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metal music reviews (new releases)

MUNICIPAL WASTE Electrified Brain

Album · 2022 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
It is hard to believe that Municipal Waste have been around for more than 20 years now, and they keep producing crossover thrash metal as if it is a lot earlier than that. Just seeing the name of the band makes me smile as I know what is likely to be on offer, and that is exactly what we have here again. Four of the guys have been playing together since 2004, while Ryan Waste and Tony Foresta have been there since the very beginning and even “new boy” Nick Poulos has been there six years and played on the last album, 2017’s ‘Slime and Punishment’. They had started work on this when the pandemic broke, which impacted a band who live on the road, but it meant they could concentrate fully on this as there was no tour to get back to, and the result is something which in many ways is their most complete offering to date.

It may only be 34 minutes long, but the 14 tracks pack a great deal in, in that time. It comes in, kicks hard, and then is gone again. As Tony says, ““We’re not writing any love ballads to sell records, we’re just doing what we’ve always done since the band started—and that’s try to write fun, fast, and ripping hardcorepunkmetal.” With this band what you see is what you get, a party band who are out to have a blast and take their listeners along for the ride. True, it can be somewhat one-dimensional, but overall, this is a fun album, with songs like “The Bite” showing there really are some diamonds here to be uncovered. If you miss the days when old school thrash when music like this was everywhere, then be confident that unlike many bands, Municipal Waste have stuck to their core and are still delivering like they always have.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 318 - March 19, 2020

Album · 2022 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
PIKE 318 - MARCH 19, 2020 16th installment of 2022 Everything played by BUCKETHEAD Total playing time 27 minutes exactly All instrumental as always! Eggs are hatching in the coop at BUCKETHEADLAND in a steady stream in 2022 as this newest release PIKE 318 is the 16th one to be released t his year. This is a single 27-minute track titled MARCH 19, 2020. Presumably this date is significant for BH and given that it’s a slow ballad rock type of PIKE in the style of 2014’s “Hold Me Forever” it’s obviously a tribute to someone important that the chicken lover has lost or it could signify an event of some sort.

Not much to say about this one. This is one of those lullaby albums with clean guitar riffs, echoey counterpoints and soft rock percussion. BH has released dozens of these types of PIKEs and honestly there’s nothing that sets this one apart in its stylistic approach other than the fact it’s a taxing 27-minute long one track PIKE. I’m serious when i say this is an assembly line of lullaby tracks that have the same chord progressions, same tones, same dynamics, same musical motifs, same cadences, same same same.

What is unique is that the title of this PIKE is a date. Don’t think that has occurred before. This is BUCKETHEAD easy listening on chill mode and at this point in the PIKE run you either like these or you don’t and anyone who has followed my reviews is quite aware that i do not! It’s not that i don’t appreciate a good chill out PIKE now and again but these are all the same! As i already pointed out these are carbon copies! And BORING! If i was a loved one who passed i would not find this inspirational at all. Write something original you lazy bum! Stop stuffing your face at Colonel Sanders and write some original music already!

After a few interesting PIKEs lately BH always feels he has to retreat to please the codeine crowd who only tune in to listen to these nauseatingly generic PIKEs that have no dynamic shifts of any sort. It’s just the same cyclical loops presented ad nauseam. Mommy, make it stop! Ugh. You better appreciate how much i suffer through some of these to bring you these reviews so you don’t have to! Ha! I know i’m being dramatic. There’s not a lot of music i don’t like but these styles of PIKEs are definitely one of them so gotta have fun with it, right? Next…

BUCKETHEAD Pike 317 - Live Feathers

Live album · 2022 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
PIKE 317 - LIVE FEATHERS 15th installment of 2022 Not everything played by BUCKETHEAD because this is a LIVE release Total playing time 28 minutes and 51 seconds All instrumental as always! No chickens injured in the making of this recording :/

With thundering applause the latest PIKE begins with an audience ushering in the chicken lover’s guitar antics on this new trend of releasing live albums under the PIKE series. “Jordan” has always been a popular live tune with its chicken clucking guitar wailing and strange tone modulations. This one pretty much features all of BH’s more aggressive guitar playing techniques including metal riffing, crazy solos and nice hairpin turns after groovin’ it up.

This PIKE also rides the wayback machine with the classic “Welcome To Bucketheadland” which is one of Bucky’s first and best known cuts. “Soothsayer” has become a live classic too with its slow lullaby dreamy beginning and slowly ratcheting up into heavy metal ballad wankery. This is actually a great song and it’s always nice to know that musicians you listen to regularly can actually play things that they put down to a recording. Very strong solo at the end.

“Toy Store” is also a nice tune with some bitchin’ cool guitar effects that erupt over a strong bass and drum groove. This track also features a nice traditional mix of classic heavy metal and 90s alternative metal with riffs alternating with guitar licks and finally a scorching solo. “Ghosts of Broken Eggs” continues the diversity in tracks and features a nice slow groove with some bluesy guitar extravaganzas. It’s a nice jamming track perfect for a live setting and BH showcases his trippy guitar wah-wahs and guitar effects.

“Forneau Cosmique” ends this set and is a feisty alt metal rocker and to be honest the most typical style of playing within the entire 300+ PIKE series. This is BH at his most generic and to be honest i’ve heard this formula so much by now that it does absolutely nothing for me. Compare this to the exhilarating track “Welcome To Bucketheadland” and its apparent how generic BH has become in the majority of his output in the last decade or so. Of course there are exceptions but they are too weird for a live experience!

Overall not a bad set of live tracks. I have no idea if these were all recorded in a single concert or over many but my guess is selecting from various venues. I’m not a huge fan of live albums especially when they add nothing to the original compositions and in this case there’s not really a lot to distinguish the tracks from their original source but LIVE FEATHERS is a decent representation of the modern day chicken lover in action a live setting. A very good release but nothing i would even remotely consider essential.

SPHERIC UNIVERSE EXPERIENCE Back Home

Album · 2022 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.05 | 3 ratings
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lukretion
French prog metallers Spheric Universe Experience (S.U.E.) have been around for a long while now. Guitarist Vince Benaim put together the band back in 1999 and their first official release dates back to 2003. After their 2005 well-received debut full-length Mental Torments, S.U.E. started gradually distancing themselves from the Dream Theater / Symphony X’s brand of prog metal that they had pursued at the beginning of their career, veering towards a more commercial form of groove / alternative metal. Their fifth LP Back Home is a literal return to the roots, as the band embrace again with full power their progressive metal influences.

While the new album falls squarely into the classic prog metal genre, S.U.E. have retained some subtle elements of their foray into alt / groove metal territory. The guitars are chunky and sometimes have a djenty feel to it that one immediately associates with the modern progressive metal sound of bands like Haken. Singer Franck Garcia has the classic high tenor voice that is characteristic of the genre, but there is a modern flavor to some of his melodic lines that brings to mind bands like VOLA or Voyager. Meanwhile, keyboard player Fred Colombo alternates classic orchestral flourishes with futuristic sounds that are well suited for the sci-fi concept that runs through the LP. This mixture between the old classic prog metal sound and a more modern and alternative take on the genre is the element that distinguishes this record from many similar others.

Fear not, however, Back Home delivers all the progressive goodness that you would expect to find on a classic Symphony X or Dream Theater’s album. There is plenty of muscular, complex riffs that however never lose sight of melody. While the music is strongly guitar-driven the keyboards play an important and prominent harmonic role too. The rhythmic section (comprised of new members Romain Goulon / drums and Julien Negro / bass) is boisterous, with plenty of drum fills and bass solos. The vocals are forceful but melodic. The melodies are not overly catchy, however, and it takes a while before they sink in. This and the complex song structures imply that Back Home is not easy-listening material and it requires a considerable investment in terms of time and attention on the part of the listener before it can be fully appreciated.

A further challenge comes from the fact that S.U.E. have followed a sort of pedal-to-metal approach when they wrote the nearly 70 minutes of music for this album. There is hardly any moment of respite as one goes through the record’s 13 tracks: it’s a sonic assault through and through, with constant fast tempos, hard-hitting riffs, and relentless drumming. There are some drops in tempo and intensity here and there, but not enough to let the listener properly catch a breath. Inevitably, listening fatigue sets in pretty quickly and by the time I reached track 9 “The Absolution pt 1”, which is the first proper break in the album’s flow, I was a spent force.

However, this is mostly me not being overly enthusiastic about this particular brand of prog metal where “more is more” all the time. But I know there is a market for it – hell, there has been one for over 30 years! –, and S.U.E. undeniably give other bands that cater to it, even the most prominent ones named earlier, a run for their money.

PILLAGING VILLAGERS Pillaging Villagers

Album · 2022 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
And the metal machine keeps churning as the musical monstrosity continues to siphon up every musical genre on the face of the Earth and turn it into an aggressive behemoth of bantering din for all to behold! The joy of it all! I’ve long failed to be impressed by much as every conceivable avenue of musical exploration has reached the quickening state in the last few decades but it’s also refreshing to realize that there are always new ways of delivering old tricks even if they may not totally reinvent the wheel so to speak.

Coming out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin is the newbie headbangers on the block PILLAGING VILLAGERS which is actually the brainchild and in reality solo project of vocalist David Frazer who has had his hand in the modern day alchemy of several styles of metal, punk and folk and thrown them into his magic cauldron and stirred them with a furious glee until all came out as a sonic stew of modernity that takes several cues from the past and makes them sparkle with new life. Ah, the beauty of music is that there are seemingly limitless avenues of exploration and although many lead to dead ends, this one certainly finds an instant likability with a feeling of rejuvenating longevity!

While technically a solo project, Frazer employs some serious metal musicians to craft his debut self-titled album of classic vinyl record playing time’s length of just over 39 minutes. Imagine if you will a session where the crossover thrash masters S.O.D. jammed with the folk metal champions Ensiferum and classic Celtic punk rock rebels like The Pogues, Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys. Add a bit of melodic death metal a la Amon Amarth and just a smidge of melodic hardcore courtesy of Bad Religion, Leatherface or Propagandhi and you kinda get the picture! With so many ingredients in the recipe it’s so easy to fuck em up big time but Frazer does an exemplary task of forging these musical specimens into a cohesive whole.

The name of the game here is passion and one which extends beyond the main director’s call. Rather this is truly a band project despite the logistics of royalty distribution. It is more than apparent that these guys had a helluva bitchin’ great time crafting this little surprise that comes to us in the year 2022. In addition to Frazer’s vocals, this PILLAGING VILLAGERS debut features bassist Adam Tucker from A Scanner Darkly, guitarist Brian Koenig from Lords of the Trident and drummer Jason Hirt of Ghost Bath. This well seasoned quartet has mastered the technically instrumental wizardry of death metal at its most demanding levels and channeled it into a folk metal extravaganza that brings instant pub hall sensibilities into the mix which makes you wanna drink your Guinness and then smash something.

Straddling so many genres it’s almost imperceptible to distinguish at any given moment, two attributes unite the 12 tracks on this release. Firstly, there is a constant folk metal energetic rampage in the vein of the Finnish classic Ensiferum’s debut release only instead of Scandinavian folk music as the source of musical scales, PILLAGING VILLAGERS mines the world of Celtic folk and then keeps things in that strange gray area bardo region between the world of punk rock and thrash metal. The tracks are all on the the shorter side with none over four minutes but each delivering a ferocity of the most extreme rampaging examples of metal music.

Melodic with sacrificing the metal bombast. Folky without the cheese. The irreverence of punk with the accomplished musicianship of metal. What’s not to like here? Not all modern music has to be taking us into the next chapter of humanity. Some music is designed to just be fucking fun and this musical experience achieves just that. This is like a soundtrack for metal musicians who just want a night out on the town where the music is not their “usual” listening experience but appeals to their aggressive sensibilities. That is how i see this but with enough exposure this very well could become something that DOES become a “usual” listening experience and for that i really hope that this project gels into a cohesive band experience that takes Celtic folk metal to a new level. Bravo!

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ACID DEATH Hall of Mirrors

Album · 2015 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Hall of Mirrors" is the 4th full-length studio album by Greek technical/progressive death/thrash metal act Acid Death. The album was released through 7Hard Records in September 2015. It´s the successor to "Eidolon" from 2012 although the two full-length releases are bridged by the 2013 "MisleD 2013 Re-recorded" EP. There has been one lineup change since "Eidolon (2012)" as guitarist Kostas Karavelas has been replaced by John Anagnostou.

Stylistically the material on "Hall of Mirrors" continue in the same technical/progressive death metal direction as the material on "Eidolon (2012)". It´s music strongly influenced by the early 90s technical/progressive death metal scene (artists like Death and especially the Italian Sadist come to mind). It´s a bit more contemporary sounding though, which means it´s a little more heavy and groove oriented than the 90s influences. The title track is for example a full fledged groove metal track.

"Hall of Mirrors" features a well sounding production job, tight and skilled musicianship, and the material is well written and effective. The combination of 90s technical/progressive death metal elements and more contemporary heavy groove metal oriented elements won´t please all listeners, but there´s nothing wrong with the execution or the overall album package. This is a quality release and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

PORCUPINE TREE In Absentia

Album · 2002 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.34 | 90 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
Slowly but surely the solo project of Steven Wilson that began as a joke and was created simply to create music inspired by the most lysergic sounds of Pink Floyd incrementally gained steam and the momentum to reach the status of international prog stardom. After Wilson turned the project into a full band experience with 1996’s “Signify,” PORCUPINE TREE had all but set its basic blueprint of mixing 90s alternative rock with 70s psychedelic space rock made all the better with elements of progressive rock mined from various sources. In many ways PORCUPINE TREE was like the more progressive counterparts to Radiohead with a very similar approach of mixing Krautrock inspired electronica, beefy guitar grooves reminiscent of the grunge era and a propensity for Pink Floyd’s space rock set to thought provoking lyrical content.

The band’s second phase culminated with “Lightbulb Sun” which found them crafting some of the catchiest crossover prog tunes of the new millenium thus showcasing the band’s propensity for delivering strong ear wormy hooks, eerily haunting harmonies and cleverly crafted space rock contrasted with a bit of alternative rock heft however the best was yet to come as the band ratcheted the aforementioned elements up a few notches and cranked out a trilogy of what many would deem three of the greatest prog rock albums of the 21st century. The first of this string of well-crafted albums came in the form of IN ABSENTIA in 2002 and with its instantly eye-catching album cover you know immediately you’re in for something a bit out of the ordinary. This was also the first album to be released on a major record label. Lava Records may not ring a bell for many but is in face in partnership with Atlantic Records and has sold over 100 million albums, so they know what they’re doing obviously!

While the next step of PORCUPINE TREE’s inevitable ascent to the top of the prog world may have been unstoppable, a couple well known factors played a pivotal role in how the band developed and upped its game. The first was the addition of drummer Gavin Harrison who played with an impressive number of artists before landing his role with Steven Wilson and friends. His seasoned approach and technical drumming prowess were exactly what PORCUPINE TREE needed to take them to the next level of technical wizardry and take them out of the dream pop-infused sorta prog camp to the whole enchilada. Add to that, Wilson acquired a taste for the world of metal music having discovered Burzum, Meshuggah and prog metal superstars Opeth. After meeting Mikael Åkerfeldt and producing Opeth’s “Blackwater Park,” the indelible mark of metal would leave its filthy little claws in Wilson’s psyche and PORCUPINE TREE would never be the same.

The differences are noticeable immediately. While IN ABSENTIA begins with some psychedelic teasers as the album starts, the opening track “Blackest Eyes” doesn’t take long to showcase the band’s newly acquired progressive metal bombast taken to the proper level of technical wizardry with Harrison’s drumming skills. The beautiful thing about PORCUPINE TREE is that Wilson never jettisoned the old to make room for the new. Like a beautiful orchestral symphony he simply added more complimentary elements to the band’s already established sound and improved what had come before as well and IN ABSENTIA presents those standards impeccably with all the attention placed on the melodic developments first and foremost and the supporting elements simply falling where they may. The result was an amazing display of prog compositional fortitude made all the better by an immaculate production job and mixing.

For the most part IN ABSENTIA is the perfect balancing act between the art of ear wormy art rock, sophisticated prog, heavy guitar oriented alternative metal and psychedelic space rock made all the more ethereal by an excellent display of electronic musical forms such as trip hop and ambient music at key moments. The tracks all stand on their own with each adding a vital element to the band’s repertoire. While the opening “Blackest Eyes” displays the band’s new love of metal, the album spends most of the time in the space rock zone with tracks like “Trains” and “The Sound of Muzak” more in the vein of material off of “Lightbulb Sun.” At this point the metal had made its debut but was used sparingly. The heavy music is let off the leash though on the all instrumental “Wedding Nails” which displayed that the band’s fascination with heavier music was not a mere fad.

While the Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Nirvana style grunge are the key ingredients on IN ABSENTIA, on the hardcore prog side of things, there is a heavy King Crimson influence at times most prominent on the proggiest track of the album “Strip The Soul” however much of the proggier elements came in the form of production with subtle contrasts between mixing the various instrumental parts. While guitar solos erupt occasionally IN ABSENTIA was still more psychedelic space rock than anything remotely metal madness. This was controlled heavy but in a good way. What the band’s biggest achievement on this album was that it featured a keen display of various musical motifs and interesting ways of crafting a series of interconnected ideas that somehow resulted in a warm organic process. Take “Gravity Eyelids” for example. It starts off as a trip hop arty space rock song and then transitions seamlessly into a a grunge-fueled Nirvana meets Radiohead sorta track.

While many have hailed IN ABSENTIA as the first prog masterpiece of the new millenium i have to disagree that there had been some fine albums already released by Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Pendragon and even avant-proggers Present but where PORCUPINE TREE succeeded where they did not was in the fact that a major label offered a much larger audience and therefore IN ABSENTIA did indeed become one of the best known and best selling prog releases in the early 2000s. Although this is a prog classic indeed, personally i don’t find it perfect but nearly so. While PORCUPINE TREE had mastered the art of fusing its influences and idiosyncrasies into a seamless whole on this release, the track “Prodigal” just seems like filler to my ears. It’s not a bad track but is the one that screams Pink Floyd the loudest and ultimately comes off as totally unneeded. Same for the following “.3” which delivers a lot of psychedelic noodling before finding some true substance. It should’ve been edited to half the length or deleted altogether. The track “Heartattack in a Layby” would’ve been a perfect followup downer track to pacify the feisty metal oriented “Wedding Nails.”

Overall IN ABSENTIA truly is one of the great works of the 21st century not only in terms of prog but in the greater rock universe as well. Everything Wilson and company had been working towards came to fruition on this album and made PORCUPINE TREE one of the biggest prog acts OF the 21st century. While i may not find this album absolutely perfect i certainly cannot deny its relevance, its professionalism and the uncanny strength of most of the material presented. Yes it is a bit too long at over 68 minutes and had the two weakest tracks been nixed it would’ve made this a perfect listening experience for my ears but even as it is i can’t complain too much. I much prefer the following “Deadwing” and “Fear Of A Blank Planet” which took the approach delivered on IN ABSENTIA in sheer perfection however there’s no reason to deny this first installation of the band’s peak years of its classic status. Given my preference for the following albums i had to psychoanalyze my reasoning for listening to this one less and my conclusion is that the metal and space rock elements hadn’t quite completely integrated quite yet in addition to my already presented nitpicking. Anyways, no matter how you slice it, IN ABSENTIA is brilliant prog release that signified prog was alive and well in the new millennium.

DREAM THEATER Black Clouds & Silver Linings

Album · 2009 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.73 | 142 ratings
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Warthur
Little did they know it at the time, but this would be the last album that Dream Theater would record with Mike Portnoy at the drum stool. (It's lucky, then, that it includes The Shattered Fortress, the end of his Twelve Step Suite - would have been a bit awkward if he'd had to get that out on a Transatlantic album or something.)

If the band had any hint that a change was brewing, however, there's no sign of it here - if anything this is business as usual, with ballad Wither's five-and-a-bit minutes amounting to the only sub-epic song on here - everything else is over 8 minutes long, and 4 of the six songs here are over 12 minutes long.

As it stands, Wither ends up offering a bit of a breathing space of the running order, coming as it does between two heavier pieces (A Nightmare To Remember in particular taking the band further towards extreme metal territory they've ever gone) and The Shattered Fortress, which picks the ferocity back up with its intro. This is perhaps the most straight-ahead epic of the album; Portnoy himself has said that in retrospect, he found he'd written himself into a bit of a corner with the Twelve Step Suite, and with hindsight he might have instead just one song covering all twelve steps back when the band were making Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. It's not that I think it's outright bad - but perhaps because it's trying to maintain a thematic and musical link to material spread over the previous four albums, it doesn't quite feel fresh.

The Best of Times, by comparison, lets things pick up, with a beautiful, restrained opening giving way into a light and positive-sounding song, a real breath of fresh air after the band had spent not only much of this album but a fair chunk of previous recent albums looking at darker material. It reminds me almost of a tribute to Rush circa Permanent Waves or Moving Pictures in some respects. The album closes off with The Count of Tuscany, a foreboding narrative about a strange encounter overseas which presents perhaps the album's most classically proggy sections.

Overall, I can't quite give the album full marks, but it is another impressive entry in the Dream Theater discography; if Portnoy never works with the band again, he can at least be proud of going out on a high note.

SEPULTURA Schizophrenia

Album · 1987 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.60 | 49 ratings
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UMUR
"Schizophrenia" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Brazilian death/thrash metal act Sepultura. The album was released through Cogumelo Records in October 1987. It was recorded on a 16 track recorder at J.G. Estudios in Belo Horizonte in August 1987. The original album contained 9 tracks and featured a playing time of 38:13 minutes. Later reissues include a re-recorded version of "Troop of Doom" from the band´s debut album "Morbid Visions" (1986). Some versions also include some demos and rough mixes of songs from the album.

The music on the album is aggressive death/thrash metal with an emphasis on the thrash metal part. There´s been great development in the band´s sound since the more primitive/simple debut album, which was released just a year before "Schizophrenia". The music on "Schizophrenia" is not only aggressive and powerful, it´s also occasionally rather sophisticated for the style. While the band had certainly listened to the brutal euro thrash metal of artists like Kreator, Sodom, and Celtic Frost, it´s obvious that the more sophisticated thrash metal of Metallica (and other US thrash metal artists) also had great impact on the sound on "Schizophrenia". There´s even a long instrumental track on the album in the 7:16 minutes long "Inquisition Symphony" (again probably influenced by Metallica longer 80s instrumentals). The short acoustic "The Abyss" is also a nice variation from the more regular death/thrash metal assault of tracks like "From the Past Comes the Storms", "R.I.P. (Rest in Pain)", "To the Wall", and "Escape to the Void". Guitarist Jairo Guedes has been replaced by Andreas Kisser who adds a new dimension to Sepultura´s sound. His playing is much more diverse and sophisticated than the style of his predecessor, who had a more raw, fast-paced, and screaming chromatic guitar solo style.

"Schizophrenia" was the album that caught the attention of Roadrunner Records who signed Sepultura on the merits of the album. Roadrunner Records re-released Sepultura´s first two albums in addition to releasing the band´s international breakthrough album "Beneath the Remains" (1989). The latter which started the band´s rise to the stars. This particular album may have put Sepultura on the map, but "Schizophrenia" is like listening to a demo version of what would become "Beneath the Remains" (1989). The album features loads of powerful and aggressive death/thrash riffing, intriguing solo work and generally interesting compositional ideas, but the execution lacks slightly in places. First of all the production isn´t that well sounding. It´s distorted and muddy and while that´s not a problem all the time, it disturbs my listening experience in places. Secondly the musicianship isn´t as tight as it would be just a few years down the line, although the band are already a fairly well playing unit. "Schizophrenia" is overall a decent quality album though and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved. Better sound production values and more memorable songwriting could have elevated the album to the excellent zone, but that would happen already on the next album.

SEPULTURA Morbid Visions

Album · 1986 · Death Metal
Cover art 2.73 | 35 ratings
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UMUR
"Morbid Visions" is the debut full-length studio album by Brazilian death/thrash metal act Sepultura. The album was released through Cogumelo Records in November 1986. It was recorded and mixed in only 7 days in August 1986 at Estudio Vice Versa, Belo Horizonte. It´s a 16 track recording. The original album consists of 8 tracks and a playing time of 34:40 minutes. Later reissues include the 5 Sepultura tracks from the December 1985 "Bestial Devastation / Século XX" split with Overdose as bonus material. The original vinyl pressing included the first movement of "Carmina Burana" by Carl Orff as an intro to the album, but later reissues omit that piece.

The music on the album is death/thrash metal strongly influenced by artists like as Kreator, Sodom, Celtic Frost and Possessed (the earliest output of those acts). Opinions vary and some consider "Morbid Visions" one of the earliest death metal releases, but I´d say it´s more an example of an early death/thrash metal release, and I´d even say most of the album leans more towards teutonic thrash metal then death metal. In other words an early hybrid of death and thrash metal. All tracks on the album are raw, filthy, and mean sounding, hammering away with pounding drums, thin sounding thrashy guitars, and Max Cavalera´s raw semi-growling/throaty singing on top.

"Morbid Visions" is not an album packed with standout tracks, but I´d mention the opening title track as one and also "Troops of Doom". In the case of the later predominantly because of the catchy and powerful heavy opening riff. "Troops of Doom" has been re-recorded by the band (in the studio) and is also a song Sepultura usually play live (at least in the days when Cavalera was still fronting the band). The sound production is not particularly well sounding, and while some may find its rawness and hollow sound charming/authentic, the production values on the bonus tracks from "Bestial Devastation" (1985) are actually much better sounding and more impactful.

So this is an album for those who enjoy the early teutonic thrash metal releases and other contemporary South American thrash metal ditto. Raw, brutal, simple and spewing out aggression and primitive occult lyrics. Upon conclusion I can´t say "Morbid Visions" blows me away, but a 3 star (60%) rating is still warranted.

RUSH Permanent Waves

Album · 1980 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.27 | 131 ratings
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UMUR
"Permanent Waves" is the 7th full-length studio album by Canadian progressive rock act Rush. The album was released through Mercury Records (US/Europe)/Anthem Records (Canada) in January 1980. It´s the successor to "Hemispheres" from 1978. After completing the 8 months long tour supporting "Hemispheres (1978)", the band felt worn and took a six weeks break, before uniting again to begin writing material for what would become "Permanent Waves". A short tour followed where Rush would introduce some of the new material, and in September 1979 they entered Le Studio in Quebec with producer Terry Brown, where the already written material were given a final brush and enough additional material were written for a full-length release.

"Permanent Waves" marks a bit of a stylistic chance for Rush. After the arguably most progressive period of their career (1976-1978), the band felt a need for change and most of the tracks on "Permanent Waves" are therefore shorter, more immediately catchy, and less complex in structure than the material on the preceding releases. This should not be understood as if this is not progressive or challenging music though, as there are plenty of adventurous songwriting and technincally skillful playing on the album. The progressive parts are just typically a little more subtle or hidden within the context of the songs, allowing more catchy and melodic moments to stand out.

The album opens with "The Spirit of Radio", which on the surface is an almost mainstream pop/rock oriented song, featuring an energetic and uplifting mood, but when you listen a bit more closely it´s quite the complex and intriguing progressive rock composition, featuring many different parts and time signature changes. "Freewill" follows and it´s another album highlight. It´s a catchy and memorable track, but like the preceding track it´s a more complex composition than it may initially appear. "Jacob's Ladder" is a slow building, atmospheric, and ultimately heavy track. It´s quite an epic track and features a total playing time of 7:31 minutes.

"Entre Nous" opens what was Side B of the original vinyl release, and it´s a melodic rock song. Not the most adventurous moment of the album, but still a decent quality composition. "Different Strings" is the mellow power ballad track of the album. Rush had included tracks like that on previous releases too, so the mainstram oriented nature of the song isn´t a surprise. It´s a decent track but not exactly a highlight of the album. The 9:16 minutes long "Natural Science" closes "Permanent Waves". It´s an epic progressive rock track subdivided into three parts titled "I: Tide Pools", "II: Hyperspace", "III: Permanent Waves". It´s by far the most complex and progressive composition on the album and arguably an album highlight.

Rush are as well playing/singing as ever (Geddy Lee´s high pitched voice and singing style are probably as always a deal breaker for some and a great joy for others) and "Permanent Waves" also features a well sounding production job (co-produced by Rush and Terry Brown), which suits the material perfectly. There´s power and bite here and it´s definitely a case of high quality production values. Upon conclusion "Permanent Waves" reeks high class in all departments, from the high level musical performances, to the above mentioned high quality production values, to the intriguing and varied songwriting. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

OPETH The Candlelight Years

Boxset / Compilation · 2008 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.10 | 11 ratings
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Warthur
This is a convenient way of collecting Opeth's first three albums all in one fell swoop. Though Morningrise is far and away the best album here, the other two albums presented are nice bonuses on top of that star attraction; Orchid captures the band in the process of gradually finding their sound, whilst My Arms, Your Hearse has a bleak, almost black metal-inspired aesthetic which makes it perhaps Opeth's darkest and murkiest release. Each disc has a few bonus tracks, giving a full overview of the band's earliest era, making this a good purchase so long as you're happy with not getting the full artwork.

LED ZEPPELIN Coda

Album · 1982 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.71 | 52 ratings
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Dellinger
So the "last" Led Zeppelin album, released with leftovers from their discographly... and you can hear it. Besides "I Can't Quit You Baby", which for some reason I like better than their version on their first album, there is nothing I really find worth of being in any of their previous albums. Most songs are OK, some a bit annoying, but mostly the album sounds like the less inspired parts of all their previous albums. I guess it's best not to consider it part of their studio discography, as it was considered by Atlantic, and rather think of it as a collection of leftovers, as it really is.

JUDAS PRIEST A Touch Of Evil

Live album · 2009 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.87 | 14 ratings
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Warthur
For their first live album following the return of Rob Halford, Priest offer up edited highlights of the tours for Angel of Retribution and Nostradamus, with a focus on songs which hadn't appeared on a Halford-fronted Judas Priest live release previously. The end result is very good - Priest have always been a stellar live band - but precisely because of the approach taken in picking songs, it doesn't really reflect an actual live setlist or flow like a live show. (There's entirely undisguised fade-outs between some songs, for instance.) As a result, it's good to dip into if you really want to hear Halford singing one of these tracks live, but I don't put it on the level of their best live albums of the past.

RUSH Sector 3

Boxset / Compilation · 2011 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.36 | 2 ratings
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Warthur
The third "Sector" boxed set from Rush delivers fresh new remasters of their 1980s synth-era, taking in the studio albums from Signals to Hold Your Fire and the live album A Show of Hands.

I think there's no question that of the three Sector boxes, Sector 2 was the one which covers the most essential era of Rush, but I'd actually rank Sector 3 above Sector 1. Sector 1 has got 2112, of course, but arguably it was only really on 2112 that Rush started firing on all cylinders (though Fly By Night deserves an honourable mention), and albums like their debut or Caress of Steel showed stark growing pains.

On the other hand, whilst the synth era of the band rather sputtered out, they did at least have a cohesive musical vision all the way through it; the first two albums were very good, and I think Power Windows gets a slightly raw deal, and it was only really Hold Your Fire which wasn't pulling its weight there. Getting all of them, sounding better than they have for ages, plus a live album, in nicely-presented LP replica sleeves? Can't hurt.

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