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DYNAZTY The Dark Delight

Album · 2020 · Power Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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DippoMagoo
With some albums, my expectations going in, based either on early release singles, previous releases from the band, or a combination of both, can end up being either a bit too high or a bit too low, with the resulting album either blowing me away beyond expectation or falling a bit short. And then there are albums like, The Dark Delight, by Swedish melodic metal band Dynazty, where I immediately have a feeling something special’s coming, and the end result ends up being everything I was expecting, and more! To be fair, this is hardly my first rodeo with Dynazty, as I’ve been a fan of the band since their outstanding fourth release, Renatus, and also greatly enjoyed their two most recent releases, Titanic Mass and Firesign, so just knowing they had a new album coming this year was enough to get me excited. As soon as I heard the lead single, “Presence of Mind”, though, I immediately had the feeling this could be their best album to date, and after giving The Dark Delight several listens, I can safely say: I was right!

At this point, Dynazty has their current sound completely mastered, now four albums into this phase (as well as being seven albums into their career), so fans of the previous few albums should have a good idea of what to expect. The same mix of hard-hitting guitars, uplifting melodies, and huge, catchy choruses is still fully intact, with Rob Love Magnusson delivering some of his grooviest riffs to date, with the lead melodies and solos particularly impressive. That’s not to say Love has all the fun as Mike Laver is also very prominent on this album, the pairing between the two works very very well.

There’s great use of the keys as well. They had already been used a lot on Firesign, and if anything this album places a bigger emphasis on them, with a lot of the tracks having some strong trance beats and melodies, as well as the occasional use of more ambient keys. And of course, Nils Molin’s vocals are every bit as smooth, powerful and epic as always, with him slaying it on some of the band’s best choruses to date. His performance alternates between calm, emotional and very intense throughout the album, and he does so fluidly and perfectly, as always.

One element that has been reduced quite a bit on this album is the band’s power metal sound. There are still traces of it at times, most notably on “Paradise of the Architect” and “Apex”, but a lot of the tracks fall on the slower side. Usually, I’d consider this a disappointment, but the songwriting still manages to be varied enough, with a mix of some very heavy tracks, some softer tracks, many that blend both together seamlessly, and even a couple more surprising tracks. More importantly, though: Every track is fantastic. On Firesign, it felt like the heaviness had been dialled back a bit, but that isn’t the case this time around, as this has some of the band’s heaviest material yet, while also having some of their best melodies and choruses, as well as some excellent calmer sections. While the power metal elements are reduced, they’re still fantastic whenever they show up, so I feel the band has struck a perfect balance between all aspects of their music. The sound production is perfect, as always, and performances are amazing across the board.

While Dynazty albums always deliver when it comes to the overall sound and performances, The Dark Delight is especially impressive when it comes to the actual songs. There are no songs here I wouldn’t consider perfect, so much so that even trying to pick favourites is nearly impossible, with one exception. Kicking things off in style is lead single “Presence of Mind”, which opens up softly, with a brief tease at its killer chorus, before the guitars kick in, and the song settles into a nice groove, with some very heavy guitar work, and a nice rhythm, The verses are very fun and go by quickly, while the chorus is awe-inspiring, with a combination of excellent lyrics, incredible melodies and of course a flawless vocal performance from Molin. Even the narration in the middle is interesting enough to keep my attention, and the solo section that follows is quite epic. Overall, this song is incredible, and the first time I heard it, I just had a feeling this album had a strong chance of being my favourite yet, from Dynazty.

Thankfully, the rest of the album very much lives up to that stunning opener, with the following track “Paradise of the Architect” in particular picking up the pace, and delivering more of an epic symphonic power metal sound, with some nice symphonic keys, speedier tempos, more hard-hitting riffs, and another unbelievably catchy chorus, with some excellent vocals melodies, and nice use of trance keys. Next is “The Black”, a slow, but very hard-hitting track, with more epic keys, especially during the rather calm, slow-building verses, while the chorus is once again spectacular. The highlight, though, comes from some spectacular guitar work in the second half, with one of the band’s heaviest riffs to date, followed by a beautiful, very technically proficient solo section. Initially, “From Sound to Silence” seems like a fairly typical track, moving at a moderate pace, with a nice mix of atmospheric keys, hard-hitting guitars and a very melodic and catchy, if slightly subdued, chorus, but the second verse features some very intense and powerful growls, which add an element of surprise and help lift an already great track to new heights, while the solo section has a slight folk feeling and is also quite epic. The lone ballad on the album is “Hologram”, and as expected from Dynazty, it’s fantastic. It alternates between some very light keys and some beautiful acoustic guitar work, with Molin leading the way with some very soft, yet also very emotional and powerful vocals. He starts calmly and gets more intense as the track goes on, with the bridge, in particular, featuring some fantastic high notes, while other parts of the track have him singing at his lowest, and so the track does a perfect job of demonstrating his huge range. There’s also a gorgeous guitar solo in the second half, while the final run through the chorus is stunning.



After some slower tracks, the band speeds things up again with second single “Heartless Madness”, a very trance infused, up-tempo track, which also happens to be quite possibly the catchiest metal song I’ve ever heard! It moves along at a fast pace throughout, with the keys and vocals leading the way through the verses, while the chorus has a very bouncy, slightly pop-infused feel to it, but it’s just so damn catchy, while also being incredibly melodic, and having some outstanding vocal melodies. The highlight of the track, though, is the seamless transition from the second chorus, straight into a very nice melodic guitar solo, which features some of the best guitar work on the album. Overall, this track is by far my favourite song released in 2020, so far, and one of the absolute best melodic metal songs I’ve ever heard.

While the first two singles were absolute barn-burners, the third single “Waterfall” is slightly more laid back, but still awesome, in its way. It’s a fairly slow-paced, very melodic track, and it places a huge emphasis on trance keys, which are very much the driving force throughout the track. The verses are very quiet and calm, while the chorus opens up a bit, with more outstanding melodies, and while it’s one of the more laid back choruses, it’s still excellent, as always. The keys are the main focus here, as well as the unsurprisingly excellent guitar solo in the second half. Another very keyboard-driven track is “Threading the Needle’, the longest track here, clocking in at just under 6 minutes. It has some very light, atmospheric keys during the verses, which are slow and methodical, while the chorus is quite loud and epic, as usual. The song is excellent throughout, though the solo section is the highlight, with more outstanding riffs, as well as a great extended guitar solo. Another lighter track is “The Man and the Elements”, though this one is actually very guitar-driven, with some excellent lead melodies, which give the track slight a folk feeling, while the keys have a very symphonic feeling, which helps give the song an epic feel, especially the during the chorus, where the pace picks up slightly, without fully speeding up. It’s a fun track throughout, with the chorus, in particular, being very epic and catchy, and the instrumental section is quite awesome, as usual.

Moving towards the end of the album, one of the most intense tracks here is “Apex”. It again has a strong trance feel to it, with some very modern sounding keys, but it also has some very dark, sinister-sounding guitar work, as well as some crushing riffs. It’s a pretty fast-paced track, with the chorus alternating between a fast, very melodic buildup, followed by an equally fast, but very aggressive and powerful ending, which very much brings some of the best tracks from Renatus to mind. From heavy to soft we go, with “The Road to Redemption” being easily the most unique track on the album. It starts out very calmly, with some very light, but beautiful guitar work during the verses, as well as having a unique vibe, falling somewhere between country and southern rock. The pace picks up slightly during the chorus, though, which is very epic, and there are some heavy sections towards the end, during both a very epic bridge, with some stunning vocals, as well as an equally impressive final run through the chorus. While I suspect some fans may be turned off by the first half of the track, I actually quite love it, as it’s a very welcome change of pace, and I think the band pulled it off perfectly. Overall, it’s yet another perfect track. Closing out the album is the title track, and it’s yet another track which alternates wonderfully between some heavy, dark guitar work, and some very light, trance infused keys. It’s a fairly mid-paced track, with subdued verses and a very epic, powerful chorus, with Molin getting especially intense towards the end, closing the album out in spectacular fashion.

When I first heard Renatus, I was simultaneously blown away, while also a bit nervous about whether or not Dynazty could top that, or even match it. While their previous two releases didn’t quite reach those same heights, they were still excellent, and now with The Dark Delight, the band has delivered another masterpiece, with some of their absolute best songs to date. Fans of the band are almost guaranteed to be pleased with this release, while anyone looking for some excellent melodic metal with a mix of heavy guitar work, excellent use of trance keys, slight power metal elements and a spectacular vocal performance, is highly recommended to give this a listen, as I don’t see any similar bands putting out a better album than this any time soon!

Originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2020/03/29/dynazty-the-dark-delight-review/

MY DYING BRIDE Tired Of Tears

Single · 2020 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Tired Of Tears" is a digital single by UK doom metal act My Dying Bride. The single was released through Nuclear Blast Records in February 2020. It´s the third song on the tracklist on My Dying Bride´s 14th full-length studio album "The Ghost of Orion" from March 2020 and the second single released in advance of the album´s release as the "Your Broken Shore" single was already released in January 2020. A promotional lyric video was made for "Tired Of Tears".

My Dying Bride have been laying low since the release of "Feel the Misery (2015)" (at least for their usually busy standards), but there is a natural explanation for the band downtime, as lead vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe experienced the worst that can happen to a parent, as his young daughter was diagnosed with cancer, and he therefore pulled the plug to spend time with his family. Stainthorpe´s daughter was fortunately cured and he was able to concentrate on his music career again.

Stylistically "Tired Of Tears" is a classic My Dying Bride track with heavy doom metal riffs, atmospheric sections, guitar harmonies and counterpoint melodies, a soaring melancholic violin melody, and Stainthorpe´s dark and poetic vocals on top (only clean vocals on this song). On this particular track the lyrics are probably the most personal and painful Stainthorpe has ever written and performed (...and this is a man who has made a career out of writing and performing some of the most melancholic vocals and lyrics on the scene), as they evolve around his daughter´s illness and his own despair and fears. The lyrics are truly moving/infinitely sad and anyone who is a parent should be able to relate to the feelings of helplessness and despair Stainthorpe conveys on this track. His realization of his own mortality facing the possible death of his daughter (a parent´s worst nightmare) and his plea to death not to lay a hand on his daughter (during the chorus) are probably some of the most powerful lyrics I have ever read (and proff that context is everything...).

"Tired Of Tears" is bound to be a My Dying Bride classic because of the intensity and honesty of the lyrics, but it´s also a very well written track. It´s heavy, melodic, atmospheric, and also quite catchy considering the genre. Featuring a powerful and detailed sound production it´s a high quality track through and through and a 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

MY DYING BRIDE Your Broken Shore

Single · 2020 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Your Broken Shore" is a digital single by UK doom metal act My Dying Bride. The single was released through Nuclear Blast Records in January 2020. It´s the opening track from My Dying Bride´s 14th full-length studio album "The Ghost of Orion" from March 2020. A promotional music video was also made.

My Dying Bride have been laying low since the release of "Feel the Misery (2015)" (at least for their usually busy standards), but there is a natural explanation for the band downtime, as lead vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe experienced the worst that can happen to a parent, as his young daughter was diagnosed with cancer, and he therefore pulled the plug to spend time with his family. Stainthorpe´s daughter was fortunately cured and he was able to concentrate on his music career again.

"Your Broken Shore" is a classic My Dying Bride track with heavy doom metal riffs, atmospheric sections, guitar harmonies and counterpoint melodies, a soaring melancholic violin melody, and Stainthorpe´s dark and poetic vocals on top (both clean and growling vocals on this track). If something should be mentioned as slightly different from earlier releases, it´s the nature of Stainthorpe´s clean vocals which are often layered and he also sings more regular sustained note clean vocals than the often more subdued almost "speaking" type clean vocals he usually performs.

"Your Broken Shore" is a very well produced track and as a teaser for the release of "The Ghost of Orion" it´s a very effective one, as it´s a high quality track through and through and it shows promise of great things to come. A 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

LEE AARON Power, Soul, Rock N' Roll - Live In Germany

Live album · 2019 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
It is strange to realise that this is the first official live album from Lee Aaron, given that she has been fairly constant on the live circuit and released the anthem ‘Metal Queen’ back in 1984! During her 2017 German tour the concerts at Balingen and Nuremberg were recorded and now form the basis of this CD-DVD set in Digipak. Given I haven’t heard any of her material for some years I was somewhat surprised just how well her well-known numbers have aged, and the new material certainly doesn’t sound out of place beside them. This is the same as it always was, commercial hard rock with some great hooks and a singer who wants to be taken seriously for her music and not just her looks, although it must be said THAT magazine cover from 1983 did her image both harm and good at the same time.

Muscially this album feels a little like a dirty secret, no-one wants to admit owning it or even liking it but put on “Metal Queen” and it is impossible not to have a smile on your face. But I found I was really enjoying a lot of the material here, with “Tomboy”, "Barely Holdin On" and "Whatcha Do to My Body", in particular really standing out. I’m still not sure of the opener, her take on “Mistreated” as it doesn’t really work for her style but she has balls for going for it. All in all a fun album, and sometimes that is what we really want from our music.

LACUNA COIL Black Anima

Album · 2019 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 4 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Lacuna Coil are back with their ninth studio album and I for one am very pleased indeed. There has been another change in line-up, in that drummer Ryan Folden has departed after four years in the seat to be replaced by Richard Meiz (Genus Ordinis Dei). His role, along with that of guitarist Diego "DD" Cavallotti and Marco "Maki" Coti-Zelati (guitars, bass, keyboards, synths) is to provide the musical backdrop and muscle for the two people at the front of the band, namely Christina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro. Along with songwriter Marco they have been there since the very beginning of the band in 1997, and they just seem to be getting better and better.

When there is a need for a song to become bombastic, epic and over the top, then it is there in spades, but there are also times when they are more reflective, but t often doesn’t last too long. The bottom end builds a foundation which would allow a double-height Burj Khalifa to be built on it, with guitar, bass and drums combining to create a solid wall of sound. The keyboards sometimes provide additional lightness and melody, but there are others when they too join in the fun to create a sold slab of metal which may only be lightened by the contrast of Christina. There again, it may just be a force for Andrea to show he is never going to play second fiddle and that it is the mix and combination of the two very different singers that makes this band what it is, combined with the epic songwriting and performance of Marco and the others.

They shift from maelstrom to beauty, back again, or off in a new direction, and all the listener can do is smile. The very first time I played this I started to think this may actually be their best release yet, even better than the first three albums (which are all classics in their own right). Scabbia says: “This record was really written around our live performances. The songs we enjoy playing live the most are the heavier ones. So, when we started writing, the songs naturally were heavier. We have more growls (for Andrea) and epic parts (for me), too.” Epic, awesome, totally essential.

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COLONEL PETROV'S GOOD JUDGEMENT Among Servants

Album · 2018 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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tapfret
As an old metal fan who has experienced the great era's of metal's genesis with bands like Black Sabbath, the emergence of the NWOBHM, the speed metal and punk crossover scenes of the 1980's, then the rise of progressive metal in its various forms derived from those various scenes, it has been an absolute pleasure to experience the metamorphosis of the genre as the decades have passed. Unfortunately, metal has also experienced great expanses of stagnation and unapologetic mimicry. It has become increasingly difficult to find artists who seek there own creative space in the metal paradigm without wrapping themselves in redundant clichés. Fortunately, the diligent fan willing to dig through heaps of pretenders can occasionally stumble upon a creative gem like Köln, Germany's COLONEL PETROV'S GOOD JUDGEMENT. Their sophomore release Among Servants is a major step in creativity from their sludgy debut, Moral Machine. While undeniably metal, this album is highly experimental. A dark and dystopian blend of organized anarchy. The instrumentation comes to mind immediately in pushing the album's experimentalism with several well placed saxophone parts played by vocalist Leonhard Huhn. The second song, Resistor, for example, has a wild, rangy sax solo that breaks from the song's classic hardcore punk sounding intro. Sebastian Müller's guitar tones stray from the ubiquitous "djent" delivery that permeates a large portion of current metal output. He brings a tenacious bag of dirty influences from punky overdriven power chords to RIO-ish atonal chord structures to heavily reverbed psychedelia. The band's experimental machine is further driven by several rhythmic devices not frequently used in metal. The instrumental, Ascension, being the first piece that comes to mind with its drunkish slow-to-fast verses, textured by minimalist guitar and bass phrasing and eerie ambient saxophone reverb backgrounds. More delirium laced passages issue forth from songs like Bad Shepherd (which features vocals from Valborg and OWL's Christian Kolf), with its descending chromatic run emanating from a droning chant intro. Among Servants repeatedly shifts from the familiar to a seemingly endless pool of the unorthodox, unrepentant experimentation. The lyrical themes of the album are political and psycho/social in nature. This is an extremely strong album for those seeking something off the beaten path. Perhaps not a masterpiece, but well down the road to it. Among Servants is an album I will listen to for years to come. Hopefully COLONEL PETROV'S GOOD JUDGEMENT will continue the creative process in this manner.

RED PLANET Homeworld

EP · 2013 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
Tajikistan is one of those nations that everyone knows exists, has seen on the map and perhaps even aware of the fact that it’s a very mountainous nation next to Afghanistan and one of the former conquered lands that was annexed to the Soviet Union, but that’s probably about as far as it goes if even that! It’s hard to believe that people actually live in these totally off the radar areas of the planet but they do and they listen to music including metal! While not exactly a prolific nation in the world of popular music including metal, there have been a scant few bands that have been more inspired by the sounds from afar rather than whatever they listen to in places like this.

RED PLANET is one of the few bands from this nation coming from the capital city of Dushanbe and was formed in 2010 by Maryam Hakimova - bass guitar, Umeda Fazylova - lead guitar and Khursheda Fazylova - drums. This was an all girl band at this point and played covers mostly by Alice Cooper, Paolo Nutini, Three Days Grace and others but this lineup only last until 2011 when the next phase of RED PLANET dawned with the arrival of guitarist Rustam Mirzoakhmedov who steered the band’s soon more into the world of heavy metal and focused on a more robust guitar sound that took the classic traditional sounds of heavy metal riffing and added local oriental flavors.

Although the band is still officially active, RED PLANET has only released this one EP titled HOMEWORLD which came out in 2013 and only clocks in over the 17 minute mark. The lineup for this phase of the band was Umeda Fasilova / Guitars (lead), Vocals, Kursheda Fasilova / Drums, Olim Karimov / Guitars, Rustam Mirzoakhmedov / Guitars and Yuri Stolov / Bass. The EP has four tracks that are all over the place with tracks like “Anima” showcasing instrumental precision in a melodic procession of guitar arpeggios and technical workouts while “Doomsday” takes on elements of thrash metal most notably from Metallica as the track opens up with those famous slow burners that turn into sizzling guitar led frenzies however despite the presence of metal, once the vocals enter the scene my enthusiasm goes way down as the lead vocals are quite weak.

While this trend continues on the title track with strong guitar riffs and a nice bass accompaniment, the vocals which are clean sound like a very feminized Ozzy Osbourne from the early Black Sabbath days. While there are a few death metal secondary vocals here and there, the entire band sound changes on the final “Rift In The Lute” which employs Metallica’s guitar riffing style from early albums like “Ride The Lightning” but accompanied by death metal growls. This is by far the best track on the album but even so very uninspiring as it’s just a Metallica song with death metal growls! Well performed but forgettable. And that’s the moral of this story: forgettable. My first visit to metal from Tajikistan hasn’t been the silk road journey i had expected but there are other metal bands from this region from Central Asia such as the Kazakh black metal act Darkestrah which is excellent, so i will surely not write off this nation quite yet.

DOMINUS View to the Dim

Album · 1994 · Death Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"View to the Dim" is the debut full-length studio album by Danish death metal act Dominus. The album was released through RRS in 1994. Dominus formed in 1991 and they were one of the more active and prolific death metal acts on the Danish underground scene of the early 90s. They released two demos and the "Sidereal Path of Colours" single in 1993 before releasing "View to the Dim". Today Dominus are probably mostly known for being the first child of Volbeat frontman Michael Poulsen, but "View to the Dim" couldn´t be much further from the rock´n´roll infused rock/metal of Volbeat...

...because the music on the album is old school death metal through and through. The album opens with the intro track "Symphony of the Goddess", which features samples from the Dead Calm movie (a 1989 thriller featuring Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, and Billy Zane), before the brutality kicks in with "Tears in Black". And that´s about it, because the rest of the album pretty much sounds like that. Old school Scandinavian death metal delivered by fairly skilled musicians, featuring a decent but not very well sounding production job (the guitar tone is quite unpleasant to the ears, and there is a hollow quality to the sound, which doesn´t suit the music well), and pretty standard quality material, which doesn´t stand out much from the contemporary releases in the genre. Now I said that the material is old school death metal through and through, but it´s not completely true, because when you listen a bit more closely to the album, there´s actually a pretty strong groove influence in the music too. It´s brutal mid-paced grooves, but it´s unmistakably groove metal oriented. In that respect Dominus are slightly similar to their fellow Danish contemporaries in Konkhra.

So upon conclusion "View to the Dim" is not the most remarkable release out there, in terms of featuring an original sound, and as a consequence of the below standard production job, it not a very pleasant listening experience either, so a 2.5 star (50%) rating isn´t all wrong.

OPETH Orchid

Album · 1995 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.65 | 78 ratings
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UMUR
"Orchid" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish progressive death metal act Opeth. The album was released through Candlelight Records in May 1995. Opeth was formed in 1989 by then lead vocalist David Isberg, and went through many lineup changes (including the exit of Isberg), before settling on the four-piece lineup, who recorded "Orchid": Mikael Åkerfeldt (electric and acoustic guitars, lead vocals), Johan De Farfalla (electric and acoustic bass guitars, backing vocals), Anders Nordin (drums and percussion, piano), and Peter Lindgren (electric and acoustic guitars). "Orchid" was produced by the prolific Swedish producer/musician Dan Swanö.

In the early years the band played a more conventional old school Scandinavian death metal style, but as the band grew and developed as songwriters, they began composing more structurally complex and progressive tinged material. The tracks on "Orchid" are for the most part very long (four out of seven tracks on the album exceed 10 minutes in length), and feature many different sections and dynamic changes. While the basis of the music is slow- to mid-paced doom/death metal with growling vocals and heavy riffs and rhythms, the music also features melancholic acoustic sections, piano, clean vocal, and extensive use of harmony guitar parts. There are also the occasional black metal influenced moment and an ethnic Scandinavian folk atmosphere to some of the parts. Åkerfeldt sings a few clean vocal parts on the album, but the vocal style is predominantly growling (and sometimes a slightly blackened type of growling).

The material are generally well written although the structural complexity of the tracks and the stylistic consistency of the material sometimes scream for a little more diversity and moments which stand out. At 65:30 minutes it´s a pretty long album and after a while the tracks have a tendency to sound a bit the same. Individually every track on the album are high quality compositions though. The sound production is decent considering that "Orchid" is a debut album, and the musicianship is on a high level on all posts too.

So upon conclusion "Orchid" is a promising first album by Opeth, but it´s also the sound of a band who were not even close to having found their identity yet. The journey towards finding that identity is sometimes the most interesting part of an artist´s career, and there are certainly some interesting ideas and experiments featured on "Orchid", but overall it´s not a perfect release and could probably have prospered from some culling and a little more structure. Still a 3.5 star (70%) rating is fully deserved.

SIR LORD BALTIMORE Kingdom Come

Album · 1970 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.41 | 15 ratings
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Unitron
Perhaps the first album to be described as a heavy metal album, it comes as no surprise, as Sir Lord Baltimore's debut of Kingdom Come is a roaring shredfest that sounds closer to what's known as the classic metal sound than many of their contemporaries.

The first thing that caught me when I first heard this album was just how much fucking energy is just bursting out of the speakers. It's like these guys just had a bunch of built up energy inside waiting to unleash itself in the form of spastic and driving heavy metal. Apart from the medieval break of Lake Isle of Innersfree and the title track, which is closer to lumbering doom, this is just pure energetic metal. Hard Rain Fallin', Pumped Up, and Hell Hound especially are absolutely infectious in their delivery. They're raucous and raw, switching between distorted crunch and screeches with attitude, with vocal expressions of so much personality and thunderous drums going off like crazy.

It's a hard choice between this and Deep Purple's In Rock as my favorite metal album of 1970, this album just has so much exuberance and pure joy in playing expressed. Crazy album, in all the right ways.

DEATH OATH Pernicious Conjure

Album · 1996 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
When one thinks about 90s metal places like Turkey do not come to mind particularly when it comes the more extreme death and black metal sounds that kept pushing the envelope further and further into harsher and more extreme musical forms. That does not mean of course that there wasn’t a scene in far flung places and as it turns out there were quite a few metal bands that took up extreme metal in Turkey despite its reputation as a Muslim country with little tolerance for Western values and musical decadence. While metal wasn’t exactly as popular as in Western nations there were still some popular bands locally at least which included the thrash / speed metal band Pentagram (different one), the alternative metal band The Climb and even a traditional metal band called Dr Skull but extreme metal was a rare thing indeed.

But there were a few such as the death doom metal band Asafated, thrash bands Kronik and Athena and even death metal bands such as Death Project and Antisilence as well as a handful of black metal bands such as Saboath and Witchtrap but perhaps the most interesting band to emerge out of all them was DEATH OATH that found a way to mix the more extreme elements of death and black metal together with the more melodic compositional styles of classic 80s speed metal and the NWOBHM. So yes metal did exist but mostly in the confines of Istanbul and the capital city so its all the more amazing that DEATH OATH emerged from the center of the nation in the city of Kayseri, which most Westerners have probably even heard of much less aware of extreme metal coming from within its boundaries.

DEATH OATH remains a bit mysterious as there’s little information regarding its history however in its tenure as a band it included the five members of Murat Özkardeş (vocals), Burak Özdemir (guitars), Hamdi Öztürk (guitars), Engin Kamarot (bass) and Hakan Eşsizer (drums). The band released one EP titled “Demon’s Power” in 1994 followed two years later by its only full-length album PERNICIOUS CONJURE which features eight tracks. The album originally appeared as a cassette only edition and has supposedly been remastered and released although i’m not sure how many different formats exist at this time. The album is readily available for consumption on YouTube in its entirety. All i can say is - wow! I wasn’t expecting to actually like this band as much as i do. Although these guys were confined to Turkey, the album title and tracks are all in English so it’s clear that at least the intent of an international presence was in the forefront but like many bands with grandiose ideas didn’t last long enough to brings those dreams into fruition.

Like any good extreme metal album, PERNICIOUS CONJURE delivers an interesting mix of metal influences. The opening “Fallin’ From Eternity” begins with a dark doom fueled intro at a slow tempo before the metal rampaging kicks in. Rooted in melodic riffs most often experienced in the world of NWOBHM, the guitar tones and tremolo picking are more associated with black and death metal but given that the vocals are presented in a raspy delivery of multi-member harmonies, the music sounds rather unique at least for this part of the 90s. The vocal style reminds me a bit of Carcass on the early goregrind albums as it is deliciously evil and demented. The guitar tones are also sharp and create a mesmerizing display of darkness. The music is extremely melodic yet steeped in down-tuned darkness and because of the fact that it straddles the line between black, death and NWOBHM is actually rather unlike most metal bands. In more modern days bands like Absu and Anaal Nathrakh have crafted unique hybrid effects but this is quite innovative for this day and age considering it emerged from the middle of an Islamic Republic. Often the music is bouncy in an anthemic way.

The cream of the crop here is the unique mix of guitar riffs and vocals but the bass has distinct thumping sessions as well. Perhaps the weakest aspect of DEATH OATH is that the drummer isn’t OMG amazing but at the same time his somewhat underwhelming style does get the job done and keeps the focus on the demented lyrical deliveries and twin guitar attacks. Overall i’m quite fond of this obscurity form the middle of Turkey! This is unlike anything you would possibly expect from a city near the area known as Cappadocia. With themes steeped in death, hatred and Satanism, this is one evil as fuck albums and although the tunes are melodic they are balanced out by the filthy grime. Very cool and worth checking out.

EXIMPERITUSERQETHHZEBIBŠIPTUGAKKATHŠULWELIARZAXUŁUM Prajecyrujučy Sinhuliarnaje Wypramieńwańnie...

Album · 2016 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.07 | 3 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
So what do you do when you are a technical death metal band that has found itself to be just one of a million others that can crank out the progressively infused death metal chops at the speed of light without atmospheric interference and can banter with bombast like a pummeled Hiroshima at the end of WW2? Well you craft some attention getting gimmick of course that hopefully will lead those who notice to pay attention to your music as well! Coming from Minsk, Belarus this band chooses to remain anonymous as far as band members are concerned and has received more than its fair share of attention for its 51-letter long name which is:

Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum

But anyone who dares even try to write about this band in any way shape or form has adopted the shorthand version EXIMPERITUS which looks better anyway. The name is supposed to mean “An author's individual agglutinative neologism. In its creation there were used some Latin, Ancient Egyptian, Akkadian and Sumerian terms of the Chaosatanic tradition. It entirely reveals the unutterable name of the antiuniverse. When divided into fragments, it creates the magic spell of the formless Lords of the prior Darkness” which sounds as ridiculous as the moniker itself however it gets worse!

Formed in 2009, EXI (my own shorthand here!) has released a couple EPs but only a single full-length album in 2016 titled (yeah i’m not kidding!):

“Prajecyrujučy Sinhuliarnaje Wypramieńwańnie Daktryny Absaliutnaha J Usiopahłynaĺnaha Zła Skroź Šaścihrannuju Pryzmu Sîn-Ahhī-Erība Na Hipierpawierchniu Zadyjakaĺnaha Kaŭčęha Zasnawaĺnikaŭ Kosmatęchničnaha Ordęna Palieakantakta […]"

which is a transliterated form of archaic Belarusian but in the end who really cares. If that wasn’t bad enough the album that just misses clocking in at 30 minutes has eight tracks with even MORE ridiculously long track names. Track number 8 seems to be the longest and it’s called:

“Paświačęńnie Adęptam Salipsizmu Uwažliwym Da Pastuliawańnia Von Hartmana Ab Nieswiadomym U Z'jawach Cialiesnaha J Duchoŭnaha Žyćcia, Što Skažajuć Azimutaĺny Kut Palinhienęzii Ad Zawieršanaha Ŭwasablieńnia Liutaści Šywy Da Stęły Adkryćcia Toţa Nad Prorwaj Samaręalizacyi Partałaŭ Inšabyćcia… (all other tracks are pretty much as long!)

If by chance you were able to decipher all this gibberish and read it aloud, it would no doubt take you longer to read off the track names than it would take to play the album but considering this is extreme death metal with indecipherable growls and beastly groans from the abyss, it’s not even important that the tracks have titles at all! This album must surely hold the record for most words and letters used to craft the band name, album title and tracks and if you bothered to add it up would also win the title for most words per second of playing time but after all is said and done and the gimmicky eye-catching novelty wears off, how’s the music?

Well, EXI displays a very adept form of technical death metal that falls into the brutality camp of bands like Nile and Suffocation but with a more modern production job that evoke the contemporary sci-fi themed like Gigan, Mithras, Pyrrhon and similar acts however despite EXI’s amazingly creative mythology of catching your attention rarely lives up to keeping it as the eight tracks on “Prajecyrujučy” (album shorthand) falls into the trap of sounding a bit too generic for its own good. Competent pyrotechnic flair is flattened out by compositional impotence as the band that has honed its chops also misses the mark in crafting memorable and interesting tracks that offer little variation. Only the intro and outro sounds deviate from the one-trick pony methodology which keeps this one from really living up to its potential.

Overall this is a decent slice of tech death metal but it’s also sounds like a million bands that have come before and a million more will probably copy. Often it’s the case that such novelty extremes in name sizes and other gimmicks are simply masking the fact that the band is seriously lacking in some other department and that is exactly the case with EXI which lacks any original contributions to the fertile tech death metal camp. The album certainly checks off all the boxes and is even graced by an extraordinary eye-catching album cover but when it comes down to what REALLY matters when experiencing an album of tech death, it completely fails at living up to the hype that is aroused through all the longest name business. Yeah, it’s hardly the worst tech death album I’ve encountered but it’s just all so predictable and instantly forgettable. Meh.

SKULL CRUSHER The Darkside of Humanity

Album · 1996 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
After death metal splintered off from its parent sub thrash metal in the mid-80s there were two Bay area scenes that pretty much dominated the scene for a brief moment in history, those being the San Francisco Bay Area and the other the Tampa Bay Area but once these two scenes were in full force the death metal scene went viral across the globe with many outstanding bands getting lost in the sheer number of bands that appeared. Poor little Austria has always taken a backseat to its neighbors to the north and that was no exception in the old school death metal scene and i’ll bet you can’t name a single death metal band that has emerged from this nation.

Along with a few early followers such as Pungeant Stench, Disastrous Murmur and Sturdy Taste, the latter of which never made it past the demo stage another band named SKULL CRUSHER formed in 1990 in the tiny town of Niklasdorf near Leoben. This band adopted the classic old school sounds of bands like Death, Obituary, Suffocation, Cannibal Corpose and even Pestilence and Bloodbath and has been largely forgotten in the vast canon of death metal acts of the 90s but just one listen to this debut THE DARKSIDE OF HUMANITY will show you that the band was quite competent albeit not exactly the most original. After the release of three demos “Skull Crusher” from 1992, “Merciless Destiny” from 1993 and “Deathmatch” from 1994, SKULL CRUSHER unleashed its first album THE DARKSIDE OF HUMANITY in 1996.

Influenced most by the Florida death metal scene, SKULL CRUSHER adopted a very similar style of death metal that takes the unrelated crushing brutality of bands like Morbid Angel and Obituary and adds a few more elements of surprise such as occasional pure thrash metal moments as well as a few industrial elements. The inclusion of keyboards added a bit of atmospheric dread but was used fairly sparingly and only emerges in a few quieter moments. While the band had a few lineup changes on this debut it was Andreas Ibitz (bass/vocals), Christian Bukovac (guitars/backing vocals), Robert Windisch (guitars), Wolfgang Rathgeb (drums) and Gerald Bukovac (keyboard). While the music follows the old school playbook there are a few technical elements that give this one a slightly more complex edge throughout the eight track run but more like early Death complexity rather than some of the later 90s bands like Opeth or Gorguts. For 1996 this album does sound about 5 years too late to the game.

While i doubt SKULL CRUSHER will ever go down in history as having crafted a long lost masterpiece mostly due to the lack of originality as this album sounds way too derivative for its own good, the band members sound like seasoned veterans playing this style of old school death metal due to the fact that the band played live for years before scoring a record contract. This is the perfect sort of album that will delight fans of this style after they’ve exhausted the more popular bands of the era and although SKULL CRUSHER will forever be regarded as a second tier band in the world of death metal where the talent pool is filled to the brim, this is quite an excellent album to check out. Gotta love that perfect album cover too with the molten skulls glowing in the sky! This is recommended for the extremely competent musicianship as every track just kills it with and there are enough variations to keep this album from getting stale. Much better than more revered artists like Massacre and Cannibal Corpse in my opinion.

METALLICA Load

Album · 1996 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 2.73 | 121 ratings
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Vim Fuego
Metallica’s self-titled 1991 album was a big surprise.

Also known as the “Black Album”, it surprised long-time fans in the radical change of musical direction the band took. The cover was a bit of a surprise in its Spinal Tap-like none-more-blackness. The choice of Bob Rock as producer was a big surprise, since Rock was better known for producing metal pretenders like Motley Crüe, not a contender like Metallica. And perhaps the biggest surprise of all was how the popularity of the album absolutely took off. It sold tens of millions of copies, made Metallica a household name, and made a huge impression on metal and rock the world over.

Following up such a monolithic album was always going to be a challenge, but this was a band which had always tackled challenges head on. They had been uncompromising as a young band, hiring and firing who they felt they needed to complete their all-conquering line-up. They soldiered on and recruited a new bass player after the tragic death of Cliff Burton. They didn’t bow to MTV pressure and achieved success on their own terms. And then they created a big, black-clad monster. What came next was anyone’s guess.

And nobody guessed.

Five years after the “Black Album”, “Load” hit the shelves, with a sticky looking cover, made of blood and jizz. Inside the bodily fluid covered cover, there was photographic evidence of haircuts, new wardrobes, and make-up. All this caused a stir even before the album landed. Yes, there had been a single released a few months earlier, the hard-driving “Until It Sleeps”, with its Heironymus Bosch-inspired music video, but it didn’t prepare fans for the massive image shift.

And then the biggest surprise? The music. Of course it was the music. It’s always meant to be about the music. And surprisingly enough, what “Load” served up was an even duller version of the “Black Album”.

There was no return to the thrash roots, as many long-time fans were still vainly hoping for. The heavy was dialed back – there’s nothing that approaches Sad But True’s Godzilla stomp. And there were a few more non-metal shades infecting the music. It sounded like more of the same, but less. And more. More in that this album is too long. It’s an absolute chore to sit through all 79 minutes of it. Towards the end of the album, you find yourself checking “Is it nearly done yet?” Ever done that with Ride the Lightning or Master of Puppets? It seems the band had got too big, and too self-important, and just didn’t know when to fucking stop. And who was going to tell them to?

The album kicks off with “Ain’t My Bitch”, a slightly more up-tempo song than those on the “Metallica” album, but James’ singing seems to have lost its edge. Also, the gut churning bottom end which made up for some of the previous album’s loss of tempo is gone. “Ain’t My Bitch” just ain’t as heavy.

“2x4” swaggers and swings, and Kirk wails on the lead, but it’s ultimately pedestrian. It’s different to what Metallica had ever done before, but it is also unadventurous.

“The House That Jack Built” is more like it. The dark Lovecraftian Gothic shade hinted at by the “Until It Sleeps” single is back. It has some great melodies, it’s has the body-slamming heavy vibe, and there’s even vocal harmonies. There’s some creepy wah pedal effects, along with talk box guitar, popularised by Peter Frampton, and used by Mick Mars on “Kickstart My Heart” – could this be Bob Rock’s influence again?

“Until It Sleeps” is the first outstanding song on the album. It is nightmarish and creepy, heavy and compelling. It uses contrasting dynamics highly effectively, and isn’t ploddingly obvious like some of the other songs here. James Hetfield’s oblique esoteric lyrics are open to interpretation (hint: it's about cancer!), but this definitely isn’t a happy song!

“King Nothing” and “Hero of the Day” are slightly less dark, but both are hard driving, dynamic songs. “King Nothing” harks back to the “Black Album” again, with a big main riff, but with more going on around it, and like “Enter Sandman”, revisits childhood verse in an adult context. “Hero of the Day” mixes soft/loud/soft, light/heavy/light song structure, and builds to an almost thrash mid-section, punctuated by stuttering kick drums from Lars Ulrich. The song includes some of Kirk’s best lead guitar on the whole album, and one of Hetfield’s smoothest vocal performances ever. By the final fade, it feels like Metallica might have pulled it out of the fire, and delivered a good album after all.

Yeah, nah. Didn’t happen. It’s mostly downhill from here.

“Bleeding Me” is just long and boring. Yeah, there’s another big riff, there’s more solos and shit, but it’s all the same damn plodding tempo we’ve already heard.

“Cure” is pure filler that those kings of poorly padded albums KISS would be proud of. What’s the fucking point of this song? It’s a boring shit sandwich of a song, the lowest point on the whole album. It’s only slightly longer than “Fight Fire With Fire”, but feels like it’s never going to end.

“Poor Twisted Me” has a megaphone vocal effect, which is really the most interesting thing about it. Once again, mid-tempo and little purpose. “Wasting My Hate” starts with a bluesy riff and vocal, and threatens to take off, but just settles into that mid-tempo groove again. Every time it seems like it’s going to get good, it gets pulled back from the brink and ends up squarely in mediocre again.

If you make it through those four turgid lumps of over-produced yet half-baked stodge, you’re treated to a diamond in the not-rough-enough. “Mama Said” is a country-tinged ballad. Though they built their reputation on hard charging thrash, Metallica have always been amazing balladeers, because they always avoided the clichés the 80s hair metal bands built their hits around. Metallica always understood when to stomp on the overdrive. The song is fleshed out with multi-tracked vocal harmonies, a string section, and steel guitar. “Mama Said” is heart-felt and emotionally powerful, written about Hetfield’s mother, who died of cancer when he was only 16.

“Thorn Within” once again promises much, and delivers little. There’s simply no risk taken. It drives straight down the middle of the road Metallica have been building for much of this album. “Ronnie” is painful country/blues infused mid-paced metal. Yep, mid-paced. Again. It’s like the whole album is stuck with the handbrake on.

Don’t expect any mercy just because you have reached the end of the album “Outlaw Torn” creeps promisingly, like a bulldozer track, slowly crawling and crushing all beneath it. And finally, what we’d all been waiting years for but heard only sporadically – Jason Newsted prominent in the mix! His subtle but supple bass weaves through the main theme of the song. With all the ostentatious egos and undoubted talent of other band members here, it’s easy to forget what a maestro Metallica had in their bottom end, but here is one of their greatest resources wasted on a meandering fade out to nothing. This song clocks in at nearly 10 minutes long, but apparently is missing the best part of the song cut off the end, because they ran out of space on a CD. You should have dumped one of the other songs, you stupid bastards!

“Load” is what Metallica felt like they had to record. It’s safe and unchallenging. After all, what do you have left to do once you’ve conquered the metal and musical world? You cement your base by delivering more of the same, without alienating or scaring your massive fan base. There IS a good album in here. It’s just it’s buried under an avalanche of pointless detritus.

ALTAR OF PLAGUES White Tomb

Album · 2009 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 9 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
And like an impending pestilence that rains mortality and despair across the lands far and wide, Ireland’s ALTAR OF PLAGUES was unleashed like a potato famine from their cryptic whereabouts in Cork only to bring depressive sonic terror to a doomed planet where nary a ray of light exists behind the toxic clouds of an eternal scourge that extinguishes the silver cord to infinity. Existing somewhere in the murky sonic nebulous worlds of ambient black metal, post-rock and sludgy doom, ALTAR OF PLAGUES is one of those bands that has focused less on tight-knit fiery compositions that display the any trace of melodic songwriting skills and virtuoso dynamism but rather reincarnated from the depths of hell to evoke extreme emotional distress through sonic orotundity.

This band that formed in 2006 released a few demos before casting a more official form of darkness with this debut album WHITE TOMB that reflects a post-apocalyptic angst of bleakness delivered by the lineup of James Kelly (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Jeremiah Spillane (guitars), Dave Condon (bass, vocals) and S. MacAnri (drums). Through four long tracks that range from 10 to 15 minutes, this 50 minute rage-a-thon delivers everything from the classic black metal goods of heavily distorted tremolo guitar riffing along with blastbeats and anguished vocals to ethereal dark ambience that reinforces the gravitational pull of distorted darkness and even allows a few guest vocals from Stephen Lordan and Nathan Misterek to utter their pain every now and again.

This album runs very much in the vein of post-rock with slower cyclical riffs slowly gaining maturity through the elements of incremental tempo gains, dynamic intensity increases and the variations that occur through subtle changes that build to some sort of climactic release after several minutes. ALTAR OF PLAGUES is the epitome of a post-metal paradigm only under the banner of a black metal barrage of the senses. Similar to bands like Wolves In The Throne Room, Fen and Deafhaven, this Irish band excels in long thunderous excursions into noisy cacophonous black metal bombast but also allows a little breathing room with quieter passages that offer hypnotic and reflective moments when the perception of the true horrors of reality are allowed to be cogitated upon at least for a brief respite in time.

Verging on blackgaze at times, ALTAR OF PLAGUES often sounds like a broken record of Deafhaven puncturing a hole in space time with only a spiraling and unstable atmospheric collapse generating the ultimate vibrational recipe to destroy the Schumann resonance and craft an expansive degree to insanity. Long dark winters projected through lengthy blistering tracks evoke a touch of Darkspace or even A Forest Of Stars but somehow the band manages to exist within its own sliver of a spectral paradigm of dark atmospheric blackened metal that laments the realities of oppression, urbanism and ecological collapse. Sounding like the industrial razed wastelands coming to life in pure vitriol, gloomy doom fueled atmospheres lurk like servants of Lord Voldemort whose astral entities are ready for attack following the complete usurpation of the physical realm.

I cannot think of a more appropriate band to experience the distressing and formidable realities of the current state of the world in March 2020 with ghastly demonic forces hiding in every foreseeable nook and cranny of space and time and ready to attack on the astral plane where unwilling victims consent through charlatan subterfuge. Honestly i’m not really sure how to classify WHITE TOMB and ALTAR OF PLAGUES in general. Is it black metal? Sludge metal? Post-metal? Just plain experimental hardcore hued to the darkest tones imaginable? In the end it doesn’t really matter. If you seek a cathartic toxic elixir for bleakness for the times and resonate with sounds so utterly devoid of hope which engage in more depressive vibes than one can stand, then ALTAR OF PLAGUES is what you have been waiting for. Not only has evil come to steal your soul but it demands you worship its very existence and here’s some music to make it all OK.

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