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metal music reviews (new releases)

WEREWOLVES From the Cave to the Grave

Album · 2022 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"From the Cave to the Grave" is the third full-length studio album by Australian death metal/deathgrind act Werewolves. The album was released through Prosthetic Records in June 2022. It´s the successor to "What a Time to Be Alive" from January 2021. Since forming in 2019 Werewolves have been quite prolific in terms of output, releasing an album every year since. The trio lineup of drummer David Haley, guitarist Matt Wilcock, and lead vocalist/bassist Sam Bean who recorded the preceding album are intact.

Stylistically the material on "From the Cave to the Grave" is pretty much more of the same too. It´s highly energetic, brutal, and technically well played deathgrind, with both death metal, grindcore, and the occasional thrash/black metal element thrown in for variation. The vocals vary from higher pitched aggressive snarling to brutal death metal growling. The sound production is clear, brutal, and detailed, suiting the material well. "From the Cave to the Grave" is well performed too by a cast of seasoned musicians (known for their involvement in acts like Psycroptic, Abramelin, The Antichrist Imperium, and The Berzerker).

So "From the Cave to the Grave" is overall a good quality deathgrind release, but when that is said the 9 track, 34:41 minutes long album isn´t loaded with memorable tracks. It´s the kind of album that´s enjoyable, effective, and powerful while it plays, but doesn´t leave much of a lasting impression when it´s done. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

CLUTCH Sunrise On Slaughter Beach

Album · 2022 · Stoner Rock
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Kingcrimsonprog
Clutch are one of the most consistent and hard working bands in rock and roll. The Maryland Stoner Rock outfit released their thirteenth full-length studio album, Sunrise On Slaughter Beach, in 2022. It was produced by Tom Dalgety (Ghost, Royal Blood, Pixies) and released on the band’s own Weathermaker Music.

I think its fair to say Clutch have never made a bad album, and although some albums are more popular than others, if you like Clutch you are probably in for the long haul, enjoying something off of each of their varied but always distinctly Clutch-sounding albums. Sunrise On Slaughter Beach is a great album. I mean, of course it is, it’s a Clutch album, that almost goes without saying, you know you are going to get a couple of songs you’ll remember for the rest of your life, a load of clever quirky memorable lyrics, some cool guitar/bass lines that get stuck in your head for weeks and exceptional drumming beyond all of their peers… but even for a Clutch album, and the inherent high standards that implies, this is a strong outing.

The first two singles from the record, “Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone)” and “We Strive For Excellence” were so ridiculously strong, so profoundly catchy, so superbly satisfying and intensely memorable that I was convinced this would be in the top their of their discography before it was even released. For weeks (or is it months, my memory is failing) I’ve been listening to those songs multiple times daily, and got into a ritual of not getting out of bed until I’d heard them. With songs this strong, I was guaranteed to love the album, and sort of envisioned another Earth Rocker / Psychic Warfare style all killer, no filler, heads down, hyper focused hard rocking affair.

Their previous album, The Book Of Bad Decisions, was also excellent, but if there was one criticism to be laid at it, this would be that it was perhaps a bit too long and one or two songs could be cut to make it more streamlined. ‘Slaughter Beach seems aware of this, and clocks in at barely half an hour long, with songs that are concise, succinct and have not an ounce of fat on them. Contrary to my initial expectations however, it isn’t the heads don’t pedal to the metal rager I thought it would be, but rather is arguably their most diverse and exploratory album in a decade and a half, although crucially, having learned the lessons from their focused period, this is not bloated, self indulgent or superfluous experimentation the way some critics of the second halves of their longer records might previously have accused them of, the album is a best of both worlds, allowing the band to stretch their wings and broaden their horizons without sacrificing the flow of the album, the efficiency of the song writing or the patience of the more sober listeners. There are some really cool touches, such as soul singer backing vocals, theremin, vibraphone. However, its still just half an hour of the utmost, cleverly crafted, high-quality bangers, rather than the loosey-goosey jamming of say, Jam Room.

There are only nine songs, so its hard to sit here and pick out highlights, as there isn’t a single one I wouldn’t want to hear live or have in a compilation (in fact, on a recent livestream at time of writing, they played every single song from it live, amongst classics from various eras of the band’s history, and it all fit so well), but if forced to pick some stand-out tracks to recommend to new commers, the first three singles are all utterly essential for all new Clutch fans forevermore. A clever blade-runner and pandemic-conspiracy inspired utter fist pumping banger, a truly triumphant tale of young kids building a bike ramp that sounds like the very best moments of the first three QOTSA albums filtered through Fu Manchu’s most catchy moments and Pure Rock Fury’s personality (the bass groove when the cowbell kicks in makes me grin like a schoolboy every time), and a groovey as hell Sabbathy stoner anthem title-track that educated me about horse-shoe crabs having blue blood overused by the pharmaceutical industry to the point of threatening extinction on the species.

Tales of D&D twelve-sided die and chaotic evil, or being accosted in space by an unknown menace to rumbling drums and expansive sounds almost match this for quality, as do ghost and witchcraft stories that are more moody and diverse, but the other real highlight for me is the enormously catchy “Three Golden Horns” with its almost Thin-Lizzy-esque lyrical story telling and super catchy “Jazz Music Corrupts The Youth” chorus. The album ends on a more sombre note, about previous heroes/legends being cast aside as criminals/tyrants by future generations that seems to subtly reference recent turning in political tides towards previously lauded forefathers who are now viewed less favourably due to their problematic deeds, with an almost folky slow drum beat and ghostly guitar lines that sound like the emotional climax of a movie.

This is an album I’ve been listening to on repeat, listening to every day since its release at time of writing, and which I will absolutely rinse for the next few years, if not forever. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Just put it on, get into the vibe, and repeat until in love with it. More highly recommended than water or oxygen!

BLIND GUARDIAN The God Machine

Album · 2022 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.73 | 6 ratings
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As my indisputable favourite band, when Blind Guardian releases a new album it is, understandably, one of the biggest metal events of any year that it happens. In 2022, the event is the release of The God Machine, Blind Guardian's eleventh mainline album and twelfth overall, following the long talked about orchestral album that finally appeared as their previous release, Legacy of the Dark Lands in 2019, which was released under the name Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra. Excluding that album, it has actually been as long as 2015 since Blind Guardian released a new power metal album. The God Machine represents the proper follow-up to Beyond the Red Mirror, ending their longest gap between studio albums – seven years.

Never the most prolific of bands in terms of turning out new albums, Blind Guardian has always represented quality over quantity. There is not such a thing as a sub-par album in their entire discography and The God Machine is of course not the one to break that trend. In fact, it does much the opposite. Despite some fierce competition from especially 2010's At the Edge of Time, what we have here is easily the strongest release Blind Guardian has put out since their golden years of the 1990s. That's in part due to how much this album actually sounds like their classic period once again. This is the kind of record that will likely make their former drummer Thomen Stauch, who left the band after 2002's A Night at the Opera due to be dissatisfied with the less aggressive direction the other three band members were heading in, wish he was back in the band. It's that much like the 1990-1995 era that produced their trio of aggressive power metal classics: Tales From the Twilight World, Somewhere Far Beyond and Imaginations From the Other Side.

This most aggressive side of Blind Guardian isn't like it hasn't been heard since the 1990s. The last two albums most of all had tracks that harkened back to those days, but they were overall very modern Blind Guardian releases of the kind started by 1998's Nightfall in Middle-Earth; more melodic, progressive, and symphonic. The God Machine instead feels like it may be somewhat reactionary to the fact that their last output was the orchestral album, following the non-metal album with an album that's the heaviest they've been since Imaginations From the Other Side. Signs of the more modern Blind Guardian are still here, such as in Secrets of the American Gods, which is a quite symphonic track, and there's also a ballad, Let it Be No More, but mainly this is a Blind Guardian that is all about speed and aggression, with some actual speed metal once again in evidence within the power metal.

The only thing really missing from making this sound like a true classic Blind Guardian album is one of their folksy ballads like A Past and Future Secret or The Bard's Song: In the Forest. Let it Be No More is quite nice but doesn't quite just work in same way. That said, this is still the closest thing you'll hear to a new 1990s style Blind Guardian album. And it turns out that this is just what the doctor ordered. It is, without a doubt, the best album they've done since then. Great songs, heavy as hell and Hansi Kürsch is on absolute fire, singing like he's in his twenties again instead of his fifties. Together Blind Guardian are giving the power metal genre one big kick up the backside.

Despite being my favourite band, or perhaps because of it, I always find it difficult rate Blind Guardian albums when I review them. I could easily put the majority of them on a pedestal and even the weakest among them is still far stronger than the average album, which is why I have to force myself to be more reserved than I might with other bands. Rate them as only Blind Guardian albums and not more generally as power metal albums. Doing it this way, I had long come to the conclusion that the 1990s was Blind Guardian's five star period and other albums, no matter how good, were the four and a half stars, 'best of the rest' ones.

The God Machine is the Blind Guardian album that proved me wrong.

AUTOPSY Skin by Skin

Single · 2022 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.42 | 2 ratings
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"Skin by Skin" is a single release by US death metal act Autopsy. The single was released through Peaceville Records in August 2022. Initially in digital format. "Skin by Skin" appears as the eighth track on Autopsy´s September 2022 eighth full-length studio album "Morbidity Triumphant", and works as a teaser single to promote the forthcoming album release. Joe Allen who as played with both Abscess and Autopsy for many years, has jumped ship and new bassist is Greg Wilkinson.

It´s been a while since Autopsy have released any new material, so although they´ve released a couple of compilations and the 2020 "Live in Chicago" live album in the last five years, it´s not since the release of the 2017 "Puncturing the Grotesque" EP, that we´ve heard new material from the band. Autopsy is Autopsy though, so "Skin by Skin" sounds unmistakably like they´ve always sounded. Sure they´ve had a few excursions into deathgrind and hardcore punk terrotories, but "Skin by Skin" is through and through classic sounding Autopsy shifting between heavy organic doom/death and faster-paced death death metal (gore themed as always). The morbid harmony leads are there and accounted for too.

It´s all packed in a raw, organic, and unpolished sound production, and Autopsy deliver the brutal, vile, old school death metal attack with great authenticity like they´ve always done. Chris Reifert still sounds like he belongs on a mental institution. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved and I´m looking forward to the release of "Morbidity Triumphant".

PARKWAY DRIVE Darker Still

Album · 2022 · Melodic Metalcore
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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To say I was highly anticipating this album would be something of an understatement. Australian metalcore turned stadium band Parkway Drive’s 2015 album Ire had been my album of the decade, their 2018 album Reverence was a very strong follow-up, and when I saw them live it was and remains to this day, the (no exaggeration) best concert I have ever seen. Better than Rammstein, Alice Cooper, Slipknot, Ghost, Tool or any other famously good live band I’ve ever got a chance to see. Since those two concerts I saw from that tour (one at Download Festival and one in Cardiff headlining) my estimation of the band has only been higher and higher over time.

When I heard the first single from this album, “Glitch,” I was a bit underwhelmed to be honest, but then the second single “The Greatest Fear” got me properly excited, and having listened to “Glitch” so many times since then, I actually really like it now too.

Now, realistically, I can never expect this album to be as good as Ire, literal album of the entire decade, but if they could make something even half as good as Reverence then I’d still be a very happy customer, and it would still be an album of the year contender. The first time I listened to the record in full, it didn’t totally land with me. Part of that was my fault, I rushed in right as it came out, listening to it for a song or two in the shower, then a song or two when I was getting ready for work and the kids were screaming, and then listening to the rest at work in one earphone only whilst preoccupied.

My initial gut reaction was something along the lines of “Oh, they’ve gone too clean, too commercial, too stadium and the good bits of Nu Metal that they’d mixed into the last two albums have been replaced with the bad bits of Nu Metal.” However, I’d paid for it, so I was damn well going to listen to it again and again, in all sorts of different conditions, walking, driving, working, resting, on in the background and hyper focused.

…Well, I’m glad I put the effort in and didn’t go off my initial disappointed reaction, because this album is a delight. Its definitely more of a grower and a slow burn than the instant gratification of Deep Blue or Ire, and its less an obvious natural progression than Reverence was, but the more you listen to it, the more you see why this was absolutely the right album for them to make.

There’s no getting away from it, Parkway Drive are a massive band now, who play big stages to big crowds, and they just couldn’t get away with Killing With A Smile-level heaviness anymore… it just wouldn’t sound right on those big stages. While my initial assessment that this album is cleaner and more commercial than previous records, and that there are more touches of Nu Metal in the sound, it is in all the right ways. This album is an album to jump up and down to, an album to sing along to, an album to have a good time with, an album that sounds like a party, perfect fodder for big concert fun. The songs are deliberately designed to worm their way into your memory and make you want to move.

I wouldn’t say its been dumbed down, its been stream-lined for maximum fist pumping. Songs like “Soul Bleach” and “Like Napalm” just feel good. Dynamic, catchy, crunchy and bouncy. ‘Napalm also has some really tasty lead guitar lines that would feel at home on a European heavy metal festival. I love how Parkway mix that element in more and more as their albums go on.

Its not all festival bopping bouncy fun though. The album does feature some diversity, a few slower more contemplative, darker moments. There are strings, moody moments and a touch of class. The title track is quite understated and subtle (well, at least until the huge November Rain music video mountain top style guitar solo bursts out), and the closer “From The Heart Of Darkness” tries to be a hybrid of the heavy and quiet ones and succeeds really well, with the violins adding a really triumphant feel.

I could talk for hours about this album, but at the end of the day, I think the take home message of the entire review is going to be, “don’t listen to your cynical first impressions, just let it wash over you, accept it for what it is, and with repeat listens it will seriously frow on you.” I really love it now. I find myself singing “Imperial Heretic” in the shower or when doing the dishes without even realising it.

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DEICIDE Overtures of Blasphemy

Album · 2018 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 6 ratings
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"Overtures Of Blasphemy" is the 12th full-length studio album by US, Florida based death metal act Deicide. The album was released through Century Media Records in September 2018. It´s the successor to "In the Minds of Evil" from 2013 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as guitarist Jack Owen has been replaced by Mark English.

Lineup change or not, very little has changed in the world of Deicide, and the listener is as always exposed to a fast and aggressive blasphemous/anti-Christian themed old school type of death metal, with Glen Benton´s raw growling vocals in front. Deicide have become slightly more melodic over the years (and the music also features more heavy mid-paced sections), but "Overtures Of Blasphemy" is still a full-on death metal assault from the opening notes of "One With Satan" to the closing notes of "Destined to Blasphemy". The band are well playing, and the tracks feature many memorable riffs, melodic leads, and powerful drumming. The growling vocals by Glen Benton aren´t however anything special anymore. Benton was one of the premier league growling vocalists of the early 90s, but it´s like he has either worn out his voice and is now relying on effects to produce his growling vocals, or he just isn´t up to it anymore. His vocals on "Overtures Of Blasphemy" are pretty standard (mostly unintelligible) one-dimensional growling vocals. There´s little aggression or passion left. He gets the job done, but that´s about it.

"Overtures Of Blasphemy" features a fat, heavy, and detailed sound production, which suits the material well. Upon conclusion "Overtures Of Blasphemy" is more or less what I expect from a Deicide album these days. Their heyday is long gone, but they still produce decent quality death metal, and while I´m not jumping upon and down in excitement a 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved.

SIKTH Death of a Dead Day

Album · 2006 · Metalcore
Cover art 4.02 | 17 ratings
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"Death of a Dead Day" is the 2nd full-length studio album by UK, Watford based progressive metal/metalcore act Sikth. The album was released through Bieler Bros. Records in June 2006. It´s the successor to "The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait For Something Wild" from 2003 and the sextet lineup who recorded the predecessor is intact here. Sikth were originally active from 2001 to 2008 and released two full-length studio albums in that period. They reunited in 2013.

Stylistically the material on "Death of a Dead Day" continue the technical/progressive metal of "The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait For Something Wild" (2003). SikTh´s brand of progressive metal features elements of mathcore, NU-metal, alternative metal, and hardcore, and a combination of the sound of artists like The Dillinger Escape Plan and System of a Down is a relatively valid description, although Sikth definitely have a sound of their own. While their songwriting is clever and effective, I´m predominantly blow away by the high level musicianship found on "Death of a Dead Day". The complexity of the material is pretty high, but it´s the natural organic way that said material is performed and the way the many different vocal styles (clean, screaming, aggressive, schizophrenic lunatic babbling) compliment the often manic instrumental parts of the music, which make this a spectacular release. You´re definitely in for at ride with this album...

Featuring a detailed, powerful, and very well sounding production "Death of a Dead Day" is also a treat on the ears in terms of every instrument and vocal parts sounding great in the mix. The fact that it´s a self-produced affair bears witness to how skilled SikTh are. They aren´t just clever composers and well playing musicians, but also competent producers. Upon conclusion "Death of a Dead Day" is a high quality sophomore album by SikTh and a 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

KING CRIMSON The ConstruKction Of Light

Album · 2000 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.21 | 21 ratings
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"The ConstruKction of Light" is the twelfth full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act King Crimson. The album was released through Virgin Records in May 2000. It´s the successor to "Thrak" from 1995. The band at this point consisted of Adrian Belew on guitars and vocals, Robert Fripp on guitars, Trey Gunn on bass, touch guitars, and baritone guitars, and Pat Mastelotto on drums. Fripp was never satisfied with the way the album turned out, feeling the band had rushed into the studio without letting the compositions develop in a live environment before recording them in the studio. Therefore a remixed and remastered version of the album titled "The ReconstruKction Of Light" appeared in 2019. In addition to remixing and remastering the album Mastelotto also re-recorded his drum parts for the 2019 version of the album.

Stylistically the material on the album is experimental/progressive rock. Demanding as ever as the notes are often played in unusual succesion (chromatic runs and unconventional scales/choices of notes) and twisted in innovative ways. "The ConstruKction of Light" is unmistakably a King Crimson album. No one really sounds like them. The music is dark (which you would probably have guessed from looking at the bleak cover artwork) and at times pretty complex too. Tracks like the instrumental "The ConstruKction of Light (Part One)", "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part IV (Part One)", and the insanely complex "FraKctured" are arguably among the most challenging compositions King Crimson have ever produced. The latter should actually please fans of technical/progressive metal as parts of the song could be compared to the most technically focused acts in that genre. The heaviness and harshness of the track too.

The album features some great tracks with vocals too. "Into the Frying Pan" features some delightfully dark harmony vocals that remind me of some of the dark and twisted vocal parts on Alice In Chains eponymously titled third album from 1995. Bleak as hell and a real treat. "ProzaKc Blues" isn´t a personal favorite track (because of the silly low growling vocals) but it´s a solid composition, completely twisting the conventions of a blues. "The ConstruKction of Light (Part Two)" is one of the highlights of the album (of the tracks featuring vocals).

The production is thick, heavy, and dark (slightly less on the 2019 version). The way the bass sounds on the this album is heavier than heavy. What a treat. The drums feature such a powerful and meaty sound too. The sound production is overall of a great quality. "The ConstruKction of Light " is one of King Crimson´s heavier albums and maybe that´s why it often receives such harsh criticism from progressive rock fans. Coming from a background in metal this doesn´t bother me at all though and I find it to be an excellent and very focused album in King Crimson´s discography. It´s not their most groundbreaking release, but it´s solid and enjoyable. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ANNEX Powers That Be

Album · 1990 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Powers That Be" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Point Pleasant, West Virginia based US power/progressive metal act Annex. The album was released through Powergame Records in 1990. Annex was formed as far back as 1976 by guitarist/lead vocalist Jeff Wamsley. It wasn´t until 1987 that Annex released their first release which was the "Breaking Ground" EP. "Powers That Be" is up until now their sole full-length studio album, although Annex have never officially disbanded.

Stylistically this is not surprisingly late 80s influenced US power/progressive metal, and it´s artists like Fates Warning, Crimson Glory, Queensrÿche, and similar acts from that time, which are the most valid references. Annex are not quite as technical and their use of keyboards definitely provide their music with a progressive edge, which is a bit different from the mentioned artists and often sounds more like progressive rock instead of metal. Annex can still play some pretty sharp and at times even thrashy riffs though, so this is not soft progressive metal. But of course the first couple of minutes of a track like "Shining Prize" could probably have fooled most listeners into believing that this was an 80s synth pop album, so yeah there are moments on the album which aren´t that hard edged.

"Powers That Be" features a decent sounding production job, although it´s a bit rough around the edges considering that this is a 1990 release. The relatively unpolished and raw sound of the instruments is actually an asset to the album, as they work as a counterweight to the more polished keyboard heavy moments. Wamsley has a decent voice, and can hit the high notes when needed, but his vocals are often slightly subdued or maybe just a bit low in the mix or underproduced.

So upon conclusion "Powers That Be" isn´t what I would call a forgotten US power/progresive metal gem, but it´s still worth a listen for fans of the genre, and it´s definitely created by skilled musicians and composers. Had Annex been given the opportunity to record the album with a major budget and a producer who could have guided them, I´m sure they could have produced an even better release. As it is a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

INFERNO Architect

Demo · 1995 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Architect" is a demo release by by US, Jacksonville, Florida based progressive/thrash metal act Inferno. The demo was independently released in 1995. Inferno formed in 1988 and released the 1992 "Psychic" demo before being signed by Massacre Records for the release of their debut full-length studio album "Psychic Distance" (1994). Apparently the Massacre Records deal was only for one album and therefore the band recorded demo new material and released this demo (probably in the search for a new label). They folded sometime after.

While "Psychic Distance" featured a combination of thrash metal and progressive metal, the material on "Architect" doesn´t feature the thrash metal part of that sound anymore. "Architect" is purely a progressive metal release (although at times a relatively dark one). Artists like Rush, Enchant, and Tiles come to mind, although this is a little darker, heavier, and more metal oriented ("Staring into Chaos" is for example a pretty heavy track). The vocals and voice of Jay Peele is still an aquired taste. His a skilled singer, but the way he choses to phrase the words and perform his vocals is pretty awkward at times. Other times he sounds just fine.

"Architect" is a well produced demo was successfully shows the new thrashless direction of Inferno, and an interested label would have a good idea of what they would get from the band. But since no label showed interest Inferno ended up disbanding. Upon conclusion "Architect" is a decent quality demo and a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

INFERNO Psychic Distance

Album · 1994 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Psychic Distance" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Jacksonville, Florida based progressive/thrash metal act Inferno. The album was released through Massacre Records in 1994. Inferno formed in 1988 and released the 1992 "Psychic" demo before being signed for the release of "Psychic Distance". They released the "Architect" demo in 1995 and folded sometime after. Five of the nine tracks on the 50:41 minutes long album are re-recorded demo tracks found on the 1992 "Psychic" demo.

Stylistically the material on "Psychic Distance" is an interesting combination of progressive metal and thrash metal. The tracks feature the aggression and sharp riffs from thrash metal, and the vocals are also occasionally a little raw (both staccato thrash metal vocals and the rare scream), but the music features a lot of progressive metal traits too, like melodic clean singing, harmony guitar work (often reminding me of Iron Maiden), acoustic guitar parts, complex song structures, innovative songwriting ideas, interesting rhythm patterns, and tempo changes. The band also occasionally use keyboards. It´s actually a bit hard to describe the music and make valid comparisons to other artists, but the late 80s/early 90s US and European technical power/thrash metal scenes produced some artists which feature some of the same elements that Inferno present here. So it´s probably fans of those scenes who should find this enjoyable (fans of artists like Anacrusis, Depressive Age, End Amen, and Deathrow). When the band are most atmospheric and don´t play distorted guitar parts I actually hear a pretty obvious Rush influence too (listen to the atmospheric parts on "Cloaks" for proof of that).

"Psychic Distance" features a well sounding production job, although it´s slightly subdued keeping in mind that many of these riffs are relatively aggressive thrash metal riffs, which could probably have prospered from a more sharp guitar tone, but it still works pretty well, and "Psychic Distance" is overall a well produced release.

Upon conclusion "Psychic Distance" is an album I find more interesting than great. The tracks are relatively accessible but not particularly memorable, and it´s definitely in the hook writing department that the band are lacking something. They are arguably high level musicians, capable of playing many different styles, but there´s still something a bit awkward about their performances (mostly the vocals), which makes the album a less enjoyable listen than it could have been. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

HADES The Downside

Album · 2000 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"The Downside" is the 5th full-length studio album by US power/thrash metal act Hades. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in February 2000. It´s the successor to "$avior$elf" from 1999 and features the same five-piece lineup who recorded the predecessor, although bassist Scott LePage only plays on a couple of tracks, while the bass on the remaining tracks are predominantly played by guitarist Dan Lorenzo (except "Bitter Suite #1" which was recorded by D.D.Verni from Overkill).

The material on "The Downside" continue the groove laden US power/thrash metal style of "$avior$elf (1999)", but fortunately more than one feature have been given a lift of quality since the predecessor. The sound production which was a bit of an issue on the predecessor is decent sounding on "The Downside". It´s not the best sounding production job (the drums could definitely have been better produced), but it´s listenable. The musicianship was never an issue with Hades, although it´s only lead vocalist Alan Tecchio who stands out as something out of the ordinary. The rest of the band do their job and do it well, but there´s nothing extraordinary about their performances.

It´s in the songwriting department where Hades have finally reached a decent level though. The preceding releases by the band haven´t been awful or anything like that, but they haven´t exactly made my blood boil either. Middle-of-the-road US power/thrash metal with a skilled lead vocalist in front, but not particularly memorable nor distinct sounding. That description also fits large parts of "The Downside", but there are more quality tracks here than usual for a Hades release. The dark atmosphere and heavy riffs and rhythms of album opener "Ground Zero NYC" is for example a real joy listening to, and there are other equally good quality tracks featured on the album.

The inconsistency of both quality and musical style (and even inconsistency in sound quality between tracks) which have marred the preceding releases by the band are unfortunately also issues on "The Downside". Not as serious issues as before, but still issues, and it´s honestly a bit odd that a seasoned act like Hades at that point in their hadn´t been able to produce a well sounding release with consistent quality material. Normally I would praise diversity and an act branching out trying different sounds and styles, but Hades have a hard time creating a tracklist with a good flow, with the material they have recorded for "The Downside".

Ultimately I know my words above can be read as very negative, but remember I wrote that "The Downside" is a step up in quality from their preceding releases and that there are several strong tracks featured on the album, and we should not forget the considerable vocal skills of Tecchio either, which are always wonderful to listen to, so all in all "The Downside" isn´t a half-bad album, but actually more of a half-good one, and a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating isn´t all wrong.

DOWN NOLA

Album · 1995 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.42 | 23 ratings
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"NOLA" is the debut full-length studio album by US metal act Down. The album was released through Elektra Records in September 1995. Down were formed in 1991 by lead vocalist Phil Anselmo, guitarist Pepper Keenan, guitarist Kirk Windstein, bassist Todd Strange, and drummer Jimmy Bower. All seasoned veterans of the New Orleans scene (and old friends) and active in acts like Pantera, Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, and Eyehategod. The band recorded a three-song demo, which they handed out to fans at shows when playing with their daytime job bands, without telling the fans they themselves were playing on the demo. That way the demo and the Down name were spread in the metal underground. It wasn´t until an Elektra Records representative attended a one-of Down show in New Orleans that they band got signed. "NOLA" was a successful release and Down gathered for a 13-date tour, before returning to their main acts again.

The band members originally formed Down because of their mutual love for heavy doomy music like Black Sabbath and Trouble, but on "NOLA" they inject the heavy riffs and rhythms with a sourthern stoner groove and Anselmo´s distinct sounding aggressive vocals (although he also sings more clean and melodic here). It´s a massive heavy sound with a great organic groove. Ultra heavy blues based rock music featuring catchy heavy riffs, groove laden heavy rhythms, and recognisable vocal melodies. Although the heavy groove based riffs are quite dominant in the soundscape, the band successfully incorporate more mellow and laid back moments too. A dynamic songwriting approach which is great for the variation of the album. The stoned mellow moments also go well with the often drug themed lyrics and songtitles like "Hail the Leaf", "Rehab" and "Bury Me in Smoke".

The sound production is raw, organic, and heavy. Personally I´m not a huge fan of the guitar tone, but it´s a subjective observation, and "NOLA" is arguably a well produced release, and the sound production suits the material well. Upon conclusion "NOLA" is a quality stoner metal release by Down. It´s well performed, well produced, and well written, so a 3.5 star (70%) rating isn´t all wrong.

ATROCITY Die Liebe (feat. Das Ich)

EP · 1995 · Gothic Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Die Liebe (feat. Das Ich)" is an EP release by German metal act Atrocity. The EP was released through Massacre Records in November 1995. Along with the "Calling the Rain" EP from July 1995, it bridges the gap between the band´s 3rd and 4th full-length studio albums "Blut (1994)" and "Willenskraft (1996)". "Die Liebe (feat. Das Ich)" is a collaboration release with German electronic music group Das Ich and is another departure in sound from the band´s early death metal releases.

In only 5 years Atrocity have gone from playing technical deathgrind, to playing goth/groove metal, to the neo-folk excursions on the "Calling the Rain (1995)" EP, and now this...

..."Die Liebe (feat. Das Ich)" sees Atrocity playing an industrial/electronic tinged metal style. About half of the tracks are sung in the band´s native language, and although Atrocity as a band predates Rammstein, this particular release came out only a few months after Rammstein´s debut album "Herzeleid" was released in September 1995, and it´s hard not to make some comparisons. Atrocity are a bit more experimental than their fellow countrymen and not quite as catchy either, but the premise of hard pumped rhythms, industrial sound effects/keyboards, and heavy angular guitar riffs are similar on the two projects.

While some of the material featured on the 9 track, 40:37 (album length) EP are new, Atrocity have also included some altered versions of tracks from "Blut (1994)", including another version of the rap metal styled "Miss Directed", which is retitled "Misdirected" on this release. Atrocity are skilled musicians and adventuruos musical souls too, which their creative songswriting approach bear witness to, but "Die Liebe (feat. Das Ich)" is not their most shining musical hour. I praise the boldness of the idea, but this experiment just doesn´t work. The material is simply not well written or catchy enough. A 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating is warranted.

OPETH Sorceress

Album · 2016 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.82 | 40 ratings
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Warthur
Sorceress finds Opeth continuing the run of nostalgic prog albums that began with Heritage and continued through Pale Communion. As on those two albums, the band show a keen appreciation of not just the prog rock bands of the past, but also the sounds which were influencing and inspiring those bands.

Pale Communion had its moments where it took on influence from the heavier end of psychedelic rock, and Sorceress finds the band deepening their appreciation of and drawing on the psychedelic sounds which the early prog scene coalesced out of. Indeed, one song is named The Wilde Flowers, after the band which would, post-fracture, spawn Caravan and The Soft Machine, and whilst I wouldn't say the band go full Canterbury here, I would say there's passages on here which aren't entirely incompatible with that.

Other tracks, such as Will O the Wisp, have a folky air to them and a general production approach highly reminiscent of Jethro Tull from the early 1970s, or heavier moments. The band have still more or less exited the metal sphere on this album, but Chrysalis is hard rocking enough to suggest a potential route back, with a pulsing intensity which puts me in mind of Hawkwind.

Whilst many Opeth albums took a while to grow on me, Sorceress gripped me from the start, and I think it's an excellent further improvement of the approach of Heritage and Pale Communion.

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