Monday, November 9, 2009

Initial Impressions: Impiety, Stratovarius, Immortal, Warbringer, and Iron Fire

The Singaporean (hopefully that's correct) metal mavens in Impiety combine styles of black, death, and thrash metal. The band would fit in with the Australian bands like Destroyer 666 and Destruktor as they possess the same sort of extreme, frenzied style of metal. Impiety has been lurking underground for years now, never really garnering much recognition as they are somewhat geographically isolated. It's time for that to pass. Impiety has been one of the most extreme, powerful bands in underground metal for years.

The band continues in this vein on their latest album, the aptly titled Terroreign. Things always start up slowly, softly building into a crescendo of chaos that doesn't let up for the rest of the album. An Impiety album is more like a destructive event than a listening experience. They leave the listener dumbfounded, mouth-agape, wondering what the hell just happened. The music is like tornado ripping through the listener's head and leaving no survivors.

Impiety is not an easy band to listen to, far from it actually, but if one wants metal that is extremely aggressive and destructive, look no further than Impiety.

Every once in awhile, I am in the mood for something very melodic. Luckily, metal is a genre of extremes and there are very melodic bands out there. Much of the power metal genre for instance falls into this category.

Stratovarius is one such power metal band.

Stratovarius and other bands like them (Rhapsody of Fire, Sonata Arctica, etc.) play a very melodic form of power metal derisively referred to as "flower metal". I won't refer to it as such as I happen to like the music once in awhile. It is by no means my favorite style, but it is easier to listen to. It's not terribly relaxing as the music is often very fast, but it nonetheless does not rely on the heavy riffs and extreme vocals other genres feature.

This album is Stratovarius at its best. Fast melodies, occasional choral vocals and current singer Timo Kotipelto's amazing tenor vocals. Stratovarius is a band that whose music closely resembles classical music. The band arranges its music very carefully and results in a full beautiful symphonic metal style.

The album is one of the better examples of the oft-reviled "flower metal" genre. Stratovarius has more than enough metal parts to keep metalheads happy, while also heavily relying on gorgeous melodies.

Ah yes, the Norwegian true black metal warriors return from a long hiatus. Immortal has never been a band that has been taken very seriously. Over the years, many black metal bands have shed the corpsepaint and leather, not Immortal though. Immortal looks just as silly and bizarre as they ever have. Abbath still looks like a death metal panda, and the other members follow suit.

However, musically, Immortal is one of the most important black metal bands from Norway and have continued putting out good album after good album. The sound has become a little more streamlined and melodic over the last couple albums and is not as chaotic and ball-out furiously fast as they have been in the past. But, none of their power and glory has diminished.

Immortal's newest album is continuing down the musical path laid out by their last album. The black metal is still there. The thunderous drums and lightning fast riffs, the deep throated gargle of Abbath, all of the elements necessary for a good Immortal album are present. Which is what makes this such a great album. Immortal is one of my favorite bands from the Norwegian second wave of black metal, and every reason why is found in this album.

Welcome back Immortal.

Their last album was a warning shot. Warbringer was here and ready to thrash. From the Lovecraftian nightmare that is the album cover, to the opening volley in the opener, it is clear that Warbringer has been honing their craft, ready to let the naysayers who claim that the band are nothing but trendwhores have it.

Warbringer is one of the better new "retro thrash" metal bands, along with Merciless Death. They are also one of the such bands that best know their material. Warbringer often sounds like a demented cross between Slayer, Kreator, Exodus, and Dark Angel. The band is often derided for their presence on Century Media's roster and the fact that they emerged at the same time as a lot of the other bands. It's unfortunate because those people who don't give them a shot, don't know what they are missing.

Warbringer's newest album is still full of the same venomous rage as their prior album and finds the band tightening up on their playing ability. They served notice last time, this time they will take no prisoners.

Iron Fire is the other type of power metal. That is, Iron Fire is not an overly melodic, almost symphonic "flower metal" band. Instead, Iron Fire draws influences from such acts as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Jag Panzer, Liege Lord and other traditional, speed, or power metal bands that are aggressive, yet melodic.

Iron Fire fits in well with the resurgence of more traditional sounding metal bands, although the band itself has been around for nearly 15 years and has put out five full length albums. They are not a new band, but they are beginning to see some recognition based on their brand of metal becoming more widespread in recent years.

The songs are all fast-paced with good, traditional riffs and Martin Steene's soaring vocals and are catchy as hell. Martin Steene is the singer for Force of Evil as well, the side project band of members of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. He has a vocal style well-suited for power metal.

All in all, this is a very good example of the more aggressive style of European power metal propagated by groups like Blind Guardian instead of Rhapsody of Fire.

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