Nordmen - Nordmen EP (Band Request 2011) - After I reviewed that disc from Qubec's Brume d'Atome, and gave it such a standing ovation so to speak; in terms of review, (because it was really that good) I was sent this album. It's the bass player from that band's solo project, called Nordmen. Originally released last year, this disc still kicks a great deal of ass and it was just as good as the Brume D'Atome album was.
Though only three tracks, this solo project from a fellow by the name of Athros is a great listen for fans of traditional black metal. It still contains the folky nature of the greats, and comes packed with a shitload of wonderful melodies, which is really one of the reasons that I like black metal so much in the first place. There's such an air of aggression on tracks like the opener, "Funeste Destinee 6:54" but the fact that the guy also incorporates traditional folk instruments (and no keyboards) really helps to make this whole experience as organic as possible. I'm sure if he could've achieved the same process, he would've recorded this on wax with the use of as little electricity as possible.
It's very nature centered music, filled with the same kind of great atmospheres that Burzum was so damned good at. You'll hear some fantastic and well thought out riffs, real drumming, and everything else completely done all by just this one man. Guest vocals were provided by Weathertimelord, but Athros can handle his own regardless. His scowls are perfect, sounding just like they came from the frost bitten lands of Immortal. But this isn't even anywhere close to Norway. It's in Quebec.
Black metal purists should love this stuff, and even though I'm not a purist myself, I can understand that the raw quality of the music (but everything is still audible, especially the folk instruments which sound great) really helps to keep that animalist feeling that I described of black metal while reviewing Mgla. There is something very primitive, very earthen to black metal, and for those who think it's just silly, you really need to further examine the genre. This is truly the music of nature itself, and even though it might sound evil or Satanic by some, not all bands subscribe to that philosophy.
Sure the church may shun on human nature, and black metal and it's animalism, but that's because it tries to keep us away from the beasts that we really are. No man is any more than any other man nor woman in this world, and listening to the raw emotion and melodies on this disc further explores that point. Sure, you might have to turn it up a little to hear it, but it's definitely worth it that you do.
Athros is one hell of a musician. How many of you out there can do the same all by yourself? He really had a point to get across with this music, a message to spread, and even if you can't understand the lyrics, the music spells it out just as well.
If you've been searching for the true spirit of black metal, it's right here. So check it out. This guy did some amazing work in 21:00, so you really should give it a listen. Don't let the music, nor the message die.
I can't find fault with any of these tracks, but I wish that the disc was longer. Other than that, it's damn near perfect.
EDIT: I have just been informed that Athros doesn't just play bass in Brume D'Atomne. Rather he is accredited with playing just about all of the instruments, right down to wooden spoons. Nordmen was also his first project, with the Vertus Guerrieres LP in 2003. One could even say that the genre movement was even created by him, as the genre tag "Metal Noire Quebecois" was originally the title of a 2006 Fortesse album, for which he wrote the lyrics and performed the vocals. I apologize for the mis-information, and please check out his entire discography is you this or the Brume D'Atomne release that I reviewed earlier.
Complete Discography of Athros Listed Here: http://www.metal-archives.com/artists/Athros/14931
(3 Tracks, 21:00)
Deserted Fear - My Empire (PR2012) - I'll be honest. When I saw the very generic cover for this album, I was almost dreading to listen to it. And that's because album covers like this tend to lead to retreads.
However, this is NOT the case. These Germans have the right idea towards death metal, and deliver it dripping with blood and gore. Just the way that I like it. Dan Swano had his hand in mixing this album and just like the Revel In Flesh album Deathevokation; he really brought out the fire in this disc. The vocals are pummeling, the guitars pummeling, the drums pummeling, everything on this fucking disc pummels.
According to the promo material, these guys are young. But that doesn't mean that they don't know what they're doing. I'm hearing nothing but a classic slab of death metal here, and my aged ears appreciate every bit of it. If I eventually go deaf from this shit, at least I know that I had a damned good time with my ears. I also need to mention that the band mixes classic American and Scandinavian death metal together to make a rather brutal and catchy mix of the two. Which is certainly what I'm hearing here.
The melodies are powerful, there's bits of technicality and the drums are just doing the same old thing. This doesn't really sound completely like the old days, and that's a good thing. There are even some bits of prog in a couple of these songs, if you'll listen closely. Guitar solos are also abound on this disc, and the majority of them are pretty damned good. Whether these guys are singing about "Nocturnal Frags 3:53", or a "Field Of Death 4:58" or even a "Morbid Infection 4:24" they seem to know how to deliver.
The disc will actually give you around 42 minutes of death metal, and you should appreciate every minute of it. Yes, the vocals are still a little green; but it's definitely a step in the right direction. I would very much have to describe that part of the band as being a very garbage-mouthed vocal, that I'm not even sure if I can emulate, but I would definitely like to try.
If you're looking for even more great death metal to suit your palette, look no further than these guys, their killer production, and their true sense of savagery. From the first listen to the very last song, these young guys prove that they know what real death metal is supposed to sound like. Fans of Immolation, early Morbid Angel, and Dismember should like this.
Oh... for some unexpected early Amon Amarth influence, check out the closer "Bury Your Dead 7:40" which probably sounds better than anything the band by that name has ever done. The song made me want to do the whole Viking style headbang, but I just realized that I was missing the beard...
Note to self: Stop shaving.
Highlights: Skip the intro. Listen to the rest. (10 Tracks, 42:00)
Eugenic Death - Crimes Against Humanity (PR2012) - Well, I don't have much info on these guys, other than the fact that they're thrash metal in it's fiercest sense. Don't expect anything more than thrash, because this is what these four guys do, and they do it right. The quality of the disc isn't actually perfect, but you can fucking hear it and it's heavy. I'm sure that old school thrashers will feel right at home.
How can I compare this? Slayer, Destruction, early Metallica, Testament, early Sepultura, exc. You guys get the idea. The vocals can somewhat have a deathy bark, and that works well for the band. But so do the fucking guitar solos. Even if some of the songs on here don't exactly kill, the solos on this disc do. Each and every one of them is badass, especially the instrumental "Epitaph 5:50" which offers the kind of metal instrumental that some of us hear in our dreams.
There's two songs on here that especially strike a note with me. Those songs are "Medication Time 4:54" and "The Devil Waits 3:37." I think every time that I hear about fucking medicine and doctors and hospitals, I'm going to remember this song: "You've got problems, they will treat you, step inside, medication time!" I've always been wary of medication, so I don't take too much of it, and a doctor prescribed me something for stress one time that probably would've fucking killed me if I continued to take it. Hence the end of the song, where the verse changes to "they will kill you." Medicines are full of so many side effects these days that might as well play death or black metal in the background of the commercials when they announce them. "This shit can kill you, if you take it all."
As for the next song, "The Devil Waits 3:37" well, it just has a great Slayer reference and every time that I heard "The Devil Waits!" I would raise my fist in the air. This is just great stuff, old school and full of thunder.
There's actually a 7:50 track at the end of this thing called "The Practice 7:20" and it sort of reminds me of Iced Earth in some areas with their signature chugging. But as far as I'm concerned, these guys get out there and showcase their influences, and their influences are good. The disc might sound like a retread, but that's because it is. But that's not a bad thing. If you can do thrash justice, like these guys can; then I don't care how much re-treading you do.
I can't give this a 9 or 10, because it's nothing mind-blowing or original, and some of the songs miss the mark. But there are some great songs on here with some great messages about our fucked up healthcare system in the states, which is where these guys are from. I'm not even going to tell you how much money I owe to our healthcare "system." What a fucking joke.
If you're in the mood for some great old school thrash that won't disappoint, check these guys out. There's definitely more thrash here than on the new Testament disc.
Highlights: Crimes Against Humanity, Medication Time, The Devil Waits, Epitaph, The Practice (7 Tracks, 38:00)
Evil Entourage - The Opposition (PR2012) - These Mexican death metallers have taken Mexico by storm. They've got several full length discs under their belt, but this is not one of them. It's just an MCD, something to get the band's name out worldwide, sort of like a sampler. The disc contains six tracks and only runs about 19 minutes. There are four main songs, one interlude and a bonus track at the end, even though it is not named as such.
The style of the band is very much in the vein of brutal death metal, with blasting drums and gravelly growls. The riffs thunder, but sometimes let onto melody. But the overall effect of the release is to smash your face in, and that's what they do here. The lyrics are all in English, mostly consisting of anti-religious sentiments. Yes, you've heard this sort of thing before; but it's done relatively well here.
I think that fans of technical death and brutal death will come to appreciate this modernized mix of the two, and while these guys are young and don't necessarily have the sort of power that the music should carry, there are some good ideas utilized on it. It's honestly not the best death metal disc that I've ever heard, but it's not exactly horrible either. Time and effort was put into this disc, and I'll say that much.
The bonus track is "Eternal Disease 3:28" and it wasn't recorded in a studio, which is it's downfall. It sounds like the guy threw his vocals on a band instrumental, which is what I've done; but I try to mix that shit so it doesn't sound so overbearing, and the vocals were way too overbearing. They drowned pretty much everything out, and they were a little weaker than what's on the rest of the disc. So it's forgettable.
The only tracks worth checking out on this disc are the first five. Even the little intro "Oblitus Fidei 1:38" is actually worth listening to. But it would've made a better intro, than just an intermission piece. I mean, this is only an MCD, so a short intro breaking right into the music would've been fine. I also personally think that the bonus track should've just been a regular track at the of the disc and should have been recorded in the studio like the rest of them were. It's just a little bit lazy, is all I'm saying.
If you're interested in the band, there's a video for "Swathe To Bind 3:45" which is one of the album's better tracks. I'm sure it's on youtube, so go check it out. They say that any promotion is good promotion, so maybe there's somebody who checks out this blog, that'll be into them.
But I'm not yet convinced.
(6 Tracks, 19:00)
Hellwell - Beyond The Boundaries Of Sin (PR2012) - This odd, but interesting disc is a side project from members of Manilla Road. I don't have much more information that that, unfortunately - but it's all about the music at the end of the day. This keyboard laden progressive doom metal band is obsessed with classic horror, and opens the disc right up with "The Strange Case Of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes 4:50" which isn't a long track, but the time is utilized well enough that it seems much longer. This is the hook that really grabs the listener, and I was quite impressed with the use of some death metal growls in addition to the mad scientist vocals. That's really the best way I can describe the approach of this album. Oh, there's also some very scratchy, but very good solos on this thing too.
Oddly enough, when I got this promo (and if I'm telling some info that folks aren't supposed to know, please inform me next time) the tracks are oddly numbered as 1,3,5,7,9,11,and 13. It's a certainly ODD way to get your tracks, but if I'm missing any music, I'm sure that's because the band may have not wanted the whole disc available for promotion. Either that, or they just thought it'd be cool to number the tracks like that, and screw up this poor reviewer's head in doing so.
Nevertheless, you're getting some well thought-out music that is certainly heavy, but quite as slow as you'd expect. There are slower, doomier tracks here; but "Eaters Of The Dead 6:01" for example is much jauntier and has bits of thrash. The track that follows it, "Keepers Of The Devil's Inn 6:08" also contains the same amount of kick that stops this from oozing around like some sort of king slime.
Despite that the overall quality of the disc is raw and could have benefited heavily from higher production value, I still feel that what the band does here is certainly superb. The atmospheres that they weave with these songs really draw you into them. Once again, there is certainly a kick of thrash in this music, but the deep and interesting croons really help to make this album something of a journey. There is so much innovation on this disc, that it's a shame the production couldn't be better. Even if everything sounds incredibly static-laden, the effort on this release is just the sort of thing I'd expect from gentlemen who are attempting to evolve the great structure of doom perfected by bands like early Sabbath and Candlemass.
If I'll mention one thing about this disc that stands out, other than the keyboards of course; it would most certainly have to be the guitar work. Solos are hidden in every nook and cranny of this Dungeons & Dragon labyrinth, that the band has tried to create with their sound, and every time that you find one of these solos, it's always an experience booster.
Now I'm not sure if this is a new band, or just a re-issue of an old classic by our good friends at Shadow Kingdom. (I seriously can't thank you guys enough for unearthing old gems!) But either way, this is one journey that I didn't mind taking. But the icing on the cake? Well, that's the band's III part Acheronomicon saga. It's 25 minutes altogether, with the closer, "End Of Days" being 13:41 of atmosphere and yes, metal. They didn't just give you an earful of bizarre sound waves, but those are certainly apparent at the beginning. As a matter of fact, this tour-de-force starts out with something that you just don't hear everyday from the metal genre, though I'm sure countless bands have attempted it.
If these guys are 90's metal, than they've done most of the prog stuff that most bands claim to be the progenitors of nowadays. But kiddies, that's why you've got to go check out the old stuff. There have been a multitude of bands throughout the years with many great releases just like this, that got cast off and forgotten about due to the torrent of more popular bands. But then when some young upstarts come along and think of how cool it would be to mix prog, doom, thrash and atmospheres together and every loves it... Well, just remember that these gentlemen were doing it while those guys were still in school.
Absolutely essential, even if it's scratchy. I cannot recommend this album enough. Get over the production and give this a good listen. Hellwell is one of the more unique bands that I've heard in quite a while. I'm sure they'll go great with your Altar Of Oblivion doom metal stew.
Just look for the album with the jade statue of almighty Dagon on the cover. You can't miss it.
Highlights: All (7 Tracks, 47:00)
Savage Annihilation - Cannibalisme, Hérésie Et Outres Sauvageries (PR2012) - This experimental death metal album from French two piece Savage Annihilation is translated as "Cannibalism, Heresy, And Other Savageries." I don't even know much French, but I was able to translate some of the song titles relatively easy. But you could care less about my French. You're more worried about the album.
Well, it is death metal in the most extreme form. Being that many of the words in the song titles translate to "mound of vermin, The Catacombs Of Abomination Pt.1 & II, The March Of The Dead, Ocean Of Putridity, something Decomposition, and I think I can get the words "tomb" and "blood" from the last track" you soon get the idea that this is blood and guts, brutal death metal. But it's done surprisingly well, with some unique melodies, wonderful drumming and some unforeseen catchiness. "The Catacombs Of Abomination Pt.1 3:33" for example, has this great vocal chorus at the end that stands out rather well, and might make you want to go check out the track again.
The riffs are grisly, the drums are bolstered with blood, and the dual vocal approach of gravel and scowls are just perfect. Yes, we've heard this sort of thing before, but this band does it very well. This is one of those discs that people who were upset with the new Cryptopsy might find some hope in. I'm actually hearing a lot of Flo's style here, but some of you might think that you can hear a little too much of the drums. At times, it sounds like he's pounding on tin drums.
Whatever these guys crafted in 40 minutes, it's put a lot of other death metal bands of the same ilk to shame. I also really like that these guys sound like they're completely insane on the vocals. Sometimes it's that amount of fierce maliciousness on the record that really makes it stick out. You could be sitting in a room with your buddies and all the sudden, you'll say to them, "you want to hear some guys that sound like they're absolutely fucking insane?"
Oh yeah. This is that band. There are definitely bands that fake this type of insanity, but combined with the precision and ADD sense that this death metal has, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck. Even though I'm going to try to promote these guys as best I can, I have a feeling that it'll be awhile before these guys really hit with the rest of the metal scene.
At least give "Dévoré par l'humanité 7:29" a chance. I think that translates to "Devouring Of Humanity 7:29" but whatever the fuck it is, it's absolutely great. They stuffed about a billion different tempos into that one track, and it's fearless on delivery. That's the kind of sheer resilience that I want to hear in death metal. These guys set out to make something that sounds different from the rest of the pack. Not everything is fucking perfect, (Could you speak up on "The March Of The Dead 5:35?) but these two are definitely trying, and are succeeding where bands with more members have failed.
I'm also going to tell you that the production on this release is quite good. I mean, it's not crystal clear, but you'll be able to hear everything perfectly and the mix is great, overall. If you really like drums and originality, I think you'll definitely dig this, and I seriously have to recommend this to fans of Cryptopsy. To tell you the truth, I recommend that Cryptopsy check out these guys.
There's room for improvement, but again... this is just two musicians. Can you and your buddy pull this off? Didn't think so.
You know what? This is a perfect gift. Give this to a teenager in your school who's obsessed with Black Veil Brides, or Asking Alexandria. I think I saw a young man with a shirt of theirs at the mall while I was enjoying a meal on my lunch break. I was tempted to holler in loud retort, "Asking Alexandria is NOT metal!" but I refrained from such childishness.
Regardless, I feel that we have a mission as true metal fans to give this type of music to those who desperately need to hear it. Whitechapel? That's not death metal, is it? Hand them one of these. There you go. Just changed somebody's life.
Highlights: Tracks 3-8 (10 Tracks, 40:00)
Turbocharged - Christ Zero (PR2012) - First of all, this band probably has one of the worst band names I've ever heard. You might expect some kind of electronic something out of these guys, but they're definitely death metal. The idea was born during some drunken binges in 2000, but they've been through plenty of members before recording their first full length in 2010.
The band was asked to record an album for Chaos Records, and this is that album; an MCD entitled "Christ Zero." But I'll have to be honest about this 23 minutes of music (minus the tiny interludes and into track) that at full length fills up 25 minutes. It very much still feels like a demo in nature, but definitely has some promise.
Obviously, it's got an anti-religious message all throughout, but the metal itself is good enough. Yeah, that's about all I can say. I mean, it's the kind of disc that you'll think is good a couple of times, but you won't just continuously listen to it. The quality is kind of raw, but not too raw - it's just right. But that's the same think about this disc. It's very lukewarm.
Everything feels like half an album. It's catchy death metal, but the drums are just kind of there and the riffs are alright, I guess. The vocals unleash some good barks and there are good tracks like "In Heaven There Is No Hatred 5:41" and technical closer, "G-Tox." But let's be honest here. This is just five songs from a band that could've released five more.
I just think the drums need to pound more, the riffs need to be a little more audible and the vocals need to be toned down a bit. Yes, there's some solos on the album, and they do a good job in that department. The band clearly has I've said, promise - but they still need some time to gel. The bad thing about this one, is that it's just not strong enough. It reminds me a lot of bands like Grave, Kataklysm, Unleashed, general Swe-death but with bells and whistles.
Nonetheless, I think that the vocalist Ronnie Ripper has a lot to offer here. He's got an interesting bark that's not quite a growl, but it carries it's own sort of viciousness with it that makes it stand out. You can hear each and every one of his words here, but you can pretty much guess the lyrics to this one.
If you want to hear a unique and really take on death metal vocals, check this out. If this guy leaves the band, I'll be pissed. Maybe they'll get a full album done in 2013. They've got their own studio. At least, that's what the promo information says.
There's certainly worse out there. Check it out. if you like it, then buy it!
Highlights: In Heaven There Is No Hatred, G-Tox(11 Tracks, 25:00)
(This is the old album cover, I couldn't find any recent uploads of the new design in a small enough image format.)
Wanderer - Bypassing The Abyss (PR2012) - This is basically a two man black metal project originally started in 2003. This album is the only result of that project, a disc long forgotten and originally released in 2004.
My press release really sums up all the necessary information on the band:
"In 2004, the band recorded their first album, Минуя Бездну [Bypassing the Abyss], which was released by Magik Art (Russia). The album was written and recorded over a five month span in 2003. The drums were recorded in the apartment on the third floor of a five-storey house to the "joy" of neighbors and residents of the house across the street. The drums furiously roared day by day till the moment when all tracks were recorded. Inhabitants of the house, probably, also sighed with relief when the record session finished, but it was in vain: it was just the beginning.
Mysterion trained his vocal skills in the forest, where he also enjoyed to paint his pictures. When he sang it was said that glassware danced on the shelves of a nearby pub. While working on the album, unexpected health problems overtook the vocalist and nearly brought the entire process to an untimely end. Heroic libations before the recording stood as an anesthetic agent and granted Mysterion the strength to push through until the last track was recorded. Thus, without looking at vicissitudes of life, the album was ready. A portion of the album's vocal parts were recorded in the woods and caves of Slavyanogorsk (Ukraine), with use of natural cave reverberation and natural wood compression.
On the way to the label via snail mail, the master-CD was scratched and was delivered for replication with defects in the form of clicks. Soon after the issue of this album, the label collapsed and the album didn't get any wide distribution and attention."
Damn. This thing was almost cursed from beginning to end. The musician barely finished it due to his health, and then the master somehow got scratched, and then to top it all off, the label collapses and the album sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Fortunately, the band decided to bring it back to the public, in the hopes that somebody out there will support the work that one of these guys nearly died trying to make.
But after all the fuss, the disc really doesn't sound like the best black metal that I've ever heard. It's fierce and raw black metal, but it's also very bland. Song after song brings one a complete sense of what to expect. There are some interesting keyboard works in the disc, but it's very noisy for the most part, sounding like a bunch of guys trying to make noise. I do feel that fans of the traditional kvlt black metal scene might embrace this, unless you're against bands who aren't of the Norwegian black metal ilk.
However, there are two tracks that did manage to capture my full attention. These tracks are the interestingly atmospheric "Angel Bury 10:00" and the tracks right after it, "The Underworld 8:21." The first of these was literally recorded in a cave, you can hear the wildlife all about; and the reverberations off the cave walls. Also, a deathier vocal is used, changing the entire nature of the band, and assuring me that they aren't a one trick pony.
As for the other track, well that one's definitely got some tempo changes that I like, and some weird vocal effects. They did try for more experimentation there, but the quality on it is much rawer than many of the other tracks.
For the most part, you're going to hear a lot of drumming on this, and a lot of blasting. You're also going to have to try to make some of these songs out. Not all of them are that raw, but there are a few here that you'll have to kind of play by ear.
Honestly, not my favorite release from the genre; but I suggest fans of traditional, raw "kvlt" black metal give it a try. Perhaps you'll actually enjoy what these guys fought Murphy's Law at it's full strength, in trying to release.
Highlights: Angel Bury, The Underworld (8 Tracks, 47:00)
Devin Townsend - Epicloud (SPC. W/ Epiclouder Bonus Disc 2012) - Damn. I can't even tell you how long I've been waiting to review this album, because I'll actually get the chance to listen to it again during review. It's quite an accomplishment for the man, one of many; and as a man who actually really enjoyed the sporadity of Deconstruction, you'll probably not care for my review. Apparently, I was one of the only one's who thought Deconstruction was a literal musical masterpiece.
But this is far from that territory, and as another reviewer said (In Decibel) it's closer to the material of Addicted. Apparently more people liked that one than I thought they would, considering the appetizer much better than the main course. Well, this album turns the appetizer into a main course and gives us some of the best work Devin's done in a while. It's a very rock infused album, like Accelerated Evolution, but not that album. The best way to explain this album is that it's grandiose, multi-layered, but yet still calm, invoking the pun of "epic - cloud."
Fans of Anneke, (like me, I think she's the best female vocalist on planet Earth, and that goes all of the way back to the Gathering) will be happy to know that she was brought back for the disc, and Devin explained in his preview edition of the album, (in which he gave commentary throughout, and I loved every minute of it) that he wanted to use her as an instrument, sort of like a keyboard with her vocal effects. It's al little strange, but it works extremely well. She's the ethereal voice you'll hear spread about most of this disc, and you have to really listen close to notice that she's really been spread throughout this disc.
One major focus on this disc is the oddly unmetal, hippie notion of "love." This is about love. Even "Kingdom 5:29" which is one of the best love songs I've ever heard, is about a relationship. It is a re-recording of the original, one of the only albums I couldn't get into from the man, but he says the same on the nature of Physicist, and plans to re-record all of the tracks at different points.
Also surprisingly, some of these tracks were recorded with a Christian choir. Now don't have a complete shit fit, because I didn't. They seemed to enjoy themselves on opener "Effervescent! 0:43" (using the "!" notion of Addicted) and "Liberation 3:20" (a straight up rocker with the "you really got me" riffs)
But every song on this disc has it's own identity. "Where We Belong 4:33" (which could be played on the radio to the dismay of most of these poppy poseurs) would find itself right at home on Accelerated Evolution, the electronic rock of "Save Our Now 4:01" would be great for Synchestra (Human), and "More!" is certainly one of the heavier tracks on this disc, worthy of his latter Strapping work. But this effort doesn't quite have the same type of fury.
"Grace 6:08" is probably what I would consider the pen-ultimate track of this album, summoning up everything that is the emotion of love, (what the Ra consciousness describes as the 'first emotion") and making it as epic as can possibly be mustered. There's no digital drums this time, by the way - since old skinsman Gene is out blasting around with Thrash titans and Metal's cartoon anti-heroes, they've got a new man taking that position. It's on this track in particular where his effort can be heard, you'd sort of expect to hear fireworks going off when this song plays live - it's just got that sort of theatrical feel. Then when Devin screams "Never fear love!" the song erupts, into some of the best shit he's done in fucking years. Years, people. Go fucking stream Grace.
Now there's a song on here called "Hold On 3:57" which is a sad ballad, originally written for children suffering with terminal illness. But one could look at it from so many other levels. It could be interpreted as a general hymn for people who are suffering, a song about traversing through the bullshit that life throws at us. Of course, Anneke's vocals on here are just amazing. I'm not going to lie to you, I got teary eyed the first time I heard this one during the listening session, but it still manages to tug deep when I hear it even now.
I need to also talk about "Lucky Animals 3:21" which Devin says that his sister's kids constantly sing over and over to him. It is very catchy, but yes, you can see how kids will like this. But I never listened to riffs that heavy when I was a kid. Also, there's "Divine 3:17" which is a good love song, I guess - I'll probbaly have to experience love before I really understand it. Just didn't think it was that great. There's also the short instrumental "Lessons 1:06" which is kind of that joke "that you're floating through the clouds." Kind of forgettable though.
The last track on this disc is "Angel 6:00" and I really think that some of you will really dig the melodies on this one. They did try to go the same route with epic here, but I really think Grace should have just ended the disc out, even though there is a "four note guitar solo" on the end of it. He did that, because people say that he doesn't do enough guitar solos. The song wants to be an epic closer, but they already achieved that with Grace.
Alright, so that's the fourth time I've heard this easily digestible release, one of his most mainstream efforts to date. But honestly, the material here is very good - some of the best in a while. I'd even say that it trumps most of the material released in the four part trilogy released in 2009 and 2011.
But we're not done yet.
BONUS DISC - Epiclouder (47:00)
The bonus disc of this album does not feature just two or three extras, maybe a couple of live tracks... No. The second disc of this is an absolute fucking must, and a worthy part of the album. It says that these are all demos, but I'm apt to thinking they're cast-offs. The quality is great and the tracks are well... I'll get to that. But first, let me just tell you that when you get the special version of this disc, you get another disc with ten songs, and 47 minutes of new music.
If you buy the special edition, you're getting two Devin Townsend albums, not just one. That's a two for one deal, and it's much better than what the media thinks is great, like some cancerously catchy K-Pop form a guy called Psy. And some bitch that I won't be calling back, because she's totally underage. (Carly Ray Jepsen is 16. Yes, the world has been falling in love with music from a 16 year old.)
I might as well track by track these, there is no order. This is gonna be a LONG fucking review, but I'll try to keep it as short as possible here.
Believe 4:06 - This is a great acoustic piece, develops into a rock track, but has a wonderful vocal melody. This reminds me of good rock music, back before everything was so plastic. Maybe it's pop, but my mind is made up.
Happy Birthday 4:37 - This one features vocals from Anneke. It's an electronic track with some acoustics, and some great vocal melodies. Not every metal head's bag, but it's a great electronic track. It could've been on Addicted.
Quietus 5:35 - This smells of Ki, and reminds me of "Disruptr" in the riffs. It does get a little heavier, and Anneke joins in. Of course, you've got that funky electronic oddity in it that really kind of morphs the whole track. But it's little experiments like these that I can get into. I also like Anneke singing "Satan's got a hold on you, child." You'd never expect that to come out of her. Devin also unleashes a few background growls.
Heatwave 3:37 - Don't even judge me for liking this one, folks. It's got a little bit of rockabilly twang, and one hell of a melodic chorus. Yes, it sounds like it came out in the 50's or 60's, but hell - those were GOOD periods for music in general. I'm hearing a little Elvis, and some Crosby, Stills and Nash, maybe even Eagles. But those are good bands, people. They really are.
Love Tonight 4:49 - This song has a heavier tone musically, but a very light-hearted vocal approach. It's a great love song, and I'm really fucking digging it. I think there's a lot of women out there who will too. It's actually very commercial, it could be used in movies or television shows. Guitar aficionados will love the riffs though, so if this plays in the credits, at least they won't be so bad to sit through so that you can see that extra scene at the end.
The Mind Wasp 4:40 - This is a very odd experiment that Devin is doing with acoustics and sound effects. There's also some Arabian influence here, and it does get heavy in the latter part. But for some odd reason, this one doesn't work for me. I just think it takes to long to reach the exciting denouement.
Woah! No! 4:12 - This track starts chugging right up from the beginning, and it has the harsher vocal tones. Metal fans might bitch that this one could have and "should have" really been on the album. But you'll get it if you get the bonus disc. Yes, it also contains a killer guitar solo. Alright, now I'm scratching my own head. Shouldn't he have just saved this one for later?
Love and Marriage 4:03 - This track also has the same feeling of "Disruptr." Apparently he really loved that and wanted to try out more of it. Anneke duets with him, but there's also some really odd stuff going on in this track. I also hear a section where the song gets heavy and another big solo breaks through, that begins with a death growl. But then the song flattens itself down again. It's a really odd track, but I like it.
Socialization 7:19 - Yeah, this one's seven minutes and nineteen seconds. Not the sort of thing you'd expect from a bonus disc, but this certainly heavy track sounds like something out of Ziltoid. Yep, there's another fucking solo here. To tell you all the truth, Socialization is probably the heaviest song on this entire fucking two disc set. It does have it's slight points of epic, and it's middle-eastern riffs. Metal heads will clamber about why it wasn't on the fucking disc, but that's why you need to get the special edition of this album so bad. Yes it ends with some keyboard piano stuff, but the majority of the track is ball-bustingly heavy.
Little Pig 4:53 - This is the last track on Epiclouder. It really sounds like a 60's hippie sing-along jamboree. I guess it's alright, but I don't think I like it as much now as I did the first time through.
Alright! It's all done! Definitely worth buying and definitely one of the best progressive metal albums of the year, and definitely one of the best overall metal albums of the year. It really does stand up to exactly what the man said... It's epic and it's loud. The second disc is also epic, but it's also louder.
There's a lot here to like, and most of all; it's a musical buffet of new tracks, some career spanning, and others completely new ideas. Either way, you're getting 97 minutes of music from the man, and that's only if you get the special edition of the disc.
I hope that this version is not too terribly overpriced, because the other half of this album is just as good as the first part. There are so many great tracks here, that I'm not even going to name them all. Just grab the disc, turn out the lights, sit back and enjoy.
Once again, I am impressed by another of this madman's masterpieces. But he really should have called the second disc something like "Epixperiment" because that's what I hear from all ten of the bonus tracks, lots of experimentation. (And guitar solos.)
And now, I've nothing more to say.
Highlights: Everything BUT Lucky Animals, Divine, Lessons, The Mind Wasp, Little Pig (SPC. 23 Tracks, 93:00, ORG. 13 Tracks, 49:00)
Grave Digger - Clash Of The Gods (LTD. W/ Bonus Tracks 2012) - It's been a while since I've heard anything from Grave Digger. Though they've had countless albums, I just took a break from their material, finding it mostly flat. I'm sure that the band has many fans to this date, but I've always had a tough time getting into these German power metallers.
While this album has a much better production value than their earlier works, the band really hasn't proven to me that they're even worth caring about. This is literally the same crap that I heard before I decided to take a break from their material. Well, it seems that I will have to take yet another break from their material.
All of the songs on this disc are thrashy, but the vocal tone is something I've never cared for and most of the time, the choruses have really nothing to offer. I could pick any of those older Blind Guardian albums from their fellow German countrymen, and find better solos, better choruses, and better atmospheres than anything that has been done here.
The only track I even cared for on this album was "Walls Of Sorrow 4:43" because of it's strong chorus. The lyrics overall were flat, and even though the band tried some things with "Medusa 5:39" and "Call Of The Sirens 5:30" I'm still not feeling this one at all. There are just a myriad of power metal albums that have come out this year and last, that blow this one away.
Saints Of The Broken Souls 5:26 - A rather weak track, I'd consider it more of a weak b-side. A weak b-side for a weak album.
Zuruck Nach Haus 4:01 - German track with a jovial chorus. But they do try to play Blind Guardian chorus on some of the songs here. Unfortunately, none of those efforts work and neither does this.
The band played well enough, but in the end, it's all mediocre to me.
Highlights: Walls Of Sorrow (13 Tracks, 54:00)
Loudness - 2012 (LTD. W/ Bonus Track 2012) - I've never anything from these legendary Japanese heavy metallers until now. But what I'm hearing is actually good. Not just because I like Japanese metal, (as well as many other things in Japanese culture) but because they've got a ferocious sound. The vocals might not be your thing, but the riffs are dirty and the production sounds like a garage band, making the whole experience a little different from your normal power metal outfit. Also, there's some definite prog melodies lumped in with this surefire thrash/power mix.
These guys love playing thrash solos too. You're going to hear some fucking wild solos on this one, kind of like the shit that takes you for a ride. Even if you fucking can't get into the vocals at first, give this shit a full listen, because these guys can goddamned shred.
The band invokes jazzy groove into their power/thrash, like on "2012 - End Of The Age 4:59" (along with another killer shredding session) along with a majority of tracks that are more or less thrashers and throwbacks to the heydays of Judas Priest. I'm definitely hearing that kind of metal being played here, and I'm damned glad for it.
There's also some punk influence mixed in with the thrash of "Bang'em Dead 4:07" and some weird effect I heard before a guitar squeal. There's classic rock on the closer, "Memento Mori 4:38" and "Spirit From The East 2:17" is a mystical instrumental that starts with some guitar melodies and ends with a sort of buzzing. Very spiritual stuff. Odd that it's here.
The band attempts a Manowar style anthem on "The Voice Of Metal 4:12" but the vocals don't hold up their end of the bargain. There's also "Who The Hell Cares 5:40" which is decent enough, but doesn't give me the kind of feeling I might get if Helloween had done it.
If I could judge this album on shredding, it would be a 10/10. But I can't, and even though these guys have an over the top guitarist who can really play, the vocals don't hold up so well, and it kills the package. Yes, the Asian tone of vocal is different from any other culture, when it comes to metal - but I don't feel that many metal fans in other areas will get into it as much as the Japanese.
Deep Six The Law 5:59 - Apparently this was located on a second disc, but it was only this song featured. Of course that disc might have had a concert or music video or other stuff that Japanese people may be interested in. But the song is certainly powerful and really should have been on the album. It's better than some of the tracks on the disc, so it was a bad idea to leave it off.
Loudness are legends, there's no doubt about that. But I think that these Legends will have some trouble competing with other heavy metal bands from the land of the rising sun, like Galneryus and Sigh for example. Don't forget about Animetal USA. Those guys are brilliant and fucking great.
But if you really like shredding, you can't go wrong here. A lot of guitar for your buck.
Highlights: The Stronger, 2012 - The Edge, Break New Ground, Bang'em Dead, Spirit From The East, Memento Mori, Deep Six The Law (12 Tracks, 53:00)
Black Light Discipline - Against Each Other (2012) - These electronic metallers impressed me the first time. But this time, everything sounds really fucking bland. Maybe it's because I'm waiting for a new Dethstars disc, but this is no filler for that large gap.
You'll have gothic elements, black metal scowls and some death growls and female vocals plated throughout this electronic landscape. It's also guitar-laden, but more heavy on the electronics than anything else.
The opener "Against Each Other 4:06" is good, and "Walls Inside Us 4:21" is a great electro metal/pop song with a good female vocalist in the background. The chorus is very strong, and the riffs are loud and heavy. This might not be what you wanted to hear next from them, though.
What in the hell is going on with "Red Rivers 4:37"? Other than the riffs, the clean really sucks and the harsh vocals don't help. Sometimes it even sounds like there's three people on vocals in this band. Was that just a scream? Wow. Anything went here, I guess.
The female and male vocals duet so much that it's almost like they're trying to be a pop/rock/electronic band now. But "Serene 4:42" comes out well with violin and harsh vocal additions, while "Being & Ending 4:21" is nothing more than a light instrumental, with gothic croons and female vocals, but it works. "Self Control 5:04" is contagiously catchy though, and maybe it's the electronics or the chorus, but that song does work.
The last track I'll mention is "Closer To The Sun 4:38" because it does work well, but in the same vein as "Self Control."
These guys are good at taking Euro-pop and mixing it with extreme metal vocals and metal riffs. But I'm not sure that all of you will exactly be "lining up" for this one. However, if you like electronics, gothic croons, female vocals and metal... then you might want to support this. Somewhere, somebody's loving the hell out of this. But it's not me.
Highlights: Walls Inside Us, Waiting For The Rain, Serene, Self Control, Closer To The Sun (10 Tracks, 43:00)
Ex Deo - Caligula (2012) - A side project of Kataklysm's frontman, Maurizio Iacono; this symphonic death metal band is mostly what I would call, "Roman Death Metal." I mean, you could fucking play this while watching Ben Hur, Julius Casear, or 300 (scoffs).
The music really feels Roman, the atmospheres and soundscapes generated by this disc definitely make you feel like you're witnessing these great events, like the rise of the mad emperor Caligula. But the symphonies would be nothing if not for the just as "epic" musicianship. The drums quake, thunder and blast, the guitar riffs make the guitar sound like it's an instrument that should have been used in actual Roman marches, and the vocals are very tyrant-like, even though they certainly stole the style from Behemoth's frontman, Nergal. But, there are actually some solos on this disc (albeit shot) and I'm sure the Romans would have thought them as some strange sort of witchcraft, more or less.
If one might think of 2004 - 2008 Behemoth, with their use of triumphant symphonics, and unmistakable vocal style, you'll get what these guys were going for. The disc also carries with it a story, and many of the lyrics seem narrated (ala Bal-Sagoth, but in the Nergal tone.) I sometimes think that Maurizio had too much fun on the vocals, there's a little bit too much emotion in these vocals and he apparently got carried away.
However, if the drumming and guitars hadn't stepped up their game with the symphonics of the disc, this might have very well been a horrible Roman retread. (Remember the first one?) Though some of you might feel that the vocals are "too overbearing" and can become annoying, this sounds much better in your ears than anywhere else. Listening to this disc on my laptop right now doesn't give me the same "conquering" feeling that I got from listening to it on my Mp3 player, in which I blasted the disc while eating a tasty Nacho Supreme. (That's nachos, cheese, tomatoes, onions, peppers, jalapenos, lettuce and chicken - no sour cream.)
Yes, with this in my ears, I felt as though I could conquer the entire mall. Of course, there was no need to do so.
All kidding aside, if you're looking for something that's really bombastic and over the fucking top when it comes to Roman symbolism and atmospheres, well you're getting it here. Of course, "Burned To Serve As Nocturnal Light 4:35" might appeal to some of you non religious types, as that song is about an emperor who set Christians on fire, just so that he could see at night. Yes, that really happened. Don't you wish that you hadn't fallen asleep in history class?
All of the songs sound the same, with the exception of the closer "The Temple Of Castor & Pollux 3:38" It's just one grand instrumental piece. Definitely Roman, as is the rest of this disc. A great disc that might just enlighten you on the history of Rome, and obviously some more of the wicked things that the empire was known for, and it's wonderful dictators... I mean, rulers.
Remember what they say about history, ladies and gentlemen: It repeats itself...
Highlights: I, Caligula, Divide Et Impera, Burned To Serve As Nocturnal Light, Once Were Romans, The Temple Of Castor & Pollux. (10 Tracks, 49:00)
Murder Construct - Results (2012) - As most of you already know, I'm not that big a fan of grindcore music. Most of it I think to be a joke in the metal scene, yet there are a few bands out there that have surprised me with songs that don't even last more than three, or even two minutes. Perhaps that just says something for the showmanship - that much is crammed into just the space of two or three sixty second blocks; but it could also be a sign of laziness, or the fact that the band just wanted to push something out as quickly as possible.
Yes, there are many reasons for grindcore music; but this review is not a soapbox to discuss these reasons. It is an honest review for the latest album from grind-death supergroup, Murder Construct. I was skeptical at first; but after hearing the music for myself from a youtube stream, I decided to grab the album and give it a shot. I especially like the lyrical content for "Compelled By Mediocrity 2:44" which is a nice big, "fuck you" to many of the poppier poseur bands out there in the metal scene.
Truthfully, I wish I could understand the lyrics on this record, because they're so blunt and gritty that they speak volumes over what can be done with the music. While watching this lyric video, I was humbled by the truthfulness of what this band is really trying to say about many things in our current society. It is in many ways a soapbox, just put to some of the most extreme music imaginable on the planet earth.
For the most part, the songs seem to flow into each other, making it all seem as one big statement; which I would certainly consider that much of it. But not only that - drums are beaten mercilessly, guitars wail as if they're being strangled, and the garbage mouthed vocals of the frontman mix a punk attitude with a death (and core) sensibility. One of the guys also elicits a scream that sounds like the frontman of Jane's Addiction would have, if you stepped on his balls.
The music does contain some definite technical portions, and some slight tempo changes, as well as some actual invigorating breakdowns. These definitely work in the music, and I don't know if it's the proggy riffs in the background or what; but I actually don't mind the breakdowns on this one.
It is true that the disc doesn't go above and beyond into the realms of experimentation. It's more or less much of the same, so if you're looking for more, you'll have to look elsewhere. They could have went further into experimentation, but they chose not to this time around. Also, the disc is very blunt with it's bashing. It is a disc made to bash, and nothing more. But if you must know anything about this disc, know that it's an absolute beast.
For those of you expecting some experimenting, maybe a little more of that Intronaut influence perhaps; you'll finally get that on the disc's closer "Resultados 6:36." This odd track features many non-death metal and non-grindcore elements like light melodies, Arabian atmospheres and even piano. It also encroaches well past three or even five minutes in length, finally closing the disc at 6:36. Yeah, that's long for a track of this nature - but it's honestly done right; just as the rest of this record is. It's a must if you're looking for something that's both incredibly intelligent and incredibly brutal... Just like the men who made it.
Definitely one of my favorite releases this year.
Highlights: All (11 Tracks, 29:00)
Kissing The Mirror - Towards The Rising (2012) - Japan's Kissing The Mirror had inklings of greatness on their last release, and since I'd have to pay out of my ass in obscene import costs, I simply got this one from the same sites where most bands with high import costs wind up.
But unlike the band's last disc in 2011, this 2012 disc really steps things up. First of all, things actually sound like they were done in a studio. Though still slightly raw, this album is starting to prove that melodic death metal in the vein of Tohou music could create a new melodic death renaissance in the Japan.
Tohou is extremely important to this style, so those curious should look it up. You might surprised by what you find, but this is Japan after all; and they've even embraced it in their music.
Back to the album, we find that the band comes forth with more muscle, more melody and some flying solos that strike out of nowhere. Tempo changes lurk in every nook and cranny of the disc, and the band really works to incorporate as much Touhou melody into the guitars as they can. The drums do blast and sound pretty formidable - I think they were programmed, but it's a fantastic effort nonetheless. The synths also work well to describe the atmosphere of the disc, and it matches that sort of gothic sense that Touhou is synonymous with. This is done exceptionally well on album standout, "Shanghai Eliminator 4:01"
The vocals take the form of a scowl, but sometimes a growl is also uttered. Sometimes they hit and other times they miss, but I will say that they're fierce. But despite what's done with the vocals, the melodies are what really make up this disc. It is a Touhou album after all, but much heavier than anything I've heard from the multi-genre Touhou scene. Even if you have no fucking clue what I'm talking about, if you like melodic death metal, or early Children Of Bodom, you might find something to these synths and melodies. But if it's not heavy enough, check out the heavier approach of the closer, "Thousand Knives 3:52"
To be perfectly honest, I never thought I would hear Touhou influenced into melodic death metal. But these guys did it, and they prove that they're actually worth checking out. A little gamey, but that comes with the territory.
Play as the chick with the knives (the maid) if you can, but remember that Danmaku is all about patience. They say if you're good enough, you can dodge rain. If you don't like the actual Touhou music, (for shame!) you can mute it and play this disc instead.
EDIT: I further researched this band, (they're actually called Doujin and consider Children Of Bodom to be a major influence) and found that it only consists of two people. One of them was born in 86, which makes them one year younger than me. Interesting. There is also a bonus disc for this release, consisting of remixes for Shanghai Eliminator (can be heard on youtube) and Thousand Knives.
As this band is Japanese, and very hard to come by here in the states, you'll have to use torrents or other means to obtain the disc. Especially since these guys are little known. But I do recommend that you listen to it, and hope that the US might one day embrace douj... Hold on. What the fuck am I saying? That would be an awful idea. Could you imagine the US embracing the doujin scene? They've already ruined electronic music for me.
Check it out, if you're interested.
Highlights: Deadly Silence, Shanghai Eliminator, Funeral Of The Dead, Bury You Alive, To Live To Die, Thousand Knives (8 Tracks 31:00)
Trollfest - Brumblebassen (2012 Ltd. Edition W/Bonus Track) - What do you call something that's comical, but done well? The album cover itself looks kind of silly, not the sort of thing you'd expect from folk metal. Odin and his weapons, his hall, his Valkyries, his Einjerhar, his throne, his ravens... well, they're all missing. All we get is a red cover with a vile looking cartoon bee running across it. And the disc itself has a monstrous looking evil bee in flight on it.
As for the disc, it starts out with a raging gypsy folk metal jamboree. That track of course, would be "Brumblebassen 5:38" the album's title track and opener. Fans of Estradasphere might notice many similarities between the type of gypsy music that they use, and the type that this band uses.
Yet there are also some very rough, harsh vocals. The guy screams and the drums certainly blast their way through this weird mix of gypsy folk metal, but one cannot help but say that it's well put together. It's not entirely perfect, but it's certainly heavier, and carries with it some worthy guitar melodies. But again, let's mention the gypsy music. Not many bands (if any) are really doing this kind of music, and that's how this band captured my attention. I also must add that none of this is in English. But that adds to the mystique, I guess.
Oddly enough clean vocals try to make their stand while dodging the frantic hits of the drummer, and they can get lost in the mix. Oh, what's that? Apparently there's a track on here where the band incorporates Arabic music as well. So you get Gypsy music, Arabic music, and what the hell is this now? It sounded Italian. But you can do the deciphering when you also hear "IIIsint 3:06."
Good gravy. Now I feel like I'm on the deck of a ship. Goodness. Someone decided to get out the accordions and I feel as though this one might be good song to drown my sorrows in ale and good grog. if you feel the same, then give "Helvette 1:48." I'd love to get that one on the radio at work. I'm sure everyone would love it, or try to kill me.
But it's time to stop fooling around, as the heaviness comes back around with Finsken, Norsken, og Presten 4:36." You'll actually hear Arabian influence on this one, so I'm thinking that "IIIsint" must have been Italian music after all. Holy shit, why not just put a saxophone in there? And blast the drums too why don't you? Yes folks, this metal for those who don't really give a fuck what's been thrown in. But there haven't been any electronics... at least, not yet.
The next song is a little nursery rhyme thing, I guess? It's catchy enough, but why is it here? See what you can make of "Mystisk Maskert 1:45." Your kids can actually listen to this one. Yes, they can. Maybe even the heavy stuff. Why is that guy still holding that note out?
Because the thrash comes in next. Seriously, "Apis Mellifera 4:33" has a much harsher edge to it. As usual, the folk music comes back in, (and it's also got an Arabic tone) and it really shows you just how well the band can meld the folk music and the death metal together.
"Trinkentroll 3:09" comes in next, with an extremely raucous intro, and then it switches between what I would consider a comedic vocal and light music and riffs that remind me of Ihsahn, and death metal. The song switches between these two extremes and does it very well. Towards the end of the song, the folk and metal are both at their peak.
Next we have "Verboten Kjarlek 4:04" a folk, acoustic track with clean vocals. The clean vocals are actually good, but the lyrics are foreign, so you'll have no idea what they're saying unless you speak the language. Towards the end of the song, things get a little theatric and he starts up a comical false sob. What the fuck is this? But then the vocals return back to their non comical quality.
Thankfully, "Brak 4:12" comes in with thundering drums and loud riffs. For a brief amount of time you'll hear some birds chirp and a cow moo, and then the music gets heavy again, mixing the heavy vocals with a very good clean vocal approach. This is definitely one of the band's standout music achievements, combining good musicianship with a slight hint of comedy and dual vocals that meld well together.
The last actual track on this disc is "Sellout 4:30" and it's got English lyrics. It also has a dual male and female vocal chorus. It's comedic, satirical and fucking great. But it's also fucking true... and there's the electronics I was talking about. Notice when they start singing about Euros, they change the music to a Europop influence.
The outro to the disc is this folky thing called "Rundt Balet 1:59" that's about the equivalent of Dying Fetus's "Dead Whores Love To Fuck" except for the fact that it's more folky. I definitely liked this more than the Dying Fetus track though. The disc ended in traditional folk style.
Konterbier - The special edition will grant you this track. It's not really a standout, but it is a heavy track that's filled with as much folk as the rest of them. There's an operatic chorus for the track, and I'm sure that people with folk in the hearts will embrace this less silly track, more than most of the others. It doesn't sound like it belongs on the disc. Of course, they gurgle the melody after the song ends. So that ruins it for you... so much for majestic melodies. What? Gurgling and harmonization in the background? Then there's a belch.
The disc ends with a belch.
Trollfest are a completely capable band. They will musically blow you away in ways that you won't expect. I've even heard some Ihsahn quality musicianship mixed along with the folk and humor. These guys could - if they wanted to - be one of the best folks metal bands in the world. But they chose to do that, and to be comedians as well.
There is so much going on in this album, that I consider it an absolute must hear for folk metal fans. It doesn't hurt to poke fun at yourself every once in a while, and at least when it's done right and with some worthy songs, you don't feel the burn quite as bad.
Trust me on this one. I wouldn't have even given it a review (so soon at least) if it wasn't worth checking out. I could have reviewed several other releases, but this one really CAUGHT MY ATTENTION. There's promise within this funny, folky mess, and you'll discover it soon on. Perhaps they'll be the next Ensiferum?
Well, they at least did something more than those guys and Eluveitie did this time around. Folk does try to be too serious these days, and it's good to see some pranksters shaking things up.
Seriously good and original (but rather silly) folk metal. Definitely worth listening to.
Highlights: All (Every track is good for something!) (13 tracks, 47:00 ORG: 12 Tracks, 43:00)
Saturnian - Dimensions (2012 W/Bonus Track) - Quite in the vein of the Devilish Impressions album that I reviewed earlier, this extreme gothic metal band is nothing out of the ordinary. So why am I even reviewing it? Because perhaps there's someone out there who might feel different and then choose to support the band. The band trudges much along the same lines of mid-era Dimmu, with the blasting drums, bustling pianos and thrashing riffs. Some of Shagrath's own vocal inflections even appear to have been stolen, along with some of Dani Filth's.
Yes, this disc certainly has it's background synths too, and the female vocal harmonies; not to mention the clean vocals in some areas. This is very much expectable metal, there is nothing here that will take you by surprise. But all of this being said, just how well does the material come across?
For the most part, I think it's all done rather well. Though the tempos never really change and the music stays just as expectable as what you'll hear shortly after the opener "Into Etherea 5:55", I will admit that a good solo is attempted on "Shadow Of Prophecy 6:07" and there are some nice keyboard and guitar acrobatics laden throughout. Nothing technical, and nothing really proggy, but the bells and whistles that stop this from becoming a complete bore.
I'm quite sure that the disc has enough bells and whistles to keep one satiated, but I do believe that the overall conjunction of the disc is rather bland. Song after song is good, but it all permeates with the same gothic/black/death stuff that I was listening to years ago, when Cradle and Graveworm put out worthy material in the extreme gothic genre.
As I've already said, Dimmu is copied and pasted throughout the disc, but adding early elements of Tristania's gothic atmospheres and female vocal harmonies/clean vocals. To tell you the whole and complete truth, I'd consider myself an expert on the extreme gothic genre, and I can tell you wholeheartedly, that you will find far better material in this genre from years gone by, then you will now. Of course, I would say scrap this whole thing and get the Little Dead Bertha disc for some of the best extreme gothic metal that this reviewer has heard in years.
Also, make sure that you tell those who praise this band as the next Tristania, Graveworm, Theatre Of Tragedy, or even Dimmu Borgir; that they really need to get their hands on a copy of that Little Dead Bertha, even if they have to torrent it. Those Ruski's blew me away with that one, and it really should come stateside. I'd be more than welcome to attend a live show of theirs, as would various friends of mine.
But as for this album, I think it's acceptable. But it's just not up to par with the greats of goth.
Wreathed In Flame 6:52 - In all actuality, there is nothing exciting or unique about this track. it's just as bland as the majority of the songs on this disc and adds no extra value.
Highlights: Into Etherea, Shadow Of Prophecy, Dimensions, The Immaculate Deception (10 Tracks, 57:00 ORG. 9 Tracks, 50:00)
Simantika - Showtime (2012 W/Bonus Tracks) - These Russian electronic death metallers also failed to really do anything for me, and I'm losing hope in the electronic metal genre. Sybreed didn't help to invigorate that much either. As electronic music is going to shit, so then is electronic metal.
Apparently, Russia is brimming with electronic death and Satanism, as bands like Xe-None, Zavod, Semargl and these guys are doing close to the exact same style of music, yet with differing outcomes. Like this band, who happens to be "just decent enough" in their craft of making a style of music that's been around for at least 20 years now, back when KMFDM and Killing Joke were mixing the two extremes together back in the 80's and early 90's.
The band definitely takes it's style from everyone from later Kovenant, to current Dethstars. You'll hear heavy riffing, and an especially raspy vocal. But the frontman also thinks that he has to sing poppy little choruses throughout. Problem is, he's not that great of a clean vocalist, and I kind of wish he'd shut the fuck up. Yet I will say that his vocals and lyrics show more aggression than some of the other bands.
As for tracks on the disc, you'll get a raucous opener, "Showtime 3:06" a sort of love song with extreme vocal chorus, "Because Of You 3:19" and a dark anthem for the new age, "Dusk Of Mankind 3:38." just to name a few.
The only thing that I don't like about this album, is that the band doesn't ever change their tempo. They seem to love the Europop so damned much that they want to marry it. Granted, this is much better than some of the Russian electro-death scene, (Semargl especially) but it's just not as good as some of the albums I've heard prior to it.
The disc is also very bouncy, and there's no points of actual aggression or blasts from the drum kit. All of these tracks are made for the dance floor of some dark Russian nightclub that's filled with people who probably yearn to be cyborgs and/or vampires. This disc is also devoid of solos, or guitar melodies. Much of the tracks feature just as much radio friendly clean vocals as they do the harsher kind, and I'll be quick to say that this guy enjoys sounding like a Russian hard rock singer, just as much as he likes to pretend that he's doing black metal...
Which by the way, THIS IS NOT.
The four bonus tracks on this disc are nothing more than Russian versions of Because Of You (One), Lost Generation, (Generation Of Moulds, but it features Ghost Akado instead of Deformator), Re-injected, (Vkoshmare.ru Feat. Nookie of The Slot) and Rebel (Law.)
There's nothing different about the tracks other than the guest acts and the fact that they're in their original Russian and take on other names. Nookie's obviously a female vocalist for electronic hard rock band The Slot (which I think are terrible) and her vocals aren't so good on the track. As for the other guy, well I've never heard of him and I'm guessing he does the clean vocals, which aren't bad.
Overall, the bonus tracks don't really help much. But let's face it, unless you're Russian, you're probably going to have to torrent this one, and it'll already have the bonus tracks. Hell, the Russians probably pirated it for you. I mean, that's just how it goes with some of these super foreign bands. Import costs would be hell, especially for our struggling economy.
As for the disc in general, I've heard much better - but also much worse. It's good if you want to dance and bang your head at the same time, but not near as heavy as I would've liked.
Re-read paragraph six, just in case you forgot who the target audience of this disc is. There may also be some youtube clips of the target audience. If you bear fake fangs, you'll love it.
Highlights: Showtime, Overdose, Rebel, Dusk Of Mankind, Law (15 Tracks, 52:00)
The Gathering - Disclosure (2012) - Those of you who liked the last disc from this band might be surprised to know that this disc is completely different. Instead of it being the folky darkwave sound, this is most certainly the electronic pop rock style that Anneke made popular with If, Then, Else.
The band's new vocalist can hold her own, but she's clearly trying her best to be Anneke, (and for those who heard the new DTP album, Anneke is doing fine, just where she is) and perhaps she does succeed in her emulation.
The music itself is kind of a mix of If, Then, Else and How To Measure A Planet, so the band is doing a great job as well. To tell you the truth, this kind of works for the band and I'm sure that people who couldn't get over Anneke's departure, will actually be able to embrace this.
This isn't metal, so let's not even call it that. The Gathering haven't been anywhere close to metal in years, and this is no exception. it's most certainly got it's share of rock riffs, but it also has synths, atmospheres and electronics. There are some experimentations on the disc, like "Meltdown 7:56" and it's trumpets, which lead into a Portishead style sound.
We also have the bitter ballad of "Paralyzed 5:04" which sounds more current Android Lust. But maybe a little lighter on the tone. It's very depressing, but I have to say that she's got a hell of a tone on the track. You'll also hear some more guitar influence on "Heroes For Ghosts 10:42" but just as much experimenting. The last track I'll mention is "I Can See Four Miles 9:04" which is one of the best tracks on this disc. This is where everything culminates, and the band showcases that they've still got it, after all these years.
Atmospheres were the name of the game here. Many could say that the band decided to go back and do what it does best, and did best in the later 90's early 00's and get back into the business of making soundscapes with a sultry siren. Yeah, it's not Anneke, but this woman is literally almost on her level. Mark that down. You won't hear me say it often.
To sum all of this up, it's basically the kind of album that your girlfriend might enjoy a bit more than you. Let's just be honest. It's very, very, very, poppy. Fans of Adele might love it, due to the sense of Adele-like depression that surrounds the disc. I'm being completely honest with every word here, you need only listen to the album to prove that my words are indeed true.
The disc is very melancholic, overly emotional, and is the sort of thing that one might listen to for a good cry. Honestly! Despite the atmospheres and the slight hints of experimentation - yes, it's done well; but let's be honest. You're not going to have this thing on repeat, unless you're really depressed. And there's Woods IV and VI for that, so we've got it covered, men. If you're gonna cry, then cry manly!
"But a man doesn't shed tears." you say Well, then if you're not in the mood for crying about bad relationships, (most of the lyrical content of this disc) then don't grab this disc.
Chances are, you'll bypass it anyway. But - to those who like this sort of thing, it's done relatively well. And you already know what to expect. I guess you could play it with the new Autumn's Grey Solace, or other goth/ethereal music. It really does belong in THAT category.
Um... Enjoy your electro/pop/rock stuff. Did I mention that Devin Townsend put out an amazing record with the ex vocalist from this band?
Might want to check that out instead.
Highlights: Meltdown, Paralyzed, Heroes For Ghosts, I Can See Four Miles
(8 Tracks, 51:00)
John 5 - God Told Me To (2012) - This 40 minute disc actually showcases a virtual smorgasbord of different sounds from the legendary guitarist. Here he shows that he's just the guy that needs to come back into Manson along with Twiggy and finally make a real Manson album once again.
But until then, he's shredding his ass off on this disc. The disc opens with "Welcome To Violence 4:12" a hard hitting thrasher that actually reminds me a little of Rammstein, but with more shredding. It calms in the latter portion, finally breaking off into a frantic solo near the end. Next, we've got a guitar cover of Michael Jackson's classic, (and one of the songs that got me into rock music, as I was just a child when I first heard it) "Beat It 4:12." What's really fucking great about this disc, is that not only is the background done with guitar, but the vocals are also emulated with guitar riffs. Imagine if Michael Jackson transformed into a guitar and continued singing, but all of his vocals became riffs. Oh, by the way - there's also that solo on this disc - probably one of the first solos that I ever heard in my entire life. Yes, i remember when the song debuted on MTV. Anyway, this song is definitely one of my favorites and a truly unique and incredible shredding job. Hats off to you, sir!
"Ashland Bump 3:20" is country twang, and only if I had been raised in the swamps, might I have enjoyed it. "Killafornia 4:14" comes next in line, and it reminds me of the kind of music in ID Chooters around the early 2000 period (Quake 2, Return To Castle Wolfenstein, exc.) It definitely shreds more than some of those "bland rock tracks" and this guys proves that he could slaughter an entire army with melody.
"The Castle 3:15" comes next, and it's another sort of country twang acoustic that I just can't into. But I think the guitar tapping is pretty damned interesting, so I'll give it that. Again, maybe if I had been born in the swamps. Thankfully, "The Hill Of The Seven Jackals 4:03" comes back with the heavy shredding, and some rock melody that might work for a current Sonic The Hedgehog or Megaman opening introduction scene. But more often than not, it reminds me more of the blue blur, than it does of the blue bomber. Still, I think people will hear F-Zero in this too.
Let's give the man proper respect for the next track, "Noche Acosador" a rather well done take on classic Latin music. The flamenco is well done, and the drums are performed just as authentically. All that's missing is a Matador and a bull!
The next track, "The Lust Killer 4:58" certainly reminds me of the Konami Castlevania metal records (Dracula Perfect Battle 1 and 2) quite a bit. There's just something about this track that makes me think of Dracula and his evil minions being battled by a stout-whipped Belmont. If you're a Castlevania fan, and as familiar with creepiness of the music as I am, you know that when bosses come out the guitars sometimes thunder and the dark atmosphere penetrates through them. It was even like that on the 8-bit console. Definitely a favorite track of mine.
The next track is "The Lie You Live 4:19" is really sort of a depressing mess. It comes after one of the strongest tracks on the album, yet it kills whatever good mood you had. I personally think it's akin to the credits of a sallow foreign film, and don't care for it. But the same can be said with, "Creepy Crawler 4:52" the disc's closer. Yes, it's also very depressing. There's a bit of atmosphere at the beginning, but the gloomy guitars come into place, and it sounds like we're mourning some individual. Perhaps it's Simon, who died at the end of Castlevania II. It seriously does remind me of that horrible scene you get if you don't collect everything and you see Simon's gravestone: "But we will remember how hard he fought." Personally, I'm not that fucking depressed buddy, so you can keep this one. I got the good ending.
Video game puns aside, this is a solid album from the man, but much different than his last record. One wonders when he'll actually get back into a band again, but until then, this is a good showcase of his talent. There is an awful lot of melody and shredding, but as you've noticed, there are also many parts of this disc that are "un-metal" and evoke both worldly and emotional atmospheres. I think it's a good evolution for the man, and I hope that he'll continue to make great music. But hopefully it'll be in Manson this time; so that we can finally get one good metal album out of those guys before they get too fucking old to care.
Worth picking up, especially for guitar aficionados. I liked this more than the new Steve Vai. It's also devoid of hymnals... But more on that, later.
Highlights: Welcome To Violence, Beat It, Killafornia, The Hill Of The Seven Jackals, Noche Acosador, The Lust Killer (10 Tracks, 40:00)
Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet On Sky (2012) - The alternative rock band Dinosaur Jr's been around for a long time. I first heard them on the now defunct Henry Rollins show on IFC, (which was fucking great by the way, his rants were always thought provoking) and I've been a fan ever since. I grabbed their first album and their latest a few years ago, and found that they're just as good now, as they were then.
Well, at least for the time. Though it wasn't mentioned, I quietly dedicated a song from the band's last album, Farm to my 2010 (now available on Amazon Kindle) novel, "Will's Downfall, Book One: Is It All In Your Head?" Technically, it's the "silent anthem" of that particular book in the trilogy. The name of that track is the sorrowed, "Said The People" which I think fits my main character William Barker, quite well.
But now, I don't seem to be as pleased with these guys as I was back in 2009. But that's not because they're getting old, because they certainly are; but it's due to the fact that I just don't think that they hit the mark as well as they did three years ago. Nevertheless, it's still very good music, regardless.
The band still has an interesting way of playing their rock music, and they still manage to keep it interesting; especially on opener "Don't Pretend You Didn't Know 5:31." The frontman's southern drawl is still intact and his vocals are still as anemic as the some of the melodies on that one. But I'm not referring to melodies as being lifeless, or even the piano that interjects; it's just very doom-laden rock music. And not the Sabbathy doom, it's more like hard rock era Paradise Lost style sense of hopelessness. However, I can guarantee that you'll hear more uniqueness in just that one track than in most current rock music today. Not to mention the exquisite solo the ends out the disc.
The prog and southern style mixes will with "Watch The Corners 5:00" which also includes a great solo. Then we've got the slightly upbeat "Almost Fare 4:52" which screams radio rock, even down to the Skynrd-esque solo. "Stick A Toe In 5:22" sounds like a really gloomy ballad, but the band is playing on a happier note as the frontman croons like he's slightly more depressed, giving it an awkward feel.
In the middle, there's the early punk rock influenced, "Rode 2:50" it's decent, but sounds very raw. However, I think that you might come to like it with a few listens. Solo isn't too bad either, and I can say that with all of these tracks. Dinosaur Jr loves to play solos, and they seem to care more about them than the overall structures of the songs. Not a terrible formula, because at least you'll hear good solos on weak tracks. And there are some here.
"I Know It Oh So Well 4:42" has a jazzy playing style, but definitely sounds like it might be used on an episode of some CW show. Yeah, I'm being serious. Some young teenager's going to fall in love with these guys because of this track. But at least she'll know what a good guitar solo is. "Pierce The Morning Rain 2:45" comes next, sounding a little proggy, but still has that alternative rock vibe. Also, the album's title track is used in the lyrics on this song, meaning that it's the unnamed title track. Great track, definitely classic style Dinosaur Jr.
"What Was That?" is next on the disc, being a stable ballad with some great melodies. Again, it's definitely alternative music - but it's good alternative music from guys who do things their own way. They write the songs how they want, write the lyrics they want, and produce it however they want. This is non-corporate alternative rock music, that you could but won't hear on your local radio station. You'll also find that it's good. "Recognition 3:51" has a different vocalist like "Rode" or maybe a different vocal tone. Whatever the case, it reminds me of The Police's "One Is The Loneliest Number" but mixed along with some dirty prog rock. It's a good and unique mix that works and might really do something for you, where the current music industry has undoubtedly failed.
Finally, the disc ends with "See It On Your Side 6:39" which has a little bit of a thump and guitar that wants to shred more than the vocals will let it. Fortunately, the guitar gets plenty of chances to do just that, and shreds it's ass off throughout the song and pulls off the album's last great solo.
While I didn't like every song on this album as much as I did on Farm, I certainly liked many of the tracks on display here, and this album is worth it's weight in alternative rock gold, just like the others. This music reminds me what real singer/songwriters can do, what bands that don't give a shit about image can do, and finally; what people who make music as an extension of themselves can do.
Dinosaur Jr is just one of the many reasons that I do what I do. I'm not even going to lie, I'd expect some of you who are into actually rock music to give them a try, as they've got much to offer in the span of 46 minutes' and much more to offer than most bands on the current billboard can offer in 20:00. While Korn want to play with dubstep, Dinosaur Jr still play their music with regular old guitars and drums. This is the sound of men who don't care about money, but would love you to support them if you really did, like their music.
I hear there's a new Green Day coming out. And I also hear that there's a new Papa Roach disc also on it's way. But guess what? I'll have them both for review. And why? Because I just want to see how miserable, and how unoriginal, boring and shallow that these discs will sound compared to gentlemen who just go out there and play real music.
Remember that I'm not just a metal fan or a metalhead, I'm a fan of music in general. So when it's done right and you can hear the passion put into the sound, then you know you've got a disc worth putting your hard-earned money into.
A great effort, and a definite must hear.
Highlights: Don't Pretend You Didn't Know, Watch Around The Corners, Rode, Pierce The Morning Rain, What Was That, Recognition, See It On Your Side
(10 Tracks, 46:00)
ZZ Top - La Futura (2012) - ZZ top have been around for what seems like forever now, bringing to us the same kind of "love rock" as Aerosmith, but with their own blues and roll flavor. This album sees them continuing to do just that. The recording is slightly aged, which gives the disc character, and despite the fact that one of the three Texans is now deceased, the band still manage to make it sound just as good as if he were still in the band.
Folks, this is around 40 minutes of vintage ZZ Top, no frills or bells or whistles. I will say that the opener, "I Gotsta Get Paid 4:02" has a little bit of a different feel to it, you would more expect their anthem to Freddie Mercury's "Fat Bottomed Girls" (Even though he wasn't interested in them himself) called "Chartruese 2:57" to open the disc up, as it sounds just like it was recorded back in the hey-day of the band.
The disc is filled with the same tongue and cheek sexual innuendo that we'd expect from these guys, with songs like "Big Shiny Nine 3:10" and " closer, "Have A Little Mercy 3:18." Unlike everyone else who's made a comeback, there's no songs of doom or gloom on this album, and it's just another disc from the guys and I'm sure that fans of the group both old and new, will still enjoy it.
There aren't any amazing solos on the disc, but I do personally like the guitar melodies on "Flyin High 4:17." You should know what to expect for these guys guitar-wise by now, honestly. They've been around for damn near thirty something years, and some of the people who grew up with them aren't even around anymore.
I'm also gonna throw in the fact that other than some good licks, "Over You 4:29" just wasn't my cup of tea. Apparently they wanted to try to do one of their classic ballads. But I just wasn't feeling it this time.
I saw these guys perform a recent concert on Palladia a while back, and they were pretty damned good. It's good to hear them just a few years later with just the same sort of mentality. One could argue that this disc sounds like a lot of retread material, but this is ZZ Top after all. But you're getting what you pay for, and this disc has a lot of replay value to fans of rock and blues worldwide.
It's also a tribute to beardsmen around the world.
Highlights: I Gotsta Get Paid, Consumption, Heartache In Blue, Flyin High, Big Shiny Nine, Have Mercy (10 Tracks, 39:00)