modern sound, and the speedier, more power metal focused tracks are especially strong on this one, while some of the tracks where they try inserting some of their classic elements to go along with the keys and overall more melodic approach, just don’t quite work out too well. Performances are still strong across the board, with the guitarists having some great moments, especially some really beautiful, melodic solos on many of the tracks, while vocalist Tarek Mahgary still sounds like a slightly lighter singing, deeper voiced version of Eric Adams, and his vocals are as excellent as always, while the production is also top notch.

The biggest area where the album comes up short is in the songwriting. There are some excellent songs here, but there’s also a few that come up just a bit short of greatness, as well as one that could only be described as a total disaster. Following the terrible intro track I already mentioned, the band comes out full guns blazing with “Rizing Home”, a speedy, hard hitting power metal with some great lead riffs, an excellent solo in the second half, fun verses and an absolutely incredible anthem like chorus, the likes of which they’ve always excelled at, though this may be one of their absolute best, especially with the infectious hook of “ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh Rizing Home”, which will never get old! It’s also a perfect example of how to pull off their new sound effectively, without fully abandoning their past, as it’s still very much a heavy, energetic metal track, but it mixes in some keyboards, though the key is they’re largely kept in the background and used to add an extra layer of epic, to what’s already a great track, and so they’re never dominant or distracting. Overall, it’s an absolute masterpiece of a track, and one which, sadly, the rest of the album can’t quite live up to.

Following that epic opener is lead single “Burn the Bridges”, another fine example of the band’s new sound. This one immediately gives off some Sabaton vibes, with the very cheesy keyboards, and it has a lighter sound overall, though it still moves along at a fast pace, with some very fun verses, an epic build up and then the chorus comes in and manages to be simultaneously a whole lot of fun, while also being one of the most annoyingly repetitive things I’ve ever heard on a metal track. I eventually came to love it, but the fact that it has to follow “Rizing Home”, which manages to be equally energetic, while having a much stronger chorus, does end up hurting it just a bit. The solo in the second half is excellent, though, and it’s a very fun track overall. Next is “We Are Legends”, and this one is a bit of a mixed bag. It has traces of the band’s classic sound, with an epic, fun chorus that brings “Rebels of Our Time” to mind, but at the same time, the chunkier guitar work during the verses feels a bit out of place, while the keys are a bit awkward sounding, and don’t mesh well with the overall classic vibe of the track. It’s a case of old and new clashing together in a way where everything just comes off feeling a bit muddled.

The album picks up for a while after that minor letdown, with second single “Wasteland Outlaw” laying down the blueprint for how to make a slower paced, more laid back heavy metal track with the band’s new sound, as it’s very light, very keyboard dominant and is one of the most relaxed and more melodic tracks on the album, with guitars playing a very minor role. At the same time, it’s a very enjoyable track, with an excellent, irresistibly catchy chorus and an excellent melodic guitar solo. Next is “Church of Glory”, another very keyboard driven track, though it’s a more upbeat track, with some very bouncy keyboard hooks during the verses, while the chorus has more of a classic feel to it, with some nice melodic guitar work, some insanely epic backing vocals, and awesome vocal melodies all around. It’s definitely one of the best, most fun tracks on the album, though some fans may be turned off by the over the top keys. Another strong track is “Mavericks Supreme”, which is very much in line with the previous track, though the keyboards are a bit more restrained, and if anything the chorus is even more epic and fun. It’s another fun, upbeat track, with incredible backing vocals, an excellent, very melodic guitar solo, and a nice use of keyboards. The final speedy track on the album comes two tracks later, with “Last Brigade”, and it’s another massive highlight, probably the best on the album aside from “Rizing Home”. It’s a fast paced, hard hitting track with some very aggressive guitar work, fast and furious verses, and an unbelievably uplifting, insanely epic chorus, with some more incredible melodies and backing vocals. It’s one of those tracks that fits in perfectly with the new sound, while still managing to have a slight throwback feel to it, and it’s absolutely amazing from start to finish.

Unfortunately, the worst moment of the album comes in between those last two tracks. Majesty are usually pretty good at ballads, with “Across the Lightning” from Rebels being particularly excellent, but it’s safe to say, “Words of Silence” is by far their weakest ballad ever, if not their absolute weakest song, period. It’s largely a piano ballad, with slight symphonic elements, but it struggles to get going right away with some rather awkward vocal melodies, and more alarmingly, an F-Bomb shows up early on, with more to follow later in the track. The thing is, swearing can be effective, if used on an angry, aggressive track, but on such a tame sounding ballad, it just feels forced and hopelessly out of place. Worse though, the second verse has an attempt at some very bouncy vocal melodies that come close to rap, and it’s just pure torture to listen to, while the chorus is better, and feels close to being good, but it just doesn’t quite get there: Something about it just feels a tad off, and so it never gives the emotional feeling it should. A nice guitar solo in the second half is really the only redeeming quality the track has, but otherwise (and I really hate to say this,) the track is an outright colossal failure, and one of the worst tracks I’ve heard so far this year, if not the absolute worst.

With that downer of a track out of the way, we move to the final two tracks, both of which are solid, but unspectacular. First up is “Blood of the Titans” a slightly upbeat, hard hitting track, with solid verses and a pretty epic, fun chorus, though it doesn’t reach the heights of most of the earlier tracks on the album, aside from another excellent guitar solo in the second half, as well as a great use of keys. Closing out the album is “Stand As One”, a very modern sounding, more mid paced track, with some very chunky riffs, an overuse of keys, and decent verses, helped somewhat by yet another very fun, epic and catchy chorus, with more outstanding vocal melodies. Its not the strongest way to end an album, but it’s a pretty solid track, and it doesn’t reach the lows some of the other tracks do, so it’s a fine enough ending.

Legends is an interesting album, in that it shows signs of being incredible at times, with the new keyboard driven focus working wonders on some tracks, while the vocal melodies and choruses are generally amazing, the speedier sections tend to be equal parts intense, melodic and pure fun, while the solos are excellent, as always, and yet there are enough weaker points to drag the album down, to the point where it ends up being a bit of a mess. I think Majesty need to decide whether or not they’re willing to fully commit to this new sound or go back to their roots, as the tracks that lean more towards one way or the other tend to work out the best, while tracks that try and mix the two together often see the two styles clashing in ways that cause the song to turn into a muddled mess. I can definitely see longtime fans of the band being disappointed, though I can also see people turned off by their Manowar influences being more willing to give this album a chance, thanks to the more modernised approach, while newcomers are likely to find some enjoyment, as there’s enough variety and enough outstanding moments for the album to be worth a shot. It’s not as good an album as I was hoping it would be, but it’s still very fun at times, and it does show potential for better things in the future, if the band can figure out how to pull everything together. At the vary least, it feels like a potential start to a new era for Majesty, and it leaves me very excited to see what they come up with next. It may not be the total knockout I was hoping for, but it certainly isn’t a total failure, either. It’s more of a fascinating near miss, than anything.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/06/26/majesty-legends-review/

DREAM THEATER Distance Over Time

Album · 2019 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.90 | 9 ratings
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UMUR
"Distance Over Time" is the 14th full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Dream Theater. The album was released through InsideOut Music in February 2019. It´s the successor to "The Astonishing" from 2016. A double concept album release which divided the waters. Some felt it was pompous and overblown, while others lauded it´s epic scale concept and praised the boldness of the band.

With the release of "Distance Over Time" it would seem Dream Theater have gotten their epic scale album wet dream out of their system, and that they have also listened to those who felt that their experiment was a bit too much, because "Distance Over Time" is very much back to basics Dream Theater progressive metal. Sure there´s the epic moment here and there, but that´s not unusual for Dream Theater, but most tracks on the 9 track, 56:51 minutes long album are relatively short and to the point. Don´t expect "regular" vers/chorus structured tracks though, as Dream Theater as always toy with song structures, and incorporate complex instrumental sections, but the music is generally more immediate and hard rocking/heavy than the case was with much of the material on "The Astonishing (2016)".

It´s almost pointless at this time in their career to talk about how skilled and virtuosic the guys in Dream Theater are, because that´s been the focus of many reviews and interviews over the years, but I´ll get it over with as fast as possible, and just quickly mention that Dream Theater are still at the top of their game performing their music. James LaBrie still hits the high notes with ease, and although the riff style, the solo style, the keyboard sounds, the bass playing, and the drumming aren´t exactly surprising anymore, it´s all delivered in an extremely high quality. "Distance Over Time" also features a powerful, detailed, and overall very well sounding production, which suits the material perfectly. So check mark on that too.

So it´s of course the songwriting which should be the main focus when writing about the details of "Distance Over Time", and to my ears Dream Theater hit spot on what they do best on "Distance Over Time". Powerful riffs, melodic guitar solos, intricate keyboard work, and a rhythm section capable of playing very complex beats/bass lines. The melody lines are catchy and although the tracks are fairly complex, they are still pretty easy to sing along to, which has almost always been one of the great strengths of Dream Theater. A good balance between technical playing and catchy melodies.

I´m not gonna mention specific tracks, because "Distance Over Time" is a varied high quality progressive metal album through and through, and there´s not a weak moment on the album. It´s not the most standout album in the band´s by now large discography, but it´s definitely not among their less remarkable ones either. To my ears it´s their strongest release since Mike Mangini replaced Mike Portnoy. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

TROLLFEST Norwegian Fairytales

Album · 2019 · Folk Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
I really don’t know how to read these guys. Are they serious or is it is just one almighty pisstake which has now been going on for well over a decade? Personally, I think it’s the latter, and having been onto their website and discovered their logo may seem threatening at one point until you realise it is comprised of plastic blow up toys, I am pretty sure I am correct. But whatever you think of them, the Norwegian nutters are back with yet another album, their eighth! This time around they have apparently released a concept based on various Norwegian myths and legends. Each track tells the story of a different ancient tale from the band's home country. For example, opener "Fjøsnissens Fjaseri" deals with a troll who, depending on how you treat him around Christmas, either lovingly takes care of your farm animals or simply razes them to the ground, and includes a guest appearance from BORKNAGAR/ex-DIMMU BORGIR singer ICS Vortex.

Even the press release is on the joke, saying that the album “grabs the listener by the neck and push them through 10 more anthems dealing with the devil, undead sailors and the obvious explanation why you just shouldn't feed any alcohol to your goats.” Look, it’s Trollfest. If you are a fan of this drunken style of folk metal then you will love it, and if you’re not then you won’t. Unless you also drink serious amounts of alcohol.

FIRESPAWN Abominate

Album · 2019 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Nightfly
For what is essentially supposed to be a part time band (see my other Firespawn reviews for info on their day jobs), since releasing their debut album Shadow Realms in 2015 Firespawn have been pretty prolific and are already onto album number three. An album every couple of years is more than most full time bands seem to manage these days. There’s always that danger of inferior work getting released when bands release albums too quickly but there’s no sign of that here with Firespawn remaining consistently excellent since day one.

Abominate more or less follows the template laid down by their first two albums. That being more of an old school death metal style with a modern edge aided by a sharp production but thankfully not getting too far into that clinical sound that permeates many modern death metal releases these days. The standard of the songs is of an overall high standard with no shortage of crushingly heavy and inventive riffs from the two guitarists Victor Brandt and Fredrik Folkare, who also play some fine solos as well. The rhythm section of Matte Modin and Alex Friberg are incredibly tight and despite the speed of much of their playing also manage to inject plenty of groove into their patterns. Vocalist L G Petrov delivers the same guttural growl as on the first two albums which suits the style well even if can be a bit one-dimensional at times.

Overall then Firespawn have delivered the goods yet again with another excellent album putting many full time bands to shame. Hardly surprising though considering the extreme metal pedigree here. I’m now primed for album number four but before that hopefully another Unleashed album to follow the brilliant The Hunt For White Christ.

SOILWORK Verkligheten

Album · 2019 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 4.28 | 8 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Since the previous album, 2015’s ‘The Ride Majestic’, the band have not only released a collection of rarities in 2016’s ‘Death Resonance’ but have also managed to misplace their rhythm section. Given just how important that backbone has been to the band, and with drummer Dirk Verbeuren having been the incumbent for so many years, it was always going to be a hard job in finding the right replacements, but drummer Bastian Thusgaard and bassist Taylor Nordberg sound as if they are right at home. Part of the reason is that Soilwork are Soilwork, they don’t try to be anything different to what they have been for most of their twenty years, so it is a case of slotting in and finding ways to hone and polish that little bit more.

That polish really comes through on tracks like “Full Moon Shoals” which is a great example of the whole album as there are times when it is complex and incredibly heavy, times when it is rough, and then there are almost poptastic vocals over the top with harmonies which never sound as if they are coming from a band who are happiest in front of a stack of Marshalls prowling the stage. Is that “Ooohs” I hear Strid crooning? Surely not. There are some introductions which make one think that possibly they have morphed into symphonic hard rock, especially with the piano playing such a key part, right up to the point when someone flicks a switch and all hell breaks loose. This band have long since stopped trying to please critics and instead are consistently providing the gigs. “The Nurturing Glance” is an absolute show stopper, and when Thusgaard gets the double bass drums pedals going and locks in with Nordberg while Sylvain Coudret and David Andersson blasting it out, there is a very small gap for keyboard player Sven Karlsson to make his presence felt and it is left for Björn "Speed" Strid to rise above it all. The combination of musicality, metal, hooks and stunning vocals are what make Soilwork what they are, one of the very finest bands to ever come out of Sweden.

“Verkligheten” is the Swedish word for reality, and the band state this album is their attempt to try and go somewhere else, to express all those things that are born in between hypnagogic states and frenzies of hyperrealism. I’m not too sure of the last bit, but I do know that the guys are back with a bang and another amazing album.

THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN Gypsy Voodoo

Album · 2019 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
So very very much has changed in the 51 years since Arthur Wilton Brown better known as the flamboyant theatrical rock singer with a wide-range operatic vocal style in THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BORWN hit the Billboard chart's #2 spot with a freak hit single in the form of "Fire." Forever known in the pop world as a one hit wonder for his 1968 near chart topper, BROWN has existed as a much more inventive character in the underground and one who was innovative not only in his proto-prog rock musical compositions that graced the 1968 debut album THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN but also supplied an ample supply of shock rock values that would be adopted by the future world of heavy metal with not only his outlandish stage performances that found his metal headpiece spewing out flames but also with his unique approach of belting out an aggressive multi-octave lyrical delivery.

Despite a rather prolific solo career which included several solo albums as well as a few by THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN, Mr. Brown has never topped his debut performance that managed to outstage even the wildest characters of the tumultuous 60s but come 50 years later, this dude is still cranking out the music! And now in 2019, only two days after his 77th birthday, he who is also known as The God of Hellfire has released a new worthy edition to his canon in the form of GYPSY VOODOO which is the culmination of a career's worth of ideas all woven together with a new version of THE CRAZY WORLD band which includes a total of ten different musicians and vocalists. No members from the original rendition of the band are on board here, no Vincent Crane, no Nick Greenwood, no Drachen Theaker. This is a modern day ensemble and after all this is the ARTHUR BROWN hour so who cares about all those others!

While the decades have gone by and musical styles have changed, BROWN seems to exist in his own world where time stands still. GYPSY VOODOO sounds very much like the pioneer of Theatre Shock Rock with the groovy funky vibes of his glory years along with the blues based hard rock that made his 60s and 70s run so addictively fun! With ten diverse tracks GYPSY VOODOO finds BROWN in good spirit and although his vocals haven't navigated the oceans of time completely in tact, they still don't sound too bad for the most part with only some of his attempts to hit the higher range sounding a little raggedy. However on spoken word segments such as on "Fire Poem," he sounds exactly as he once did. With a refusal to join the new sounds of the 21st century it also sounds like BROWN conjured up a new batch of tracks right after his zany revered debut over a half of a century ago when comic books were a mere 10¢!

OK, so what can one expect from a character like ARTHUR BROWN so many years after his peak years that go back so very very far? Well, pretty much more of the same. GYPSY VOODOO is very much a tribute to himself and even includes a remake of the "Fire Poem" / "Fire" tracks that made him famous in the first place but not exactly to the same effect. The good news is that if you totally dig the melodic blues rock based songs that BROWN has always dished out then you are in for a treat. This album is chock full of brand spanking new tracks that sound as if they were created long ago and only now resurrected with the miracles of modern day technology to make them sound squeaky clean and free of the analog technology's limitations and while the remake of "Fire" doesn't exactly blow the original away, it is by no means a terrible exploit of his primo material either.

VOODOO GYPSY is a mixed bag for me. One the one hand, every single track here is a worthy addition to THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN but on the other hand, there's a sense of been there / done that and the album is dripping with nostalgia albeit in a good way. ARTHUR BROWN clearly found his voice long ago and has hardly deviated from it since and has not been tempted in the least to add modern day musical influences to his tapestry of spoken word, blues rock, electronics and psychedelia. Don't expect any metal, hip hop or Beyonce making a cameo. This is ARTHUR BROWN as the God of Hellfire has always been and much the better for it however i do wish that there was some sort of upgrade to the ARTHUR BROWN sound that would connect it to the present. While in no way bad, this album doesn't exactly blow me away either. Definitely recommended for those who crave retro 60s sounds with the benefits of modern day production but if you are expecting a totally new musical paradigm from Mr BROWN then you will be woefully disappointed.

WORMWITCH Heaven That Dwells Within

Album · 2019 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Nightfly
Black metal is a genre I dip in and out of. I have my favourites like Watain, Immortal, Melechesh and Dissection to name a few but I’m far more likely to be listening to death or thrash when it comes to the more extreme side of things. Now and again though something comes along in the black metal field that really grabs my attention. One such album is Heaven That Dwells Within, the second full length release from Canadians Wormwitch.

I’d heard they were a mix of black metal and crust punk. I’ve only had a brief listen to their debut after hearing this but that certainly seems a fair description of Strike Mortal Soil as far as I can recall. Heaven That Dwells Within seems to have reduced the crust quota though that D beat synonymous with crust rears its head from time to time, this being more of a melodic black metal affair with touches of melodic death metal at times. As opener Disciple Of The Serpent Star kicks in Tribulation immediately comes to mind. As the album progresses it’s not a one off either as they share that bands ear for a catchy riff loaded with melancholia. DOTSS happens to be my favourite song on the album but there’s no shortage of other great moments with plenty of variation with drums shifting through blasts, double kicks, D-beats and more. Whilst the vocals are of a fairly standard black metal style they’re well done but the strength of this album lies in its musicality. There’s no shortage of hook laden riffs, tremolo picking, searing licks and melodic solos – something else that reminds me of Tribulation. There’s enough variation to keep things interesting throughout and Lord Of Chains throws in a dose of dissonance which I always like.

I really love this album, probably my most played new release of the last month or so. I can’t see that changing any time soon and this one will certainly make my end of year list, somewhere near the top I suspect. To add to the appeal it has a great cover - a section of the John William Waterhouse painting “The Lady Of Shalott” which looks even better on the vinyl version . If you’re a black metal fan you really need to check this band out if you haven’t already.

LEGION OF THE DAMNED Slaves Of The Shadow Realm

Album · 2019 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"Slaves of the Shadow Realm" is the 7th full-length studio album by Dutch thrash metal act Legion of the Damned. The album was released through Napalm Records in January 2019. It´s the successor to "Ravenous Plague" from 2014 (also released in January of that year, which means there are almost exactly five years between the two releases). Five years is a long time betweeen releases but it´s not a result of lineup changes, as "Slaves of the Shadow Realm" features exactly the same four-piece lineup who recorded "Ravenous Plague (2014)".

Since the band changed their name from Occult to Legion of the Damned and began releasing albums under the new monicker, the style of music they have played have been aggressive and brutal thrash (sometimes entering death/thrash territory). They´ve stuck to their guns throughout their career which has ensured consistency of quality and style (although some albums have been more remarkable than others), but it also means that there isn´t much variation between albums, and you probably won´t miss out on much if you don´t own them all.

"Slaves of the Shadow Realm" is one of their more remarkable albums though, and definitely worth a purchase. Aggressive old school influenced thrash metal with a snarling (almost blackened) raw vocalist in front. I´m often reminded of mid-80s Slayer and Dark Angel, but there are also nods toward the early releases by the teutonic trio (Destruction, Sodom, and Kreator). It´s relentlessly aggressive and hard edged, featuring fast-paced tremolo riffs, screaming chromatic solos, and an energetic rhythm section driving the music forward. The band lower the pace on some tracks, and play more heavy riffs and rhythms, and that´s great for the variation of the album, which otherwise is a slightly one-dimensional affair (some of the fast-paced tracks sound very much alike).

"Slaves of the Shadow Realm" features a raw and effectful sound production, which suits the rawness of the material perfectly. So upon conclusion it´s a high quality release and the songwriting is to my ears a little more memorable than what is usual for the band. Therefore a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

RAMMSTEIN Rammstein

Album · 2019 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 3.83 | 5 ratings
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martindavey87
Released in 2019, Rammstein’s self-titled seventh album came out a lengthy ten-years after its predecessor, 2009’s ‘Liebe ist fur Alle Da’. The band managed to maintain popularity over the years by continuing to tour, with their world-renowned stage show becoming impossibly bigger and bigger each time. But with such an extended break from the studio, does absence really make the heart grow fonder?

There’s no doubt ‘Rammstein’ is quintessential Rammstein (aha!). It’s got all the elements that make the band so unique, be it Til Lindemann’s deep and powerful voice, the heavy, riff-oriented guitar work, the electronic pop elements or the overwhelmingly heavy and catchy compositions. But unfortunately, there’s just something a little underwhelming about the album as a whole, and I think that perhaps after ten years of waiting, it just kind of feels like it could have been a little bit better, maybe?

Ah, who am I kidding? It’s still a great release, and in a world where more and more bands are failing to feel as “big” as they once did, it shows that Rammstein, a German-singing industrial metal band, can peak chart lists and fill up stadiums of tens of thousands of fans the world over, with their less-is-more approach showing that you don’t need to be musical virtuosos to release a compelling metal album. And while the quality of the tracks do start to dip a little halfway through, there’s still some standout moments here that deserve mention.

‘Deutschland’, ‘Radio’, ‘Sex’, ‘Auslander’, ‘Zeig Dich’ and ‘Weit Weg’ are all fantastic and amazingly catchy tracks, and show that the band, 25 years into their career and still with the original line-up, are nowhere near slowing down. And while ‘Rammstein’ may not possess any unique, singular quality that makes it stand out from the German’s discography, it’s honestly just a great album that is sure to please fans of the band.

NAILED TO OBSCURITY Black Frost

Album · 2019 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 2.58 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Back with their fourth album, German melodic death metal act Nailed to Obscurity had a lot to live up to after the success of their last release, ‘King Delusion’, and I think it is safe to say they have somewhat missed the mark. They have always been known for channelling the likes of Opeth and Katatonia, but whereas both those bands (mostly) stay on track and deliver, what we have here is an album which is veering between multiple genres and consequently not hitting any of them. The death metal really only works with the vocals as the guitars aren’t punchy enough, while the soft gentle metalcore doesn’t get me worked up at all and the more progressive segments just makes one believe they don’t really know what they want to achieve. It feels padded and needed a strong producer to not only capture the sound (which is excellent, probably the best thing about the whole album), but also assist them in being more direct.

Most of the songs have strong sections, but few carry that through the whole length. Take the introduction to “The Aberrant Host” for example, it is really promising and exciting and when the death growls come in the band are doing a really good power metal/symphonic metal take underneath. It is just a shame there are some spoken/gently sung vocals prior to that (and afterwards) which should have been gently erased as all they do is make the listener wonder what on earth are the band playing at. It is the lack of focus and direction which hurts this album, which repeated plays do nothing to address, as all I kept wondering when I was playing it was what were they thinking? They have definitely moved much further into the Opeth direction, but without the direction that Mikael Åkerfeldt is able to display. Not one to which I can see me returning to in a hurry.

THE MOTH GATHERER Esoteric Oppression

Album · 2019 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
The Moth Gatherer are back with their third full-length album, again centered around atmospheric doom, sludge and post metal. Formed in 2008 by Victor Wegeborn and Alex Stjernfeldt, as a form of therapy to help them deal with loss, the band name is an allegory for finding hope; similar to moths who are always searching for the light. The band has changed over the years, growing in size although musically always staying close to their roots, but there has been quite a dramatic shift this time as although Alex provided the lyrics, he has now left the band with Victor now providing vocals, guitar and electronics. He is joined by Ronny Westphal (guitars), Svante Karlsson (drums) and Dan Hemgren (bass).

The band play incredibly slowly, but the post metal atmospheric sound mean they never seem to be struggling in a morass, rather the atmosphere is so pervasive on everything they do that it just isn’t possible to play any more quickly. They are less like searching for moths in the night than an army walking over a moor shrouded in fog. It is incredibly evocative music, which is heavy but also dreamlike, as the band toy with Burzum-style black metal without ever really embracing it as they move in a different direction. This is music to get lost inside, and when they move away from the intensity into something lighter it is as if a sunbeam has pierced the all-enveloping mist, but soon it is back again. This is music which feels ancient, as if it is linked to the bones of the earth, with vocals full of passion and pain. This is incredibly deep music, far more than just another metal album, and expects the listener to pay close attention. Highly recommended to be played on headphones, it just doesn’t seem to work any other way. Impressive stuff indeed, but not for the fainthearted.

BARONESS Gold & Grey

Album · 2019 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kingcrimsonprog
I remember when Baroness first broke out, they were quite sludgy and while not inaccessible, certainly not quite radio-friendly either. Early albums like Red Album and Blue Record mixed Thin Lizzy clean guitar with thick stoner-sludge and swampy vocals. I remember also, when they dropped their double album ‘Yellow And Green’ and they went from a band I liked a bit due to a slight Mastodon similarity, to a band I really cared about and actively followed.

To date, I still think of Yellow & Green as an utter masterpiece and that it was one of the best albums by anyone I care about to be released that year. Its when the band really stepped out of any other band’s shadows or any one subgenre’s constraints and just went everywhere they wanted all at once…. The follow up Purple was near as good, trying (and succeeding) to condense the sprawling mix of styles, tempos and timbres of the very diverse double album into one single straight-up rock record with flavours from everything the band had done before but a focus on being succinct and accessible (without sounding too far from their more metallic roots of course).

With their new album, Gold & Grey, the band are leaning a bit back more into Yellow & Green’s experimental territories. There is a focus on diversity here. Succinct is not a word I’d use to describe this. This album seems to be reveling in the freedom to do everything and anything. ‘Seasons’ for example has spidery guitar lines that wouldn’t feel out of place on a King Crimson album, mixed with a strange lo-fi noisy production job that makes it sound like some Sonic Youth style art rock piece, but then there are also blast-beats in their briefly to bring back the metal. Sometimes it goes full prog, with ‘Sevens’ sounding like mid period Camel. ‘Broken Halo’ has some lovely bridges that I can see crowds loving when this material is toured live, but goes a bit Yes during the solo.

There are also quite a few brief quiet, sombre, slow numbers across the album’s 17-track duration. ‘Blankets of Ash’ for example is a nice sounding acoustic guitar interlude over some creepy foreboding soundscape. ‘Crooked Mile’ is a jangly acoustic number that sounds more like an intro than a full blown tune of its own. ‘Assault On East Falls’ sounds like the music from a dream sequence in a Japanse videogame.

You can hear a bit more Radiohead and a bit less Red Fang in the DNA at times I guess (the intro to ‘Tourniquet’ or for example), but that being said there are still enough big fat choruses and catchy hooks to keep the sing-along feel of Purple. The album opener ‘Front Toward Enemy’ for example is just a foot down melodic rocker to get the blood pumping. The chorus to the single ‘Throw Me An Anchor’ is almost as catchy as something like ‘Take My Bones Away’ or ‘Shock Me’ from previous albums. ‘I’ll Do Anything’ sounds like it could be used to advertise the Olympics. Its like if Bon Iver took happy pills and wanted to inspire people to action.

Singer John Dyer Baizley’s rich voice really sets this band apart from the crowd, and when he really leans into the big melodies, it is proper 360 degree helicopter shots on a cliffside stuff. He has such a powerful and evocative voice that can make any line sound immensely meaningful and majestic.

Considering the line-up change between albums, it still sounds totally like Baroness. You may not have had female backing vocals back on Blue Record but the way John and Gina’s vocals blend and mesh together just sound right.

The album isn’t without its flaws however. The production seems to be quite controversial based on all people I’ve seen complaining on social media. It is also a bit tough to swallow in one go, sitting somewhere between standard and double album length. (Its only an hour, but with 17 tracks there is a lot of different moods, directions and sounds to digest and so it takes up more brainpower than your typical 10-14 track album. If you just wanted an album of ‘Shock Me’ clones, something like ‘Can Oscura’ might be a bit off-putting for example). You couldn’t just slap this on in the background once and love it forever, it’s a grower that you’ve got to give a lot of attention to. That being said, these are minor flaws at the most. I didn’t really consider the production notable until it was pointed out to me by others, and usually an album being a grower at the start leads to an album you’re still loving years later rather than an album that would lose its flavour as fast as chewing gum if it popped right away.

Maybe if you were only into the band for the heaviness of the early days, this album won’t suit you. If you liked the last two albums though, this album is very much going to be right up your street. Its softer, proggier and more considered than it is bludgeoning and meaty. It’s a bit more ponderous than direct and rocking. But it is definitely worth checking out, sticking on repeat and loosing yourself in. It’s an odyssey of new worlds to glimpse, it’s a journey to get lost on. You might not want to head-bang, but you’ll never be bored.

QUIET RIOT One Night In Milan

Live album · 2019 · Glam Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
One night in 1981, I made my way to a hotel, to see the band who was playing there. When I got in I walked up to the incredibly small stage, looked at the complete backline of floor to ceiling Marshalls, looked at the size of the amps either side of the stage, then checked again just how high the ceiling was (not very), and knew it was going to be loud, very loud. At 11pm four ex-skinheads from Wolverhampton took to the tiny stage, and promptly tore it up. There will only ever be one Slade, a band that wrote hit after hit, and were metalheads through and through. Quiet Riot have made a career on trying to be Slade, and within the 15 songs on offer there are two Slade covers, but neither are as good as the original. To be honest, Quiet Riot aren’t as good as Quiet Riot used to be, and then with a sound engineer who has gone missing in action the result is a mess.

The line-up features both Frankie Banali on drums and bassist Chuck Wright, who both performed on ‘Metal Health’, guitarist Alex Grossi, who has been in the band for 14 years and new singer James Durbin, who was on 'American Idol' during the tenth season. This doesn’t feel like a live album, more like a good quality bootleg, and it is obvious there has been no “cleaning up” whatsoever. The drums are way too high in the mix, so much so that Banali is often more to the fore than Durbin. Durbin has a good rock voice, just needs to understand his stage patter was out of date in the Eighties, let alone now, and I could quite happily go without hearing him shouting to the crowd, saying how amazing Franke Banalie is etc.

There aren’t many highlight to be fair, as this is an album to be endured as opposed to enjoyed. “Thunderbird” is performed with a piano for the first time since it was recorded, but the Slade songs don’t hit home as they should, “Bang Your Head” doesn’t have the power it deserves (I still have the single I bought at the time!), and the rest are, well, not something to be proud of. The sound is not nearly as clear as it should be, the audience microphones are missing in action, as are the backing vocals, but the drums are always there. Pass.

FALLUJAH Undying Light

Album · 2019 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 2.79 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"Undying Light" is the 4th full-length studio album by US, California based metal act Fallujah. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in March 2019. It´s the successor to "Dreamless" from 2016 and features two lineup changes since the predecessor as guitarist Brian James has left (and hasn´t been replaced making Fallujah a four-piece on this release), and lead vocalist Alex Hofmann who has been replaced by Antonio Palermo.

Fallujah have changed their style a lot over the years, starting out a technical deathcore act and later shifting to an atmospheric technical/progressive death metal style, and "Undying Light" sees Fallujah changing things again. With Palermo on board the vocal style is now fully fledged aggressive metalcore screaming, and there are no traces of the band´s deathcore/death metal past in the vocals anymore. While the music still features heavy riffs and rhythms, there is also very little in the instrumental department of the album which reveal Fallujah´s deathcore/death metal beginnings. The music is now best described as atmospheric metalcore with heavy angular riffs. The only trace of death metal is the melodic death metal riff featured on "Sanctuary".

The band are well playing and the sound production is clear, professional, and detailed, so on most parameters "Undying Light" is a quality release. The songwriting is very generic though. There´s nothing on this album you haven´t heard before, and unfortunately also heard better. Some of Fallujah´s past releases have been pretty intriguing combinations of atmosphere and heaviness, but this time around the band haven´t managed to produce enough memorable riffs and vocal hooks for the material to stick. Upon conclusion "Undying Light" isn´t a terrible release, but it´s not a particularly remarkable one either. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

SAVAGE MESSIAH Demons

Album · 2019 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Nightfly
I’ve read a few things about Demons, the new Savage Messiah album and previous release Hands Of Fate, that make the point that after starting their career as thrash metal hopefuls and making a pretty good job of it, that they have in recent years adopted a more mainstream heavy metal stance. It has been seen as a somewhat backwards step and they are the worse for it. Firstly I find this idea total bollocks. Not that the above is not true but the view that heavy metal is somehow inferior to thrash metal. Now I like thrash as much as the next man but I equally have a fondness for well-played heavy metal and Demons is certainly that.

The album kicks off with Virtue Signal and after a power metal infused start retreats into more typical heavy metal. It packs considerable punch as well as plenty of melody. Next track What Dreams May Come is probably a contender as an example of what the naysayers are getting at. Nevertheless despite its mainstream leanings it’s a likeable enough song with a strong melody. The band occupies similar territory in other songs on the album such as Parachute, The Lights Are Going Out and Until The Shadows Fall, but they’re all played with conviction and not a weak one amongst them. There are still plenty of songs that kick ass and whilst this is primarily a heavy metal record thrash infused riffs are still evident at times even if they may not dominate whole songs. Pick of the bunch would be Heretic In The Modern World, Under No Illusions, Down And Out and Rise Then Fall, all with strong hooks and melodies without sacrificing power.

The band are all good players with a nod to drummer Charly Carreton who gives a fine performance with plenty of inventive fills and rhythmic shifts. Their ace up the sleeve comes in vocalist Dave Silver, a great metal/rock singer in the traditional sense. Kind of a Jon Bon Jovi for metal with more balls. Yes, good clean vocals are hard to beat.

While I’m not overly familiar with all Savage Messiah’s albums I’m enjoying Demons as much as any of them I’ve heard. If traditional heavy metal is your thing you really ought to check this out and I’m definitely going to go back and check out those albums I’ve missed in their back catalogue.

VENOM Storm the Gates

Album · 2018 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 1.75 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
What were you doing in 1979? Me, I was 16 years old and desperate to discover more about the new metal movement which was literally sweeping the UK at the time, and at the forefront of that was the magazine Sounds. I and many others used to get it every week (grief, a weekly music newspaper, we were so lucky) and devour what Deaf Barton was discovering, and although I was sending off for records from bands, by far my favourite label was Neat Records in Newcastle. They had so many incredible bands, with my favourite probably being Raven, and then they had Venom. I can’t have been the only one wondering what on earth was going on with these guys, creating sounds an image which was like none other. Those first three albums are some of the most important ever release in the history of metal, spawning sub genres like no others, and it felt as if Cronos, Abaddon and Mantas could do no wrong.

Of course, since then there has been a rather convoluted band history, but for the most part Cronos has been there belting his bass and providing his vocals, while guitarist Rage and drummer Danté have been by his side for the last ten years. I wasn’t too sure of Venom the first time I heard their music, but over the years have become a firm fan and was relishing listening to this. However, when one realises that easily the best thing about the album is the cover art, then we’re in trouble. Let’s talk about the production, or rather let’s not – the reason bands used to sound bad was due to poor equipment and not enough money, surely no-one these days deliberately goes out of their way to record something that sounds like this? Songs. Yes, there are songs, but they are boring without and fire and are way too repetitive. It almost feels as if there was an album which had to be recorded, so let’s get it done and get back out onto the festival circuit before Venom Inc. (featuring Mantas, Demolition Man (Tony Dolan) and Kling (Abaddon left last year)) steal all the thunder and bookings. On the basis of this, it may be too late.

POSSESSED Revelations of Oblivion

Album · 2019 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.74 | 3 ratings
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Nightfly
Regarded by many to have spawned the death metal genre, Seven Churches, the debut album from Possessed released way back in 1985, whether you agree with that or not was certainly a brilliant and highly influential album. Whilst not bad by any means the follow up Beyond The Gates saw the band retreating into more standard thrash territory. Apart from an EP in 1987 that was pretty much it. Although active again as a live band since 2007 it’s taken some time but finally thirty three years later Possessed are back with a new album though vocalist Jeff Becerra is the sole remaining member of the original band.

The new Possessed remain largely true to the band’s sound of old but whilst Seven Churches despite being generally well played could be a bit sloppy in places. Not surprisingly, the new band come across as much tighter having the benefit of time and modern recording and production techniques at their disposal not to mention being great musicians. After a short intro the album kicks off proper with No More Room In Hell, a song I’d heard a while back being released as a pre-album taster. It comes in all guns blazing, fast with razor sharp and extremely busy guitar riffs. Equal parts death metal and thrash it’s a brilliant statement on intent. Becerra whose vocals are better than they ever were has assembled a fine band that does the Possessed name justice. Guitarists Daniel Gonalez and Claudeous Creamer’s riffs twist and turn with power and precision as well as playing some jaw dropping solos – these guys can shred with the best of them, drummer Emilio Marquez lets rip with a barrage of fast fills and rolling double kicks and bassist Robert Cardenas provides a solid but highly dextrous bottom end.

Hearing this a while back and being mightily impressed had led me to expect great things from the album to come. Fortunately I wasn’t to be disappointed as whilst there’s not really anything here that tops No More Room In Hell much of the rest of the album is as good or not far behind, following track Dominion being a case in point keeping things going at the same breakneck tempo and displaying equal precision. This is the case for most of the album with the tempo rarely slowing down and when it does like on Demon it’s never for a whole song. Faults? None really but at fifty four minutes it’s quite an exhausting listen with little variation in tempo so perhaps a couple of songs shorter might have worked better, but a minor issue.

Some may consider it sacrilege but I believe Possessed have not only equalled their debut, but actually bettered it. This is going to be up there with my albums of the year for sure come December. Hopefully it won’t be another thirty three years before we get another one.

METAL CHURCH Damned If You Do

Album · 2018 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.21 | 8 ratings
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Kev Rowland
With Mike Howe back in the band, there has been a renewed sense of purpose and vigour and following on from a live album in 2017 the band came back in 2018 with another studio release. There has been a change in the ranks, as the band parted ways with drummer Jeff Plate who felt he could no longer commit the time required, and after touring with Stet Howland (ex-WASP) behind the kit he is now a full-time member of the band. He has slotted right in and this is in many ways a straightforward continuation from ‘XI’. I still have problems coming to grips with the fact that Mike Howe wasn’t involved with the scene for so long, as he has a great voice and it really feels as if he has never been away.

This is a even more basic album than the previous one, just straightforward heavy metal designed to cure all dandruff, and they continually hit the bottom end as if they are the logical successor to Judas Priest. It is hard to imagine they didn’t grow up in the steel factory environment of Birmingham which had such an impact on the likes of Priest and Sabbath, and there is little American here in terms of sound, straightforward crank it up and hit it hard metal. There may be more polish than one would hear from a NWOBHM band, but there is no doubting these guys have a massive affinity with the genre. It really is like going back in time before the metal scene splintered in so many different directions, comforting and fun. Five guys doing what they do, turning it up and belting it out, and there is no doubt at all that Metal Church are well and truly back in the groove.

DEATHSPELL OMEGA The Furnaces of Palingenesia

Album · 2019 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
Palingenesis or PALINGENESIA is the concept of rebirth which is used in disparate subjects such as philosophy, theology, politics and biology but also appropriately applies to one of the metal universe’s most mysterious avant-garde blackened bands that lurks in the shadows somewhere in Poitiers, France, namely DEATHSPELL OMEGA. Having begun as a mere Darkthrone inspired clone, the first rebirth found this band taking the world by storm with the lauded trilogy of albums that not only created some of the most technical and adventurously progressive black metal workouts in the known universe but single-handedly advanced the Satanic metaphysical principles of the black metal paradigm to an advanced occult theology that relied heavily on the themes of French surrealist Georges Bataille and the German idealist Georg Wilhem Friedrich Hegel but nonetheless reanimated them in extreme metal grandeur. The results were simultaneously eerily frightening and deviously delicious.

Having released six albums, several EPs and splits that pretty much found DOS sticking to their established paradigm, the band returns for their seventh official full-length album THE FURNACES OF PALINGENESIA which finds the power trio of vocalist Mikko Aspa, bassist Khaos and guitarist Hasjari emerging from the scenes in order to provide yet another bantering boisterous assault of unadulterated evil. While no drummer is credited, this anonymous entity returns to the pummelation power throne for another round of jazzy progressive blastbeats as well as the standard laissez-faire percussive drive that finds THE FURNACES OF PALINGENESIA revisiting the DOS playbook as well as integrating new unexpected sources of inspiration into its ever expanding liturgy of the darkened metaphysical tomes of the esoteric underworld.

Opening with the by now familiarity of spidery jangled guitar dissonance on “Neither Meaning Nor Justice,” the album begins much like “Paracletus” as it gets right down to business with the raspy vocal utterances emerging from the post-metal cyclically looped riffs in a mid-tempo prowl. Right off the bat, the subtleties are apparent as to how this album slightly differs from the previous releases. While the shock and uniqueness of DOS has long worn off and the avant-garde bombast and stylistic idiosyncrasies have become inured to the hardened musical masochists, the band constantly seeks new methods to infuse clever new twists and turns into the overwrought orotundity which loses none of its frenetic and soul searing prowess. Heavier atmospheric murkiness lurks over the compositions in opposition to previous albums. While ambience and mood enhancing electronica have always served the dark side well, on this album they work in tandem to steer the pearlescent obliqueness into more dynamic chunks of the blackened expressionisms.

While 2016’s “The Synarchy of Molten Bones” sounded more like a summary of the most aggressive attributes of the DOS stylistic approach, THE FURNACES OF PALINGENESIA engages the post-rock and psychedelic softer aspects and the extremes of “Fas-Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum.” Dare i even say that many of the compositions on PALINGENESIA are slightly less demanding at least in the frenetic display of zigzagging through various angularities and tend to focus on the post-rock / cyclical riffing loops that display variations through dynamics and instrumental interactions that ratchet up the tension to pyroclastic explosive bouts of bombastic bravado. While the standard DOS expectations are the status quo, “Standing on the Work of Slaves” comes off as distinct in that it has a nonchalant military march sort of percussive drive as well as a more standard tremolo display of black metal guitar fury.

With 11 songs that clock in near the 45 minute mark, DOS recorded this album live in the studio and mixed it all on analog gear which continues the band’s fascination with classic 70s progressive rock only expressed through the lens of the Satanic underbelly of the black metal exemplar that brings forth the demonic dementia of the philosophical underpinnings. For those well steeped in the sonic psychic attacks of the DEATHSPELL OMEGA idiosyncrasies, THE FURNACES OF PALINGENESIA will continue the journey into the belly of the beast for another well established display of black metal magic performed through the menacing skull-crushing antics of one of black metal’s most ambitious and consistently terrifying underground realities and while THE FURNACES OF PALINGENESIA may not usurp the majesty of the impacts made by the Satnaic trilogy albums, it certainly does not disappoint in keeping the DOS ferocity alive and well. This band is in no danger of selling out or becoming a parody of themselves and while i find this album less compelling than those that preceded, it certainly warrants the essential status within the band’s ever expanding continual canon.

MEATHOOK Crypts, Coffins, Corpses

Album · 2019 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
With a bandname, album title, album artwork, and even record label name providing a few clues, it was rather safe to say that this was an album of brutal death metal before it even hit the player. This is their third album, and with a band built around three brothers, it perhaps isn’t a surprise that they hit so hard. In some ways they remind me of Cryptopsy, but far blunter and raw. The production is also deliberately lo-tech, so there are times when it feels like the ears are being assaulted by a wall of sonic mud. There is a groove underpinning what they are doing, which makes this feel very much like an album from the early days of the genre as opposed to what is happening these days.

This is dark, as if the swamp thing has come to life and is going to take you in his fetid embrace, cutting off all light and hope, as you drown in a world of nightmares. The first time I played it I really wasn’t sure, nor the second, and then I realised the problem – I wasn’t playing it loud enough. This is an album which really appreciates volume, so why not share the “joy” of Meathook with your neighbours. It like being caressed by a sledgehammer…

OPPROBRIUM The Fallen Entities

Album · 2019 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.33 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"The Fallen Entities" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US death/thrash metal act Opprobrium. The album was released through High Roller Records in February 2019. It´s the successor to "Mandatory Evac" from 2008. Opprobrium were originally called Incubus, and released two albums under that monicker in the late eighties/early nineties, but were forced to change their name because of trademark issues. If you count the two Incubus albums, the band have only released five albums in their 30 years of existence, so they can´t be accused of being particularly productive. All instruments and vocals on "The Fallen Entities" were recorded by the Howard brothers, Moyes M. Howard (drums) and Francis M. Howard (vocals, bass, guitars).

"Dark Days, Dark Times" opens the album with dark and heavy death/thrash riffs and rhythms and Francis M. Howard´s aggressive raw vocals on top, and the rest of the album pretty much sounds like that with some variation in pace and the occasional guitar solo to put a little spice to the music. Stylistically that´s more or less a continuation of the style on the two direct predecessors, and less like the style on the two Incubus albums, although there are hints of the early days here and there. Opprobrium are a well playing band, but if I have to mention a minor detail I would have done diffently it would be creating bass lines that don´t follow the guitar riffs one-to-one, and placing the bass in the mix so it can be heard. In that regard it´s a bit too audible that the focus has almost solely been on the drums, guitars, and vocals, and to my ears it sounds a bit like the bass is a necessary evil or an afterthought to Opprobrium. They aren´t alone in making this mistake as many extreme metal albums either feature no audible bass or a bass which just follows the guitar, but it needs to be adressed here, as I think "The Fallen Entities" could have been a more dynamic and quite frankly better album, had more focus been given to the bass lines.

That minor complaint aside, the material on "The Fallen Entities" is both relatively well written, powerful and aggressive death/thrash, and it´s performed with the right amount of passion and conviction. Other than the lack of bass in the mix (which doesn´t mean the production lacks bottom end heaviness), the sound production is actually also very well sounding. Raw, brutal, and powerful. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

HATE ETERNAL Upon Desolate Sands

Album · 2018 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 4.42 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Having cut his teeth with Ripping Corpse and Morbid Angel, Erik Rutan formed Hate Eternal in 1997, since when he has been pursuing his own brand of Florida-style death metal which is both technical and brutal. There may have been some line-up changes over the years, but bassist J.J. Hrubovcak has been there for a decade now, and new drummer Hannes Grossmann has fitted in really nicely. The first three tracks are setting the listener up for the rest of the album, allowing the ears to bed into the complexity and nuances, then when the fourth song “Nothingness of Being” kicks in, the band allow themselves to become even more brutal, as well as more diverse, complex and really kick it on.

From here the band play as if they are possessed, with “All Hope Destroyed” surely one of the fastest introductions they have ever attempted – it is no wonder they pause for breath before they dig into the main event! Erik Rutan has been driving this band for more than twenty years, and it feels like they are gaining ground as opposed to falling away like some of their peers. This is death metal at its finest, and the only thing to do is keep turning it up and feel the pain. Brilliant.

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM The End of Chaos

Album · 2019 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.58 | 4 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Like most metalheads, I’ve always had a warm spot for Flotsam and Jetsam, and I would expect most to have a copy of their debut ‘Doomsday For The Deceiver’ in their collection (grief, it is more than 30 years old now!). Destined both always to be remembered as the band Jason Newsted left to join Metallica, and to never gain the heights many expected of them, I came to this album not having heard any of their recent material. Singer Eric A.K. and guitarist Mike Gilbert where there for the debut, while bassist Michael Spencer was the original replacement for Newsted, while second guitarist has been in place for five years and it is only veteran drummer Ken Mary who is a newbie.

What strikes one immediately is the sheer force and power of the guitars, as the production is incredibly strong with real depth. Musically this is melodic power metal which is closely aligned to thrash, as the band happily straddle the genres and allow Eric to show he has lost none of his prowess over the years. This is an incredibly polished release, and to me that is the one aspect which I felt was wrong as it has been honed just too much, smoothed and crafted within an inch of its life and to my ears it would have been far better if it had been left raw and there wasn’t quite so much in the way of harmony vocals and saccharine. I am sure that onstage this will be quite a different beast and I would have much preferred to have heard it that way.

BUCKETHEAD SIGIL Soundtrack

Boxset / Compilation · 2019 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
BUCKETHEAD has been rather low key in the last couple of years as he’s probably kicking back in the Bucket-Cave after exhausting himself from the explosive frenzy of activity during the earlier part of the decade when he released something like 300 albums in a few short years. Or maybe he’s just recharging his batteries! Brian Patrick Carroll is of course not only a chicken loving eccentricity but is without a doubt an extremely versatile and talented musician who has inspired many far and wide with his mold of William Shatner’s Captain Kirk mask and signature KFC pale upon his head.

One of his biggest fans has been John Romero who created the classic 90s video game Doom which in the year 2019 is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary. In honor of this landmark occasion, Romero has decided to go all out and create a deluxe boxed set that adds on new levels to the Doom game in the form of SIGIL which will surely please fans with eight new regular levels, one new bonus level, an epic boss fight and the most difficult episode yet to emerge. Of course all of this needed a new soundtrack and as he has spent countless hours programming code to the music of BUCKETHEAD, which Romero deemed the perfect sort of sounds to exist side by side with his masterful classic video game extensions.

The SIGIL SOUNDTRACK isn’t exactly a custom made score for the Doom universe’s latest installment but rather is a compilation of tracks from the massive PIKE series with the sole exception of the opening track, “Romero One Mind Any Weapon” which is the only new track to be featured. Romero’s hope was to introduce BUCKETHEAD to a wider audience and although many have heard of this mysterious legend, many still probably have never been exposed to his music, therefore this SOUNDTRACK is more like an introductory compilation of sorts.

“Romero One Mind Any Weapon” (9:04) -The only new track displays the avant-garde metal intensity of BUCKETHEAD’s earliest albums when he emerged in the 90s on such albums as 1992’s “Bucketheadland.” This track conveys a standard classic metal approach with lightning fast metal guitar riffing that keeps a “normal” metal groove in place but with a BH track creeping past the 9 minute mark, you’re bound to get a pocketful of electronic weirdness, progressive off-kilter breakdowns and a mix of sizzling solos and ambient mood enhancers. And of course there’s a touch of funk! This track is sort of a tribute to BUCKETHEAD as it has a dash of this and a dash of that which makes up the chicken lover’s lengthy career. While the track isn’t unusual from anything from his past, i can understand why this makes a wickedly cool addition to the SIGIL experience.

“13th Floor (7:15) from PIKE 118 - Elevator - I can understand why this track was chosen. It’s a heavy rocker that has a marching into battle drive to it. The track goes through a series of nice emotionally charged passages with elegant soloing and an epic feel. A great choice for SIGIL.

“Buildor 2 (13:43) from PIKE 224 - Buildor - This track utilizes a Pink Floydian Gilmour type of space rock guitar lick before being joined by another distorted power chord guitar and then it totally mellows out back to a space guitar lick, ambient background and very slow drumbeat. This tracks basically goes on and repeats the riff, adds solos, takes breaks with ambient passages and follows the traditional PIKE playbook but has found its true calling on SIGIL.

“The Patrolman” (7:30) from PIKE 8 - Racks - This track starts out with a clean guitar lick and more energetic drum beat joining it. It lets the melody gently unfold but this is one of those tracks that doesn’t really go anywhere. It is predictable and by the books without any improper freakiness. It’s too much like something off of the “Electric Tears / Sea” albums and sounds like a leftover track or something. OK as an active listening experience but perfect for the multi-tasking of video game playing.

“Cold Frost Part 6” (5:10) from PIKE 205 - 2 Days Til Halloween: Cold Frost - This is a snippet of the dark ambient releases from 2015’s Halloween countdown. Now this is prime video game music as it has a Twilight Zone feel with icy darkened atmospheres and spooky chilling effects. While many didn’t like these ambient releases, i find the electronica of BUCKETHEAD to be some of the most refined and interesting of all.

“Melting Man Part 2” (6:38) from PIKE 10 - The Silent Picture Book - This track is one of those distorted and mellow ballads which also is not very engaging actively but is a nice chill pill for intense video game action.

“Far 5” (10:41) from PIKE 266 - Far - This track begins with an atmospheric ambience and begins immediately with heavier guitar riffs along with the space rock sounds. A guitar solo is finally allowed to erupt into a sped up bluesy frenzy. Although this one has more of rockin’ feel, it still is nothing more than a repetitive loop of a few chords that continue on with soloing over the main rhythm.

“Poseidon 4-6” (16:56) from PIKE 264 - Poseidon - Like the PIKE from which these three tracks are stitched together here, they seamlessly transition together. A nice mix of heavy rock with crunchy riffs, licks and solos with some downtime for ambient sections and other deviations from the norm.

“Fastpass” (7:03) from PIKE 231 - Drift - This track starts out slow and mellow with a synth, a slow guitar and it sounds like it’s gonna be one of those Pink Floyd slow tempo bluesy guitar tracks. Yep. Continues as the same style and doesn’t really go anywhere interesting. Nice tones and does have chord changes but BH has done this much better before. OK but not OMG

At a running time of 84 minutes, this one might be a little too long for many as an active listening experience but as a series of musical experiences in conjunct with the SIGIL playing it is perfect! I think many of the PIKEs were too simply constructed for active listening experiences but make perfect background music for a multi-media project such as this. BUCKETHEAD Pikes have found their calling at last and Romero has expressed interest in incorporating more of the chicken lover’s music into his future projects. All in all this is a decent introduction to anyone unfamiliar with the PIKE series but personally i enjoy the more adventurous and experimental sector. For those not so adventurous as i, this is a decent PIKE 101 stepping stone into the greater universe but for true fans this will be of little interest with only the first track providing new material.

MYRATH Shehili

Album · 2019 · Folk Metal
Cover art 3.67 | 2 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
MYRATH return from its North African hideaway with the fifth album SHEHILI thus proving that this Tunisian band that has made a career out of mixing Middle Eastern folk music with metal is in no danger of going away any time soon. In fact this quintet plus session musicians has only become more famous internationally since its 2006 formation however despite the band’s exotic flair that has caught the rest of the world’s attention, these guys still don’t resonate very much in their native lands. It’s been three years since MYRATH released “Legacy” which found the band taking a softer less progressive approach than on the preceding “Hope,” “Desert Call” and “Tales of the Sands.” SHEHILI emulates “Legacy” with lush symphonically embellished power metal inspired metal tracks that wrap themselves around the classic Arab sounds of the Sahara.

Unlike MYRATH’s earliest albums which focused on the metal aspects of the band’s idiosyncratic fusion, SHEHILI continues the thick atmospheric cloud covers of “Legacy” and crafts more accessible pop hooks that take a blatant dip into the mainstream with catchy sing-songy melodic hooks with simpler compositional constructs that add some power metal heft but focus a lot of attention on more AOR flavors that demonstrates that the band is clearly going for the mainstream breakthrough jugular which is what makes this album a little weak compared to the earliest powerful displays of metal music that has now been tamed into one trick camel races all the way to the top of the charts.

On the positive side of things, vocalist Zaher Zorgati still delivers a powerful vocal charm and is perfect for the type of music that MYRATH has conjured up. The other winner is the strong symphonic string section that includes the usual menagerie of instruments such as the violin, viola and the new which is a Persian flute that is prominent in most forms of traditional Middle Eastern music. Also included are traces of lute and elegant piano arrangements that add touches of Western classical teased into the Eastern sounds. The symphonic touches overall are what define SHEHILI much more than the rather subordinate heavy rock aspects that barely even qualify for metal any longer. The production is also perfect as it allows each little sound to find its own space without intruding on the others.

Ah, i loved early MYRATH. The five-piece metal band from the far flung non-metal lands of Tunisia who dared conjure up metal mirages with local flavors. The early albums were powerful and delivered all the goods while weaving it all together in highly progressive ways. Most of those complexities have been replaced at this point with easy on the ears flavorings that keep most of the tracks sounding rather similar in approach. The formula is rather simple. Recycle the same Eastern musical scales, add a bit of guitar heft with the only occasional solo along with a rather subordinate bass and drum rhythm section. While Zorgati is clearly the star of the show with his passionate and intricately designed vocal style, the rest of the music falls rather flat compared to the earliest offerings.

MYRATH have obviously fallen into the trap that many bands do as they flirt with commercial success and by that they lose the passion that was generated in the beginning when the music was intended as a statement rather than a means of economic opportunity. While many bands find a way to balance these two acts by having a few more commercial tracks and some more sophisticated experimental and progressive ones, MYRATH have chosen to create a rather monotonic album’s worth of 12 tracks where the overall feel of the individual songs doesn’t really advance. It all sounds like a series of reshuffling with a few minor bursts of bombast for a little contrast. It’s clear form the videos that this band is aiming for the mainstream and that involves healthy amounts of cheese to pull it off. While the sound of the band is clearly intact, there’s just not enough going on on this new album to get me really excited. Personally i want the old MYRATH back. This just feels shallow. Not bad but not great either.

ARCH / MATHEOS Winter Ethereal

Album · 2019 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
WINTER is coming. Oh, wait! It has already come! Emerging seemingly from nowhere in 2011, the early Fates Warning pioneers of prog metal, vocalist John ARCH and guitarist Jim MATHEOS took the world by storm after releasing the stunning collaborative effort in the form of “Sympathetic Resonance” under the moniker ARCH / MATHEOS which in many ways found resolution to the long lost continuation of what Fates Warning would have sounded like had they continued well into the 21st century with ARCH’s vocal prowess still in command. With a classic prog metal sound that was clearly crafted for the modern world, the duo constructed six stunning tracks that took the early prog metal attributes of operatic vocals, heavy zigzagging guitar riffs and compositional complexities and married it all with the darker down-tuned realities of the 21st century.

While the project was never to be intended to be a permanent one, the obvious chemistry that was presented begged prog metalheads far and wide to ponder the possibilities of whether there could be the remotest possibility of a second edition to what would provide the next chapter in this project of such technical wizardry coupled with emotional outpourings. Due to other commitments, particularly on the side of MATHEOS who to this day remains a vital member in Fates Warning’s modern prog metal excellence, no pressures were in play but lo and behold eight long years later and the duo has found themselves releasing the long awaited second coming with WINTER ETHEREAL which finds the dynamic duo in cahoots once again with bassist Joey Vera (Fates Warning, Chroma Key), drummer Bobby Jarzombek (Fates Warning, Spastic Ink) and guitarist Frank Aresti.

And this time around even more musicians came to the party which includes ex-Cynic bassist Sean Malone and two additional drummers, Matt Lynch (Trioscapes) and Thomas Lang (John Wetton, Stork, Paul Gilbert, Eric Gillette) as well as Steve Di Giorgio (Death, Testament, Charred Walls Of The Damned) and bassists Joe Dibiase and Mark Zonder. The guitar distortion is turned up to 11 and the musicians were chomping at the bit to unleash a new slab of highly technical metal that takes the ARCH / MATHEOS to the next level. While the Fates Warning comparisons are inevitable, once again this project finds a way to make the music its own despite the clear throwback to the long lost days when progressive metal existed as a mere collaboration between 70s prog rock and 80s classic heavy metal. And best of all, despite the decades that have elapsed, it’s utterly amazing how well Mr. ARCH’s glass shattering vox box has held up. Is this man fucking immortal or what?

WINTER ETHEREAL cranks out nine hard driving prog metal tracks rooted in the previous century but clearly designed for 21st century consumption. A bit longer than the previous one and clocking in at about 108 minutes, this album bursts into the scene with the crushing “Vermillion Moons” which delivers the expected labyrinthine guitar riffs while taking a few breathers with some slower passages. Clearly on display and man of the hour vocalist ARCH shows off his high capacity pipes in an ever daring feat of vocal majesty which never fails throughout the album’s lengthy parade through the progressively imbued compositions that seem to tackle the usual prog metal melodramatic lyrical esoterica in the fullest sonic regalia. Despite the plethora of musicians on board this time, the album comes off as a tightly woven musical experience with all eyes on the prize, that meaning the overall feel of consistency in this high quality musical sector of the prog metal universe.

Perhaps my only complaint of this dynamic powerhouse of unbridled prog metal passion is that despite the army of newbies in its midst, it doesn’t deviate significantly from the majesty of “Sympathetic Resonance,” as the tones, timbres, dynamics and songwriting techniques follow suit in much the same business as usual. Perhaps the creative aspects could’ve shined a bit more instead of making a second installment of album #1 however if a similar approach is what you’ve been salivating over then WINTER ETHEREAL will not disappoint one little bit as it tackles all the prog sophistication and ethereal nuances that the first ARCH / MATHEOS experience delivered so well. While overall i don’t find this to be the perfect prog metal specimen that came before, it is nevertheless a high quality release that finds these elder statesmen of the genre not losing one bit of their musical mojo, in other words - this is some outstanding modern day prog metal delivering ALL the goods.

HAMFERÐ Tamsins Likam

Album · 2018 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art 4.43 | 5 ratings
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Warthur
Hailing from the Faroe Islands and delivering all their lyrics in the local Faroese dialect, Hamferð deliver up a mournful style which really puts the "funeral" in "funeral doom metal". One can imagine a sparse smattering of mourners making their way out in a rainstorm to bury their dead, lashed by the winds of the far north, the bitterness of the Arctic cold sweeping down from the north, in a hilly country where no matter where you go, you're never quite that far from the chill, uncaring sea. Gloom hangs over all, and if that sounds like a good time, you may as well check the album out.

GLYPTOGLOSSIO YOTTAANNUMS in the BYSS

Album · 2019 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
Colin Marston (Behold… The Arctopus, Gorguts etc) debuted his avant-garde freakzoid project GLYPTOGLOSSIO in 2016 with a strange freeform style of metal that sounds like absolutely nothing else and while i thought it was so far out of the box that it would probably be a one off, turns out this is an ongoing project with more metal gibberish to be expressed! The new album YOTTAANNUMS in the BYSS continues the formless distorted guitar and bass riffs, spastic freeform drumming and the robotic narrations which put the avant-garde on steroids.

This one also consists of a mere two tracks but both tracks exceed are quite lengthy with the first track merely named “3” extending towards 19 minutes whereas the following “4” reaches over 15 minutes. The titles follow the titles “1” and “2” from the debut “GLYPTOGLO5510” which only had a running time of over 25 minutes. This one is a full-length of chaotic swirls of bass lines, non-musical guitar riffs and pummeling drums. The amount of effort to keep anything sounding like any established form of music is quite impressive.

Exercising the utter disregard of any sort of musical form, this project also lists the lyrics on the Bandcamp site which are as bizarrely surreal as the music(?) itself. While there is probably some cryptic themes expressed in all this madness, it’s not apparent reading the lyrics that there is any meaning at all. It is more likely that this project is to merely create a form of sonic bantering that is designed to be as surreal and detached from reality as possible and in that department it truly succeeds!

Despite the freeform gibberish that comes off as a bizarre musical Frankenstein with snippets of this and snippets of that, there are recognizable riffs, drum rolls, bass lines etc. There are also cowbells and other sound effects. The vocal style becomes somewhat tedious as the robotic monster voice remains monotonic and never deviates from its simple narrative role as swirls of chaos explode in the background.

If you thought Behold…The Arctopus was too much to handle then this will drive you insane. As someone hardened by weird concepts in the avant-garde and experimental sectors of the musical world, this is bizarre and alien even by my standards and can be questioned if this is music at all. There are no established patterns, no musical scales, no melodies and the whole thing comes off as a dissonant barrage of noisy guitar, bass and drums all striving to remain defiantly dissonant and ununified with almost hypnotic tortured monster vocals narrating Salvador Dali inspired poetry.

I’m not really sure if this is a band or just Marston flying his freak flag as high as possible. Whatever the case, this is weird for weird’s sake and will appeal to very few if anyone but for some reason i have an appetite for this kind of stuff now and again so i listen and imagine these sounds to be some sort of anthem for an alien robot A.I. army awaiting its attack on the galaxy and taking ultimate control. Since there is nothing tangible to latch onto, these sounds stimulate the imagination to construct some sort of explanation for its existence which is a psychological phenomenon that allows me to appreciate this. All i can say is that this is fucked up weirdo shit.

SURRA Virou Brasil

EP · 2019 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Tupan
Yep, another EP from the brazilian hardcore/crossover thrash band Surra. Despite its short length (not even four minutes), this release shows a much varied sound: the first track is a genuine samba (no bullshit!) with anti-fascist lyrics. The second song is a straightforward hardcore. The very short "Não Entendi" is pure grindcore, no more no less. And, finally, "Caso Isolado" is a fast crossover track.

"Virou Brasil" is another strong EP from these guys, with a hilarious cover art, and works as an appetizer for their next full length, named "Escorrendo Pelo Ralo" (which already have a single). Go on, check it out!

STEEL PROPHET The God Machine

Album · 2019 · US Power Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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DippoMagoo
Once in a while, a band might get a total makeover, where they change their sound to the point of becoming nearly unrecognisable. The latest band to have this happen is American heavy/power metal band Steel Prophet. I was introduced to them with their 2014 release, Omniscient, which left me with mixed impressions, as musically it was quite a dynamic, varied and complex US power metal album, but it was dragged down by some rather nonsensical lyrics (it seriously had a track called “Aliens, Spaceships and Richard M. Nixon”, for example) as well as a rather inconsistent performance by longtime vocalist Rick Mythiasin. Almost 5 years later, the band is back with a new vocalist, and while the lineup largely consists of longtime members, their sound has changed quite a bit on their ninth full length release, The God Machine, to the point where I can see some longtime fans of the band being disappointed, though for anyone approaching it with an open mind, it’s certainly a thoroughly entertaining album.

Steel Prophet has been around since the early 80’s, and their classic sound was rooted in US power metal, being very raw and hard hitting, while also being quite complex at times, with strong prog elements. The God Machine is a whole different monster, being a mix between a much more modernized power/thrash sound, as well as classic heavy metal. Obviously, the most immediately noticeable change is vocals, with Mystic Prophecy’s R.D. Liapakis taking over the mic, and delivering his usual mix of gritty, powerful vocals, with some more soulful moments on the couple of softer tracks, but even musically, things have changed quite a bit.

The approach to songwriting in particular has changed a lot, with a switch to some much shorter, more straight-forward songs, with less complex arrangements and a less dynamic sound overall. There’s still a decent amount of variety to the songs, of course, with the heavier, speedier tracks generally being the best, but there certainly aren’t any long or more challenging tracks like some of those on Omniscient. This approach works well, though, with all musicians doing a great job, as always, and there’s certainly some excellent thrashy riffs throughout the album, with nods to classic thrash at times, as well as some classic heavy metal galloping riffs and melodic guitar work on some tracks. Obviously, a lot of the changes to the sound were made to help Liapakis fit in, as some of the tracks certainly do remind me of Mystic Prophecy at times, and he sounds as great as always on the album, taking no time at all to settle in and deliver some excellent vocals. Production is top notch, and everything sounds a bit more modern and polished compared to previous releases, which is another big change.

The band wastes no time in demonstrating their switch to more modernized riffs and more simplified songwriting, with the title track kicking things off at a furious pace, instantly launching into some very thrashy power metal riffs, which instantly bring Mystic Prophecy to mind (it most likely is one of the songs written by Liapakis, who split songwriting duties with longtime guitarist/keyboardist Steve Kachinski.) The song has fun verses and a very catchy chorus, and it’s a very fun, hard hitting track overall. Next is another speedy track in “Crucify”, the lead single for the album. It still has a modernized sound to it, though the lead guitars are a bit more melodic during the verses, before getting thrashy again during the chorus. It’s another hard hitting, fast paced track, with its biggest highlight being an extended instrumental section with some thrashy leads and excellent solo work that brings classic Metallica to mind. Next is the slightly slower, though still decently fast paced, “Thrashed Relentlessly”, another track with some great, heavy guitar work. It’s another modern sounding track, with powerful riffs and a strong, melodic chorus, with excellent vocals.

On the slower side, “Dark Mask (Between Love and Hate)” is a very classic heavy metal sounding track, with some nice melodic leads during the verses, as well as a very melodic and catchy chorus. Despite having a classic sound to it, the song still feels more polished and more simplified than most other songs I’ve heard from Steel Prophet, though it’s definitely a great track. Next is “Damnation Calling”, the first of two power ballads on the album. This track at times feels like an Iron Maiden ballad, with how it alternates nicely between very soft passages, and some darker, heavier passages. It opens calmly, before some heavy guitar work kicks in, and from there the song switches seamlessly between heavy verses, and a nice, melodic and very powerful chorus, with a particularly speedy section in the second half being the biggest highlight. After that is “Soulhunter”, my favorite on the album. It has some classic Maiden style galloping riffs, and is a fast paced track, with a mix between heavy riffs and some great melodies, with the chorus in particular having some incredible vocal melodies, as well as being very fun and catchy. The track has a great instrumental section in the second half, as well as an excellent speedy section near the end, which takes it to new heights.

The second ballad on the album is “Buried and Broken”, which starts off with more Maiden style guitar work, before slowing down and turning into a very soft, vocal driven track, only getting heavier during the chorus, and an intense sequence towards the end. It serves as a nice vocal showcase, with Liapakis alternating nicely between soft and powerful vocals. Next is another slower track in “Lucifer – The Devil Inside”. It has some great heavy riffs, as well as a nice groove, and a strong chorus. It has a slight doom metal atmosphere to it, though it does get more upbeat in the second half, with a fast paced and intense instrumental section. It’s a very good track, overall. Next is “Fight, Kill”, which begins with some soft, very epic guitar work, before turning into an excellent melodic heavy metal track, with some fairly fast paced riffs, and another fun, catchy chorus. It has an excellent instrumental section in the second half, and it’s a great classic heavy metal track, overall. Closing out the album is the weirdly named “Love = Life = God Machine” which, despite it’s unwieldy name, is actually a very good track, with more classic heavy metal style guitar riffs. It has a slight hard rock feel to it, with a fairly laid back sound, while still having some great riffs during the verses, which give way to a very melodic and powerful chorus. The instrumental section in the second half especially has a strong 80’s feel to it, and overall the track is a lot of fun, and is a great way to close out the album.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from The God Machine, as I wasn’t too thrilled by the previous Steel Prophet album I had heard, but the band has made quite a change on this release, switching to a more modernised sound, with some power/thrash elements, while still having strong influences of classic heavy metal, which takeover more and more as the album progresses. The songwriting is a lot more direct and satisfying, and R.D. Liapakis sounds as great as ever, so I think newcomers looking for some fun heavy/power metal are actually more likely to be pleased with this than longtime fans of the band, as I feel this album might be a bit too different to appeal to that crowd. Either way, though, it’s a strong album, and it certainly leaves me looking forward to seeing what the band does in the future.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/04/29/steel-prophet-the-god-machine-review/

AMON AMARTH Berserker

Album · 2019 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 4.92 | 2 ratings
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DippoMagoo
When talking about the best melodic death metal bands in the world, one band that should always be mentioned is Swedish Viking themed band Amon Amarth. They’ve been around since the early 90’s, and while other big names in the genre have gone through some ups and downs, as well as long periods of downtime, in some cases, these guys have been consistently putting out great albums their entire career, never going more than three years in between releases. Their previous release, Jomsviking, was particularly impressive, as it was an epic concept album, with a slight narrative angle to it, while still delivering their typical brand of melodic yet intense melodeath. Three years later, they’re back once again with their eleventh full length release, Berserker, and while few could blame them if they were to put out a less impressive effort, following such a strong release, the band has once again delivered and produced possibly their absolute best batch of songs to date!

Compared to Jomsviking, Berserker is a much more straight-forward, more in your face kind of album, with the focus put entirely on unleashing one killer song after another, which is exactly what the band has done. It definitely has all the signature elements of the band, with a ton of fast paced, headbanging melodeath fun, as well as some more epic mid paced stompers, a slower, almost power ballad like track, an epic closer, and of course there’s a ton of violent Viking imagery, as always. On the surface, the album may seem to be a “Greatest Hits” of sorts, and that isn’t entirely inaccurate, as there certainly is a feel that the band is combining all their best elements and throwing them onto one album, but there’s also some surprises to be found, including a nice acoustic section to open the album, as well as the aforementioned rather surprising track, and a few other little touches. Performances are obviously amazing all around, with duo guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg delivering some awesome riffs and melodies, while drummer Jocke Wallgreen is on point with some epic grooves, and of course, vocalist Johan Hegg unleashes his usual epic, deep death growls, which sound as impressive as ever. Sound production is also flawless and crystal clear, as always, with everything sounding perfect.

Songwriting has always been a strength for Amon Amarth, with all their albums having their share of killer tracks, though if anything, Berserker is even more impressive than usual, as none of its tracks are anything short of absolutely amazing! First up is the incredible opener, “Fafnir’s Gold”, which starts off with a nice acoustic intro for about 35 seconds, before some melodic guitar leads take over, and then after about a minute, the full band is in action, and the track charges ahead at a frantic pace, and turns into the kind of epic, speedy and hard hitting opener fans of the band have come to expect. It has a perfect mix of hard hitting riffs during the verses, and some great melodies to accompany Johan Hegg during the epic chorus. Next is second single “Crack the Sky”, a more mid paced track, with some nice grooves, as well as some excellent drumming. It gallops along at a decent pace, with some excellent lead guitar work, as well as Johan’s typically powerful growls, and then the chorus is insanely catchy and melodic, and is sure to become a fan favourite, while the melodic guitar solo in the second half is also amazing. After that is another fun, speedy track in “Mjölner, Hammer of Thor”, a heavy, guitar driven track, which moves at a frantic pace, alternating nicely between heavy and very melodic guitar work. Instrumentally, it’s one of those tracks that shows that the band could be an amazing power metal band, if not for the growls, but as is, it’s an amazing melodeath track, with a fun chorus, fun verses, and awesome instrumental work all around, as well as some cool hammer sound effects, for good measure.

The first real slower track on the album is “Shield Wall”, an absolutely brutal, yet epic and powerful track, with some very hard hitting riffs. It has a more modernised sound to it, with some very chunky yet awesome riffs, and Johan is at his absolute most intense, especially during the heavy and epic chorus. It’s definitely one of the band’s heavier tracks, yet it still has some nice melodies, as well, especially in the middle, and it’s an awesome track overall. On the lighter side, “Valkyria” is another more mid paced track, with some lighter, more melodic guitar work, while still being pretty epic and intense. It has some very nice melodic guitar leads throughout, as well as a nice chorus and fun verses, and it has a really cool atmospheric outro. Next is lead single “Raven’s Flight”, and it’s another standout, flawlessly alternating between speedy and slower passages, as well as some epic galloping riffs, excellent melodic guitar work, and some very heavy riffs. It has a very catchy and epic chorus, very fun verses, and awesome instrumental work, throughout, as well as a ton of tempo changes, all of which help make it an unforgettable track.

Following that absolute monster of a track, the album goes into slightly lighter territory for a while, starting with “Ironside”, another more mid paced track. It has some great riffs, but it’s the melodic guitar work, epic melodies and vocals that carry the track. It’s a very epic, very melodic track, with an amazing chorus, great lyrics and an incredible performance by Johan. Even softer than that is “The Berserker at Stamford Bridge”, an ultra-rare power ballad for the band, and it’s a bloody good one! It opens with some very epic melodic guitar work, and continues along with just that, vocals and some very light percussion for a while, before full drums appear during the chorus, and then the full sound kicks in shortly after that, for a heavy, yet melodic and very powerful track. It has an epic chorus, more epic lyrics and another incredible vocal performance, as well as some epic instrumental sections in the second half. It’s a pretty surprising track overall, and it may not win everyone over at first, but it’s a definite grower. On the slightly speedier, but still fairly light end of things is “When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails”, another track dominated by light, melodic guitar work, and epic vocals. It moves along at a nice pace, with some great riffs and beautiful melodies, and it’s another epic, and very melodic track, with an excellent chorus.

The heaviness gets kicked up several notches again for the remainder of the album, starting with “Skoll and Hati”, a fast and furious track, with some very hard hitting lead guitar work, frantic drums, and intense vocals. It’s the kind of speedy, aggressive track the band excels at, while still having some awesome melodies. In similar territory is “Wings of Eagles”, another ultra-fast, very heavy track with some excellent riffs, fast paced drumming, and a great melodic chorus. The chorus in particular is one of the band’s best, most epic in quite some time, and the track is amazing overall. Closing out the album is the mini epic “Into the Dark”, which starts out with some slight symphonic elements, before settling into a nice groove, with light, melodic guitar work, and then after a while some heavier riffs kick in, and the track turns into a mid-paced, very heavy track, more epic guitar work and amazing vocals. It’s yet another track which strikes a perfect balance between heavy and melodic passages, with Johan being softer at points, while being very intense at other points. It’s an epic track on its own, and an excellent closer.

Amon Amarth show no signs of letting up any time soon, and if anything, Berserker may be their best release yet, with a perfect mix of everything they’ve been known for in the past, as well as some small surprises here and there. It’s definitely one of their most energetic, most consistently entertaining releases, with an amazing flow, going from one killer track to another, and it has a perfect mix of fast, mid paced and slower tracks, while striking a perfect balance between heavy and melodic. It’s easily the best melodeath album I’ve heard in recent years, and it feels like the band is at the absolute top of their game right now. Long-time fans should be very pleased, while any melodeath fan who’s somehow never heard of the band before, could do no better than to check this album out right away, as it’s an absolute masterpiece!

originally written for myglobalmind.com:https://myglobalmind.com/2019/04/26/amon-amarth-berserker-review/

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