TSJUDER: DESERT NORTHERN HELL
Tsjuder is another extremely raw, primal black metal band. Tsjuder is from Norway and formed in 1993, just before the second wave of black metal achieved notoriety. Tsjuder is definitely not one of the main bands from the movement, however they are one of the few bands that has managed to never change their style of vicious black metal.Tsjuder plays fast and keeps things brutal. Featuring blazing fast riffs and blast beats galore, Tsjuder does not let up until the album is over. Occasional slower parts just emphasize how fast the rest of the music is.
Singer and founding member Nag produces screeches and howls along with a deep rasp. He always plays the bass and keeps things moving with throbbing bass lines.
Tsjuder missed the boat a little bit with their formation occurring just prior to the second wave explosion, but they seem to prefer it that way. This album is still powerful and brutal and proves that underground black metal still has a bite.
HOUR OF 13: HOUR OF 13
Ah, this is more like it. Hour of 13 plays traditional, haunting doom metal in the vein of Candlemass, Trouble, Cirith Ungol, Solitude Aeturnus, and more. The band is very new, this being their first full length album, but they definitely have a bright future.
The riffs are definitely inspired by groups like Black Sabbath and the aforementioned doom metal bands. The vocals are clean and eerily haunting. The overall atmosphere provided by the music is dark and it fills the listener with feelings of dread and doom, just as good doom metal is supposed to do.
In recent years, there have been many bands releasing material that owes much to the traditional metal styles. Hour of 13 is another of those bands playing doom metal styled after bands from the 1980's. It's rare to hear good traditional doom metal that is not mixed with elements of thrash, death, or other metal styles. This is one such album. Hopefully Hour of 13 will influence other groups to take note as well.
PHARAOH: BE GONE
Pharaoh is another traditional metal band, but whereas Hour of 13 has its influences in doom, Pharaoh prefers the more melodic bands such as Iron Maiden. Pharaoh is one of several bands created by Chris Black, a sort of metal jack-of-all-trades who also contributed to Metal Maniacs magazine. Don't be mistaken though, this is not some sort of tribute band, Pharaoh is a rock-solid traditional heavy metal band.
The music is extremely melodic, yet retains a distinctive heavy metal touch. This band could easily have fit right in with the 1980's true metal wave. The riffs sound as if the band combined Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and threw in some other NWOBHM ideas as well, yet remaining distinctly American in their aggressive delivery. The drummer isn't doing anything completely unusual or ear-catching but is very solid and basic and manages to keep the music going. The vocals are similar to Iced Earth's Matt Barlow but are a little higher. He does seem to have the same range though.
This is a very good, powerful traditional metal album from an up and coming American band. It's unfortunate that bands like these are perhaps less well-known by the mainstream than even some black and death metal bands. This is true traditional metal and people should think of this when they think of metal.
NIRVANA 2002: '89-'91 RECORDINGS
I picked this up at the music store one day. I was looking specifically for it, because I knew it was not likely that I would be able to track down the actual demos that make up the album. I did not know how likely it was that I would be able to find it because the nearest music store to me is completely unpredictable in stocking metal. I knew there was a chance though as it was a Relapse release, a label that my store is fairly good at releasing. I had to laugh when I found the album in the CD browser with the Nirvana albums. Imagine someone looking for the early 1990's Seattle grunge band and thinking they have found a possible gem, and actually finding a collection of Swedish death metal demos.
Nirvana 2002 added the surname "2002" so as not to be confused with the Seattle act that was gaining popularity. The band only released a few demos and never released a full length album. There have been rumblings about these demos being collected and released together for some time now. Relapse finally did just that this fall.
The band was part of the early wave of bands out of Sweden playing death metal, along with Nihilist and Unleashed and others, they arrived setting the stage for the huge wave that would follow. Unfortunately Nirvana 2002 would not be around for the ultimate popularity of the movement, breaking up after just a few demos.
The music is typical for Swedish death metal: buzzsaw guitar riffs wrapped around psychotic shrieking. But this band sounds fresh, even though these demos are fairly old. It's a shame that the band has denegrated to cult classic band and is not at the forefront of the very popular style. Swedish death is one of the most revered scenes, to the extent that there is even a book about it. Nirvana 2002 could have been one of the biggest bands, instead of something of a footnote.
DOKKEN: TOOTH AND NAIL
I poked a little fun at Dokken in an earlier post, and they probably deserved some of it. Still though, Dokken was one of the best and most metal bands during the whole hair rock/metal fiasco. Dokken possessed an amazing guitar player, two in fact, and a great vocalist. And the band played metal, at least for the first few albums, before descending into complete mediocrity.
I've been on a bit of a 1980's metal kick lately and identified Dokken as a band I had to look into a little more thoroughly. I remember enjoying several of the band's songs that would be played on the radio back when I was in junior high. They were fast, yet melodic, heavy, yet mainstream-friendly. This was Dokken, a band that managed to balance being a pretty decent metal band with being involved in the glam scene.
This is the band's first full length and one of its most metal releases. It contains the classics "Into the Fire" and "Alone Again". It set the stage for the band's next few albums and their burgeoning poularity. Nevertheless, it is likely this will be the only Dokken album I will pick up. It's good, it's fun, but it's ultimately fluff. Just like Dokken.