Saturday, November 21, 2015

I'm Back After a Long Hiatus

Sorry, I have been very busy with work.  I have a ton to catch up with.  Let's start with the concert I attended this summer: Slayer and King Diamond.  And Hellyeah too, but they suck.

I went to Council Bluffs, IA for the Rockstar Mayhem tour which only included the main stage bands, not a huge deal though I would not have minded seeing Jungle Rot.  Nevertheless, I was not going to pass up a chance to see King Diamond and Slayer for the first time.

I missed The Devil Wears Prada which is absolutely okay with me.  My wife and I both had to work the day of the concert and had to stop at Raising Cane's for some chicken fingers before heading to the concert.  I would not have minded missing Hellyeah either, but we managed to make it to their set.

Hellyeah was about what I expected.  The singer, previously from Mudvayne made one of those "metal saved my life" speeches which is kind of meh.  The music was pretty bland.  I have never been a big fan of Hellyeah.  I just think they are kind of boring personally.

King Diamond was next to the stage and they sounded amazing.  King's voice got stronger as their set rolled on and they played some great songs.  They did not play "Don't Break the Oath" to the dismay of one fan that kept screaming for them to play it.  I did enjoy the inclusion of some Mercyful Fate tracks.  The decorations were a nice touch to the stage and King made things very entertaining with his onstage antics.

I ran into Kelly from Full Metal Attorney and we spent some time catching up.  It was the first time I have actually seen him since law school.  We chatted about the bands and other concerts we have been to and laughed at my wife who was reading the first Game of Thrones book during the concert.

Slayer took the stage and played a blistering set hitting all of the typical Slayer tracks.  "Raining Blood", "Angel of Death", "South of Heaven", and "Dead Skin Mask" all were played.  I was a little disappointed about the lack of "Seasons in the Abyss" personally, but that is a bit of an oddity in the Slayer catalog.

All in all, it was a great time.  I don't get to too many concerts these days, but I had to make it for Slayer and King Diamond.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Blog Update

My plan is to get back to posting soon.  I am very sorry for bands that have sent me stuff that I have not responded to.  I will try to get to everything.

Decisions, Decisions

A couple of weeks back I missed an opportunity to see At The Gates, Pallbearer, and some other groups.  I was a little bummed by that, but it turns out there are three upcoming concerts that I would love to go see.  Unfortunately, I can't justify the expense in seeing all three so I had a decision to make.

Here are the choices:
1.  Judas Priest with Saxon.

2.  Volbeat with Anthrax and Crobot.

3.  Mayhem Fest featuring Slayer and King Diamond.

As much as I would love to see Judas Priest at some point (and I probably won't get another opportunity), I don't really care much for Saxon.  I saw Volbeat opening for Megadeth a few years back and don't care for Crobot, but Anthrax would have been interesting.  Ultimately though, Mayhem Fest was the way to go.  A lot of the other bands there are terrible, though I do enjoy Jungle Rot.  But I cannot pass up an opportunity to see both Slayer and King Diamond.  I may not have another chance to see either of them.  So I made my decision.  I will probably just show for the last two bands, have work and all that since the concert is a Tuesday and two hours from home.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fuck the Grammys

Call it morbid curiosity.  I really do not give a fuck about the Grammys, but I find myself checking out who won the Best Metal Performance Grammy each year.  Usually I do not even see the nominees until that night, but I check it out anyway.  This year saw Tenacious D win the Grammy for Best Metal Performance for their version of Dio's classic "Last in Line".  That is fucking ridiculous.  A cover version of a song written 30 years ago by a joke band headed by actor Jack Black is not a very good representation of where metal is today.  I'm not even mad about it, the whole thing is just so ridiculous that it defies explanation.  I would prefer it if the award show would just drop the Metal Performance Grammy altogether.  They have no idea about the genre and don't seem to care.  What's the point?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Odota: Fever Marshal (2014)

Some time ago I reviewed an album by a band called Talbot.  That was a pretty interesting sludge/doom album that I really enjoyed.  I was recently contacted by the former drummer/vocalist from the Estonian band to take a look at his new project under the name Odota.  Having enjoyed Talbot, I was eager to see what Odota had to offer.

Odota is actually quite dissimilar from Talbot, which is definitely not a problem.  It was just a little surprising.  Where Talbot played murky doom metal, Odota plays sludge-laden black metal with a bit of a psychedelic tinge to it.  It is fairly similar to the terrific Silencing Machine by Nachtmystium.  The experimental elements add a lot of depth and intrigue to the otherwise straightforward black metal riffing style.  The vocals are more aggressive black metal-style rasping which fits well with the music and distinguishes it from being too much like Nachtmystium.

There are some exclusively experimental tracks here, most notably "Staked Plains", that kind of drag things down a little bit.  I don't really understand the desire to throw in mostly atonal, noise tracks onto albums, but then it is not my decision.

I'm not really sure if there is some sort of lyrical theme here or not.  I do not have any access to any lyrics sheets, but the song titles seem to lead to the conclusion that this may be a Western-themed albums.  We have words like "marshal", "horse thief", "plains", "eagle", and "rattlesnake" in each of the titles.  Kind of odd choices really.  I suspect this is the first ever Western-themed psychedelic black metal album in history.

I thought this was a pretty decent release.  It is hard not to compare it to Jarmo Nuutre's other band, and I think it falls a bit short of Talbot.  But it is a very good effort and it will be interesting to see what this band can do in the future.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vanagloria: La Dinamica del Miedo (2014)

Power metalcore?  Powercore?  What would you call this?  Whatever it is, it is definitely a unique take on a couple of metal genres.  Vanagloria is a Spanish metal band that actually got their start playing plain old power metal, well there is not really anything plain about power metal.  Over time though, the band began incorporating more modern, mainstream metal influences to the point that we get to this.  The promotional materials describe it as black/death/thrash, but I am not sure that really accurately reflects this, maybe power/thrash, but there are some definite breakdowns at times.

Well enough about the genre, what do we have here?  The riffing style is at times edgy and aggressive, and at others incredibly melodic.  The band makes liberal use of keyboards and techno/industrial elements at times, particularly in the intro track.

The vocals are definitely on the extreme end for this style of metal, but not all power metal features particularly melodic vocal styles.  Just look at Helstar and the weird Finnish groups like Children of Bodom and their ilk.  On occasion, the vocals are delivered with a more extreme backing track, or the vocalist actually uses more extreme vocal styles at times.  There was also a female guest vocalist on one track which brought quite a bit of dynamics to the track.  The vocals are all in Spanish, which is not surprising.  My Spanish is a tad rusty so I have a little bit of trouble figuring out what they are singing about.

Despite the disparate styles of metal combined by this band, the songs were surprisingly cohesive.  There are definitely some unusual things going on at times, but the band is talented enough to keep things from turning into a mess.  In fact, the album is quite interesting.  It is likely one I will need to hear a few times to really get a good idea of what is going on.  But it was definitely good enough to bear repeated listens.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Top 14 of 2014

It has been a pretty bad year for me on this blog.  I have been a little burned out as I have been very busy with work.  It has been hard to find time to listen to new music as much as I would like.  I have been really bad with bands contacting me.  I still heard a lot of great new music though.  And I managed to put together a Best Of list.  Here we go:

The reunion of the year finds the pioneering melodeath band releasing their first new album since the landmark Slaughter of the Soul.  At The Gates manages to recapture the spirit of that album without remaking it.  Sure a lot of bands copied it over the years, but At The Gates still manages to sound fresh, even after all these years.
Other bands have come around that do what Septicflesh does better than them.  Rotting Christ does Greek mythology better and Fleshgod Apocalypse does symphonic tinged extreme metal better.  Nevertheless Septicflesh keeps going and they still do their thing damn well, as evidenced by this terrific album.
If I had to name a favorite thrash metal band, I would honestly have to consider Overkill at this point.  Mostly due to the fact that the band has never really softened their sound.  Sure they were groove metal for a little while, but they were still good.  And they continue to put out amazing, kickass thrash metal albums.
Slightly disappointing after the terrific Carving Out the Eyes of God and Blood for the Master, this is nevertheless still a very strong album.  Goatwhore continues to put out uncompromisingly brutal metal.  They get more extreme with each release.
Ex Mortus bring a lot of symphonic and classical influences to their style of riffing.  The solos in particular display these influences.  The band even goes so far as to cover "Moonlight Sonata".  Seriously.  The rest of the album is unapologetically cheesy and metal as fuck.  It's campy and fun, and we need that once in awhile.
Finland's Insomnium are easily one of the best melodeath bands still going.  Their somber and melodic style comes as a welcome change from some of the other groups in the genre.  This is yet another melancholic masterpiece from the band that just keeps getting better.
Easily one of the most controversial albums of the year, particularly due to the album's insane cover art, Lord Mantis's third release is also one of the year's best.  Their take on filthy rotten sludge metal puts a lot of the mainstream sludge acts to shame.  Those who refused to check it out due to the cover are missing out.
Grand Magus makes this list every year they release something.  That should tell something about the quality of this band.  They just continue to put out terrific album after terrific album.  They are quite simply on of the best traditional metal bands going today.
First of all, awesome name.  Secondly, awesome death metal album.  Corpsessed reminds me most of groups like Angelcorpse and Teitanblood, filthy, disgusting death metal that blows everything else out of the water.  This is just the band's first full-length album, which is shocking because they sound like seasoned veterans.
Vader is simultaneously one of the most consistent and most underrated metal bands in the world.  They just never seem to get the respect and notice that they deserve.  Every single album by Vader is terrific and the fact that the band has been doing it since the mid 1980's is astounding.  This is once more a very strong album in typical Vader take-no-prisoners style.
Triptykon was the release I probably looked most forward to this year.  After all, their first album was my Album of the Year and it did not look at all like this would be a disappointing sophomore album.  While I do thoroughly enjoy this album, some of the songs seemed to be a little too similar at times and the band was often comfortable plodding along.  Certainly not the case with the opening crushing track.  All in all, a great album, but one that pales in comparison to the first one.
I have always liked Mastodon, but none of their releases have been so great that I listened to them frequently over and over again.  Until this one.  This album features some of the catchiest songs I have heard all year.  Mastodon seems much more focused on crafting songs rather than the meandering psychedelia the band once used frequently and they are that much better for it.

One of the most hyped releases of the year managed to exceed even my expectations.  Behemoth has always been a favorite band of mine, but some of their releases have lacked dynamics, focusing instead on simply blasting away.  This release is incredibly dynamic and therefore blows away everything the band previously released.

The debut album by this Australian death metal act is incredible.  Dark and mysterious with an obvious Lovecraftian influence, the album features twisted riffs and psychotic, gibbering vocals.  It is one of those death metal albums that simply grabs you on the first listen and will not let go.  I have mentioned that certain death metal albums, particularly lesser-known ones, sometimes have an intense quality that makes it difficult to turn them off.  This one has that same quality.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

EP Briefs (I Need to Catch Up)

I am trying to clear out some emails here and figured since these were all shorter releases that a quick paragraph would suffice.  I found myself enjoying all three releases for different reasons, so don't take the brevity of the reviews as an indictment against them.

Creinium is a technical extreme metal band from Finland.  It definitely starts out kind of weird, with some ambient synth work and some imposing narration but then kicks it into gear on the next track.  Creinium continues to use a lot of keyboards, giving the band kind of a death metal Dimmu Borgir sound, or a more technical Luna Ad Noctum.  The band combines a number of different metal genres into their sound, making a precise description somewhat difficult.  The keyboards are really the star here as they distinguish the group from others.  Without them, there would not be a whole lot to talk about.

This is the second post-metal band I have reviewed in the last week.  I suppose "post-metal" would be far too limiting a term, as Pineal clearly has a lot of sludgy riffs with some Alice In Chains-esque vocals as well.  The band is more of a cross between Crowbar, Alice In Chains, Neurosis, and some Tool for good measure.  The riffs are ridiculously heavy and of course slower-paced, and the haunting vocals add a sense of doom and gloom that carries forward through the entire release.  It is an overall dark and depressing release that sounds great on a cold, dreary night like tonight.

Crushing Axes is a one-man death metal project from Brazil, although apparently a session drummer and bassist were used.  The vocals are the major standout.  Sounding something like Nespithe-era Demilich, they consist of deep, frog-like croaking, though not as extreme as the aforementioned Demilich.  The music is fairly simple mid-tempo groove-laden death metal with some interesting lead guitar work on the melodies.  The release in theme and sound does a pretty decent job of capturing the general feel of the catchier work by Amon Amarth.  I would like to see a Brazilian band like this cover some of Brazil's own badass mythology though.

Monday, December 8, 2014

In Memory of Dimebag

This is my all-time favorite Pantera song, and probably Top 10 songs of all-time:

I don't care for much later Pantera, but Cowboys from Hell is awesome.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ovenizer: Exhibition of Thoughts (2014)

I have never really gotten into post-metal.  Groups like Tombs and Isis were kind of lost on me.  Maybe I just never really heard the right tracks to check them out more.  I did not want to pick something up without really checking it out particularly with that style of music and I guess a lot of that had to do with the fact that I am much more into the ultra-aggressive forms of metal.  The ethereal, dreamlike structures of post-metal don't speak to me in the same way.

So it was with a little bit of trepidation that I dove into this three-song EP from Finnish post-metal/doom trio Ovenizer.  I figured a three-track release would be easy enough to digest though without growing too painful.  I am actually kind of glad I took the chance.  Maybe I was just a melancholy mood when listening to it, but it really did capture my attention and I found myself enjoying it immensely.

It is true that the three song format was easy to digest, but I found myself wanting more.  The songs each move freely with a significant amount of melody and swirling guitar riffs creating a trance-inducing atmosphere.  The vocals are typically clean, though occasionally a death growl emerges.  The vocals though are just complementary to the music.  The band could have just as easily produced the same atmosphere without any vocals at all.

The songs are typically slow and depressive.  The band strikes a balance between the earlier works of groups like My Dying Bride and Katatonia with the heavier works by Isis.  It is a very dark and doom-laden sound that also presents some extremely strong emotions, in particular during second track "Hypnote", the strongest track on the album.

I really enjoyed this release, but the best thing that I can say about it is that it has opened up my eyes to a genre I did not previously get into.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Hellcrawler/Wölfe: The End of Humanity (2014)

Do other forms of music even do splits?  It seems like the only splits I ever hear about are in extreme metal and related genres.  Seriously, are there splits in rap music?  Pop music?  

Anyway, this is a split between two obviously extreme metal bands.  You don't get a name like Hellcrawler in the pop music realm.  Each band contributed about ten minutes worth of music, which does a surprisingly good job of introducing the band to someone like myself who is not familiar with either group.

Hellcrawler has taken the Entombed death 'n roll sound and run with it.  The Slovenien group (that's right, Slovenian) has one full length album under their belt before this split.  Their side of the split is three tracks of dirty, filthy death metal with some surprisingly catchy hooks.  Third track "Green Machine" is a cover of one of the greatest Kyuss songs.  They do a decent job putting their own spin on it.  

Wölfe is definitely extreme.  An odd mix of grindcore and blackened thrash.  The band apparently does not actually name their songs, titling them with Roman numerals only.  The production values leave a little to be desired as the sound is a little too high-pitched and grating.  The drums have that certain St. Anger quality.  The vocals are pretty terrible as well.  I will likely not be revisiting Wölfe.

So, two sides, one really good and the other really bad.  I will definitely be trying to track down some more Hellcrawler.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cyrax: Reflections (2013)

If I had to pick just one word to describe the sound of Cyrax, it would be eclectic.  I think that is the most accurate descriptor for a band that combines such a wide and varied mix of music into their sound.  The Italian five-piece can go from blues rock to metal at the drop of a hat.  None of which would be possible if the musicians were not all as incredibly talented as they are.

The album starts off with the track "Doom Against True Hell", which features a hefty amount of synthesizer programming to open things up before diving into a much more standard power-chord-driven riff, which is easily the heaviest riff on the release.  That sound is frequently spliced with more programming, some choral vocal lines, and singer Marco Cantoni's howling vocals.  This sets the stage for most of the rest of the songs, which manage to throw a number of other influences in as the album progresses.

Along the way, there are some strange moments which may be considered missteps depending on the listener.  For instance, "My Kingdom for a Horse" features some vocal segments that can best be described as akin to rapping.  Which is strange, to say the least.  Other sections feature more of the choral style, which is typically done quite well.  Much of the album relies on keyboards to drive the melody, which can be interesting when done well, but some of the more experimental sections can be a little strange.  And of course the track "Feel the Essence of Blues" is much more of a blues song than metal, which is a bit of an unusual and rather courageous addition.

The members of Cyrax are clearly talented musicians, which is the only reason that they are able to pull this album off.  It is a very strange and varied release that sees influences from a variety of non-metal genres, as well as metal.  Is it for everyone?  Probably not.  But it is certainly an entertaining and interesting release.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Neoplasmah: Auguring the Dusk of a New Era (2014)

I'll be honest.  The cover art for this one threw me for a loop.  Based on the artwork of a man floating above a pool of water with multiple planets/moons in the background around him, I was thinking the music was going to be some kind of spacey progressive metal akin to Andromeda, Bal-Sagoth, and the like, or at the very least some overly technical metal wankery.  I was not expecting what turned out to be a death metal album.

To be fair, this is much more of a progressive death metal album in the vein of Mithras and Nocturnus.  The bass in particular reminds me very strongly of Nocturnus's classic The Key.  The science fiction theme, complicated song structures, otherworldly bass sound, and deep vocals combine into a cohesive sound that really does give off the feel of a sci-fi concept album. 

Each of the musicians is extremely gifted at their instruments.  The bass is definitely the star of the album but the drumming and lead guitars are also top-notch.  The drumming, while not as complicated as some progressive metal drummers (i.e. no polyrhythms and multiple time signatures) drives the music with its precision and intensity.  The lead guitar work provides a lot of the melody of the songs and can go from almost neoclassical shredding to dissonant chord progressions fairly quickly. 

The vocals of singer Sofia Silva are delivered in a raspy tone that calls to mind Sabina Classen of Holy Moses, who is one of my personal favorite female extreme metal vocalists, so I am on board.  There is not frequently a lot of dynamics to the vocals, but they nonetheless fit well with the urgency of the music.  On occasion the band utilizes clean backing vocals which provide a nice dichotomy to the otherwise more monotone vocal style.

One thing I did really enjoy with this release is that, unlike a lot of progressive metal bands, Neoplasmah craft complete songs, rather than a collection of musical segments.  Songwriting appears to be just as important to this band as showing off their technical skills.  The band takes things one step further by being able to blend all of the songs into a complete album rather than just a collection of separate and distinct songs.

This is an album that sounds better and better with repeated listens.  There is a lot going on musically that can be missed and revealed in hearing it again and again. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Villainy: The View from My Ivory Tower (2014)

Villainy has not been around for very long.  They released their first full-length album in 2013 and then a collection of their demos in 2014.  This is a follow-up two-song EP from the power trio.  I was not previously aware of Villainy, so this is my first experience with the band.

The music is an unholy combination of doom, black, and crust.  The opening track crawls out of the gate with the pace of a snail slinking to its demise.  The pace increases to a more of a deathly gallop before returning to the dirge.  The song definitely has a Sabbathian feel to it, despite the more modern influences.

The second track is a much more fast-paced song that sounds like Motorhead playing Venom.  As a big fan of groups like Wastelander and Thargos, this song really catches my interest.  If this is what the rest of Villainy's material sounds like, I am all in. 

Unfortunately this is just a two-song EP, but it definitely piqued my curiosity to check out more by Villainy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sinister: The Unborn Dead (2014)

The Dutch death metal mavens Sinister have quietly put together quite the impressive and long-lasting career despite never coming close to mainstream death metal recognition.  Most of the reason for this is geographical, but it is quite unfortunate all the same. 

This release is a quick, two-song 7" EP.  Both songs are covers with the first being a cover of Grotesque's "Ripped from the Cross", and a second, much more outside-the-box cover of Chicago-based doom metal band Novembers Doom.  Both tracks are presented with the grinding bottom-heavy riffs and pounding drums that Sinister has perfected over their long career.  Vocalist/drummer (?) Aad Kloosterwaard has one of the most extreme voices in death metal, sounding much more like a deep, guttural croak.

There is not much to say about the Grotesque cover.  It is definitely within Sinister's wheelhouse, fast-paced, frenetic death metal.  It is unsurprising that Sinister is able to handle this song capably.  The much more shocking cover is the Novembers Doom cover.  Sinister infuses some clean vocals to capture the mournful tone of the original track.  But the band sounds a little clumsy trying to slow things down and has a hard time conveying the tragedy and loss that Novembers Doom is so well-suited to capture.  Sinister should probably stick to uncompromising, lethal death metal than trying their hand at doom.

So, two tracks, one pretty good, and the other not as well-executed, but certainly interesting.  It is only a two-track EP so it is only recommended for hardcore fans.