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metal music reviews (new releases)

NOCTURNUS AD Paradox

Album · 2019 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.97 | 4 ratings
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Warthur
Once upon a time there was Nocturnus, who put out a couple of really solid technical death metal albums in the form of The Key and Thresholds before original founder Mike Browning and the rest of the group. Then there was After Death, Mike's next group, which took its name from a song from The Key and allowed Mike to keep his hand in the game.

Now there's Nocturnus AD, After Death having evolved into the full-fledged Nocturnus successor group they'd always had the potential to be. With Nocturnus themselves having been broken up for over a decade, it seems reasonable enough to assume that if Browning's former comrades there had intended to do anything with the name, they'd have done it by now. As it is, the field is clear for Browning to reconfigure After Death to deliver his own vision for where Nocturnus might have gone under his own direction.

If the band name weren't enough of the clue, the cover art should give away what the angle is here: yes, this might not be called "The Key Part 2: Death Metal Boogaloo", but thematically and stylistically speaking it's pretty much following on the footsteps of the Nocturnus debut album. (Yes, the time-travelling killer robot is back, and this time it's hanging out with Cthulhu.)

It's another technical death metal tour de force from Browning, who once again acts as both drummer and lead vocalist. If his drumming is a little prominent in the mix, that's all to the good, because his drums sound absolutely superb without taking anything away from the rest of the band. Despite having added blast beats to his bag of tricks, he's largely working in a style close to that of The Key, and if you really enjoyed that album and want more of the same I'd say that this hits that mark closer than any of the subsequent Nocturnus or After Death releases ever did.

SECRET CHIEFS 3 The Book Beri'ah Vol. 10: Malkhut

Album · 2019 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
Trey Spruance launched his then side project SECRET CHIEFS 3 all the way back in 1995 in the midst of the Mr Bungle years and has continued to steer this unique collective of musicians into exciting new arenas that have contributed to the evolution of this band’s sound into a veritable smorgasbord effect that is so pure and refined that SC3 sounds as if it resonates from a long lost tradition that has found its way into the modern world at the time of some sort of spiritual awakening. Having long ago mastered the exquisite alchemy of disparate genres such as surf rock, Persian traditional, Arab folk music, Indian classical, death metal, electronica and spaghetti western styled soundtrack music, the SC3 culminated its sound on 2004’s “Book of Horizons” before Spruance announced that the SC3 was actually seven satellite bands named Electromagnetic Azoth, UR, Ishraqiyun, Traditionalists, Holy Vehm, FORMS, and NT Fan.

Before SC3 jumped into the satellite band procession, the project joined ranks with none other than John Zorn as they performed compositions from Zorn’s second Masada book, “The Book of Angels” with song titles representing characters from Jewish and Christian mythology and an introduction into a new genre into the world of SC3, that being klezmer. After what seemed like a one off, SC3 released three more albums under the guise of the satellite bands that ended with 2014’s “Perichoresis” and then the band fell silent for several years with nothing to offer those who have become addictive to this unique band’s sophisticated style of musical amalgamation of tones, timbres, tempos and magnificent genre blending mashups. While seemingly dropping off the face of the Earth, SC3 were in fact working hard on the next Zorn collaboration in the form of an entire album that appeared on the 11-album installation of Zorn’s “Masada Book Three - The Book Beri’ah” which found the band in company with Sofia Rei & JC Maillard, Cleric, Spike Orchestra, Julian Lage / Gyan Riley, Abraxas, Klezmerson, Gnostic Trio, Zion80, Banquet of the Spirits, Craig Taborn and Vadim Neselovskyi.

The whopping 11-album set was released on 9 March 2018 as album #10 of the massive collaborative effort and although officially a part of the SC3 canon, was unavailable for any sort of listening pleasure outside of plopping down a small fortune to obtain the entire box set of music, which is probably not a bad thing have you, but i have not been willing to take the plunge so despite SC3 ranking high on my favorite bands list i just had to wait it out and see if someday perhaps they would release it as an individual album. Well 18 October 2019 was that day and THE BOOK OF BERI’AH VOL 10 - MALKHUT was finally released and as the album cover art of the sefirot which represents the concepts from the Jewish esoteric knowledge of the Kabbalah, SC3 emerge from its slumber only to add weave Jewish sounds to its already eclectic musical palette without sacrificing any of the sounds that came before except for perhaps the lesser sounds of the more extreme metal sounds found on earlier albums. As far as i am aware, SC3 is one of the few bands to successfully find a truce between Arabic folk music and Jewish traditional klezmer and make it sound as natural as an organic centuries long musical style.

For this album, SECRET CHIEFS 3 consists of Trey Spruance (guitars, clavinet, kinnor, analog synth pads, theater organ, extra percussion, nevel, glockenspiel, sound fx), Eyvind Kang (violin, viola), Ches Smith (congas, vibes, shakers, dumbek), Matt Lebofsky (piano, elec. piano, hammond and farfisa organ, moog), Kenny Grohowski (drums), Shanir Blumenkranz (bass), Jason Schimmel (guitar) and Ryan Parrish (kaval) who weave an intricate display of progressive fusion sounds that clearly reside in the SC3 universe and the band continues the ever growing complexities that have continued to evolve ever so slightly on every album since the debut “First Grand Constitution and Bylaws” all the way back in 1996. So in that respect, one can pretty much expect a continuation form 2014’s “Ishaqiyun” only with the addition of klezmer and Jewish traditional sounds tucked into the mix albeit with a retro review of earlier SC3 albums.

As always, SC3 scores in finding the perfect balance between timeless intricate melodies and tight knit grooves with bursts of progressive angularities and heavy rock bombast but for the most part the band wends and winds through an intricate fusion of Arabic and Jewish traditional sounds although the surf rock, electronica and other sounds are still present although providing a subordinate role. There are plenty of those parallel riffs that harken to previous albums but teased out into new directions. The album is perhaps the most traditional sounding from the band’s pre-satellite band days with those precise keyboard stabs punctuated by Middle Eastern grooves, tasty guitar workouts, electronic atmospheres all dressed up in an epic spaghetti western soundtrack grandiosity. For those who are true fans of the SC3 and have been with them since the beginning, this will be a nice overview of the band’s entire existence without too much new thrown in save the scant progressive rock anomalies such as the Goblin sounding keyboards of “Chitzonuyut” and the heavier emphasis on Jewish themes and rhythms.

Once again the SECRET CHIEFS 3 project has generated a mesmerizing or should i say “klezmerizing” musical score that evokes an epic traditional musical style of some esoteric mystery school tribe that dropped out of the world and continued underground for millennia before finally bringing its unique musical mysteries to the world’s consciousness. This album like almost every other is flawlessly designed and will delight SC3 fans for its attention to detail, addictive melodic and rhythmic flow and transcendental evocations. The band shows no sign of decline and musically speaking has never sounded better. Perhaps if i had any gripe about MALKHUT is that it is not daring enough in its explorative nature. It seems to simmer peacefully in a safe zone that never adds any startling detours such as the band’s earlier explorations into death metal and more extreme musical styles but given this was designed to work as a part of a much larger musical whole, it probably needed to exist in harmony with the intent of Zorn’s musical vision amongst friends who also contributed entire album’s worth of material. I have to say, very rarely do i hear music this good and SC3’s amazing consistency is exactly why they reside in my top 10 bands of all time.

DESTRUCTION Born To Perish

Album · 2019 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.58 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
As soon as I put on the latest album from Destruction I wondered what on earth had happened, as the band were totally different from what I had heard on ‘Under Attack’. The drums are much more in your face, the guitars are heavier and the band has far more venom and power. I was convinced there had to be a new drummer and producer on board, and was somewhat surprised on checking the press release to see that not only is there a new drummer in Randy Black (Duskmachine, Level 10, ex-Deception, ex-Annihilator, ex-Primal Fear, ex-Rebellion, ex-W.A.S.P. (live)) but an additional guitarist in Damir Eskić (ex-Gonoreas, Gomorra). Anyone who has survived playing with the Canadian madman Jeff Waters has to know his stuff, and he definitely proves this here as the man is a monster. Having a drummer who can really drive a band from the back is worth their weight in gold as he not only provides the platform required but also pushes the guitarists into delivering something even more special – anyone who has seen the video of Testament performing “Rise Up” knows just what a difference it makes having Gene Hoglan in the band.

While this is not in a massively essential thrash album, it is a big step change from the last one in just about every area, from songs through performance and into production, with far more depth and power to the overall sound. The band have operated as a trio since the beginning of the century, so this line-up change is a major one for them, and allows Mike Sifringer to trade licks and ideas with another person for the first time in nearly 20 years, and this has provided the guys with new emphasis and energy. They have been one of the top Teutonic thrash bands for many years, and released their debut ‘Infernal Overkill’ all the way back in 1985 (as a trio, with both Mike and bassist/singer Schmier), and here they show that there is still plenty of life in them yet. It will be interesting indeed to see what the next album is like once the quartet have been out on the road a while and really bedded down. As it is, it is a welcome return to form.

NINGEN ISU Ningen Isu Meisakusen 30 Shuunen Kinen Best Ban

Boxset / Compilation · 2019 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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voila_la_scorie
Ningen Issue's rise to international fame... Well, okay, they're not exactly that famous. But considering that until a few years ago, they were barely known outside of their native Japan and now they have videos on YouTube scoring views in the hundreds of thousands and even one over 3 million, their future has suddenly become rather bright.

But as I was saying, their rise in popularity first really began in increase after an appearance at Ozz Fest in 2013 and then increased further after having been invited back in 2015. Since then, heavy music fans around the world (England, the U.S., Russia, Germany, Korea, and more) have been taking notice, and after last year's 21st album, "Shin Seinen" was released with the video for its 8:30 single, "Heartless Scat", reaction video U-tubers have been helping to spread the word a lot.

That leads us to this compilation album, "Ningen Isu Seisaku 30 Shunen Kinen Best Ban", which translates as, "Ningen Isu Famous Works 30th Anniversary Best Edition", or something close to that. There are three important things to know about this compilation, which I'll lay out below.

First of all, the songs. This comp includes tracks from 15 of the band's 21 studio albums. That's six whole albums unrepresented and four of them I would include in my top ten picks for best albums. However, the album also includes the "Jinmensou" version that was recorded as a B-side for 1991's single release of "Yashagaike" (noticeably absent from this compilation), one of the four bonus tracks of new material from the 25th Anniversary comp, and three brand new tracks, two of which, "Inochi Urimasu (Life for Sale)" and "Ai no Nirvana (Love Nirvana)" have official videos on YouTube. So even though we may lament the absence of some tracks from some unrepresented albums, we get a little consolation.

Next, the music. Ningen Isu has always remained a heavy band though they went through a period of trying out folk rock, stoner rock, hard rock, and a few other styles that are more hard than heavy. This compilation generally sticks to the heavy sound of the band, just with a few small exceptions. Basically, if you enjoy the heavy, progressive British rock of the early seventies, the metal of the NWoBHM, frequent touches of thrash metal or even a hint of nineties hard and heavy rock, then you'll likely enjoy the music presented on this album. I think the track selection was made intentionally with their international audience in mind. Not everyone can afford to buy Japanese imports and so it's a good bet that most fans of the band haven't heard the majority of the band's catalogue. Therefore, someone decided that a compilation that emphasizes the band's heavier side would be best.

Finally, I was surprised to find such a thick booklet of liner notes inside. As it was, all of the songs on this 2-CD package have their lyrics printed inside in Japanese and in English. So now it's possible to learn at least what the songs are about. Suzuki's Hell-themed songs are sometimes rather gory while the Wajima-penned songs often have some connection with Buddhism. As well, we can now learn an English title for the songs instead of trying to remember the Japanese one. At the end of the booklet is a discography that also translates all of the album titles. While I prefer personally to get the know the Japanese titles, I think it's a great idea to have official translations to make it easier for non-speakers to talk about albums and songs.

Whether you're a fan of the band and have a bunch of albums or you are a newbie and not very sure which albums to get first, this 30th anniversary 2CD compilation is a solid collection of heavy rock and heavy metal.

MAYHEM Daemon

Album · 2019 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.19 | 3 ratings
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Warthur
Daemon feels like something of a back to basics album for Mayhem - rather than trying the sort of production experiments or thematic weirdness which characterised albums like Grand Declaration of War, Ordo ad Chao, and Esoteric Warfare, they produce some straight-ahead no-nonsense black metal. You could sort of see this as the third of a triptych of Mayhem's "pure" black metal studio albums, along with De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and Chimera.

Of those three, I don't think it quite reaches the consistently high quality of Chimera, and it certainly isn't as groundbreaking as De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, but it's a fun outing which proves that Mayhem are still no slouches, even if they risk going through the motions at this point.

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NOVEMBERS DOOM The Knowing

Album · 2000 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.41 | 7 ratings
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Warthur
Novembers Doom's debut album established them as working very much in the death-doom mode that the early work of the Peaceville Three (My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, and Anathema), but with The Knowing they truly produce an album which can stand in the top tier of the subgenre.

In particular, it's steeped in this melancholic, romantic take on the death-doom sound which reminds me of some of the strongest moments of early My Dying Bride - the sort of death-doom metal that's not afraid to show the influence of the more serious sort of gothic metal here and there. It's rather grand.

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT Some Enchanted Evening

Live album · 1978 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.10 | 12 ratings
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Warthur
Released at a time when BOC were increasingly blending pop hooks into their occult proto-metal quagmire on their studio albums (with Agents of Fortune being an iconic example of this approach and Spectres perhaps being their most pop-inclined, mellow, and least heavy album since their debut), Some Enchanted Evening proved that there was still fire in the belly of the Cult, with the band offering a hard and heavy runthrough of the material in question.

This is a rare example of an album where the bonus tracks on rereleases are just as good - in this case, you want to go for the edition which includes the extra seven tracks (in effect a whole extra live album) from around the same era. There's also a bonus DVD - Some OTHER Enchanted Evening - offering a video of a live show from the same era, though the audio on this one is notably a big step down from the main album.

DESTRUCTION Under Attack

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 2.64 | 3 ratings
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Kev Rowland
This 2016 album saw Destruction back with the same line-up as the previous few albums, with Schmier (vocals, bass) and Mike Sifringer (guitars), both of whom had been there since the beginning in the early Eighties and drummer Wawrzyniec "Vaaver" Dramowicz. Yet again we have Kreator-style Teutonic thrash but for me there is something missing from this album. It seems way more one-dimensional than their previous release, ‘Spiritual Genocide’, and in many ways it feels almost as if they are standing still and waiting for the next piece of inspiration. The sound feels really light with not much in the bottom end, and I soon found it was washing right over me. These guys have been at the forefront of German thrash metal for many years, and I don’t think it’s possible for them to release a really poor album, but there again there is little in here which makes me want to keep playing it over and again. The ideas are the same, the sound is weak, and there is the impression they are playing at it as opposed to really meaning it.

It is hard for bands to keep producing album after album for more than 30 years and this shows. While never awful, it just doesn’t get to the level one expects from a band of this experience and it certainly isn’t one I would point to as a great example of either Destruction or the genre.

MAGNUM Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow

Album · 2007 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.96 | 4 ratings
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Warthur
This was the third Magnum album after their reunion, and it's another high-quality slab of material from the band - certainly suggesting they still had some fresh ideas to offer. It's not a revolutionary release - still largely in that strange middle ground between neo-prog, the poppier flavours of NWOBHM and melodic rock rock that their classic albums occupy, this time around with substantially less in the way of NWOBHM and more of those other two ingredients. It's a bit more introspective than, say On a Storyteller's Night, as the wistful album opener When We Were Younger strongly emphasises, but it's a delightful development of Magnum's music into a mature style.

BURST Origo

Album · 2005 · Hardcore Punk
Cover art 4.27 | 5 ratings
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UMUR
"Origo" is the 4th full-length studio album by Swedish progressive post-hardcore act Burst. The album was released through Relapse Records in October 2005. It´s the successor to "Prey on Life" from 2003 and features the exact same lineup who recorded the predecessor. "Prey on Life (2003)" saw Burst signing to Relapse Records, after releasing their first two albums on a smaller label, and they generally received a lot of posititive feedback from fans and critics alike.

Stylistically the music on "Prey on Life (2003)" was progressive post-hardcore, which is both aggressive and adventurous in nature, and the basis is the same on "Origo" although it´s overall a relatively different sounding album to it´s predecessor. Linus Jägerskog´s aggressive shouting hardcore vocals are still the main vocal style, but a few more clean vocal sections have been incorporated to the material on "Origo", and it´s overall a more melodic and varied release than "Prey on Life (2003)". Heavy progressive tracks like "Sever" and "Flight´s End" are complimented by faster and more aggressive tracks like "Slave Emotion" and "Stormwielder", and Burst even venture into instrumental post-rock territory on "It Comes Into View", which is a nicely atmospheric track.

In the case of "Origo" it´s not really fair to only mention specific tracks though, as the album is cleverly constructed to be a collective listening experience. Great care has been taken to place the songs on the tracklist to create the right atmosphere or emotion at the right time and it´s a praise worthy effort which pays off in the end, when the listener is left with a feeling of having listened to a journey of creative musical ideas, which comes together as a perfect whole (not completely unlike how "Prey on Life (2003)" is also constructed).

Although the basis of the band´s music is predominantly made up of two guitars, bass, drums, and vocals, Burst have opted to include atmospheric keyboards to the music. The keyboards are generally used tastefully and only for effect, so it´s not an omnipresent dominant feature. "Origo" features a powerful, clear, and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly, and we´re also treated to high class musicianship from all involved, so upon conclusion this is a high quality album release by Burst. There´s not a single negative thing I can say about "Origo" and a 5 star (100%) rating is fully deserved.

SIGH Imaginary Sonicscape

Album · 2001 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.40 | 32 ratings
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UMUR
"Imaginary Sonicscape" is the 5th full-length studio album by Japanese progressive/experimental metal act Sigh. The album was released through Century Media Records in July 2001. It´s Sigh´s first release on the label after they left Cacophonous Records, as a consequence of what the band felt was bad promotion for "Scenario IV: Dread Dreams (1999)". The three-piece lineup who recorded the predecessor is intact on "Imaginary Sonicscape".

Although Sigh originally started out as a black metal act, they soon began to experiment with their sound and the last couple of preceding releases have been increasingly progressive/experimental. "Imaginary Sonicscape" tops them all though as Sigh take their adventurous songwriting approach to new creative heights. The basis in the music is fairly traditional heavy metal riffs/leads/harmonies and rhythms, and Mirai Kawashima´s snarling raspy vocals in front. The latter is the only feature on the album, which links the music on "Imaginary Sonicscape" to the band´s black metal past, because nothing else on the album is extreme metal related in any way.

While the heavy metal elements in the music are relatively traditional in nature, the band make sure that everything else on the album is challenging to the listener. There is omnipresent use of vintage keyboards/synths/organs and additional features like ghostly choirs, percussion, the odd programmed/electronic section, saxophone, and atmospheres which range from eerie darkness to almost sunshine psychadelic happiness ("A Sunset Song" is an example of the latter mood). The use of classical music themes and orchestral sections are also quite dominant in the soundscape. It´s not an easy listen and most listener´s will probably need more than one listen to decide what they think of the album. The tracks and the album in general take many left-turns along the way, and the listener is kept on his/her toes throughout the 63:35 minutes long playing time.

The musicianship is strong and while everything is performed with great skill and precision, Sigh generally perform their music with a great organic touch, which is further enhanced by the organic sounding production. The songwriting is on a very high level, and it´s obvious Kawashima has some classical music education/training, because the keyboard arrangements and the keyboard performances in general are seldom heard this sophisticated in heavy metal music.

"Imaginary Sonicscape" is for the open-minded heavy metal listener, and there is no guarantee this is something a lot of people will enjoy. It´s probably very much an aquired taste, even for fans of the band. Expect the unexpected and you won´t be dissapointed. Personally I think the experiments sometime make the album a bit incoherrent, and some tracks feel like they lack direction, like the band just added sections/elements they felt were interesting to add without thinking about the big picture. Knowing the musical genius of Kawashima I´m sure that´s not true though, and I´m sure the output is exactly what Sigh had in mind. My personal feelings aside this is still a high quality release and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

KATATONIA Tonight's Decision

Album · 1999 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.62 | 23 ratings
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UMUR
"Tonight´s Decision" is the 4th full-length studio album by Swedish alternative/doom/progressive metal act Katatonia. The album was released through Peaceville Records in August 1999. It´s the successor to "Discouraged Ones" from 1998 and there´s been a couple of lineup changes since the predecessor. Bassist Micke Oretoft has left (after a short stint with the band) and hasn´t been replaced, so guitarist Fredrik Norrman handles the bass on the album in addition to playing guitar. Lead vocalist Jonas Renkse has decided to solely focus on singing and therefore the drums are played by session musician Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity, Nightingale, Bloodbath...etc.).

Stylistically the material on "Tonight´s Decision" continue the sad/melancholic and heavy doom laden metal style of "Discouraged Ones (1998)", although an alternative rock edge has sneaked in. The album opens with the extremely depressive "For My Demons", with Renkse, singing out his soul on the chorus, with the lyric line: "You would never sleep at night, if you knew what I've been through". The man literally sounds like he is crying while he is singing and his vocal delivery is pretty surely an aquired taste. Some will find it weak and pathetic, while others will fully embrace the deeply emotional and melancholic performance. I´ve heard both opinions expressed. Personally I respect Renkse and his voice and singing style, but on this particular album he sometimes takes his approach a bit too far towards the pathetic.

"Tonight´s Decision" is otherwise a good quality release by Katatonia, featuring high level musicianship, a well sounding production, and decent songwriting. The latter could have been much more memorable though, and there are generally a few too many tracks on the album, which don´t stand out much. Highlights include "For My Demons", "Right Into the Bliss", and the Jeff Buckley cover "Nightmares by the Sea". Upon conclusion "Tonight´s Decision" is an album featuring both great moments and less appealing ones. To my ears it´s among the band´s least interesting releases but a 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved.

KATATONIA Discouraged Ones

Album · 1998 · Gothic Metal
Cover art 3.79 | 23 ratings
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UMUR
"Discouraged Ones" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Swedish alternative/doom/progressive metal act Katatonia. The album was released through Avantgarde Music in April 1998. It´s the successor to "Brave Murder Day" from 1996. There´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as bassist Micke Oretoft has joined the lineup.

Katatonia are known to shift gears and change style between albums, but the change in musical style from "Brave Murder Day (1996)" to "Discouraged Ones" is the most radical stylistic change between releases in the band´s discography. While "Brave Murder Day (1996)" was obviously a move away from the blackened death/doom of "Dance of December Souls (1993)", and featured a track like "Day, which solely featured clean vocals, it´s still predominantly a death/doom metal release. "Discouraged Ones" features nothing even remotely connected to death metal. The music is still dark, melancholic, and at times relatively heavy, but it´s not really doom metal either. Instead a sedated shoegaze influence has sneaked in and also a couple of goth rock elements. Jonas Renkse has now fully taken over the lead vocal duties in addition to his drumming role, and all vocals on the album are clean. So no growling vocals on this one.

Once you´ve listened to the opening track "I Break", you pretty much know what you´re in for on the rest of the album. In that respect "Discouraged Ones" is a slightly formulaic and one-dimensional affair. It´s not a major issue though, as Katatonia do what they do very well, and as a listener you´re immediately sucked into a world of dark depression and deep melancholia that´s quite engaging. Renkse has a heartfelt and honest emotional delivery and paired with the heavy riffs and overall bleak atmosphere of the instrumental part of the music, "Discouraged Ones" comes off as a pretty convincing release.

The musicianship is decent, although Renkse won´t win any prizes for hitting the notes clean and his drumming is also almost painfully simple at times, but the sometimes rough and unpolished delivery is actually what makes "Discouraged Ones" such an interesting release. Renkse´s restrained and almost shy vocal approach makes him sound so sad and alone in the world, that the deep melancholy of the music sounds frightingly authentic. He is wearing his feelings on the outside here, and we as listeners are invited to share his pain. To some that may sound a bit pretentious, and Renkse voice and vocal style is probably an aquired taste, but he is defining for Katatonia´s sound.

"Discouraged Ones" features a heavy and dark sound production, which suits the gloomy music well. So upon conclusion it´s a good quality release by Katatonia. It´s of course a fanbase divider as a consequence of the radical change in style since "Brave Murder Day (1996)", but to my ears it´s a bold move from the band. "Discouraged Ones" is clearly not an album featuring a fully developed sound, and in that respect it´s the definition of a transition album, but sometimes the journey is more interesting than the end destination, and while that analogy isn´t completely true when speaking of Katatonia´s discography (which features several great albums further down the line), it´s still true to the extent that "Discouraged Ones" works well as an album in its own right. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

SADIST Hyaena

Album · 2015 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"Hyaena" is the 7th full-length studio album by Italian progressive death metal act Sadist. The album was released through Scarlet Records in October 2015. It´s the successor to "Season in Silence" from 2010. Sadist was one of the more prolific technical/progressive death metal acts out of Italy in the early- to mid 90s, but after releasing the NU-metal oriented "Lego (2000)" their star faded and they disbanded. The band reunited in 2005 and released an eponymously titled comeback album in 2007. "Hyaena" is the third album released after Sadist opted to reunite.

Stylistically the music on "Hyaena" is technical/progressive death metal with jazz/fusion influenced sections and a touch a of world music too. Artists like Cynic, Atheist, and Pestilence ("Spheres (1993)") are obvious influences but Sadist aren´t clones by any means. The omnipresence of keyboards for example make them a bit different.

The vocals are snarling and aggressive, which suits the music well and the instrumental part of the music is very well performed too. Sadist are obviously very skilled musicians who know how to handle their instruments. Fusion influenced drumming and bass playing, death/thrashy guitar riffs and jazz/fusion influenced guitar solos, and atmosphere enhancing keyboards. It all works very well (and also better than on "Season in Silence (2010)"), but upon conclusion it´s not many tracks which stand out (I´d mention "Gadawan Kura" as a standout track), but it´s a highly enjoyable release while it plays. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

MESHUGGAH None

EP · 1994 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 7 ratings
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Unitron
Listen

Moving on from the ...and Justice for All-era Metallica worship that was Meshuggah's debut Contradictions Collapse (though they didn't worship the complete nuking of audible bass, thankfully), None shows the band beginning to construct their own signature sound. Even with displaying obvious influences from the likes of groovy contemporaries Pantera and Korn and still some Metallica, None shows the first examples of the fantastic groove/nu metal sound that the band would perfect on later albums like Chaosphere.

For the most part, the technical bravado of the debut is gone, and in its place hooks, grooves, and much improved songwriting. As soon as opener Humiliative begins, you get the Meshuggah blueprint. Screeching guitars, repetitive breakdowns, monster hooks, almost hypnotic grooves, angry screams, and most importantly, jumpdafuckup riffs. You don't get hooks like on Sickening and Gods of Rapture without knowing how to reel a listener in. The biggest difference between None and what would follow, are the occasional melodies. Meshuggah's usually the last band that you'd think would get melodic, but when they do they're great. Ritual, which sounds right out of Korn's debut with added Satriani-esque solos, is a heavy and beautiful combination of groove and melody.

The EP fittingly ends with the chaotic early Godflesh-esque Aztec Two-Step, which is just four minutes of constant riffing and screaming, before ending with stop-and-go hooks. The drum fills at the end of each section always get me, such perfect placement. (The rest of the song is just noise, bands in the 90's loved adding silence and noise at the end of the last track. What a waste of disc space.)

A classic EP that shows some of the best early groove/nu metal.

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