Saturday, May 30, 2009

Roadrunner United Walkthrough

Roadrunner United was an album that came out a few years ago to celebrate Roadrunner's 20th Anniversary. Roadrunner was one of the early labels that specialized in metal music along with Metal Blade. Early on, the label got in when death metal was just beginning to make major waves. Early on, the label had such death metal artists as Obituary, Death, Deicide, Cynic, Malevolent Creation, and Suffocation. Later on, the artist began dropping these artists in favor of nu metal bands and metalcore bands. Thus began the finger-pointing at Roadrunner for being a trendwhore label. Yes they stick to the more hard rock genres, but they will quickly drop artists who are not popular at the time in favor of acts who are.

This album was an interesting way to celebrate the label's 20th Anniversary. The label found four well-known musicians to front teams and write all but one of the songs. The captains were chosen for their popularity and songwriting abilities. The four captains were Robb Flynn of Machine Head and Vio-Lence, Dino Cazares of Fear Factory, Joey Jordison of Slipknot, and Matt Heafy of Trivium.

I will start with a track by track look at the album and then finish with some final thoughts on the album.

1. The Dagger (Genre: Metalcore/Groove Metal)
Howard Jones (Killswitch Engage): Vocals
Robert Flynn (Machine Head, Vio-Lence): Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
Jordan Whelan (Still Remains): Rhythm Guitar
Christian Olde-Wolbers (Fear Factory): Bass
Andols Herrick (Chimaira): Drums
Jeff Waters (Annihilator): Guitar Solo

Leading things off with a bang, this song features the familiar good cop/bad cop vocal stylings of Howard Jones of Killswitch Engage. The riffing is much more powerful than anything Killswitch has done though. The breakdown features more familiar crooning from the popular singer. Much of the rest of the song is fairly standard groove/metalcore. The guitar solo is impressive, as Jeff Waters usually is. He is not called the Canadian Eddie Van Halen for nothing. He gradually picks up more and more speed before fading out. The trade off vocals at the end between Jones and Robb Flynn lend a little extra jolt of energy as the song is coming to a close. If this lineup recorded an entire album, I might be interested.

2. The Enemy (Genre: Groove Metal)
Mark Hunter (Chimaira): Vocals
Dino Cazares (Fear Factory, Divine Heresy): Rhythm Guitar
Andreas Kisser (Sepultura): Solo/Acoustic Guitar
Paul Gray (Slipknot): Bass
Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour): Drums

This song was the first time I heard anything about Chimaira. It starts off with a little acoustic guitar courtesy of Sepultura's Andreas Kisser. It then dives into a groove/thrash riff with Hunter's desperate gasping screams kicking in. Hunter has always been a good vocalist, it's been the rest of the band that has been the problem. That is not an issue here as Dino keeps things heavy throughout without losing interest. The breakdown with the pounding drums, throbbing bass, and the Kisser solo is probably the highlight of this song. It ends the same way it starts, with acoustic guitars from Kisser. If this lineup recorded an album, I would consider it.

3. Annihilation by the Hands of God (Genre: Death Metal)
Glen Benton (Deicide, Vital Remains): Vocals
Matt DeVries (Chimaira): Rhythm Guitar
Rob Barrett (Cannibal Corpse, Malevolent Creation): Rhythm Guitar
James Murphy (ex-Disincarnate, ex-Death, ex-Obituary, ex-Cancer, ex-Testament): Guitar Solo
Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Testament, Sadus, Autopsy, Control Denied): Fretless Bass
Joey Jordison (Slipknot): Drums

There are lots of death metal veterans on this one. Only DeVries and Jordison look out of place. Glen Benton brings his psychotic layered death vocals to the party over the top of an impressive death groove courtesy of Rob Barrett and Steve DiGiorgio. James Murphy, who has been in several highly influential death metal bands lends a smoking guitar solo to the proceedings. Easily one of the more impressive songs on the album, I would definitely pick up an album by this lineup.

4. In the Fire (Genre: Speed Metal/Traditional Metal)
King Diamond (King Diamond, Mercyful Fate): Vocals
Matt Heafy (Trivium): Lead/Rhythm/Acoustic Guitars
Corey Beaulieu (Trivium): Lead/Rhythm guitars
Mike D'Antonio (Killswitch Engage): Bass
Dave Chavarri (Ill Niño): Drums

Ah King Diamond. King is one of the most influential and distinct vocalists in the genre. The Trivium axe-slingers display their skills on this song. Trivium has always had the musicians capable of putting out excellent music, they have just been a little lacking in the songwriting department. Still, they are very young. King's voice sounds excellent, more powerful than it has sounded in years. Dave Chavarri proves that he is not a nu metal drummer naturally, having spent time in M.O.D., Laaz Rockit, and Pro-Pain among others. This is another impressive track and a lineup that I would check out. It doesn't have the same spooky atmosphere as King Diamond's normal backing band does, but it is good nonetheless.

5. The End (Genre: Hard Rock/Nu Metal)
Matt Heafy (Trivium): Vocals/Guitar Solo
Dino Cazares (Fear Factory): Rhythm Guitar
Logan Mader (ex-Machine Head & ex-Soulfly): Melodic Guitar Harmonics
Rhys Fulber (Front Line Assembly): Keyboards/Programming
Nadja Peulen (Coal Chamber): Bass
Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour): Drums

This is the single, the big hit from the record. It is a fairly typical power ballad for the time period. It is very catchy and Heafy sounds pretty good. There's not much musically interesting going on as Heafy is the big star here. It's interesting that he never attempted a ballad with Trivium, something that would surely put the band over the top popularity-wise with the Hot Topic kiddies. It's a good song, not a metal song and not something I would consider buying an entire album for.

6. Tired 'N Lonely (Genre: Hardcore/Grunge)
Keith Caputo (Life Of Agony): Vocals/Keyboard
Matt Baumbach (ex-Vision Of Disorder): Rhythm Guitar
Tommy Niemeyer (Gruntruck): Rhythm Guitar
Acey Slade (Murderdolls): Rhythm Guitar
James Root (Slipknot/Stone Sour): Guitar Solo/Harmony Guitar
Nadja Peulen (Coal Chamber): Bass
Joey Jordison (Slipknot/Murderdolls): Drums

The first five tracks have ranged from above average to awesome. This song takes it down a few pegs. Mostly that's because it is aimed at being a post hardcore/grunge type track. There's nothing metal about this song. Caputo's voice is only good in certain circumstances, and this is not one of those. It's annoying and he sounds tired. I would not consider an album by this lineup.

7. Independent (Voice of the Voiceless) (Genre: Groove Metal)
Max Cavalera (Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy, ex-Sepultura & ex-Nailbomb): Vocals
Robert Flynn (Machine Head): Guitar/3-part Guitar Harmonies/Keyboards
Jordan Whelan (Still Remains): Rhythm Guitar
Jeff Waters (Annihilator): Guitar Solo
Christian Olde Wolbers (Fear Factory): Bass
Andols Herrick (Chimaira): Drums

The album gets back into things with this groove metal stomp. Max is his usual angry self on this one. The song sounds like something Cavalera Conspiracy would have put out if Robb Flynn was on guitar. It really does sound like a mix of Machine Head and Soulfly. Not a bad song at all. Still it doesn't offer anything that Max hasn't done elsewhere. I am a fan of Max Cavalera though so I would probably consider an entire album of this. Annihilator's Jeff Waters adds another amazing solo to this.

8. Dawn of a Golden Age (Genre: Melodic Black Metal/Gothic Metal)
Dani Filth (Cradle Of Filth): Vocals
Matt Heafy (Trivium): Lead/Rhythm Guitar
Justin Hagberg (3 Inches of Blood): Rhythm Guitar
Sean Malone (Cynic): Bass
Mike Smith (Suffocation): Drums

Here we have an attempted black metal song. It's not a bad attempt, but neither of these guitarists really know how to play black metal. The tremolo riffing is somewhat on point, but that's about it. The drums pummel away unmercifully. Mike Smith practically invented the blast beat. Dani Filth is not as ear-piercingly shrieky in this song as he is in Cradle of Filth. This does sound like a song that would fit in well with latter-era Cradle, which isn't really black metal either. The keyboards give the song a melancholic feel towards the end. Decent song, I would think about buying an album by this lineup, particularly if they replaced the rhythm guitarist.

9. The Rich Man (Genre: Nu Metal)
Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour): Vocals
Robert Flynn (Machine Head): Rhythm Guitar/Keyboard
Jordan Whelan (Still Remains): Rhythm Guitar
Christian Olde Wolbers (Fear Factory): Bass
Andols Herrick (Chimaira): Drums

This was probably the most disappointing song on the album. It sounds like an afterthought or an early draft to The End. Corey Taylor has a decent voice, but on this song he doesn't even try. It's a nu metal song, without a doubt. There are no riffs to speak of, just power chords strummed during the screaming chorus. I really thought Taylor would have sounded pretty good backed by a real metal band for once (fuck you Slipknot). Unfortunately, this was not what I had in mind. The samples are really annoying too in this context.

10. No Way Out (Genre: Hardcore)
Daryl Palumbo (Glassjaw, Head Automatica): Vocals
Matt Baumbach (ex-Vision Of Disorder): Lead/Rhythm Guitars
Junkie XL (Junkie XL): Programming Synths
Joey Jordison (Slipknot): Drums/Bass

From the most disappointing song on the album to the worst song on the album. Seriously, this one is just plain fucking awful. I usually skip it when I actually listen to this album, which admittedly isn't much lately. Glassjaw was a band that kind of pre-dated the current emo scene and had some influence on it. His voice is FUCKING TERRIBLE and annoying as hell. I can't even comment on the music because it's so hard to get around the awfulness of the vocals to actually hear what's going on. It's sort of upbeat and happy sounding but I don't know. No fucking way would I pick up an album by this lineup.

11. Baptized in the Redemption (Genre: Groove Metal)
Dez Fafara (Devildriver, ex-Coal Chamber): Vocals
Dino Cazares (Fear Factory): Rhythm Guitar
Andreas Kisser (Sepultura): Solo/Wah Wah Guitar Effects
Paul Gray (Slipknot): Bass
Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour): Drums

This one is decent. I have always been a fan of Dez Fafara's voice, particularly his rough vocals, his clean vocals suck. I always felt he would fare better with a metal band than with Coal Chamber. When Coal Chamber broke up and he formed Devildriver, it was what I was hoping for. This song is kind of in between Coal Chamber and Devildriver. It's got more of a slow groove metal feel to it halfway between the nu metal of Coal Chamber and the melodeath influenced groove metal of Devildriver. Not a bad song, but Devildriver is better. I probably would not pick up an album by this lineup just because of the existence of Devildriver.

12. Roads (Genre: ?)
Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth): Vocals
Josh Silver (Type O Negative): Keyboards/Backing Vocals

This is the most unusual song on the album as it was not written by any of the four team captains. Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth has an amazing voice and he only uses his clean vocals on this track, over the top of string synths. A good song, and a melancholic break from the rest of the hard hitting metal/rock songs on the album. I would not like an entire album of this, but this is a decent little song.

13. Blood & Flames (Genre: Metalcore?)
Jesse David Leach (ex-Killswitch Engage, Seemless): Vocals
Matt Heafy (Trivium): Lead/Rhythm/Acoustic Guitars/Vocals
Josh Rand (Stone Sour): Rhythm Guitar
Mike D'Antonio (Killswitch Engage): Bass
Johnny Kelly (Type O Negative): Drums

Jesse David Leach is the original lead singer of Killswitch Engage and left that band because it was too hard on his vocal chords, right before they hit it big. A shame. He's actually a more emotional sounding singer than Jones. His gruff vocals also have a more intimidating sneer than Jones's vocals. I'm not sure what genre this song would fit under, it seems to have elements of a lot of different genres. The groove during the verses is interesting and catchy but they always break down into the chorus.

14. Constitution Down (Genre: Death/Thrash Metal)
Kyle Thomas (Exhorder, Alabama Thunderpussy): Vocals
Matt DeVries (Chimaira): Rhythm Guitar
Rob Barrett (Cannibal Corpse, Malevolent Creation): Rhythm Guitar/Trade-Off Solo
James Murphy (ex-Disincarnate, ex-Death, ex-Obituary, ex-Cancer, ex-Testament): Intro solo
Andy La Rocque (King Diamond): Trade-Off Solo
Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Testament, Vintersorg, Sadus, Autopsy, Control Denied): Fretless Bass
Joey Jordison (Slipknot): Drums

This was actually the first time I had heard Kyle Thomas, known best for his work with the original groove metal band, Exhorder (sorry Pantera). This song is interesting because musically it sounds like a faster-paced, lighter death metal song, certainly so considering the musicians. However, Thomas is not a death metal singer, he sounds more at home with thrash and groove metal. His voice sounds a little out of place, he is attempting to make it fit the music, but it just doesn't. That's not to say that this is a bad song, far from it, it would be great if there was a different singer, maybe someone like John Tardy of Obituary, someone Roadrunner probably had access to.

15. I Don't Wanna Be (A Superhero) (Genre: Punk)
Michale Graves (ex-Misfits): Vocals
Matt Heafy (Trivium): Lead/Rhythm Guitar
Justin Hagberg (3 Inches of Blood): Rhythm Guitar
Mike D'Antonio (Killswitch Engage): Bass
Dave Chavarri (Ill Niño): Drums

This song is pure punk. Well, I'm probably wrong about that as I know next to nothing about pure punk. But anyway, at least it sounds like The Misfits which are a well-known punk band. It does have a metallic edge to it which is why I'm probably wrong. But man is it catchy and melodic. The chorus is infectious. A very good, fun song. I own a Misfits album and like to dig it out once in awhile. That's probably enough for me though.

16. Army of the Sun (Genre: Metalcore/Groove Metal)
Tim Williams (Bloodsimple, ex-Vision Of Disorder): Vocals
Robert Flynn (Machine Head): Rhythm Guitar
Jordan Whelan (Still Remains): Rhythm Guitar
Christian Olde Wolbers (Fear Factory): Bass
Andols Herrick (Chimaira): Drums

Despite my unfamiliarity of the music of Vision of Disorder (all I know is that they are probably an early metalcore act with more hardcore elements than metal), I liked this song. This song has kind of a restrained aggressiveness to it. Williams's vocals fit it very well. The breakdown could have been skipped and the song would sound better though. Still not a bad song at all. I would think about an album featuring this lineup, but only with more samples.

17. No Mas Control (Genre: Nu Metal)
Cristian Machado (Ill Niño): Vocals
Dino Cazares (Fear Factory): Rhythm Guitar
Souren "Mike" Sarkisyan (Spineshank): Harmony Guitar
Andreas Kisser (Sepultura): Harmony Guitar
Marcelo Dias (ex-Soulfly): Bass
Dave McClain (Machine Head, ex-Sacred Reich): Drums

This song attempts to infuse a little Latin music flavor. Or just some Spanish lyrics, whatever. It is another nu metal track as there is little to no melody to it except for the choruses. I don't care much for this song, there just isn't much there. I have never cared for Ill Niño and this song did not change that for me.

18. Enemy of the State (Genre: Gothic Metal)
Peter Steele (Type O Negative, ex-Carnivore): Vocals/Keyboards
Steve Holt (36 Crazyfists): Rhythm/Acoustic/Slide Guitars
Josh Silver (Type O Negative): Keyboards/Samples
Dave Pybus (Cradle of Filth): Bass
Joey Jordison (Slipknot): Drums

This was another disappointing song. I love Peter Steele's deep, sad vocals. Unfortunately he doesn't use them to full effect in this song, choosing instead to speak the verses. The choruses are decent and the music definitely has a depressive feel, but the vocals are just lacking. Steve Holt of 36 Crazyfists actually does a decent job with the guitar parts despite the rather notable obstacle of the fact that he generally sucks. It's an okay song, but another missed opportunity.

Final Thoughts:
The major problem with the album is the lack of diversity. Robb Flynn and Dino Cazares seem incapable of branching out very far from groove metal. The most diverse songwriters were Joey Jordison and Matt Heafy who displayed familiarities with multiple genres of metal. The majority of the songs would not look out of place on Roadrunner albums from that time period. This was essentially a cash grab, but a reasonably interesting one. It did not totally disappoint me then, or even now, but it's not an album that I dig out and listen to very often.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ozzy Osbourne is Suing Tony Iommi

Well I guess there will be no reunion with the classic Black Sabbath lineup after all. Ozzy has filed a lawsuit against guitarist Tony Iommi for one half of the value of the trademarked Black Sabbath name as well as profits that Iommi has gained through use of the name. Ozzy claims that it was his vocals that were largely responsible for the success the band gained and that Black Sabbath was never the same after he was kicked out of the band.

A couple of questions:

1. Why the hell did it take so long for Ozzy to pull something like this?

2. When was the name trademarked?

3. Did Ozzy leave the band voluntarily or was he fired?

If the name was trademarked while Ozzy was still in the band and he did not relinquish any rights to the name and was then kicked out, then Ozzy probably has some legal grounds to stand on here. It's unfortunate, but it's probably true. However, if the band name was not trademarked until after he left voluntarily or was kicked out, then things are a little muddier.

From the information that I have seen, it looks as if Iommi did not register the trademark until 1999 at the earliest. After each of the original members left the band, they probably relinquished their rights to the name as Iommi continued using it. Ozzy has probably slept on his rights, allowing Iommi to claim as an affirmative defense the doctrine of laches. That would be my first move if I were the attorney.

I would need more information about this case, some of the facts are unknown to me at this time, before I can come up with a better idea of what will happen. Currently, I believe that this case will be settled out of court, but I am pulling for Iommi. Ozzy has his own career and is not hurting for money. Unfortunately, when people are forming a band they often do not consider what would happen if they got rich off of it and then broke up. I will keep an eye on this.


Iommi has had the trademark since 1999. The band Black Sabbath has not been active in that time period, but still sells merchandise pretty well. Iommi has a suit against Live Nation for merchandise profits for using the name without his consent. Apparently Ozzy thinks this will result in a big payday for Iommi. I'm still banking on the laches defense, he could have brought suit 10 years ago when Iommi got the contract knowing that there probably would continue to be merchandise released with the Black Sabbath name.

Explanation for the Reviews

As I mentioned previously, last week I knocked out a ton of reviews. They have all been posted now so I will get back to normal posting. Last week on the Metal Archives, there was a contest to see if they could get a bunch of albums reviewed that had not been reviewed previously. I came in a very distant fifth place. The top four were all over 70 or so, my 24 (with two splits that counted as two reviews each) was way behind. Still though, I am glad I was able to help with the project and review some worthy albums. As you can see, some of the reviews were very positive such as Devastator, Cauldron, and Apophis, three albums I love. Others were not so positive such as Pitchshifter. Enough full reviews for now.

Devastator: Nuclear Proliferation Review

Devastator is a blackened thrash metal band from the United States that sounds like they would fit easily with the Australian “war metal” scene. They play quickly and precisely, almost mechanically. They sound like an industrial machine moreso than a thrash metal band. There are few tempo changes within a song keeping this almost inhuman precision going at all times.

The guitar riffs have the same sort of buzzsaw tone that has become a staple of Swedish death. However, they are not playing death metal riffs, but rather thrash riffs inspired by bands like early German thrash bands and Sepultura. The band frequently finds one particular riff on each track and plays the hell out of it for the full song, sometimes as much as eight minutes long. They do occasionally switch riffs but for the most part they stick to one main riff per song. There are guitar solos that crop up once in awhile, but the tone is not fully fleshed out, sounding more like an electrical short in keeping with the industrial machinery feel of the rest of the album.

The rhythm section plugs away as precisely as the guitars forming the backbone to the sound. The drums are often not doing anything terribly fancy, an occasional roll or fill, but for the most part the drums are there to keep time and keep the guitars on track. The bass drum is struck with force in places the band is trying to emphasize, bringing to mind the image of cannon blasts and explosions. The bass plays many of the same riffs as the guitars providing a full, bottom-heavy attack on the senses.

Vocalist Wulfnoth delivers his lines in a constant rasping growl. He does not waver from this approach, except for the occasional shriek which still maintains the raspy quality of his other vocals.

Lyrically, Devastator is all about war. Song titles like “Brothers in Arms”, “Bombardment” (an incredibly fitting name), and “Into Battle” keep these images active while listening.

Despite the use of the same riff over and over within each song, each song sounds distinct and not like the one previous to it. This is enough to keep the listener involved throughout the album.

The band is not as chaotic-sounding as the Australian bands like Destroyer 666, instead choosing precision and constant bombardment to chaos and destruction. However, the effect is the same. This band pummels the listener with a force and fury that is hard to fathom. The songs are long but never get tiring because they maintain their ferocity all the way through to the end. This is a great album and Devastator lives up to their name, completely wiping out the listener by the time the album is through.

Dreaming Dead: Within One Review

At one time, having a female in a metal band was a novelty. Later on, this started to wear off but there were still not many females in extreme metal bands. It was this novelty that lead the Angela Gossow-lead Arch Enemy into a huge amount of success for such an extreme metal band. There have been more and more extreme metal bands with female singers an it appears that some of these bands have been accepted and praised more for the musical talents than the fact that there is a woman singing. Estuary is one of these bands and now, with their 2009 release on Ibex Moon Records, Dreaming Dead joins those ranks.

Dreaming Dead formed in 2006 under the name Manslaughter. They released an EP under that name and then later changed it along with adding a couple additional members. They released their first full length album early in 2009. The hype machine really has not discovered the band yet despite the presence of Elizabeth Schall, a beautiful woman, fronting the band. Thus far, they have garnered attention mostly on behalf of their versatile musicianship. This is a step in the right direction for the metal community.

The band’s influences are pulled from death metal, melodic death metal, thrash metal, and black metal. The music is quick-paced and intense. It owes more to thrash than the other forms although it is a little more bottom-heavy than thrash. The bass is audible adding to the thunder at the bottom of the music. The drumming is fast and loud. There are the occasional blastbeats and some other times where the drummer truly shines, but for the most part he stays in the background.

The guitar riffs bear some similarities to those of Dissection, occasional tremolo riffs swirling around the increasingly pounding drums. Other times, the riffs are more similar to death metal or even to thrash metal. The band switches styles effortlessly from one subgenre to another making them difficult to classify. Every once in awhile the band slows things down with a somber melodic interlude. This changes the pace a little bit and keeps the interest of the listener.

Elizabeth Schall does sound a little like Angela Gossow, but she has a little more rasp to her vocals, seemingly more influenced by black metal style vocals. It is often difficult to tell that this is a woman singing, she does a fine job.

All in all, this is a good debut album for this up and coming band. It will be interesting to see how the band follows it up.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Problem with the Music Industry

Those who know me well know that I pretty much despise popular music. I think the vast majority of the shit on MTV and VH1 and most pop radio is ultimately disposeable crap produced quickly without any regard toward making something truly memorable. This brings me to my point today. There are two bits of music news that I noticed that pretty much shows that the music industry as a whole is pretty pathetic.

1. Lady Gaga will be on the cover of Rolling Stone

Lady Gaga will not be remembered two years from now, I feel very comfortable in saying that. Her songs are geared towards being popular today without any thought put towards being remembered years from now.

To make matters worse, she will be pictured on the cover naked, covered only with strategically placed bubbles. This shows that the only consideration in her presence on the cover is her sex appeal, she's not even that attractive in reality and I have seen the picture and it is ghastly. Lady Gaga is selling an image, NOT music.

2. SPV has been declared insolvent.

The German record label SPV distributes music by Angra, Annihilator, Ayreon, Borknagar, Chthonic, Enslaved, Gamma Ray, Helloween, Kamelot, Metal Church, Moonspell, Sodom, Summoning, and Type O Negative among others. Many of these are legitimately talented, original metal bands.

While declaring insolvency is not the end of the world, it certainly does not bode well for the future of the label. It only means that the company is having difficulty paying its dues. SPV will continue operations for the time being. Obviously it will have to start cutting costs if unable to keep up with its debts. Hopefully it will not come down to cutting bands who deserve to have their music heard.

Defleshed: Death...The High Cost of Living Review

This is a live album from Swedish death metal band Defleshed. They certainly seem to have done their homework on what Swedish death should sound like, throwing all of the typical ingredients together to form their sound which is very fast and brutal.

Defleshed actually started around the same time, just a couple of years later in fact, as many other Swedish death metal bands. However, where Entombed, Dismember, and Grave were able to get a full length album out and capitalize fairly quickly, it took Defleshed several more years to get their first full length out, which is perhaps why they remained mired in the underground, unknown except to people who are obsessed with Swedish death.

The most interesting aspect of this album is that it is a live album. It sounds like they’re playing a bar with maybe five to ten people in the audience. It’s actually kind of amusing to listen and hear everyone yelp, whistle, and cheer and be able to make out distinct voices.

The songs are very short and go by lightning-fast. If one is not paying attention, you could conceivably miss an entire song. The crowd probably would be a tip off that the song ended, but that’s it.

The music consists of standard Swedish death metal riffs with some hints of thrash thrown in for good measure. The guitars sound like chainsaws ripping through flesh. Unfortunately, in a live setting, sometimes its difficult to clearly hear the riffs and that is kind of the problem here as well. There are few, if any, solos, and they could not be heard very well anyway. The drummer is very entertaining as he is adding fills throughout the songs while still being able to keep time. The bass cannot be heard at all.

The singer sounds like he is trying to scream through a mouthful of blood. He has a voice that sounds desiccated and decayed as if he just crawled out of the grave. It’s rather amusing to hear him continue to use this voice as he announces the next song.

The production value is not very good. As mentioned earlier, the guitars sound a little muddy at times and the vocalist can not be heard well at all. The bass cannot be heard at all.

Still, this remains an interesting pickup of an underground Swedish death metal band. It is entertaining and a fast listen. Recommended for major fans of the scene and for completists. Anyone looking to get into the band should try their full lengths first.

Final Breath: Flash Burnt Crucifixes Review

Final Breath is a band from Germany that plays death/thrash metal in a similar style to Darkane, The Crown and other Swedish bands. Their death metal influences seem to be more on the Swedish side of things, bands like Dismember and Grave can be heard through their music. Their thrash metal influences are more likely their German countrymen like Sodom, Kreator, and Destruction. It is a volatile mix of extreme metal bands and yet it is seemless.

This is Final Breath’s debut full length album after forming in 1993 and releasing one demo and one EP. It is pretty obvious that this is their debut and they have had limited experience. The song titles are a little odd and show a limited grasp on the English language, or they’re jokes, tough to say which. Just look at these titles: “Going Hellbound”, “Sociopathetically Insane”, and “Bloodred Sky”. The album cover and band logo are obviously amateur but none of these things affect the music.

The guitar riffs have a little bit of the typical Swedish tone, but are delivered in a riffing style that has more in common with the German thrash scene. The riffs are not delivered at the same breakneck speed as the German thrash of the 1980's , but they are nowhere near groove metal speeds either, more of some healthy medium.

The drums are recorded pretty high in the mix. They are easily heard. They are often used more for keeping time than for doing much else, although there are quite a few interesting fills thrown in between guitar riffs. They are played very fast with a major emphasis on the snare drum as opposed to the rest of the kit.

The vocals are mostly shouted and gruff bringing to mind mid-era Grave. They do not change much, which is not that unusual for the style of music being played.

There really is not much original going on here. This style of music has been played before and probably played better, this is not a lost gem or anything like that and is by no means essential. However, the album is competent and interesting. It’s not a bad release by any means.

The band essentially sounds like Hating Life-era Ola Lindgren fronting a slowed-down Kreator. Not a bad mix whatsoever, as the band pulls it off quite well. As stated before, this is a decent album, just not original or essential.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cauldron: Chained to the Nite Review

This is the first full length album by Canadian heavy/thrash metal band Cauldron. Cauldron formed when the doom metal band Goat Horn broke up. They play a more traditional style of metal, sounding like a thrashier version of Iron Maiden or other NWOBHM bands. They released one EP prior to this album. This is definitely in the run for metal album of the year for me. The album is fast, fun, and catchy as hell.

Traditional metal has been on the upswing for the last several years. Cauldron joins a growing list of bands that play traditional metal that includes The Gates of Slumber, Grand Magus, Twisted Tower Dire, Wolf, and Icarus Witch. Cauldron's reference points are bands from the NWOBHM and early thrash metal bands like Slayer or Overkill.

The band plays short, choppy, staccato guitar riffs that call to mind Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer, over a galloping bass line, very similar to the style of Iron Maiden's Steve Harris, bringing the best of both styles together into a very well-done whole. The bass can always be heard very well in the mix, which is a good thing on this album because it is a major highlight. The guitar solos are incendiary, yet another influence from Maiden and their ilk. The drums are done capably but are not an outstanding feature of the music. They are played well, but the real focus of the band is on the riffing and the vocals.

Jason Decay provides the vocals for the band and, while he is not one of the better metal vocalists out there, his vocal style seems to fit reasonably well with the music. Decay's vocals bring to mind early Dokken, which is a bit of an unusual style. They are higher with a little bit of a whine to them. This is not a bad thing by any stretch, but they are something of a grower.

The lyrics are a little cheezy, the band certainly seems to have an affinity for chains. The album is titled "Chained to the Nite" and there are songs called "Chained Up in Chains" and "Chains Around Heaven". It's something of a theme. Despite the repetitiveness, the vocals are fun and do not detract from the music at all. The songs are extremely catchy and can easily become lodged in the brain for days at a time. Once again, that's not a bad thing.

The only complaint I really have is that my version comes with a bonus disk with just two songs on it. I am a little torn between liking and disliking that idea. On the one hand, the complete album is there and available to be listened to as the band intended. On the other hand, this is a short album, so why not include the bonus tracks at the end of the album? I guess ultimately I would prefer to have the bonus tracks at the end of the album instead of a separate disk. Just personal preference.

This album is fun and very catchy. The band sounds like they had a great time doing it which is communicated well to the listener. I look forward to seeing what the band does from here. This album is highly recommended to people looking for new metal bands that play the traditional genre the right way.

Hellhound: Anthology Review

Hellhound is a thrash metal band that came from the Bay Area but was unable to have a lasting impact or even really be able to get a record contract. All of the recordings put out by the band have only been of demo quality. They released only three demos, whose source material was collected to form this compilation probably as a result of the recent thrash resurgence.

The band plays melodic thrash metal in the vein of early Exodus and Testament with plenty of NWOBHM influences. The guitar riffs are fast and gallop along in a similar vein as those of Iron Maiden, although they are more thrash oriented than those of Maiden. There are some more technical riffs heard occasionally and these are also very well-played. The solos are very well-played, similar to those of Megadeth, albeit not with the same speed.

The drumming is good, although not a focal point of the music. Sometimes the drums a are a little high in the mix, but this is more due to the demo quality of the recording. The bass playing is clearly audible and is frequently playing something to accentuate the guitar riffs. The rhythm section is very good and manages to keep things interesting while keeping the time for the guitarists.

The vocals are higher pitched and similar to those of Erik Knutson of Flotsam and Jetsam. His vocals are a little weaker, but he matches the music well and that is the most important thing for thrash metal.

All in all, this is a good release which encompasses this forgotten band’s entire discography. It is a lot easier to find than the demos, and is recommended for those that want to hear some real authentic, but unknown Bay Area thrash.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Confessor: Confessor Complete Review

This band is labelled "technical doom metal". A description that when first heard does not seem to make sense. However, upon listening to them, "technical doom metal" seems like the only way to describe them. Confessor is a hugely underrated band and unfortunately largely forgotten, which is a shame. They are active again now which has helped them become a little more known, but they exist for the most part deep underground.

Confessor take the technicality of groups like Atheist and Voivod and apply them to the melodic traditional doom of groups like Cirith Ungol, Candlemass, and Trouble. In fact, two of the songs on this EP are fairly faithful covers of Trouble songs.

The riffs are fairly standard doom riffs most of the time, but can get surprisingly complex at times. The drumming is clearly the highlight of the album, the near-constant fills and runs are truly amazing. The band did a great service by having the drums so high in the mix because it really is a treat to hear a drummer this talented.

The vocals consist mostly of a sort of melancholic wail. They sound pretty good with the music, but otherwise I would not care much for them. The best track on the album is the instrumental, which is one of the Trouble covers, because all that can be heard is the interplay of the musicians, in particular the guitarist and drummer.

This is a great EP from an underrated band. It's just too bad it's so short.

Burn to Black: Mach 666 Review

Burn to Black is a Canadian blackened thrash metal band. Listening to them, it is clear that Hellhammer/Celtic Frost were a major influence on the band. They possess the same sickened low end-heavy guitar tone. The bonus track at the end of some versions of this album is even a Celtic Frost song.

The band is most notable for the presence of bassist Sam Dunn. Dunn is the creator of the metal documentaries A Headbanger's Journey and Global Metal.

As previously mentioned, the band uses a riffing style similar to Celtic Frost on many of their songs. The tone is the same, but Burn to Black plays significantly faster on average than Celtic Frost ever did. The riffs are meaty and have a very dark tone. There are played by the rhythm guitarist in conjunction with the bassist. Occasional melodic leads play over the top of the bottom-heavy riffs. Other influences are culled from Canadian death/thrash metal acts such as Sacrifice and Slaughter. A lot of the speed elements come from those acts.

There are guitar solos present giving songs a little more of a melodic touch. The guitar solos are played with more of a clean tone, helping to further emphasize the dirtiness of the underlying riffs.

The drumming is precise and pummelling. The drums act as timekeeper and the force driving the speed and intensity of the individual tracks.

The vocals are mostly made up of a sickening rasp. They are often shrieked in typical black metal style and that is where most of the black metal influences lie. The music for the most part is derived from early thrash acts like the aforementioned Canadian bands and Celtic Frost as well as other more extreme thrash metal acts such as Sodom and Destruction.

All in all, this is a pretty decent album by a little known or underrated band. A lot of metalheads know about the band because of Dunn's presence, but those that did not care for the documentaries, in particular the first one, have stayed away from the band. This is a mistake. This band possesses enough quality metal influences that shine through to make this a very well-done and entertaining effort. It will be interesting to see how they develop.

Mydgard: Decay of Thy Gods Review

Mydgard was a little-known band from Spain. After the band’s split, members went on to form the atmospheric black metal band Dantalion. Mydgard is obviously influenced heavily by bands like Dissection. They wear these influences on their sleeve, playing a brand of melodic black metal with some death metal influences.

This is a short EP with only five songs and is the band’s second recorded output after one demo. The band broke up after this release and members went their separate ways although several of them formed Dantalion as previously mentioned.

The recording quality is not very good. The guitars are up way too high in the mix effectively drowning everything else out, including the vocals. The bass cannot be heard at all and the drums are fairly low in the mix.

The music is very similar to early Dissection. Tremolo guitar riffs weave around the rhythm section. The leads are reasonably well-done and catchy. They definitely would not have sounded out of place on The Somberlain. Keyboards show up occasionally in slower portions to add a little more of a gothic feel. The drums are almost constant blast beats coupled with hits on the high hat.

Vocals are done in the typical mid 90's black metal style. They mostly consist of two pitches of rasp: a higher pitched one and a deeper death-metal type growling rasp. Occasionally they are layered giving a more evil, fuller sound. The vocals could stand to be a little higher in the mix. The lyrics are focused on Satanism and anti-Christian themes.

All in all, there is nothing original here. The band is another Dissection clone with some Emperor keyboard parts thrown in. If you enjoy Dissection, they make a reasonable approximation of the band’s sound, but if you want something new and original, go somewhere else.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Apophis: I am Your Blindness Review

This is a very short six song album. Apophis plays a sort of melodic death metal that is far closer to real death metal than the Gothenburg scene. They meld influences from early 1990's Swedish death metal and mid 1980's German thrash into a sound that is raw, powerful, and aggressive, but that is still incredibly infectious and catchy. The band is unknown for the most part and incredibly underrated. There are not many bands out there that can match the combination of power and infectiousness that Apophis reaches. It's unfortunate because this band is having record label troubles, which is why this release from 2005 is their last one to date. This band deserves to be heard.

The first track is kind of a throwaway symphonic intro track but it builds into the powerful opening riff of "Choirs of Bitterness". And just like that, the intensity never wavers the rest of the way through the album. The riffs come crashing in along with the blasting drums and the gruff death metal vocals.

The music is heavy, yet melodic at the same time with lead guitar lines weaving in and out of the crashing drum and bass rhythms. Guitar solos shine through in darker moments in the music and add even more melodic touches. There are very occasional uses of keyboards to add an additional flourish near the end of songs or when the moment calls for it.

The vocals retain their gruffness throughout the album, with the exception of some spoken lines in German in “Extinct Life” going back and forth with the main vocals. They are occasionally layered at points where the band wants a little extra emphasis. Once in awhile, the vocalists speaks, using the same vocal style, giving the moment a little extra demonic push. The vocals do get a little redundant over time, but this is not a problem on such a short album.

“Welcome to My World” is the highlight of the album with melodic guitar lines played over the top of blast beats from the drummer in several places throughout the song which are incredibly infectious. The guitar solo blazes near the end of the song leading into a final breakdown before the fadeaway.

“That’s Why I’ve Killed You” is another highlight. It starts out a little slower but after the first couple of verses kicks up the tempo and rolls through the rest of the song with a groove that Pantera would be jealous of.

Apophis possesses an amazing ability to write a truly catchy death metal song. Bands with that ability should be more popular. This is a very good, short melodic death metal album and it is highly recommended to anyone interested in melody but still wanting death metal.

Nuclear Desecration: Neclear Demons Attack Review

I picked this up when I was in the mood for a good vinyl 7" album of blackened death metal. It fulfilled most of those requirements except one. This is not a good release.

This album is UGLY. The intensity is there, the riffs are there, the vocals are there, but none of this can be heard all that well. This is a live recording meaning that there will be some sort of a decrease in recording quality, but wow. The only thing that can be heard well at all are the drums.

The drums are a good place to start as that's the only instrument that can be heard all that well. The mic must be on top of the drum kit. The drums are played in fairly typical blackened death style, i.e. lots and lots of blasting. The snare is the most used piece with occasional work on the crash, high hat and the bass drum. The drummer is pretty much blasting the entire time except for the occasional breakdown when he plays some truly interesting fills. The snare often sounds like he's playing a tin can.

The vocals are typically encompassed by rasping shrieks. He sounds a little muffled, not as bad as some of the other instruments but it almost sounds as if he is screaming into a pillow.

The guitar riffs, when they can be heard, are actually pretty good. Fast, almost thrashy riffing played with a lot of intensity and power. There are no guitar solos evident. There may not even be a bass player despite what the liner notes read. The music is fairly standard blackened death with lots of blasting and ugly, jagged riffs. The songs are decent and the band would be interesting to hear on record.

This album is not recommended, except for completists. If someone wants to get into this band, go to their studio output instead.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pitchshifter: Review

I was shocked when I first discovered the Metal Archives. I was amazed first of all at the number of bands present and the size of the site. Then when I set up an account and started forming my collection, I was surprised that many of the bands I listened to where not present. Bands like Static X, Godsmack, Slipknot. Later I began thinking logically about these bands and listening to them next to real metal bands and realizing why they were not there. The real one that threw me then was Pitchshifter’s presence instead of absence.

I first heard Pitchshifter back when I listened to nu metal. They released this album to capitalize on the popular genre at this time. They even showed up live on some MTV special with Limp Bizkit before they even hit it really big. This music definitely fit in with that genre. And it’s also terrible.

Pitchshifter was once a mighty industrial-metal juggernaut on their earliest albums. They played a style similar to Ministry and Godflesh and are considered one of the first industrial metal bands. Their music was dark and intense. I really do not know what happened, although I suspect that it had more to do with a cash grab than anything. This is their first major label release and was their first release completing dropping the metal from their sound.

The music is very heavy on the samples and still maintains some form of industrial/techno-type influences, but these influences are melded with music more similar in style to Deftones, Spineshank, and Systematic than the early Godflesh style. The music is driven by electronic drum beats and a throbbing bass pulse. There’s just not much going on musically during most of the song. Guitar “riffs”, such as they are, kick in typically only on the choruses and are there to provide an influx of noise and aggression.

The vocals are clean, for the most part, except for the occasional angry scream during choruses. The vocals are nasally and delivered with a sarcastic snarl that gets a little grating on the ears after awhile.

The songs are all somewhat short, mercifully, but unfortunately there is a lot of them making the album fairly long. There really is nothing going on musically throughout most of the individual songs with only bass, drums, and vocals going except for the choruses. Some of the songs are a little catchy and their inclusion into soundtracks for video games does seem appropriate, but as a whole, the album is hard to listen to unless one is really into this form of music.

The last track is particularly annoying. It consists of all of the samples the band used on the album played individually. I understand that the idea was to provide free samples for use by anyone else, but it’s annoying. I recommend skipping it.

This album may be a good industrial rock album, but I am not in a position to judge their quality from that standpoint. Even at the time that I enjoyed nu metal, I did not like this album. It just does not have much going for it from a musical standpoint.

I no longer question Pitchshifter’s presence on the site, having heard their earlier material, but this is not a good representation of their sound and certainly does not reflect their status as a metal band. This is horrible nu metal produced at a time that the genre was popular. Apparently this is the style the band ended up adopting and quit playing their old industrial metal material live. It’s a shame when bands turn their backs on the genre, but it happens.

Aion: Noia Review

Aion is a gothic metal band from Poland. They play a style of metal that sounds a lot like Moonspell in their gothic heyday. This is a fairly obscure band and this is not a bad album, but it’s not really something to seek out.

Guitar riffs, when they are present, are oftentimes fairly heavy groove metal type riffs. This is not to suggest that there are not many guitar riffs, simply that they are often overwhelmed by the other aspects of the music. The guitars are there mostly to set a rhythm for the song to follow, much like in groove metal, but there are far more melodic touches added on to the top of the riffs. There are solos and leads but neither adds much to the rest of the music.

The band uses a lot of keyboard flourishes and choir vocals that are presumably sampled throughout much of the album. These touches provide most of the dark, gothic feel to the band. The picture on the cover is some undersea kingdom and the above mentioned aspects of the music do bring images to mind of just such a kingdom. These two ingredients make up a majority of the band’s melodies.

The vocals are a little weak. The singer sounds as if he is either holding something back or simply cannot achieve the powerful voice he is trying to portray. The vocals are clean, delivered in a bit of a flat tone and sometimes the words sound a little slurred. The style of vocals does reasonably well with the music, but on their own would not be considered very good.

The songs are extremely catchy and the melodies infectious. Many of the songs would probably be big hits if they were performed by a more mainstream gothic metal bands such as Lacuna Coil.

The last track is the band’s rendition of “O Fortuna”, the first movement of Carl Orff’s masterpiece “Carmina Burana”. This is one of the better movements to incorporate into a metal album and a gothic metal band is the most likely to do so. The band does well with this song, but it would have been nice had it been a bit longer.

All in all, this is a catchy release but is not essential. The band does not possess any qualities that other more well-known gothic metal bands do not have.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I'm Apparently a Glutton for Punishment

Against my better judgment, I picked up the new issue of Decibel magazine last night. I did it because I heard that one of the contributors over at Metal Inquisition was interviewed as part of the magazine's feature on slam death metal. Since I have developed an unhealthy (and probably ultimately short-lived) interest in the genre, I wanted to check it out.

The article itself was interesting. They interviewed some label heads, the aforementioned guy from Metal Inquisition, as well as some band members from bands like Short Bus Pile Up and Waking the Cadaver. Apparently some of the people in the bands take themselves and the genre way too seriously. One musician says that there are enough original bands out there keeping things interesting to keep going for a long time. Which brings to mind the question: who are these bands and why have I not heard them? Ultimately, slam isn't the most creative genre in the world. It's fun to listen to once in awhile when I am bored, want to listen to something that does not require thought, and want something brutal. I will probably continue to listen to those albums I own, but will not be clamoring for new ones any time soon.

More random thoughts about the magazine:

I suppose it shouldn't shock me that the magazine is all over ISIS's nuts. ISIS is a "metal" band for hipster jackasses who don't really like metal. But the level of fellating that Decibel gives to this band is annoying. Ugh, fuck this band. They look like douchebags too.

Apparently you can buy shoes with the Slayer logo on them. What a retarded idea.

Decibel is pretty proud of their early review of ISIS's debut EP. They reprinted it here. I don't give a fuck. They were all over the band then, and that has not changed.

The letter to the editor talked about problems with the printing industry and suggested Metal Maniacs folded because it was weaker than Decibel. I respectfully disagree. Fuck off, I would have preferred Decibel folding although I don't wish unemployment on anyone.

Hydra Head opened up a new retail vinyl outlet for hipster douchenozzles. Oh hey, one of the members of ISIS is an owner of Hydra Head. That explains a lot. Mostly, Decibel's interest and my heaving at anything with a Hydra Head logo on it.

Gorguts is getting back together. Are they playng straightahead death metal or overly technical stuff? The answer to that determines my interest level in the reunion.

Old Man's Child's new album cover looks awesome. I may be checking this out. Same with Warbringer.

They have the same dingus from Genghis Tron doing a travelogue. Sigh.

I'm pretty sure I saw that same exact picture of Millions somewhere with them underneath a bunch of bald lightbulbs. Apparently magazines don't have their own photographers anymore.

A full page ad for the new ISIS album. My god people, show a little restraint.

Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky is the WORST band name ever, EVER.

There is not a single album I have even a passing interest in on the Hydra Head full page ad.

Propagandhi are way too smiley. There's no smiling in metal. I don't trust that. They look like frat guy douchebags. Oh, apparently they "cross the long bridge between pop-punk and thrash." That explains it. I guarantee the only thing wrong with that sentence is the word "thrash".

Hatebreed has a cover album. That'll sell about 10 copies. Mostly to singer Jamey Jasta's family. I only know one thing about Hatebreed: they suck. If it's possible, they are even more simple-minded than slam.

General Surgery are the worst surgeons I have ever seen. They are constantly completely covered in blood.

Who is Big Business and why do I care what they think of Heaven and Hell?

Chimaira wants so desperately to be Pantera it's pathetic.

Hey, an article on Believer. You did something right, Decibel.

Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth claims to enjoy metal. That's only because it's popular in the hipster douchebag community of which Sonic Youth is a part. He only likes really lo-fi black metal though, therefore he is definitely a poseur of the highest order. Fuck off. I'm sure there's someone out there who legitimately enjoys metal we can talk to. Hey, interview me Decibel, I'll tell you exactly what I think.

I don't own a single one of Seargent D's essential slam metal albums. That's unfortunate.

Nile's early stuff is awesome. Their new stuff is a little too samey, but good nonetheless.

Six pages of ISIS, including one whole page devoted to each member. Ugh, way too much ISIS. You're giving them friction burn. Time to let up.

They're really excited about Funeral Mist. My apathy is palpable.

They also really like Altar of Plagues and Amesouers. My hatred is boiling up within me.

Oh, Big Business is on Hydra Head, that explains so much. I now hate them.

Jungle Rot has a new album coming out. I'm there.

At least Candlemass and Leif Edling got good reviews.

Gay Witch Abortion, really?

They're not excited about Hatebreed's cover album either. Finally, something we agree on.

Lord Mantis is kind of scary. I take credit for their inclusion on Metal Archives.

The Lord Weird Slough Feg is releasing a collection of early recordings. They also have a new album out. I'll stick with the new album, thank you.

Oh, what a shocker, Decibel enjoys Nadja too. Hipsters.

Pestilence was MUCH better with Martin Van Drunen fronting them. I'll stick with the newly reformed Asphyx if you don't mind.

Hey, at least Seance got a good review. But so did Stinking Lizaveta, yuck. Tribulation, Warbringer, and Withershin also got good reviews, surprising.

We're already talking about the next Mastodon? Why?

There you have it. It would take quite a special issue for me to try this magazine again.

Abominator/Mornaland: Prelude to World Funeral...Split Review

This is a split album between Abominator, one of the leaders in Australian “war metal” scene and the Swedish melodic black/death metal band Mornaland. Neither band was particularly well-known at the time of this split’s release, although they have since gone in separate directions. Abominator has thrived in the scene that it helped to spawn, releasing four full-length albums while Mornaland released an EP and a couple of demos following the split and then broke up.

Mornaland plays first on the split, providing seven songs. Their sound is very similar to other Swedish black/death metal bands like Naglfar, Dissection, and Lord Belial. They attack the listener with swirling tremolo riffs played over constantly blasting drums. There is a lot of melody going on with the rest of the music. The band is a little calmer and not as aggressive as Dissection, but they still play at a moderate tempo most of the time, although they do occasionally break out a faster song. They are not a completely relaxing band to listen to, but compared to the other band on the split, they are much more passive.

The vocals are delivered in a fairly typical rasp that does bring to mind their countrymen as well as second wave of black metal vocalists from Norway. The lyrics are easily understood. The most interesting point with the vocals is on the track “Silent Forest” with the clean, melancholic vocals in the chorus. It gives the song an eerie feeling.

The production on the album is crisp and clear. No one instrument is higher in the mix than any other and all instruments can be heard well. This is a very good recording by an unknown band.

Abominator comes rumbling in ready for battle after Mornaland’s half is over and this band is significantly more aggressive. Abominator’s six tracks all came from one of their demos. The band plays an extreme, hateful mix of thrash, black, and death metal with lyrics focusing on war, death, and anti-christian themes.

The first track is a bit of a spooky ambient intro with deep growling vocals. Then gunshots ring out, spoiling the uneasy serenity. The band charges in with blast beats and a blazing guitar solo. The singer roars a few times and the band never slows down from here. The drumming is raw and unchecked in its brutality. The drummer holds nothing back as he pounds away. Guitar riffs twist and coil around the rhythm section with intermittent squealing solos. The vocals remain at a deep guttural roar throughout.

The songs are all performed at incredibly fast speeds and those speeds are maintained sometimes for five minutes at a time. The songs are chaotic and powerful, the soundtrack to an extremely violent and bloody battlefield. The sound quality is often a little murky, but it sounds right with the music. All the listener can hear is the violence and aggression behind the music.

These two bands are markedly different even though they share influences from death and black metal. Where Mornaland is somewhat somber and melodic, Abominator is intense and chaotic. Abominator probably wins this split, acting like a steamroller over the listener.

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 17: Warth: Hateful Speed

Warth is a speed/ thrash metal band from Chile. They play very fast songs with influences mostly from the Bay Area thrash scene. They seem more influenced by groups like Possessed and Slayer than Exodus or Metallica though. Some hardcore influences can be heard. This is a fairly short demo release from the band and thus far is their only recorded output. It is only available on cassette making it that much more of a retro-feeling album.

The album opens up with an instrumental track. It is a fast thrash riff with a loud guitar solo shredding over the top of it. This happens frequently throughout the album. The band then settles into a consistent style of early death/thrash. The music is always fast-paced and energetic and the individual musicians are surprisingly adept at keeping pace with one another given the extreme speeds at which they are playing. The bass is audible rumbling along with the riffing by the guitarists and even has its times to shine as well.

The vocals are delivered in a snarling shout with occasional gang vocals. They are very similar to Slayer on their Show No Mercy album with a little bit of early Kreator thrown in for good measure. The singer's accent can be heard a little bit but does not detract at all from the music.

The songs are typically short, rarely surpassing the four minute mark, which makes for an easy, fast listen.

The only real problem is that the recording quality is a little rough. The sounds sometimes get a little too muddy and it is difficult to distinguish what is going on. The band is also not incredibly original, choosing to ape styles that have been done before and not bringing in their own elements. It's a decent job though.

The album is a decent first time recording. It calls to mind the 1980's Bay Area thrash scene musically. It sounds fresh and exciting, a true retro thrash band. Any of the songs could have easily been created by bands 25 years ago, it sounds that authentic. It will be interesting to see how this band develops.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sanatorium: Internal Womb Cannibalism Review

Sanatorium, on this album anyway, tread a line somewhere between brutal death metal and slam death. I would actually suggest that this album is a slam death album, although in reading reviews of their other material, I am not sure they are always a slam death band. Even if they are indeed a slam death band, they are usually playing some more interesting riffs than most other such bands.

The music is heavily laden with breakdowns. They kick in at a rate of a couple per song. During these breakdowns, the guitars actually are playing some decent death metal riffs. The drums pound along with the riffs with the occasional fill. The drummer drives the music moreso than any other members. The bass is audible but is typically not doing anything other than what the guitars are doing. Musically, the band is obviously talented, even though they are playing a more simplistic form of death metal on this particular album. It is this talent that helps the band to stand out from the more stereotypical slam death bands like Devourment and Internal Bleeding.

There are two different types of vocals. There are some more standard death growls, sounding like Chris Barnes during his early Cannibal Corpse days. There are also gurgling guttural vocals in almost every song which typically show up during the breakdowns. The vocals are impressive at first but wear thin rather quickly.

The most interesting song is "The False Prophet" which does not start out much different than any other song, but the middle section consists of a somewhat melodic groove over a sample of wailing and even features a guitar solo, the only one on the album. It then quickly reverts back to a slam riff.

The song titles and lyrical subject matter consist mostly of typical slam death fare, such as gore, death, some anti-christian themes, and misogyny. This is all par for the course for this type of a band and is not to be taken seriously. They are trying to offend people and this is no secret.

As a whole, the album is very heavy and brutal. The vocals, the drums, and the riffs add up to one hell of a brutal listening experience. However, it just gets tiring after awhile. They are doing some more interesting things with the slam death genre, it really shows that the band does not exist solely within the slam genre, but even their innovations wear thin.

Megadeth Live Review

This was one of the first metal recordings I was really exposed to. My older brother was kind of a mainstream metalhead and picked up the Countdown to Extinction album and this promo live EP was attached to it. I started listening to Megadeth soon thereafter and he basically just let me have this EP. I was much more interested in the EP than the album because I liked the songs better.

This EP features six songs, including songs from their earlier albums. I was never as much of a fan of the Countdown era of Megadeth, which is why this EP appealed to me.

The songs on the album are played even faster than on the recordings, which is the most interesting aspect of the EP. It is especially noticeable on "Symphony of Destruction". This is my favorite version of this song because the increased speed makes it an incredible roller-coaster of a song. "Peace Sells" is also sped up to a degree and Mustaine's voice sounds desperate and manic.

The band is a cohesive unit on this limited edition EP. The songs are crisp, the sound quality is clear, and every instrument can be heard. Mustaine's vocals are just as exasperated as on the albums. He is truly a one-of-a-kind vocalist. The riffs and solos are all played at blazing fast speeds, with the exception of "In My Darkest Hour" which should be played slower.

My only complaint about this EP is the presence of "Anarchy in the UK". I have always felt that Megadeth's songs are good enough without the band having to resort to covers. Especially since most of their covers are of the ironic pop song variety. This one is not, but still sounds out of place with the thrashing of the other tracks.

As one of my first exposures to Megadeth, and metal in general, this EP is a personal favorite of mine.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sepultura Refuse/Resist EP Review

This was one of my first experiences with Sepultura when I was in high school. At that time, I was unaware of Sepultura's origin as an extreme thrash metal band. The groove metal sound of the Roots/Chaos A.D. era was the sound I attributed to the band. At the time, this EP was amazing to me. It was powerful and aggressive and nothing like I had ever heard before. Sepultura was my gateway into extreme metal. The EP has almost everything: good songs from the recent album, some previously unreleased covers, and live tracks.

Now, almost a decade since I had first gotten into Sepultura, this is still a decent release, although it has not aged well. The groove metal genre is watered down for the most part and only a select few bands have been able to be successful in that genre. Sepultura was one of those bands. Chaos A.D. and this EP are examples of groove metal done right.

The album kicks off with the heartbeat of "Refuse/Resist", possibly Sepultura's most well-known song. This is an extremely powerful song and has lost none of its power and meaning over the years. "Propaganda" is another strong track off of the Chaos A.D. album, and while not as good as "Refuse/Resist", is a fairly strong track as well. Max Cavalera's vocals have always been gruff but they really achieved a level of meanness and anger in the groove metal era of the band. The riffs are still strong as Max has always been able to write decent riffs and the drumming rumbles along with the rest of the band.

The cover tracks are hardcore/metal tracks that display the influences of the band. The band was raised on 80's hardcore and thrash and these influences have always shined through, especially early on. The best track here is probably "Crucificados Pelo Sistema".

After that, the EP features some live tracks and this is where Sepultura always shines. Their live show is a major spectacle and the band plays very well. They are tight and cohesive and even more aggressive than their recorded material. The live tracks featured are mostly from their thrash days and helped introduce me to their earlier material. "Dead Embryonic Cells" is a true thrash classic. The album closes with the Motorhead cover "Orgasmatron" which Sepultura has really made their own. They play it frequently live and it sounds great.

This is a very good EP with all of the necessary ingredients to look for in an EP. A very good pickup and good place to start with the band.

Goatwhore/Epoch of Unlight Split Album Review

This is split album featuring two Southern United States bands going in opposite directions: Goatwhore, the black/death metal band from Louisiana, and Epoch of Unlight, a melodic death metal band from Tennessee. At the time of its release, neither band was particularly well-known.

Epoch of Unlight came with the much longer track record, having been together since 1993 and having already produced two full length albums, and EP, and a few demos. However, they have only released one full length since this split in 2003. Goatwhore, on the other hand, had been around since 1997 but only had a demo and one full length under their belt. They would go on to release three more albums to date after this split and are signed to Metal Blade Records.

This split is comprised of three cover songs: one by Goatwhore and two by Epoch of Unlight. It is a decent split of two distinctly different sounding bands but is by no means an essential pickup unless one is a completist of either of the two bands. Even then, the Goatwhore track appears on the Japanese version of Funeral Dirge for the Rotting Sun.

Goatwhore covers Celtic Frost classic "Into the Crypt of Rays". They do a great job with the track. It manages to sound both like Goatwhore and like Celtic Frost, not an easy task. Goatwhore brings its trademark Southern swagger to the song and Ben Falgoust's well-known husky growling vocals. The proto-death metal riffs gallop along just as Celtic Frost played them. The major differences between the original and this version is the vocals and the fact that Goatwhore just seems to have a certain, unnameable quality that shows where they are from. Almost all Lousiana bands have this same quality, it must be the way they play the guitars with a type of bluesy swing to them.

Epoch of Unlight does not fare as well in their two tracks. They chose to cover "Betrayer" by Kreator and "Raped by the Light of Christ" by At the Gates. Epoch does not possess the speed riffing ability to pull off an early Kreator track, and as a result, the song sounds sluggish. Not the best way to cover Kreator. The riffs are there, but slowed down, the vocal delivery does not come close to matching the sheer ferocity of Kreator. They do a little bit better with the At the Gates song, but it is so short, much shorter than the original, that it ceases to be memorable and flies by in a blur. Epoch is a little more adept at aping At the Gates than Kreator. It is good for a band to put their own spin on a cover track, but when it flies in the face of the meaning of the original song, it's better to not even attempt it. This is the problem with the Kreator cover.

All in all, I would have to give this a decent score, but almost solely because of the Goatwhore cover. Goatwhore outperforms Epoch of Unlight on this split.

Slam Death Metal

I'm not sure what there is that's appealing about this genre. It's dumbed-down, simplistic death metal for white trash idiots. It's gory, misogynistic, extremely brutal, and pummelling. So, why the hell can't I stop listening to it?

I have no idea, but I have been listening quite a bit over the last few weeks. The folks over at Metal Inquisition love this stuff, so I took some of their myriad posts to heart in determining what to order from Comatose Music. Ultimately, I ended up with four new slam death albums in addition to the four (debateable, possibly only two) that I had already. Let's take a little look at some of these bands.

Quite possibly the originator of the genre. Internal Bleeding came out of the early 1990's New York death metal scene and were very influenced by groups like Suffocation and Pyrexia. They took those bands' typical breakdown-heavy, groove-laden brand of death metal and pushed it further, adding more breakdowns and becoming more brutal. Internal Bleeding is a little more listenable than some of the others to new listeners just because they are still closer to brutal death than the typical slam of today.

This is one of those that is debateable. Dying Fetus may have started out as a slam band before there really was such a thing. Now they have moved more in the direction of technical brutal death metal and grindcore. I have their latest album which really is not a slam death album at all.

Internal Bleeding may have started it, but Devourment definitely perfected it. The extreme guttural vocals, frequent breakdowns, pounding drums, extreme lyrics; all were made more pronounced by Devourment. Butcher the Weak is probably the most essential album of the entire genre.

Slam death metal has spread all over the world and is particularly popular in some bizarre places. A.P. is from Russia, not exactly a bastion of metal. Its spread is possibly due to it being easily played and still extreme. A.P. is definitely not my favorite from the genre, they play slower than the others and the vocal style has devolved to a constant growl that does not appear to be making any differentiation in words. At least the album is short.

Another Russian group, but Katalepsy is a lot more enjoyable than their countrymen in Abominable Putridity. Katalepsy is faster and more technical than A.P. The vocal style is also more distinctive. Katalepsy does use the gurgling style of vocals occasionally that has become well-known to the genre. On my album, they do a cover of the Megadeth standard "Symphony of Destruction" which does not sound AT ALL like the original. Somehow they make it work though.

Vomit Remnants is from Japan and is one of the up-and-coming bands of the genre. They have yet to even issue a full-length album at this time. This is another example of the genre spreading into odd places. Vomit Remnants add some occasional industrial influences in which is kind of bizarre.

So there you go, a small primer on some bands in the slam death metal scene. It is truly an odd genre of music with absolutely no mainstream potential. Maybe that's why it's appealing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dawn of Azazel: Bloodforged Abdication 7" Vinyl Single

Dawn of Azazel is something of a notorious band in their native New Zealand. This due mostly to the fact that frontman Rigel Walshe is a police constable. A local news station ran a feature on Walshe because of the controversial nature of Dawn of Azazel's music combined with his public profile.

The band plays a style of death metal combined with influences from extreme thrash metal and black metal. They fit in well with the Australian war metal scene, having similar sound and lyrical themes.

This recording is a 7" vinyl-only single featuring the song "Bloodforged Abdication", which does not appear on either of their full-length albums. The single came after the band's second demo and before their first full length album. The band brings its customary jagged riffs and insane pummelling drums. Walshe's vocals are manic shrieking screams and growls. The riffs change quickly and often with varying tempos producing an extreme sense of unease as the listener is brutalized over and over again.

The B side is a cover of the Order from Chaos song "Plateau of Invincibility." I am not familiar with the original so I can't speak to how faithful it is, but as this version sounds like a Dawn of Azazel song, I would assume that the band put it's own spin on it. Not that that is a bad thing at all. One can make the assumption that Order from Chaos is one of the bands who influenced Dawn of Azazel due to the similarities in sound. The elements from the previous song are all present in force.

This was a good preview of what was to come from this band. The production values had increased and the band found its sound which it would show on their full lengths.

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 16: Black Sabbath: Paranoid

This is a true classic of the genre and is the oldest album in my collection. For some reason I don't own Black Sabbath's debut. Pretty crazy. Well this is when Black Sabbath really moved away from being a heavy blues/rock band and began to polish the sound which would become heavy metal. There was some metallic stuff on the debut, but it wasn't clear at that time what the band's sound would be normally.

This album has several of the absolute classics on it: "War Pigs", "Paranoid", and of course "Iron Man". Each of these songs is burned into the brain of metalheads everywhere. But, the best song on there and quite possibly the greatest heavy metal riff of all time is "Electric Funeral", an amazing song from start to finish. "Hand of Doom" is another highly influential, underrated song. The title is where the doom metal genre gets its name and this is one of the earlier examples of the style, although the song "Black Sabbath" off the debut is the earliest.

There are a few tracks on here that show the band's blues influence, in particular the instrumental "Rat Salad" which features an extended drum solo of all things.

This is one of my favorite Black Sabbath albums, but not my absolute favorite. It is interesting to hear this and realize that the band released this album in 1970. It sounds just as fresh and vital today.

Nebraska Metal Pt. 3: Seppeku: Seppeku

Seppeku is a very new band from Omaha, Nebraska forming in early 2008. As a Nebraskan myself and knowing that my home state does not have much of a local metal scene, I am always interested in finding groups who share my origin. The band was handing out free copies of this EP as the crowd was leaving an Opeth/Enslaved concert, which is how I got my copy.

Seppeku sounds mostly like a cross between Atrocity Exhibition-era Exodus and Vulgar Display of Power-era Pantera. They play a style of groove metal meets slower thrash metal with shouted vocals reminiscent of Phil Anselmo or Rob Dukes. The music is powerful and aggressive, fitting with the vocals. The style has been done a lot and this band does not really bring anything new to the fold. Still it's a fun listen and short so it does not take up too much time.

The album opens up with some industrial rock-like noises before kicking off into a fairly decent thrash riff. The riff changes into a similar riff soon after and then continues throughout most of the rest of the song. The guitar solos are competent, but seem to get a little lost in the rest of the playing. They often occur at or near a breakdown. The leads are pretty good and the drumming is surprisingly good for such a new band. The second song kind of meanders a little bit in the middle threatening to lose the listener before jumping back into a groove metal riff.

As mentioned earlier, there are breakdowns in this, which should not come as that much of a shock. Metalcore is not the only style featuring breakdowns, it has been a part of metal since the beginning of thrash. However, the breakdowns on this EP do keep the interest level in the music and there is only one per song.

This EP consists of three songs: one thrash, one groove, and one that is in between the two similar styles. It is a decent first recording, if not very original, from a young Nebraska band and is a hopeful sign of good things to come out of Omaha. This state could really use a decent metal scene.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Reviews

I have a lot of reviews that I have written for a contest on the Encyclopedia Metallum this week coming down the pipe. Rather than bog everything down and including them all at once, I will post one at a time. The reviews for Mortal Dezire and Dawn of Azazel appearing this week were part of this contest, which was to submit as many reviews as possible for albums that previously did not have any. Thus far, expect reviews for another Dawn of Azazel album, Seppeku, Sepultura, Goatwhore/Epoch of Unlight split, and Megadeth, with several more to come.

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 15: Dawn of Azazel: Vita Est Militia Super Terram

This is Dawn of Azazel's second demo. The band had a strong reaction to their first demo, but this is the one that really put things together for the band from a musical standpoint. By this point, Dawn of Azazel's sound had pretty much already been polished. By polished, I mean that the extremely chaotic nature of their music had been discovered and put to good use. Dawn of Azazel's music sounds like the theme to the most destructive battlefield in history.

Three of the four tracks on this cassette would appear on their first full length album, while the fourth appeared as the title track on the Bloodforged Abdication 7" single. The vocals are not real fleshed out yet, but it is very clearly the same band that recorded the next few albums. Rigel Walshe's inhuman shrieks are present, but not as pronounced in the music as they would become in the band's full-lengths. The production is surprisingly good for a demo as well, a little flat but that is to be expected on a self-released demo tape.

Dawn of Azazel has always gotten by on its riff style which is brutal, jagged, and unrelenting. The band has always been powerful as shown by this demo. The riffs show a strong influence from bands like Blasphemy and other "war metal" bands, blending a seemless mixture of death, thrash, and black metal. The drums pummel the listener's ears and are extremely raw. Sometimes the drums can't quite keep up with the riffs and lose time, but this just adds to the uneasy chaos of the music.

The songs are surprisingly catchy. It is very easy to distinguish from one track to the other which is not the case in a lot of other bands. I can only imagine the kind of live show this band performs.

This demo only gets points off because of its rough sound and incompleteness of the songs. Otherwise it is a good representation of the band in its early stages.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nebraska Metal Scene Pt. 2: Mortal Dezire: Mortal Dezire

Mortal Dezire is a band from Kearney, Nebraska of all places. There is not much of a metal scene in Nebraska in general, but those bands that do or have existed mostly have come from Lincoln or Omaha, the closest things Nebraska has to big cities. Kearney is in the center of the state and is in a much more agricultural region, so the fact that there is a metal band from there at all is surprising.

Even more surprising is the fact that this metal band is more influenced by traditional styles of metal than by groove metal and metalcore. Mortal Dezire sounds like they should have come around in the 1980's. Their influences sound like US power metal bands such as Jag Panzer and Liege Lord. They combine those influences with some progressive metal and thrash metal influences into a decent mix of traditional metal styles that sounds fresh and keeps the listener's interest.

The production is fairly decent for a first time recording. Most of the instrumentation can be heard, except for the bass which is not audible all that often. The drumming is precise and is mostly there for keeping time. This is a guitar-driven album. The riffs are a little raw but are crunchy and catchy. They sound like they were influenced by the galloping riffs of Iron Maiden and Iced Earth. The leads blaze in and out of the riffs, and the solos are very well done. This band has taken a lot of time to learn their instruments and it shows.

The vocals fit in with the traditional metal style of the music. The singer is not a great vocalist, but it fits well with the sound. Every once in awhile, he attempts a high-pitched wail that is a little weak in the upper registers. However, this is definitely a throwback to 80's metal and adds to the charm of the album instead of detracting from it. The lyrical content seems to deal much more with fantasy themes than anything else, although some songs do not.

As for the songs themselves, they are catchy and memorable. The ballad slows things down and prepares the listener for the full speed throttle of the last quarter of the album.

The only real complaints I have are that many songs seem to simply stop without a natural-feeling ending. This band could play much longer songs and probably would sound more natural. The song "Hate Anthem" seems a little out of place. It is much angrier and aggressive than the rest of the music. The album would flow better without that song. The album itself does not end naturally. It feels like there could be more songs on the album.

All in all though, Mortal Dezire is a very good young band from an unexpected place.