Brendan Schroer
MMA Special Collaborator · Prog/AG, Death, Alt
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 2 days ago

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1438 reviews/ratings
CRADLE OF FILTH - Dusk and Her Embrace Symphonic Black Metal
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS - Siamese Dream Heavy Alternative Rock | review permalink
OPETH - Still Life Progressive Metal
CORRUPTED - Paso Inferior Drone Metal
DEATH - Symbolic Technical Death Metal
GOJIRA - The Way of All Flesh Death Metal
SYMPHONY X - The Divine Wings Of Tragedy Progressive Metal
METALLICA - Master of Puppets Thrash Metal
KREATOR - Pleasure to Kill Thrash Metal
DREAM THEATER - Images and Words Progressive Metal
CYNIC - Focus Technical Death Metal
CYNIC - Traced in Air Progressive Metal
ALICE IN CHAINS - Dirt Alternative Metal
QUEEN - A Night At The Opera Proto-Metal
QUEENSRŸCHE - Operation: Mindcrime Progressive Metal
SLAYER - Reign in Blood Thrash Metal
MEGADETH - Rust in Peace Thrash Metal
PRIMUS - Tales From the Punchbowl Funk Metal
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS - Blood Sugar Sex Magik Non-Metal
FOO FIGHTERS - The Colour and the Shape Heavy Alternative Rock

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Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Progressive Metal 131 3.81
2 Non-Metal 115 3.50
3 Hard Rock 111 3.55
4 Thrash Metal 109 3.77
5 Heavy Metal 101 3.48
6 Death Metal 87 3.82
7 Heavy Alternative Rock 81 3.66
8 Alternative Metal 76 3.67
9 Power Metal 58 3.69
10 Technical Death Metal 46 3.91
11 Melodic Death Metal 45 3.62
12 Metalcore 42 3.01
13 Metal Related 39 3.90
14 Nu Metal 36 3.31
15 Deathcore 36 3.38
16 Proto-Metal 21 3.95
17 Melodic Metalcore 20 3.67
18 Hardcore Punk 20 3.85
19 Groove Metal 18 3.25
20 Technical Thrash Metal 18 4.33
21 US Power Metal 17 3.76
22 Mathcore 17 3.94
23 Black Metal 16 4.06
24 Avant-garde Metal 13 4.04
25 Funk Metal 12 4.04
26 Gothic Metal 12 3.71
27 Sludge Metal 12 4.17
28 Symphonic Black Metal 11 4.00
29 Symphonic Metal 10 3.55
30 Rap Metal 10 3.75
31 Grindcore 10 3.35
32 Glam Metal 9 3.44
33 Brutal Death Metal 8 3.88
34 Crossover Thrash 8 3.69
35 Industrial Metal 8 4.06
36 NWoBHM 7 3.86
37 Drone Metal 7 4.29
38 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 5 4.40
39 Speed Metal 5 4.10
40 Traditional Doom Metal 4 4.25
41 Cybergrind 4 4.13
42 Folk Metal 4 4.38
43 Atmospheric Black Metal 3 4.00
44 Melodic Black Metal 3 4.00
45 Heavy Psych 2 4.00
46 Goregrind 2 3.50
47 Death-Doom Metal 2 4.00
48 Stoner Metal 2 4.00
49 Stoner Rock 1 4.00
50 Viking Metal 1 4.00
51 Doom Metal 1 4.50
52 Funeral Doom Metal 1 4.50
53 Death 'n' Roll 1 3.50

Latest Albums Reviews

KAMELOT The Black Halo

Album · 2005 · Power Metal
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As someone who grew up with classical piano training, I can’t overestimate how much that very genre influenced me in my upbringing. Even when I entered more aggressive styles of music such as metal, I often gravitated more towards progressive metal because of the long complex arrangements and overblown suites. Call it being pretentious if you’d like (it kinda was), but bands like Symphony X, Dream Theater, and Vanden Plas were a major influence on my development as a musician for those very reasons. But the problem with many of those bands is that they often lacked the more emotional side in favor of that complexity and technical skill (especially post-2000s Dream Theater, if we’re referring to the bands above). I was always looking for a group that balanced both the technical and emotional sides more equally, one that could be heard both holistically and in-depth.

Then Kamelot came along.

While Epica was an amazing leap forward for the band in its own right, The Black Halo is a different story altogether. Mixing elements of progressive metal, power metal, symphonic metal, and opera, the album is a bombastic declaration that Kamelot was willing to take the metal world by storm. But the thing that instantly makes it stand out is that the record’s story - a continuation of the Heinrich Faust story started in Epica - is told in a way that never seems over-the-top or cheesy. Vocalist Roy Khan (four albums in his tenure by this point) studied opera singing for three years, and it shows in his time with the band. His voice is consistently gripping and simply drips with emotion, whether he’s letting out intense wails or performing at a low whisper. The instrumental passages that compliment his vocal work, are also beautifully laid out for the listener, blending technical riffing with a dark and even gothic atmosphere.

It’s refreshing to see that The Black Halo knows when to end its songs too, opting out of the oft-used progressive metal approach of throwing in bloated epics just for the sake of it. The only track here that’s relatively long, “Memento Mori,” actually deserves the runtime because of the phenomenal piano intro and intense symphonic buildup into the meat of the song. The shorter songs - particularly “Soul Society,” “When the Lights Are Down,” and “This Pain” - are great examples of displaying the band’s incredibly tight songwriting and exploring their more aggressive dynamics. Thomas Youngblood’s guitar presence runs deep through the record, primarily in his intricate and nimble riffing over the solid rhythm section. But he’s often tempered by both Miro’s piano work and Roy Khan’s vocals, which brings a neat sense of balance to the record. This is best heard in “Moonlight,” where we hear a one-note riff that practically resembles a breakdown, until it makes way for the gorgeous piano verses and some subtle hi-hats in the background. It’s a fantastic contrast, to say the least.

But that’s what makes this album so great: contrast. Just as the album’s story is brimming with so many different emotions and moods, the band’s methods of conveying them are just as varied. Granted, a good chunk of this album is pretty melancholic and gothic in tone, but the diversity of the songwriting and instrumental work are great nonetheless. Just listen to the opener “March of Mephisto”; as the name implies, this is a downright stately and thunderous metal anthem that even features the legendary black metal singer Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir) on guest vocals to give the chorus a bit more grit. But it immediately transitions into the power metal majesty of the fast-paced “When the Lights Go Down” and that’s when you know the record won’t be one-note, something that’s solidified by the depressing power ballad that follows, “The Haunting.” But when it comes to the band’s softer side, I highly recommend “Abandoned,” quite possibly one of the most tragic and beautiful piano ballads in rock music. Khan’s vocals are so passionate and heartbreaking that the song simply becomes entrancing, only helped by Mary Youngblood’s guest vocals and the classical piano arrangement that anchors it all.

If Karma and Epica were high artistic achievements for Kamelot, The Black Halo is the album that represented them at their absolute peak. In fact, I’d argue that this is the best power metal album ever made, as well as one of the top five progressive metal albums ever made. The way it pours its emotions out to the listener while maintaining its composure and vicious instrumental prowess is fucking stunning. It’s gothic, it’s dark, it’s atmospheric, and the band members certainly knew how to convey those traits at the best of their abilities while retaining the qualities that can make progressive metal so enjoyable. I can’t say it enough: this is metal at its best.

KATATONIA Dead End Kings

Album · 2012 · Alternative Metal
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"At night, walking on the tracks, change my perspective..."

That is, indeed, a lyric from the album. However, it's also a quick summation of when I realized Katatonia's greatest strengths as a band. One cloudy evening, many years ago, I parked my car and proceeded to walk to a bass lesson by my jazz instructor. As I crossed the tracks, I listened to Dead End Kings for the very first time on my phone and headphones. As I looked at my surroundings, every color seemed to melt into a muted blend of gray and black through the sheer power of musical atmosphere. The mix of crunchy downtuned guitar riffing and cinematic keyboards found in opener "The Parting" felt like a gradual descent into a different state of being altogether; hell, I felt like I was just teleported somewhere else entirely. Now, keep in mind that I was already a fan of Katatonia by this point. I was a big fan of Viva Emptiness and The Great Cold Distance and the way they combined crushing alternative metal riffs with a melancholic vibe. But something about this experience was distinctly different.

On the more concrete side of things, the most notable aspect of Dead End Kings is that it symbolizes Katatonia's evolution into a progressive rock/metal act. There were always hints here and there, but this is the first time we get to hear those moments in a more fleshed-out way. Tempos are more varied, the rhythms are a bit more intricate, and as stated before, some cinematic synthesizers have been thrown in (and utilized more effectively than on Night is the New Day, as far as I'm concerned). Some songs practically ditch metal altogether, such as the soft palm-muted electric guitar chug of "The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here" or the melodious, textured doom rock (if "doom rock" is a real tag) of "Undo You." A few other experiments are brought on board too, like the strange piano-led swing rhythm of "Leech," the snare drum dominance of the more technically-challenging "Hypnone," and the fantastic inclusion of electronic ornaments to the music of "The Racing Heart." And what does all of this do for the band's sound? Exactly what it should be doing: giving us one of the most atmospheric releases yet by this band. It should probably be clear by this point that when I wrote: "Katatonia's greatest strength's," atmosphere was at the top of that list. And the reason Dead End Kings remains one of my favorite Katatonia albums is because the progressive elements gave them even more ways to experiment with the general atmosphere of their music. Add on top of this some of their most dynamic traditional bangers, such as "Ambitions" and "Dead Letters," and the experience is practically impossible to not recommend. A night on the tracks changed my perspective indeed.

BODOM AFTER MIDNIGHT Paint the Sky with Blood

EP · 2021 · Melodic Death Metal
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A lot of great musicians left us over the past year, but Alexi Laiho’s death hit me harder than the others. Growing up as a classical pianist, Children of Bodom’s second record Hatebreeder was the album that showed me just how well music theory could be integrated into metal. Amidst the soaring guitar solos and harsh vocals, there lay a goldmine of tightly performed melodies and intricate riffs that almost seemed progressive at times. Laiho was at the heart of it all, of course, and was just as influenced by the classical greats such as Mozart and Beethoven as he was by neo-classical guitar heroes like Yngwie Malmsteen. But it’s also important to remember how hook-laden these songs were (and are); despite the complexity and craftsmanship, albums like Hatebreeder and Follow the Reaper were anything but mere riff salad. Somehow the songs were just as catchy as they were technically impressive, and the gothic atmosphere definitely played into this as well. And while the band hit a rough patch of declining quality, 2013’s Halo of Blood and 2019’s Hexed gave me plenty of hope for their future. But alas, it wasn’t meant to last.

With that said, what we have here is the sole EP by Laiho’s newly formed band Bodom After Midnight, who understandably disbanded after his passing. Despite the change in band name, Paint the Sky With Blood is exactly what you would expect from a latter-day Children of Bodom offering. Power metal with harsh vocals, catchy but aggressive. The tracklist is very small, only featuring two originals and one Dissection cover; however, the material is still of a reasonably high quality throughout. The opening title track is a fun - if pretty standard - melo-death anthem with all the stuff you’d expect from a Laiho project: blazing solos, anthemic “FIGHT” chants, and a nice layer of synth action to cap things off. In fact, the slow bridge in the middle is quite reminiscent of the bridge in Follow the Reaper’s title track, which can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Meanwhile, “Payback’s a Bitch” is more in the thrashy vein of Children of Bodom’s middle-era albums, but with a healthy dose of melodicism that saves it from being just a boring chugfest. The guitar and keyboard solos absolutely tear it up, and sound absolutely wicked when performed over the rapid-fire drumming. Finally, we have the cover of Dissection’s “Where Dead Angels Lie”, which manages to be a worthy cover while retaining the classic “Bodom” style. The dark and frigid atmosphere works especially well, especially during the whispered parts in the middle section; the song as a whole doesn’t do away with the sinister edge of the original track, instead expanding upon it with a more touched-up production and dark echo-swathed clean guitars.

Paint the Sky With Blood provides an interesting look into what kind of music we could have gotten if Alexi Laiho had lived longer. There’s some really solid stuff here, even if we didn’t get a whole lot of material to listen to. Fans of Children of Bodom will feel right at home with these fun melodic death metal tunes, and the accessible songwriting might just draw in some new fans as well. If you have 15 minutes to spare and want to hear some solid metal tunes with some neo-classic elements and a melodic edge, you can’t really go wrong with this album.

R.I.P. Alexi Laiho - 1979-2020


Album · 1981 · Non-Metal
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Perhaps one of the most polarizing classic rock groups, Bay Area stalwarts Journey were always gradually creeping toward their commercial peak, even during the Gregg Rolie years. Even Next, the last record with Rolie behind the mic, was integrating hints of straightforward AOR into the already-established jazz fusion rock sound. Around that time, it was no surprise that the band would look for a frontman like Steve Perry to kick things up a notch, considering the first three efforts didn't exactly impress the general public.

As with most bands in the whole AOR niche, however, Journey's music got so simplistic compared to the 1975-1977 days that the Rolie-era fans were blown back a little. The following era is exactly what made (and makes) Journey so polarizing, just as the commercial days of Genesis fared. However, whereas Genesis's big hit record Abacab was exceptionally weak (even by 80's pop standards), Journey's smash album Escape from 1981 actually injects a nice dose of instrumental proficiency and solid songwriting into its commercial formula.

To get it out of the way, no write-up of this thing can go without mentioning the lead single "Don't Stop Believin'," which has clearly been played, covered, and parodied to death. The uplifting E Major piano line that begins the tune is practically an iconic piece of classic rock history, as is the harmonized chorus ending the song. Every time I go back to this song, there's always a strong sense of nostalgia in the recording style and flair, a quality that many Journey songs seem to possess; it might be because of the very clear yet almost murky atmosphere underneath the wailing guitar solos and soaring vocals. In short, it essentially feels vintage.

What's unfortunate is that plenty of songs are often overlooked, mainly because of the hits like "Don't Stop Believin'," "Stone in Love," and "Open Arms." While they're all solidly-written pieces of AOR music, many people won't even know or remember other great songs such as the hard-hitting title track, the emotional ballad "Mother, Father," or the slightly progressive "Keep On Runnin'". The other thing to mention in this regard is the aforementioned technical proficiency given the genre these guys are playing in. Ross Valory's fretless (!) bass work is certainly worth a mention for how he can bend his instrument's role between subtly leading the group and providing a solid backbone for Neal Schon's guitar work. Steve Smith's role on the drums shouldn't be underestimated either; Smith is a heavily accomplished jazz fusion drummer, and the way he integrates such a musical background into Escape makes for very smooth dynamic shifts and swift fills weaving in and out of the other instruments. That said, I don't think Neal Schon or Steve Perry need an introduction, being two of the most talented people in classic rock music. Between Neal Schon's fiery guitar leads and Steve Perry's soaring vocals and impressive range, the whole package is very solid all-around.

So what's bad about all this? First off, there's a pretty dull patch in the middle, songs like the droning "Still They Ride" and the rockers "Lay It Down" and "Dead or Alive" aren't exactly impressive and feel more like filler than genuine efforts by the band. Also, the lyrics are pretty cheesy by today's standards, much of the love talk managing to get a good chuckle out of me. Remember that line from "The Girl is Mine" by Michael Jackson that said "because the doggone girl is mine"? That kind of lyricism is thrown about here, many cliches being pulled out instead of full-on emotion. Some ballads like the beautiful "Open Arms" don't fall into this trap, but it is still a pretty annoying hindrance for the album as a whole. Finally, the song structures also start to get pretty old, most songs opting for very similar means of progression to each other when placed side-to-side. This especially happens in the rockers, and all the end-of-song fade-outs out only add to this point (the fade-outs especially get pretty obnoxious after a while).

If you can get past those things, though, the album is a pretty great piece of breezy AOR music. No matter how polarizing Journey are, Escape is surely worth at least one listen. If you enjoy the fun side of rock, expect listening to this album a lot on roadtrips... or any car trip for that matter.

EVERY TIME I DIE Last Night In Town

Album · 2001 · Metalcore
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Chapter I: Bursting at the Seams

If there’s anything I can say about Every Time I Die’s debut right off the bat, it’s this: the band doesn’t make you wait. Last Night in Town immediately unleashes a flurry of piss and vinegar with the chaotic “Emergency Broadcast Syndrome”, a song that serves as a perfect thesis statement for the record to follow. Explosive screamed vocals from frontman Keith Buckley are met with instrumental work that’s equal parts brutal and technical, with the result sounding pretty similar to The Dillinger Escape Plan’s landmark release Calculating Infinity at times. Essentially, what you get here is a fusion of the confessional and cathartic lyrics of screamo with the calculated and complex rhythms of mathcore; excellent stuff.

For the most part, these elements extend to the rest of Last Night in Town. I certainly have to commend the musicians for displaying a high level of skill throughout the record while maintaining such energy at the same time. There’s some pretty intricate stuff going on here, whether it’s the dissonant guitar stabs that pervade the majority of “Jimmy Tango’s Method” or the ADD-riddled grooves and chugs of “Punch-Drunk Punk Rock Romance”. Jordan Buckley and Andrew Williams have excellent chemistry with their guitar parts, sounding interlocked and deliberate even in the most unhinged moments of the album. Keith Buckley, meanwhile, shreds his vocal chords relentlessly throughout the whole thing; there’s not a ton of variety in his vocal work here, but he still compliments the intensity of the music nicely. However, my favorite moment on the album vocally is the middle section of “Here’s Lookin’ at You”. Buckley drops the screams and goes for downtrodden clean vocals, giving the song a much more somber and even foreboding atmosphere.

Speaking of variation, we also get a few interludes and atmospheric moments here and there to let the listener breathe. Not that these moments are full-on respites, as they maintain the same dark and unsettling atmosphere; “Enter Without Knocking and Notify the Police” is a dissonant instrumental that conveys a sense of dread with just a few chord progressions (and an off-kilter rhythm), while the outro of “Nothing Dreadful Ever Happens” is a melancholic piano piece that lets one reflect on the craziness that just ensued throughout the rest of the song. Unfortunately, there’s still not enough variation on the record. After a while, much of Last Night in Town becomes a blur of math-y time signatures and heavy grooves, with not a whole lot tying it all together. More moments like “Enter Without Knocking…” should have been placed within the heavier tracks to give them more diversity. But with how the songs are now, the entire album is cranked up to 11 and doesn’t let up nearly enough to let you take in your surroundings.

Still, I think I know what Every Time I Die were going for with their debut. A lot of metalcore bands tend to go as hard as possible on their first records before expanding stylistically down the line, and I get the sense that this is the case with Last Night in Town. It’s the sound of a band trying to prove themselves with an embryonic-yet-impressive first showing, and as a first attempt, they succeeded in a hell of a lot of places. The musicianship is fantastic, the energy is electric, and the atmosphere is often chilling. Last Night in Town may be flawed, but it’s one hell of a start for these guys.

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted 16 days ago in Andrew W.K. (United States)
    Alright, just forwarded your request to the hard rock team, so we'll see what they say 
  • Posted 32 days ago in Andrew W.K. (United States)
    Personally I agree, although I think it'll be a matter of taking this up with one of the people from the hard rock team. Honestly, I'm actually a bit surprised that he isn't on the site yet. 
  • Posted 10 months ago in My New Classical Composition!
    I posted this on ProgArchives as well, so I'll copy and paste what I typed there:So I've recently been writing a lot of my own music, including composing some pieces. I figure I've been reviewing long enough that I'd might as well incorporate my influences into some original music. Anyway, this is a piece I just wrote the other day; I'm starting to experiment more with different time signatures and extra instrumentation. Hope you enjoy! The play button is on the score itself when you click the link Necrotica2021-02-02 20:16:23


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