Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Initial Impressions: Imperial Vengeance: At the Going Down of the Sun

Imperial Vengeance is a U.K. band that refers to their music as "dark aristocratic metal". The band plays a combination of black and death metal with some gothic and symphonic elements thrown in. There are the occasional acoustic interludes that play English classical music.

The band's lyrical themes pay tribute to England, for the most part, particularly the days of the British empire and its military and social history. Thus we have tracks like "6th Airbourne Division" and "Jus Ad Belum".

Musically, the band is quite impressive, mixing the symphonic and classical music elements seemlessly with the guitar riffs. The band was formed by C. Edward Alexander, a.k.a. Charles Hedger of Cradle of Filth. Therefore, the idea of how to blend the two disparate styles is familiar. The songs are mostly longer and feature frequently changing riffs and additional melodies keeping things interesting.

As far as symphonic black albums go, this is a fairly good release. There has been a lot of backlash against the genre for years, since Dimmu Borgir has become a parody of itself, and probably going further back than that. This is a strong album though and worth listening to. It's just not a must.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Initial Impressions: Artillery: When Death Comes

Artillery returned last year after nearly ten years away from the recording studio. The Danish thrash metal band has always been a very creative and technical force in the genre. The years away have not diminished the band's abilities at all, as shown by this album.

This album kicks things off quickly with thundering drums and thrashy riffs. The entire album moves at a frenetic pace. The vocals are more similar to U.S. power metal than thrash metal which is a great change of pace from the yelling and screaming most other thrash metal vocalists do.

This is easily one of the best reunion albums from a 1980's thrash metal band. The whole album is energetic and powerful with great, memorable riffs, blazing guitar solos, and soaring vocals. It's great to have Artillery back. I will be looking into their back catalogue soon.

Compilations: Darkness We Feel

This is a compilation album from Century Media that I got along with an album by Rotting Christ. The compilation is meant to look at bands that are melodic and dark but still playing heavy metal, the so-called "dark metal" genre, which is really a mix-up of styles like black metal, death metal, doom metal, and gothic metal.

Sentenced: "Shadegrown"
The album starts off with a darkly melodic opening. Sentenced has been straddling a fine line between melodic death and gothic metal for years. The singer possesses a distinctive voice. It's mostly clean vocals, although he comes close to death growls at the bridge. The song stays fairly melodic throughout, never venturing too far into extreme metal. It's a pretty decent track. I own one album by Sentenced, although I believe their earlier material may be better than the one I own.

Old Man's Child: "The Millenium King"
This song from Dimmu Borgir guitarist Galder's own project sounds an awful lot like the man's other band. The symphonic elements are not quite as extreme as on some of DB's stuff, but add color to the riffing. The vocals are delivered in a mix between black metal rasp and death metal growl, except for one point when they are delivered in an epic-sounding clean voice, followed by an impressive guitar solo. I own the latest album from Old Man's Child.

Moonspell: "Ruin & Misery"
Moonspell has always been a very dark band. Sounding like the soundtrack to some werewolf movie, the band uses majestic eerie atmosphere and the singer's deep calming voice to bring unease to the listener. This track focuses more on melody than some of the band's other songs, but is extremely effective nonetheless. I own four Moonspell albums.

Sacramentum: "Dreamdeath"
Sacramentum sounds like a blend between two Swedish styles: Stockholm death and Gothenburg melodeath. The track is much faster than the previous three tracks and has death metal-style vocals, with some occasional clean vocals thrown in. I like this track a lot. Unfortunately, I do not own any albums by Sacramentum, but that will probably change.

Alastis: "In Darkness"
I had never heard of Alastis prior to this compilation. This song features elements of black/death metal and gothic metal. It sounds a lot like Tiamat in the early days of the band's existence. It's extremely atmospheric and dark, but retaining metal riffing. I don't own any Alastis albums, but I would consider this band.

Sundown: "19"
I had not heard of Sundown either. This band did not last long after apparently being formed by a member of Tiamat. That Tiamat influence is extremely clear, and it's not the atmospheric death metal Tiamat either. The vocals are a little more immediate than the lull-inducing gothic rock of middle-era Tiamat. I don't own any Sundown albums, and probably will not.

Samael: "Rain"
Samael have had an interesting career arc, beginning as black metal then gradually adding industrial elements to their music until they completely consumed the band's sound. Then almost completely ditching those elements. This album finds the band at a point where the industrial elements were strong, but not yet overpowering. There's still some black metal in there. I own two Samael albums.

Vasaria: "Luna"
This one starts out really slow. I had not heard of this band before either. It remains mostly a gothic/doom metal track and bears a strong resemblance to Moonspell's more atmospheric stuff. I doubt I would check this band out much further.

Rotting Christ: "A Sorrowful Farewell"
I own the album this song comes from. It's a great song, on a great album, by a great band. Seriously, Rotting Christ is amazing. I won't discuss this track further. I own eight album by Rotting Christ and enjoy them all despite the varying degrees of black metal, death metal, and gothic metal in each album's sound.

Orphaned Land: "Of Temptation Born"
This is an earlier Orphaned Land track. It sounds very little like the band that Orphaned Land is now. The band is experimenting with Middle Eastern instruments and music with their music, but they are still largely a death metal band. This song is a little uneven. The band has perfected this sound now, but at this time, it was still a work in progress. It's still a decent track. I own two Orphaned Land albums.

Borknagar: "The Quest"
Borknagar on this track has pretty much ditched their earlier black metal influences and gone completely melodic. It's a decent enough track but doesn't really do it for me, plus it's an instrumental and thus not the best representation of the band's sound. I have one Borknagar album. Next.

Tiamat: "Atlantis as a Lover"
I've mentioned this band earlier in this post and even had a blog post about the album this came from. I don't care for this sound of the band at all. I rather liked the atmospheric death of their early material and the gothic rock on display here is so completely different as to be utterly disappointing. I own two Tiamat albums, including this one unfortunately.

Lacuna Coil: "Shallow End"
This is one of the band's earlier tracks, prior to becoming popular. It also has more metal influences present and less vocals from Cristina Scabbia, the main source of the band's popularity. It's also simply a better song. Seriously, Lacuna Coil was a pretty good band when they weren't so busy trying to exploit Scabbia's looks for fame and fortune. Too bad. I own two albums by Lacuna Coil. Yes, I'm just as guilty as others of being drawn to a pretty face.

Ulver: "Wolf & Passion"
Ulver was a second-wave Norwegian black metal band that slowly ditched their black metal sound. This track still possesses some black metal elements, such as the bad production, overly trebly guitar riffs and buried vocals. I'm not a big fan of this. I do not own any Ulver albums.

Unleashed: "Ragnarok"
Unleashed is a Stockholm-style Swedish death metal band. They also based much of their lyrical themes around Vikings and Viking mythology, paving the way for Amon Amarth. This song is a bit slower than most of the band's music, but is not any less interesting. I prefer their faster stuff, but this is not bad. I own one Unleashed album.

The Gathering: "Nighttime Birds"
The Gathering is one of the bands from England that helped usher in gothic/doom metal along with Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. This is a sweetly melodic track featuring Anneke van Giersbergen's beautiful soulful vocals. There is not much metal here, so I probably won't be seeking this out, but it's a nice track nonetheless. I do not own any albums from The Gathering.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Metal History Pt. 7: BMG Music Club Membership

I was bored recently and tried to look this club up and found that they no longer exist. At least not in the sense that they once did. You can be a member and download stuff from them, but you can no longer by CDs.

How many out there were members of this?

I remember early on in my formative metal days, I desperately wanted to join because it seemed like a good way to get lots of albums and not have to go to the stores. My friend was a member in late elementary/early middle school as well. I used to pour through his monthly catalogs and be envious that my parents would not let me join. They also had ads in music magazines and I would go through and circle all the albums I wanted.

My parents did not want me to be a member because they were once members of the Columbia House CD and movie clubs and had gotten a lot of stuff that they never really listened to or watched much afterwards. They also believed it to be too expensive for a young teenager. I forgot about for several years after that.

It was not until I moved to St. Paul after graduating from law school that I finally joined the club. I signed up and sent in my first order, which was the seven free CDs, with only the cost of shipping. When I finally got those (there was a problem with the delivery, it took a couple months to get my CDs), I pretty much immediately saw a decent deal and ordered three more albums. Then I had to purchase an album, and got three more free CDs at that time. At that point, I had fulfilled my membership obligations, but I did place four more orders before ending my membership.

There were several issues with this club:

First of all, if you ever had to pay the full price on an album, and according to your contract you did have to purchase at least one full price album, the cost was extremely high. Full price was about $18.00. That's insane. The best time to place an order was when they had a great deal. They had special offers frequently. Sometimes, you could order albums and get a number of free albums with it. Other times, the prices were discounted. Those were the most frequent times I placed orders.

Secondly, shipping cost was approximately $3.00 per album. So, even the seven free albums cost me $21.00. That is also insane.

Third, selection was terrible. By the time I was interested, much of the metal stuff was no longer carried or was to be discontinued soon. I managed to get quite a few CDs, but they were very mainstream metal albums. This club was great for people who listened to mainstream music, but their metal selection was sorely lacking.

Finally, one of the big problems with the club was the Selection of the Month tailored to fit your favorite genre of music. Essentially, they sent an email with this selection and if you did not respond within a certain number of days, they would send it automatically to you and bill your credit card for it. I think you only had 14 days to respond. I think for the entire time I was a member, I only got the selection of the month three times. I was pretty quick about rejecting it whenever I got the email. However, I wonder how this was handled before the internet?

You accumulated points by placing orders and after so many points, you could get a free CD. I might have gotten the points once, but I can't remember when I would have done this and which CD it was. It probably came in one of the larger orders for the special offer.

All in all, I bought several albums from the club. I will post the whole list. It was okay while it lasted, but I got out when it became evident that they were purging their metal inventory even more. All of the Iron Maiden and Judas Priest albums were being discontinued. It also became clear that they just were not getting good stuff in, as evident from the fact that I only got the Selection of the Month three times. It became obvious that I could get those albums cheaper elsewhere.

Membership in the club allowed me to fill in some holes in some of the more mainstream bands, but once that was accomplished, there was no reason to continue.

First Order-Seven free CDs
Annihilator: The Best Of
Anthrax: Among the Living
Black Sabbath: Master of Reality
Chimaira: Chimaira
Megadeth: The System Has Failed
Opeth: Ghost Reveries
Sepultura: Beneath the Remains

Second Order-Special Offer
Cynic: Focus
Dragonforce: The Valley of the Damned
Mercyful Fate: Don't Break the Oath

Third Order-Full price
Obituary: Frozen in Time

Fourth Order-Three Free CDs (Fulfill membership obligation)
Celtic Frost: Into the Pandemonium
Judas Priest: Screaming for Vengeance
Venom: Black Metal

Fifth Order-Special offer
Sepultura: Arise
Motorhead: The Very Best of Motorhead
Death: Symbolic
Black Sabbath: Heaven and Hell
King Diamond: Abigail
Judas Priest: Defenders of the Faith
3 Inches of Blood: Advance and Vanquish

Sixth Order-Selection of the Month plus special offer
Shadows Fall: Threads of Life (Selection of the Month)
Anthrax: Persistence of Time
Corrosion of Conformity: In the Arms of God
Iron Maiden: The Number of the Beast

Seventh Order-Selection of the Month plus special offer
Black Sabbath: The Dio Years (Selection of the Month)
King Diamond: "Them"
Opeth: Deliverance
Queensryche: The Warning

Eighth Order-Selection of the Month
Megadeth: United Abominations

I think I kept the membership active for a few more months after receiving the final order before I just canceled the membership.

Weekly Recap March 21-March 27

It was mostly a slow week this week. Which is somewhat good because I will be pretty busy with work next week. Next week I also find out when my trial date will be on a case I am working on. My fiancee has been busy most of the week preparing for a speech for a class. She finally got everything ready to go only to find out the class was canceled that day. Frustrating.

Not much in the way of metal news. Fatalist finalized their lineup just in time to appear on a soundtrack for what promises to be a spectacularly bad horror movie.

I got albums from Arckanum, Artillery, Azaghal, Blood Ritual, Insomnium, Nocturnal Fear, Satan's Host, and Sigh as I received some of my income tax return money.

Metalsucks has been doing a list of great bands that inadvertently ruined metal. I have issues with many of their picks, particularly referring to Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails as great. Also, the list included the likes of Metallica and Black Sabbath, so I don't know.

Aborted: Slaughter & Apparatus-A Methodical Overture
Aeon: Rise to Dominate
Anal Vomit: Depravation
Ancient: Proxima Centauri
Angel Witch: Angel Witch
Armored Saint: La Raza
Artillery: When Death Comes
Atheist: Unquestionable Presence
Azaghal: Omega
Black Sabbath: The Dio Years
Blood Ritual: Black Grimoire
Burzum: Det Som Engang VarCauldron: Chained to the Nite
Charred Walls of the Damned: Charred Walls of the Damned
Coroner: R.I.P.
Dark Angel: Darkness Descends
Death Breath: Stinking Up the Night
Decapitated: Organic Hallucinosis
Defleshed: Death...The High Cost of Living
Dekapitator: The Storm Before the Calm
Dismember: Dismember
Dokken: Tooth and Nail
Entombed: Left Hand Path
Fear Factory: Demanufacture
Hail of Bullets: ...Of Frost and War
Hecate Enthroned: Upon Promeathean Shores
Helloween: Helloween/Walls of Jericho
Iced Earth: Framing Armageddon-Something Wicked Part 1
Impaled: The Last Gasp
Impiety: Terroreign
Infernaeon: A Symphony of Suffering
Insomnium: Across the Dark
King Diamond: "Them"
Landmine Marathon: Sovereign Descent
Leif Edling: Songs of Torment, Songs of Joy
Lord Belial: Enter the Moonlight Gate
Luna Ad Noctum: Dimness' Profound
Morbid Angel: Altars of Madness
Motley Crue: Dr. Feelgood
My Dying Bride: For Lies I Sire
Naglfar: Pariah
Nihilist: 1987-1989
Nirvana 2002: Recordings '89-'91
Nocturnal Fear: Metal of Honor
Obituary: Xecutioner's Return
Opeth: Deliverance
Overkill: Ironbound
Pharaoh: Be Gone
Queensryche: The Warning
Razor of Occam: Homage to Martyrs
Satan's Host: Power, Purity, Perfection-999
Savatage: Hall of the Mountain King
Scorpions: Bad for Good: The Very Best of Scorpions
Sigh: Scenes from Hell
Sothis: De Oppresso Liber
Symphony X: Paradise Lost
Tad Morose: Modus Vivendi
The Lord Weird Slough Feg: Traveller
Twisted Tower Dire: Crest of the Martyrs
W.A.S.P.: The Last Command

Initial Impressions: Insomnium: Across the Dark

Insomnium is one of my favorite melodic death metal bands. The Finnish band combines beautiful, sweeping guitar soundscapes, Dark Tranquillity-style riffs, and some doom metal elements to result in a sound that is at once electrifying, as well as heart-breaking.

The band arguably reached its majestic peak on their last album Above the Weeping World, however this album remains locked into that same vein. As a whole, the album is a little on the faster side and a little bit heavier. The band also uses clean vocals more often. All of these changes though do not mix up the band's sound so much that is no longer clear it's an Insomnium album.

Insomnium has once again put out a terrific album. Melodic death has continued to survive as a genre because of bands like this. Bands that still play the style but play it differently enough to stand out from all of the In Flames clones. Insomnium's additions of doom metal elements keep the band standing out from the rest of the pack.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Side Project: Death Breath

Death Breath is (was?) a band formed by Nicke Andersson formerly of Entombed and now in the Swedish rock band The Hellacopters. The band was meant as a return to his roots of death metal. They play an old school style of death metal influenced by groups like Autopsy, Venom, Celtic Frost and old zombie movies. Jorgen Sandstrom, formerly of Grave provided vocals on the band's only full-length release.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Initial Impressions: Nocturnal Fear: Metal of Honor

Lost in the hubbub (funny word that) over retro thrash metal is the fact that other countries in the 1980's were producing great thrash metal bands. One of the best examples, probably even moreso than the U.S. was Germany. Yet none of the so-called neo-thrash metal bands is playing Teutonic thrash. That's not to say there aren't bands out there playing it, just that those bands are too extreme to be noticed by the likes of Revolver. Which brings us to the U.S. band Nocturnal Fear.

Nocturnal Fear sounds like Sodom. Plain and simple. Hell, the artwork even LOOKS like Sodom. We have a soldier wearing a gas mask carrying a damn big gun. Exactly like Sodom's artwork. We need more bands like Sodom. Sodom is one of my favorite thrash metal bands. It's nice to see someone copying them and not more Metallica clones.

Featuring riffs that straddle the line between thrash and death metal, face-melting guitar solos, and black-metal-esque screaming, Nocturnal Fear has certainly done well in developing the Sodom-like sound. This album is highly recommended for anyone who misses the days of 1980's German thrash metal.

Initial Impressions: Satan's Host: Power, Purity, Perfection-999

Ah, Satan's Host. With the extremely evil name, and the long-ass album titles, you can pretty much guess what genre Satan's Host falls under. But, they were not always a black metal band. No, when the band started, they played power metal. Not too many Satanic power metal bands out there.

I have only been listening to this band for a few years now and have not heard their power metal album. It's pretty hard to find. But I have thoroughly enjoyed their black metal invocations to Satan. That's at least what they claim their albums are. I don't know, Satan has not come knocking at my door while listening to Satan's Host albums. Color me skeptical.

Musically, Satan's Host is fantastic. This album even moreso than their previous stuff. It's more melodic, and the riffs absolutely rip. It seems a little thrashier too, which is not terribly surprising. Pat Evil is absolutely a great guitar player, capable of shredding riffs and blazing solos. This is his band, the rest of the members merely fill up space.

The vocals are handled well by L.C.F. Eli Elixir. He mostly uses the typical black metal shrieking on this album and is somewhat monotonous. But, we're not looking for great singers in black metal. The drums do some interesting fills, but again, this is a guitar-oriented album.

It will be interesting to watch this band in the future. The vocalist has been recently replaced by Harry "Tyrant" Conklin of the great Jag Panzer. Conklin was the band's original singer. Jag Panzer is a power metal band, so the band may be headed back in that direction.

Christians should probably stay away from this album. Just a word of warning.

Initial Impressions: Arckanum: ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ

First things first: I am not even going to begin to try to tell you what the hell the name of this album is. I have no idea. Also each song starts off with that same symbol. I don't even know what the symbol is. Stupid black metal bands. Stupid unpronounceable symbols.

Okay, now that that is out of the way, it's time to look at Arckanum. But first, history lesson time boys and girls. Grab a slab of the magic storytelling carpet.

Dissection is the most famous Swedish black metal band. They are equally infamous offstage. Jon Nodtveidt is one of a handful of black metal musicians who spent some serious time in prison. Nodtveidt spent time for murder. But, that's not the point. The point is that ever since Nodtveidt went off to prison, we have been inundated with metal media referrals to various Swedish black metal bands as "The Next Dissection". Dissection was very influential, mixing black metal, thrash, and melodic death metal. There have been numerous pretenders to the throne. Watain is one of the most recent.

Which brings us to Arckanum.

As if you couldn't figure out, Arckanum is another band lovingly referred to in some circles as "The Next Dissection". I can kind of see it. I mean, I don't think this band is definitely "The Next Dissection" but they possess some qualities that I suppose eases the loss of that great band.

Arckanum's brand of melodic-tinged black metal features swirling tremolo riffs, blasting drums, and Shamaatae's Nodtveidt-esque vocals. This is a great black metal album. I may have to check out more of their stuff.

Initial Impressions: Azaghal: Omega

Finland has a reputation in metal. In most genres, Finland is known for producing some truly unique bands. Amorphis, Children of Bodom, Kalmah, and Demilich all came from Finland. So too did Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius and more. As for black metal, Finland is known for an especially primal, raw breed of bands. Groups like Beherit, Horna, Impaled Nazarene, and Behexen are all Finnish black metal bands. So too is Azaghal, if you haven't figured it out by this paragraph.

Azaghal is a rather typical black metal band from Finland. The band uses fast, chaotic riffs, a veritable wall of sound, and constantly pummelling drums. The music is extremely aggressive and very raw. Azaghal, like many other Finnish black metal bands, uses their sound to beat the listener into submission. It's an extremely powerful album. Their music is similar to Immortal from Norway, but only in the manner of the extremely fast riffs.

Azaghal has been around for about 15 years but have remained largely underground, even as far as black metal is concerned. This is typical of the band's scene, but it does not make them unworthy of listening. This is pure, hateful-sounding black metal. Listener discretion is advised.

Initial Impressions: Sigh: Scenes from Hell

Japan's Sigh has always been a bit of an unorthodox band. They started in the early 1990's as a black metal band on the label of now-deceased Mayhem guitarist Euronymous. Since then, the band's sound has been constantly evolving. Some black metal elements are still present, but by and large the band has morphed into something altogether different and unique.

This album I feel, is a bit of a grower. It may be that I come to appreciate it much more given some time to fully digest it. But, initial impressions have lead me to believe that this is really strange. And that's difficult to do when the band's music up until now has been difficult to define and strange anyway.

The band has been experimenting with classical and symphonic music elements for some time. This is no surprise. However, those elements have largely taken over the band's sound. There are very few moments where there is no classical/symphonic instrumentation found. This gives kind of an awkward feeling overall to the band's music. Included are horn sections and saxophone parts courtesy of new member Dr. Mikkanibal.

The metal riffs are in there somewhere. They do still superficially resemble black metal riffs, but there's so much else going on musically that it's difficult to classify this group as black metal. The vocals are delivered in a harsh, black metal rasp. Occasionally, female vocals are present, also courtesy of Dr. Mikkanibal.

This is an extremely odd album and very hard to pin down. I'm not sure yet what to think of it. Maybe in time, I will come to love it, as I did with their prior album. I'm just not sure.

Initial Impressions: Blood Ritual: Black Grimoire

I recently placed an online order with Moribund Records that was high enough that they sent me a free CD. That CD was Blood Ritual's Black Grimoire. I had never really heard of the band and had no idea of what to expect when listening to it.

Blood Ritual is an occult death metal band sounding like Incantation, Morbid Angel and Immolation, with some more brutal moments. They play typically very long songs with lots of blistering riffs and pounding drums. The guitar solos fit well with the music, and are not blazing fast and overly technical. The vocals are fairly typical for the genre: deep death growls.

This band is clearly of the occult variety with song titles like "Invocation of Satan" and "Summoning the Unholy War". They do not do a lot to distinguish themselves from other bands of this style, but nonetheless, this is an interesting album.

The only problem I have with it is more of a technical thing. I got the album for free, minus a jewel case. The CD itself was just sitting in the package and it got scratched up quite a bit. It skips quite a bit in track 5 for some reason. Still, I'm not complaining...too much.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Blind Buy Surprise Albums Pt. 7: Twisted Tower Dire: Crest of the Martyrs

According to much of the mainstream music press, the grunge wave of the early 1990's killed heavy metal. Obviously this is not true. Plenty of bands still exist today that play traditional-sounding heavy metal. Twisted Tower Dire is one of these such bands. I was on the lookout for power metal bands at one time, along with some other random stuff and placed a large order with CD Universe. This album was one of about thirteen albums I purchased at that time. It is also my favorite such album from that group, which included the likes of Manticora, Hibria, Angra, Portal, Gorguts, Arsis, Cirith Ungol, and more.

Twisted Tower Dire plays traditional metal with some occasional U.S. power metal influences thrown in. The music is generally upbeat with faster tempos and extremely catchy choruses. The band seems mostly influenced by classic metal acts such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Dio, and other bands that proudly waved the metal flag in the 1980's. This band is a throwback in the true sense of the term, but are not limited to replicating the same sounds from that era.

This album is a fast, fun, and exciting listening experience from start to finish. Featuring great vocals, infectious songs, terrific riffs, and blazing guitar solos, it is unfortunate that more people are not aware of the band.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Initial Impressions: Armored Saint: La Raza

This is Armored Saint's second reunion album. Originally the band was together from the early 1980's through the early 1990's. They split when singer John Bush replaced Joey Belladonna in Anthrax for a few albums. They then reunited to put out a new album in 2000 when Anthrax was on hiatus. This is the band's latest reunion since Bush is no longer in Anthrax (although that could change at any moment). Armored Saint were originally a power/thrash/traditional metal band, although that has changed for this album.

It's tough to say where on the metal genre spectrum this album fits in. It's probably more of a hard rock/traditional metal album than anything. It's definitely not much like their earlier material. The music has some hard rock and Southern rock influences meaning that fans of groups like Nickelback and their myriad copycats will find something enjoyable here, but it retains a lot of the metal influences as well. Older Armored Saint fans will probably not be thrilled with the album but it is by no means a bad album.

John Bush's vocals again lead the way here. I have said it before and will say it again: Bush has a great voice for traditional metal. Where Anthrax was unable to retain a high degree of popularity after Bush took over is due to the fact that he is not a thrash metal singer. He is just too melodic.

This is actually a very good album. It's upbeat and almost happy. Good driving music.

Initial Impressions: Landmine Marathon: Sovereign Descent

Landmine Marathon burst onto the metal scene recently and drew raves (including on this blog) for their old-school approach, sounding like early Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower, and Carcass. They also drew attention due to the fact that their head screamer Jordan Perry is an attractive woman, with one hell of a growl. This is the band's third full-length and the band does not do anything to change up the formula that brought them notice last time out.

The riffs are still rooted in death/grind, with the occasional thrashy riff thrown in for good measure. Perry's manic screams are still highly present, without drowning out the rest of the band's sound. The improvement in guitar leads and solos is probably the most notable musical difference on this album. The drumming is still proficient and thunders along with the riffs.

This is a good follow-up to the band's breakthrough Rusted Eyes Awake. The only real issue is whether this band has some staying power or whether they are mostly short-lived due to the perceived gimmick of a pretty woman doing old school grindcore vocals. I think the band is clearly very talented, but the element that has drawn them attention, may also be their undoing. Revolver magazine has spent the most time of any metal magazine covering the band, and their real interest seems to be to get Perry into their magazine to sell their Hottest Chicks in Metal issue. If no other metal magazine picks up on the band, they may begin to have problems.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Weekly Recap: Mar. 14-Mar. 20

This was a fairly busy week. I had a court appearance and a deposition this week. The deposition was a good example of why you should never ask a question unless you know what the answer is, particularly if it has a major effect on your case. I was not the attorney deposing the witness thankfully. I won't go into details, but I believe it safe to say that this attorney will not be calling this witness to the stand at trial.

Not much metal news this week. At least not that made much of an impression on me.

I bought the new releases from Landmine Marathon and the newly reformed Armored Saint. I also got my state income tax return in this week, so I placed a couple of online orders with Moribund Records and Century Media. The haul will be posted about in the near future. I am still awaiting my federal income tax return and then will place an order with Hell's Headbangers.

I've listened to a lot of black metal and black metal-based bands as you will see reading through my list this week.

Aeternus: Burning the Shroud
Amon Amarth: With Oden on Our Side (Bonus Disc)
Angelcorpse: The Inexorable
Anthrax: Persistence of Time
Archgoat: The Light-Devouring Darkness
Armored Saint: La Raza
Behexen: My Soul for His Glory
Besatt: Hail Lucifer
Bestial Warlust: Vengeance War 'Til Death
Blood Stained Dusk: Black Faith Inquisition
Burn to Black: Mach 666
Carcass: Heartwork
Cavalera Conspiracy: Inflikted
Cenotaph: Saga Belica
Cirith Ungol: One Foot in Hell
Corrosion of Conformity: In the Arms of God
Danzig II: Lucifuge
Dark Tranquillity: Skydancer/Of Chaos and Eternal Night
Darkthrone: Transilvanian Hunger
Daylight Dies: Dismantling Devotion
Death Angel: Act III
Deathspell Omega: Fas-Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum
Dodsferd: Cursing Your Will to Live
Estuary: The Craft of Contradiction
Fear Factory: Fear is the Mindkiller
Fear Factory: Soul of a New Machine
Gorgoroth: Incipit Satan
Gwar: Ragnarok
Hammerfall: Legacy of Kings
Hate Eternal: King of All KingsHoly Moses: Finished with the Dogs
Horna/Behexen Split
Hour of 13: Hour of 13
I: Between Two Worlds
Iced Earth: Horror Show
Iced Earth: The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2
Ihsahn: angL
Impaled Nazarene: Nihil
Incantation: Onward to Golgotha
Incantation: Primordial Domination
Iron Maiden: The Number of the Beast
Khold: Hundre Ar Gammal
Krisiun: AssassiNation
Laethora: March of the Parasite
Landmine Marathon: Sovereign Descent
Lethal: Programmed
Lord Belial: Nocturnal Beast
Lord Belial: Revelation-The 7th Seal
Meshuggah: Catch Thirtythree
Metallica: Death Magnetic
Obituary: Cause of Death
Opeth: Blackwater Park
Pan.Thy.Monium: Khaooos and Kon-fus-ion
Ravencult: Temples of Torment
Reverend Bizarre: II-Crush the Insects
Root: Black Seal
Sabbat: Dreamweaver (Reflections of Our Yesterdays)
Sadus: Swallowed in Black
Samael: Solar Soul
Sentenced: Crimson
Shadows Fall: Threads of Life
Sigh: Hangman's Hymn-Musikalische Exequien
Solitude Aeturnus: Beyond the Crimson Horizon
Soulless: Betray the Light
Symphony X: The Odyssey
Testament: Practice What You Preach
The Wizar'd: Smouldering Sinners
Thornafire: Exacerbated Gnostic Manifestation
Thornspawn: Horns to the Kult
Tsjuder: Desert Northern Hell
Vreid: Pitch Black Brigade
Xasthur: The Funeral of Being
Zyklon: World ov Worms

Side Project Post Edit

My fiancee asked me today why I did not include Trans-Siberian Orchestra in my list of favorite metal side projects. TSO did start after all as a side project for members of Savatage. Well I think TSO has transcended side project status at this point. TSO is a much more well-known entity than Savatage at this point, and have been for quite some time. Many people have no idea of the origin of that band, they just assume that TSO is some elaborate Christmas project. In addition Savatage has not been nearly as active in recent years since TSO has taken up much of the members' time. The band has not released an album since 2001. Savatage singer and TSO composer Jon Oliva has even gone on to create a new metal project called Jon Oliva's Pain, which has released four albums and an EP since the last Savatage album. Therefore, at this point, I believe it safe to say that TSO is itself a full time project, although did not start out that way.

Friday, March 19, 2010

My Favorite Metal Side Projects

I don't really need to explain what a side project is. If I do, then you will get a sense of what it is from reading this post. These are my favorite side projects in no particular order. If your favorite is not here, I probably either don't like them or haven't heard them.

Down formed as a side project of members of Pantera (Phil Anselmo, and later Rex Brown), Corrosion of Conformity (Pepper Keenan), Crowbar (Kirk Windstein, Todd Strange), and Eyehategod (Jimmy Bower). The band played a style of metal incorporating Southern rock elements and doom metal. It sounded aggressive and dirty and sounded like it came from the swamps of Louisiana, which is of course where the band is from. The first album blew everyone away. While the second and third albums are not as good as the first one, the band has still become a major force in metal. Especially since Pantera is no longer around and the other bands are are on hiatus or just have not released anything in awhile. This is my personal favorite side project.
Nailbomb was a side project for Max Cavalera of Sepultura and Alex Newport of the horrendously named Fudge Tunnel. The band formed as an outlet for the members to experiment with industrial thrash metal similar to Ministry. The band is extremely loud and powerful with Max's brutal vocals to carry things along. The politics of Sepultura's groove metal period have also been brought to the mix. This was essentially a one-off project to allow the members to play a different style of metal. It's not bad but not one of the better side projects out there. They certainly know how to raise an unholy racket though.
The Swedish death metal supergroup is a collection of several musicians from the country's metal scene that have decided to pay tribute to old school Swedish death. The band was originally formed with members of Opeth (Mikael Akerfeldt), Edge of Sanity (Dan Swano), and Katatonia (Jonas Renske, Blakkheim Nystrom). Later, Akerfeldt left and Martin Axenrot (Witchery, Opeth) and Peter Tagtren (Hypocrisy) joined. Still later, Akerfeldt returned to replace Tagtren and Per Eriksson also joined after Swano left. The band plays fast, heavy death metal with a strong reverence toward groups like Nihilist, Carnage, Dismember, Grave, and others. The guitar sound features the familiar buzzsaw tone. The band has released three albums, a couple of EPs, and a live album and are quickly becoming a force unto themselves.
This one's a little different. Dragonlord is the symphonic black metal side project of several members of bands who have little to nothing to do with black metal. The principal members are Eric Peterson of Testament and Steve Smyth of Nevermore. The band plays black metal similar to Dimmu Borgir and other symphonic black metal bands. They were formed so that Peterson could explore darker music than the thrash metal of Testament. It was a little weird looking through band photos and seeing these guys in corpse paint. Oh well, they're very good at what they do, even though symphonic black metal is not one of my favorite genres. My good friend got me their second CD when I graduated from law school. I enjoy it quite a bit.
This is one of my favorite side projects. I is a combination of musicians from Norwegian black metal bands coming together and playing traditional-sounding heavy metal but with blackened vocals. The band consists of Abbath and Armagedda of Immortal, TC King of Gorgoroth, and Ice Dale of Enslaved. Demonaz of Immortal wrote many of the songs and lyrics while recovering from Carpal Tunnel (damn insanely fast Immortal riffs). The songs are incredibly memorable and the riffs are great. This is one of the most interesting side projects in years.
Laethora is a side project of Niklas Sundin of Dark Tranquillity. The band was formed as a way for Sundin to explore more extreme forms of metal than the melodic death metal that Dark Tranquillity releases. Laethora has influences from brutal death, grindcore, old school death metal, and doom metal. The band will soon release their second full-length album.
This is Max Cavalera's return to metallic form. Taking a break from nu-metal band Soulfly, Cavalera joins with his brother Iggor who recently left Sepultura, Soulfly guitarist and flamenco-specialist Marc Rizzo, and Gojira bassist Joe DuPlantier. Cavalera Conspiracy's sound is a mix of groove metal and thrash metal with some hardcore influences thrown in as well. The band was a reunion for the Cavalera brothers who have not played in the same band together since Max left Sepultura in the late 1990's.
An amazing collection of death metal talent came together in this album, a concept album centered around the German invasion of Russia in WWII. The musicians from Thanatos joined forces with Pestilence/Asphyx lead singer Martin Van Drunen, one of the most distinctive voices in extreme metal. He brings his trademarked raspy, hissing growls to Thanatos's infectious riffwork. A great album. Soon after, Van Drunen announced a reformation of Asphyx. Excellent.
I had to end on an Australian war metal band. Razor of Occam is a combination of musicians from Destroyer 666, Adorior, and Macabre Omen. As implied, they play blackened thrash metal. It's fast, aggressive, and razor sharp. They lyrics are a bit more on the intelligent side than those of D666's. Not a problem though as the music is just as incendiary as ever.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ridiculously Unhelpful Amazon Listmania: The Next Nevermore


I don't want to do a whole huge post on this. I was just glancing at it and one band name stuck out: Sanctuary. Why did this name stick out? Sanctuary was a band from Seattle in the late 1980's/early 1990's. They released two studio albums and a live album and then broke up. Three of its members Warrel Dane, Jeff Loomis, and Jim Sheppard went on to form another band. Which they called Nevermore. Sanctuary became Nevermore. They can not become the next Nevermore, they ARE Nevermore.

Irish Metal

I am kind of pissed. I just thought of a good post that I should have put up yesterday in honor of St. Patrick's Day and the fact that I am Irish. I should have done a tribute to Irish metal bands, of which there are not many. Nevertheless, no full post here, but here's a list of good bands from Ireland anyway:

Thin Lizzy: traditional heavy metal/hard rock
Waylander: blackened folk metal
Gama Bomb: thrash metal
Sweet Savage: NWOBHM
Cruachan: folk metal
Mourning Beloveth: death/doom metal
Primordial: folk/black metal

Ireland has not developed much of a metal scene yet, as you can see. Nevertheless, there are some talented bands from the area.

Blind Buy Surprise Albums Pt. 6: Cenotaph: Saga Belica

One day I was contemplating placing an order with MetalDisc. I highly recommend that site by the way, huge inventory of stuff. I knew I would be getting Burn to Black, Root, and Reverend Bizarre and I knew I wanted to add on one more band. Preferably something inexpensive. So, I went through the clearance titles and eventually decided on Cenotaph, a Mexican death metal band with members who went on to form The Chasm. I did not know much about this band at all, I just assumed it would be a slightly interesting addition to the collection. It quickly became one of my favorite death metal albums though, a result I was not expecting.

There are a couple of bands named Cenotaph. This is the Mexican death metal band, not the Turkish brutal death/grind band. Cenotaph plays a form of old school death metal with strong melodic tendencies, but they play music that absolutely rips and roars through the speaker. It's extremely aggressive, almost rabid. Earlier in their career, they were very similar to early At the Gates material. This album abandons much of that for a full-on angry attack on the senses.

Cenotaph is a much more streamlined death metal machine on this album, with razor-sharp riffs, pummelling drums, and desperate, snarling vocals. The band comes across as a ferocious beast on this album. The sound is exciting and fresh. Many bands have become too laid back, this is a whole different animal.

As I said, this album shocked me. I had no idea it would be as good as it is.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Blind Buy Surprise Albums Pt. 5: Thornafire: Exacerbated Gnostic Manifestation

I have mentioned this album frequently on this blog without much actual discussion of it. Quite simply, this album rocks. At one point after moving to the bustling metropolis of St. Paul, Nebraska (population 2,300 or so very bored people), I really branched out my interest in heavy metal. I also began reading Metal Maniacs regularly. It was at this time that Thornafire was introduced to me. There was an ad in the magazine as well as a brief article about the band as some sort of coming attraction type thing. So, one day I visited the Ibex Moon Records webpage and placed a small order, getting Estuary, Incantation, and Thornafire. Shortly after receiving my albums in the mail, I had to go to Indiana with my family to a cousin's wedding. I listened to all three albums in the ride up there and that was that. Thornafire's album made a huge impression, as did the other two albums, but not to the same scale.

Thornafire sounds like an unholy mix of old school death metal bands and some of the more occult sounding death metal bands. Frequently, I describe them as Immolation meets Morbid Angel meets Death. The band plays murky, fast-paced riffs with a fair amount of bottom-end and an unwavering sense of doom. The vocals are deep and guttural, with a slight hint of phlegm, which sounds bestial and raw.

South American metal bands are often extremely primal and aggressive. There's just something about many bands that are from the continent that makes them a particularly intense listening experience. Look at Sepultura's early stuff, Sarcofago, Vulcano, Inquisition, Anal Vomit, and many others. Thornafire possesses these same traits on this album, coming out with an album that sounds like it would have come out in the early 1990's days that Immolation and Incantation were shocking the metal world with sludgy, occult-laced death. Thornafire sounds like this, but is not a retro band. They have masterfully laced their old school occult death metal with modern touches. This is one hell of a ride.

Favorite New Bands of 2000's Pt. 4: Estuary

Forming in 2002 in the metal hotbed of Cincinnati, OH, Estuary is a powerful mix of melodic death metal and thrash metal. The band has released two full length albums and a demo and is currently signed to Ibex Moon Records.

The band is similar in sound to Apophis, death metal with some very clear melodies and guitar leads, except with a little more thrash metal influences. Even the vocals are somewhat similar, despite the fact that Estuary's vocalist Zdenka Prado, is a woman. As far as female death metal vocalists go, Prado is easily one of the best, delivering her lyrics in an unending guttural roar.

The guitar work is top-notch with swirling guitar leads and solos and great riffs running throughout. The band's sound is dark and murky, the way death metal should be.

The only album I own is The Craft of Contradiction. It is an excellent representation of this band's powerful sound. They have not released anything since this 2007 album, but I hope that will change soon.

Blind Buy Surprise Albums Pt. 4: Sabbat: Dreamweaver (Reflections of Our Yesterdays)

In keeping with the thrash scene on a worldwide scale, we come to England's Sabbat. England is well-known for its place in metal history, spawning leading metal bands Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Venom, Iron Maiden, and many other highly influential metal bands. But the country also produced some fine bands from other styles. It had a highly underrated thrash metal scene lead by Onslaught, Cancer, Xentrix, and Sabbat.

I bought this album along with several other albums by groups like Death Angel, Draconian, Behemoth, and Devian. I was in Lincoln for a legal education seminar on trial presentation and decided to head over to my favorite music store (which has since closed) and pick some stuff up. I had heard of this band, but I really did not know if I was getting the British band, or the Japanese band of the same name, who I did previously own an album by. It was kind of a throw-in to the larger purchase because it was fairly cheap. It was not until fully absorbing the album that I realized that it was far and away my favorite pickup of the day.

Sabbat is very clearly influenced by the NWOBHM, and I guess when you're from that same country, that's going to be a big influence. But the riffs are stronger and sharper, the aggression is greater, and the overall speed is faster. The band recombined some thrash metal influences with their already strong NWOBHM influences.

The thing that really interests me in this band is Martin Walkyier's vocals. He has an unusual vocal style, a kind of staccato, rhythmic style that he uses. It really catches the ear and forces the listener to pay attention. He would later use the same style in his followup band Skyclad.

This is a highly underrated thrash metal masterpiece. I highly recommend checking it out.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

This is the Craziest Thing I Have Ever Heard

Weekly Recap: Mar. 7-Mar. 13

It was another slow week at work. My fiancee and I made an impromptu trip to Missouri last weekend. Nothing like driving to Kansas City at midnight. Good times. We did have a good time though and that's the important thing.

As for metal this week:

Dragonforce and singer ZP Theart split. I'm not a huge Dragonforce fan so this doesn't have too much of an effect on me. My favorite album of theirs is still the first one.

Metal Blade announced a new website called Metal Blade TV which will feature clips from shows and interviews from the label's 30 or so years in the business.

I bought the Eluveitie album and was a little disappointed.

The list of albums for the week:
3 Inches of Blood: Fire Up the Blades
Angelcorpse: Of Lucifer and Lightning
Arsis: Starve for the Devil
Arsis: We are the Nightmare
Behemoth: The Apostacy
Behemoth: Zos Kia Cultus (Here and Beyond)
Beyond the Sixth Seal: The Resurrection of Everything Tough
Bleak and Destroyed
Blitzkrieg: A Time of Changes
Blood Tsunami: Thrash Metal
Bloodbath: Nightmares Made Flesh
Cannibal Corpse: The Bleeding
Carnal Forge: Testify for My Victims
Confessor: Confessor
Dark Fortress: Ylem
Deceased...: As the Weird Travel On
Dekapitator: The Storm Before the CalmDemons & Wizards: Touched by the Crimson King
Devildriver: The Last Kind Words
Diamond Head: Lightning to the Nations
Dio: The Last in Line
Dokken: Tooth and Nail
Eluveitie: Everything Remains as it Never Was
Ensiferum: Ensiferum
Exciter: Heavy Metal Maniac
Finntroll: Ur Jordens Djup
Forbidden: Twisted Into Form
Graveworm: Collateral Defect
Guillotine: Blood Money
Hypocrisy: A Taste of Extreme Divinity
Hypocrisy: The Arrival
Hypocrisy: Virus
Immortal: Pure Holocaust
Kamelot: Ghost Opera
King Diamond: Give Me Your Soul...Please
Marduk: Rom 5:12
Marduk: World Funeral
Megadeth: Endgame
Megadeth: So Far, So Good...So What!
Melechesh: Sphynx
Merciless Death: Evil in the Night
Mercyful Fate: Melissa
Mors Principium Est: Liberation=Termination
Nile: Annihilation of the Wicked
Nile: In Their Darkened Shrines
Nile: Ithyphallic
Nile: Those Whom the Gods Detest
Nocturnal Breed: Fields of Rot
Nocturnal Rites: The 8th Sin
Novembers Doom: The Novella Reservoir
Omen: Battle Cry
Paradise Lost: In Requiem
Slayer: Christ Illusion
Slayer: Diabolus in Musicana
Slayer: Divine Intervention
Slayer: God Hates Us All
Slayer: South of Heaven
Slayer: World Painted Blood
Sonata Arctica: Unia
The Funeral Pyre: The Nature of Betrayal
The Lord Weird Slough Feg: Hardworlder
The Sword: Gods of the Earth
Tribulation: The Horror
Trivium: Ascendancy
Trivium: Shogun
Trivium: The Crusade
Victimizer: The Final Assault
Vreid: Pitch Black Brigade
Wintersun: Wintersun
Within Temptation: The Heart of Everything
Wolfpack Unleashed: Anthems of Resistance

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bleak and Destroyed by Terrorizer

When I started really going nuts over metal, shortly after relocating to the tiny town of St. Paul, Nebraska for my first job as an attorney, I was looking for as much information as I could find to determine which bands to check out. Somewhere along the way, I happened upon an ad by Terrorizer for a free doom metal compilation. Since I enjoyed some doom metal (although I had not heard much at first), I decided to give it a shot. I had to pay some money for shipping since Terrorizer is a UK-based magazine, but not a big deal. I got the album a couple of weeks later, and it was very helpful in picking out some more bands to check out further. I do realize now that I did not find as many as intended, but Candlemass, My Dying Bride, Cathedral, and Reverend Bizarre are all bands that it helped me find.

Track by track:

The Obsessed: The Obsessed is Wino's band formed prior to his involvement with Saint Vitus and about a million other bands. The band has actually been broken up since 1995, so this is not a new track by the band, it actually appeared on their 1994 album. This is traditional Sabbath-esque doom with somewhat strained vocals. I'm not a big fan of the vocals, but everything else is pretty good.

Pentagram: Pentagram is quite possibly the first American metal band, having formed in the early 1970's. They were also a major band in shaping the doom metal scene. As such, they did sound a lot like Black Sabbath, although they took things even further with the doom sound. Again, the music is excellent here, but the singer's voice needs some getting used to.

Candlemass: Candlemass is perhaps the most well-known doom metal band. This is off of the album reuniting the band with erstwhile singer Messiah Marcolin who has become known as the voice of the band. This reunion only lasted one album. But this is the best track off of that album as it speeds things up, but is no less doomy.

My Dying Bride: The UK gothic/doom metal band has been one of the most successful doom metal bands. Originally part of a scene including Paradise Lost and The Gathering, My Dying Bride is the only one still playing doom metal. This is easily the slowest track on the album, flirting with funeral doom speeds. It's extremely slow and depressing, something MDB has become quite well-known for over the years.

Cathedral: Lee Dorrian left Napalm Death because he did not like the direction the band was heading in, so he formed Cathedral, one of the first death/doom metal bands. This is a very bass-heavy track and it rumbles along at a fairly quick pace with Dorrian yelling over the top of everything. It's a little heavier than most of the stuff I have heard from them. but nothing wrong with that.

Reverend Bizarre: The Finnish band is at the forefront of the "true doom metal" movement. This song grabbed my attention in a big way and I bought the album it appears on. Reverend Bizarre was a great doom metal band that went out a little too early, but they did it their own way. Great song. Fast and fun as hell.

Witchcraft: I am not overly familiar with this band, but they formed in 2000 in Sweden. This is a surprisingly short track for a doom metal band. This song really sounds like it could have come out on Black Sabbath's debut album. The singer even sounds a little like Ozzy. It's quite incredible. I want to hear more.

Unearthly Trance: This is a sludge/doom metal band on Southern Lord records, not a label I place a whole lot of trust in. The music basically sounds like a slower and doomier Lair of the Minotaur with rougher vocals. It just doesn't do much for me. The vocals are also buried in the mix, so it's hard to hear.

My Shameful: My Shameful is another newer doom metal band, having only formed in 1999. This is similar to the My Dying Bride track in that it is morosely slow. The vocals are delivered in a death metal-style growl. It kind of reminds me of Coffins at their slowest speeds in that it has similar vocals and very down-tuned riffs. It's not bad, but it's not the best on the album.

World Below: There's not a lot of information out there about this band. I had never heard of them before, or since getting this album. It's a shame too, because they are pretty decent. They play a very traditional style of doom metal, with some Southern influences. It sounds like something that would be played in a dingy bar in the Deep South, for the first part of the song anyway, then it shifts gears and some hardcore influences shine through. The vocals are not great, but they fit with the rest of the image.

Ablaze in Hatred: This is an extremely good death/doom metal band and one band I really want to investigate further. This band sounds a lot like Swallow the Sun, but with more melodic death. That's perfectly fine with me as Swallow the Sun is a great band. The music is somewhat melodic, but deeply depressing. There are keyboards adding flourishes of light in the darkness of the rest of the track. The vocals are also very similar to Swallow the Sun. This is a very strong track.

Orodruin: Another newer band, Orodruin formed in NY and plays traditional-sounding doom metal. This band also manages to sound quite abit like early 1970's era Black Sabbath, and has some very impressive guitar soloing going throughout. Their choral sections dive into Alice In Chains territory adding another dimension to the overall sound. It kind of meanders around at some points threatening to lose the listener but then comes charging back.

The Hidden Hand: This album started with one Wino project and ended with another. The Hidden Hand formed in 2002 and last five years before Wino ended the project and restarted Saint Vitus. This is the shortest song on the album at less than three minutes. Very short for doom metal. But it's pretty fast too. The vocals are still not really great, but the song is decent.

Doom metal has enjoyed a resurgence of sorts over the last decade or so. There are quite a few very good bands that could have easily made it onto this album, such as Electric Wizard, The Gates of Slumber, Hour of 13, Syrach, Mourning Beloveth, Misery's Omen, Novembers Doom, Coffins, and more.

Blind Buy Surprise Albums Pt. 3: Nocturnal Breed: Fields of Rot

Once in awhile, buying an album for the cover art works out. I bought this album mostly because of the cover, but also partially because the band came highly praised by many people on the Metal Archives for being a really good modern thrash metal band, without being retro. I had some idea of what I was getting when I threw this in the shopping cart at Hell's Headbangers, the same time that I bought the earlier posted Deceased... album. But I was still blown away.

But first, a little history. Thrash metal was huge in the 1980's. There were two countries at the forefront: the U.S. and Germany. The U.S. produced Metallica, Testament, Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth, Exodus, Overkill, and many, many more. Germany produced Sodom, Destruction, Kreator, Holy Moses, Mekong Delta, Tankard, and more. However, as thrash became a worldwide phenomenon, bands from other countries soon picked it up. Norway, known for its black metal even got in on the act. Which brings us to Nocturnal Breed.

Nocturnal Breed formed in 1996 in Oslo, Norway, featuring a former member of Gehenna. The band plays an updated, modernized version of German-styled thrash metal. It's fast, intense, and aggressive as all hell. The band often gets lumped in with blackened thrash, but the vocals are the only real reason to do so. And that's tempered by the fact that Sodom and Kreator both use harsher vocals as well.

The riffs are easily some of the best and most memorable in modern thrash metal. This band has an amazing ability to play some ridiculously jagged and crushing riffs. The guitar solos are also amazing.

This is easily one of the best albums in modern thrash. It is highly recommended for anyone tired of the bands copycatting the old sound.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Initial Impressions: Eluveitie: Everything Remains as it Never Was

I had very high hopes for this album. After releasing what I considered to be one of the best albums of 2008 (in fact it was #2 on my ranking of albums that year), my expectations were very high for this follow-up. The band teased us when they released a completely folk album in 2009, an album I did not check out. This was their return to their normal sound. Unfortunately, I came away disappointed upon hearing this. The band did not take a step back, let me make that clear. This is still an enjoyable album. It's just that they didn't take a step forward either.

Bands who release the same album time after time after time, often are difficult to have very strong feelings about one way or the other. Slayer and Six Feet Under are two such bands, and while I consider Slayer to be a great band, their material after Seasons in the Abyss is not nearly as high-quality. Essentially, Eluveitie released Slania again this year. And that's a disappointment because I already love Slania. Having another Slania diminishes my love of the first Slania and I do not want that to be the case. I wanted something more, or at the worst something worse so that I can say "Eluveitie may not be a good band, but that Slania was amazing". I just did not want something exactly like Slania.

Despite all that, this is still a very solid release. It is still a combination of Gothenburg-styled melodic death metal mixed with Celtic folk elements, including some very traditional Celtic instruments. Eluveitie members play the fiddle, bagpipes, tin and low whistles, mandola, flute, and hurdy-gurdy. These traditional instruments are often played along with the melodic death guitar riffs, adding a full Celtic feel to the entire song. There are still moments when the metal is the only sound heard, but the other instruments occupy a larger role overall this time around.

There are two vocalists in the band. One male providing mostly rough vocals which are not full-on death metal growls, but are definitely not clean either. There is also a female vocalist who shines through every once in awhile. She has a very pretty voice which lightens things up when she sings.

The riffs draw a lot of inspiration from the Gothenburg scene as mentioned earlier. Mostly, they sound a lot like Dark Tranquillity. Unfortunately, if the band were to strip away the folk elements, this band would just be a Gothenburg copycat, on this album anyway. It is the folk elements that help this band stand out. That's what makes this band different. Unfortunately, if they do not improve, the folk elements will not be enough to ensure them of a long career.

All of this sounds like I am very down on the album. It's true that I'm disappointed that it's virtually the same album. Hell the lead-in "Isara" to "Kingdom Come Undone" sounds exactly like "Anagantios" leading into "Bloodstained Ground". However, this is a decent release. It just will not make my Top 10 again this year. And that's disappointing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ridiculously Unhelpful Amazon Listmania Pt. 4: Black Metal Supergroups


Ah, I finally figured out how to add a link here. Awesome.

Anyway, here we have another horrible Amazon list to deal with. This one is Black Metal Supergroups Pt. 2. I wonder what Part 1 was, since I can't find the damn thing. Oh well. Now this should be fairly simple. There are two elements that have to be met based on that title (the lawyer in me speaking). First, the bands have to play black metal. Second, the band has to be a supergroup, defined by Wikipedia as a group "whose performers are already famous from having performed individually or with other groups." Ah, so this should be fun. Unsurprisingly, very few of these bands meet these two relatively simple criteria. Let's have a look:

Dragonlord: Okay, we start things off well. This band meets both critera, playing a form of symphonic black metal and featuring members from Testament, Nevermore, and Sadus.

Lair of the Minotaur: And we immediately fall on our face here. Lair of the Minotaur is a doom/thrash metal band with virtually no black metal influences. Its members performed in other bands, but it's not like 7000 Dying Rats is famous. Pelican is a bit moreso, but not enough to qualify this as a supergroup.

Acid Bath: I feel very comfortablein stating that Acid Bath has nothing to do with black metal. It's also not a supergroup unless you stretch things really far to claim Golgotha and Dark Karnival are famous bands. I've never heard of either one, so no.

High on Fire: Again, not at all black metal. High on Fire does feature a former member of Sleep, but no one else in the band is particularly well-known. This is more of a next project after Sleep disbanded for one former member.

Type O Negative: This is just blatantly absurd. There's absolutely fucking nothing black metal about Type O at all. And again, Carnivore broke up and remaining members formed Type O, ergo not a supergroup.

Zao: I'm about to start banging my head on my desk. Not black metal, Christian hardcore. I have no idea if it meets the criteria of supergroup, not familiar enough with the band, since they're not even metal. NFM.

Sworn Enemy: Groove metal, not black metal. Also there's a note here that says the band is on this list because it formed from the ashes of Mindset, a band no one has heard of, and the singer for As I Lay Dying produced it, which has nothing to do with whether a band is a supergroup.

The Black Dahlia Murder: Melodic death metal, none of the members were famous prior to the band's formation. For anything. At all. Next.

Arcturus: This is only the second band that fits the criteria, that is if you stretch the definition of black metal. It does feature members of Ulver, Borknagar, Emperor, and Mayhem though, so I will let this one pass. But, I'm watching you Mr. Listmaker Guy.

Thou Art Lord: Wow, two in a row? It's a Hellenic black metal band featuring members of Rotting Christ, Necromantia, and Septicflesh.

War: Three? Holy shit. Swedish black metal band made up of members of Dark Funeral, Hypocrisy, and Abruptum.

Behemoth: And that breaks the streak. Behemoth is Nergal's baby, the other members may have been in other bands, but Nergal owns this and he was 15 when he started the band. I'm guessing here, but I doubt he was famous prior to that.

Sodom: This is hilarious. Sodom did influence black metal, but they themselves were thrash. There's another note here that says this band was a side project for Frank Blackfire and that's why it's here. To which I say no, no it was not. Sodom was around for years before Blackfire and they were around for years after Blackfire. Therefore, not a side project. Also Angelripper, the actual driving force behind the band was not famous before Sodom.

Orcustus: I suppose I will allow this. Black metal band formed by members of Gorgoroth and Emperor, and a couple other people I have not heard of but may have been with other bands.

Opeth: But this is inexcusable. Not black metal, progressive metal. Not a supergroup, no one did anything major before this band. You could have at least put Bloodbath, which featured Opeth's singer. Even though they're not black metal either.

Amon Amarth: No, does not fit either criteria.

Hellhammer: No, does not fit supergroup criteria. Influenced black metal, may be considered black metal in some circles. Later became Celtic Frost, not earlier though.

Leviathan: Is it possible for a one-man band to be a supergroup? No, no it is not possible.

DevilDriver: Groove metal, one former singer from Coal Chamber does not a supergroup make.

Strapping Young Lad: Devin Townsend's project does not have anything to do with black metal and he was the only permanent member.

Ulver: Black metal band, but not a supergroup as it was the original band for Garm. Borknagar would have worked here after singer Garm went to work with members of Gorgoroth, Immortal, and Enslaved to form that band.

Death: Not at all black metal. Chuck Schuldiner was the only permanent member, it was his baby.

Necrophagia: Death metal band. The only reason this is here is because of the presence of Anton Crowley (Phil Anselmo) and he was not a founding member, nor a long lasting one.

The Kovenant: Electronic black metal band which was an original band when formed, not a supergroup.

Mezzerschmitt: I can see this. Industrial black metal band from two members of Mayhem and one from Red Harvest.

Gorgoroth: Huh? How is Gorgoroth, one of the leading Norwegian black metal bands, a supergroup? Yes, they've had a ton of members, but that doesn't mean they were formed to be a supergroup.

Gehenna: Sanrabb, Dolgar, and Sir Vereda do not fit the definition of famous bands such that members of them forming Gehenna would lead to a classification of a supergroup.

Keep of Kalessin: None of these guys were previously famous or in famous bands or a supergroup.

Ragnarok: See Keep of Kalessin.

Watain: See Ragnarok.

Fimbulwinter: Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir was in this band. However, he was in it prior to Dimmu Borgir. So, no, not a supergroup.

Satyricon: See Watain.

Killswitch Engage: Hold off on the supergroup part for right now. The band clearly does not qualify, but are you actually saying that KSE is a black metal band? Really? Get your ears checked.

Soilent Green: Not black metal, and having one member from Acid Bath does not make it a supergroup either.

Vintersorg: This is the main band for both of these guys, neither of whom were famous prior.

Nattefrost: More of a side project/main band for the singer during and after Carpathian Forest. Not a supergroup.

Six out of thirty-six bands fit the criteria. Six. That's 16.67%. That's an F my friend.

Blind Buy Surprise Albums Pt. 2: Deceased...: As the Weird Travel On

When I was not paying attention, I had heard the band name "Deceased..." thrown around. But I was not paying attention. My assumption was that this was just another death metal band and I would wait until either I had heard something more concrete or had a chance to look at them. Then I started actually paying attention a little more closely. It was clear I was missing out on something. There was an entire thread about the band on Metal Archives with universal praise. I read an essay critiquing impure metal on another site, which spoke glowingly of Deceased... being a band that was honest and pure and even dare I say true metal. That essay claimed one of the band's albums was a masterpiece.

It was at around that time that I had money to burn. I had just gotten my tax refund that year and was planning on buying a bunch of records over at Hell's Headbangers. I saw an album by Deceased... and decided to add it to the mix. Holy shit am I ever glad I did that.

Deceased... is not a death metal band, or at least they are not now. They have death metal influences, mixed with thrash metal influences, and delivered in a traditionaly metal style. They started out as a thrash metal band, evolved into a death metal band, and then combined everything to end up with a stunning mix of styles that seems odd at first but works incredibly well.

It's difficult to describe exactly what the sound is on this album, but traditional metal with some thrash influences and death metal-sounding vocals is probably pretty close. It sounds like a cross between Motorhead and Overkill with David Vincent of Morbid Angel on vocals. The riffs fly by at a breakneck speed with overlapping guitar leads and solos to keep things melodic and King Foley's smoky snarling vocals.

This is a great album by a great, underrated band. Check this album out as well as anything else by the band.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nergal of Behemoth Destroys Bible, Possibly Faces Prison


Well, the Polish are definitely sensitive about religion. I think most of us knew that. But Behemoth singer Nergal apparently knows this first hand now. In Poland, offending someone based on their religion is a criminal act. Nergal is a very outspoken critic against Christianity, and Catholicism in particular. In a concert in 2007, he called the church "the most murderous cult on the planet" and then proceeded to tear apart a Bible onstage. Ryszard Nowak, Head of the All-Polish Committe for Defense Against Sects was not amused and tried to sue Nergal soon after. This was unsuccessful however as there have to be multiple complaints to bring the action under Polish law. Undaunted, he found some other willing people to help him out.

Nergal's stance is that he has artistic license to do what he wants as it is entertainment when he is onstage and no one should be offended.

I do not know anything about Polish law to be able to comment on what should or will happen in this case. I know this would be considered Free Speech in the U.S. and would be subject to the First Amendment. But Poland does not have the same rules and laws as the U.S. At any rate, this is more fuel for the fire of hatred Nergal feels towards Christianity.

Initial Impressions: The Sword: Gods of the Earth

I saw The Sword in concert awhile back. They were the opening band in a three band concert that included Down and Metallica. I was actually fairly impressed with the band at the time, although I did not pick up their album until just recently. It was clear that The Sword were not nearly as experienced in large concert venues as the other two bands, but they still managed to do a decent job.

The Sword came under fire early in their careers when they were attached to a major label seemingly without doing anything to deserve it. They were at the forefront of the retro rock movement along with Wolfmother and people were turned off by them not adding anything new to their music, just rehashing old ideas. They were also branded "hipster metal" due to the band members not being involved with metal their entire lives leading up to the formation of the band. I do not know whether any of these arguments have merit or not. It's not my place to judge these things. I only hear their music.

The Sword played stoner/doom metal on the band's first album. This album still retains a lot of the doom and stoner metal elements, but also adds NWOBHM and other 1980's metal styled riffing to the mix. The band has expanded their sound a little more on this release while retaining the overall retro feel of their first album. Their musicianship and songwriting skills have also improved.

The band is known for their extremely heavy, monolithic riffs and powerful drumming. Both elements return with greater vitality here. J.D. Cronise has a very distinctive voice that many have compared to Ozzy Osbourne during his Black Sabbath days. I am not sure I agree, but it is a decent style nonetheless.

The Sword's songs are long and tend to meander a little at times. They are nevertheless good, in general. They are very catchy. The lyrics tend towards the fantasy and swords and dragons side of things.

This is a very good sophomore album by the band which hopefully replaced any doubt in the band's metal credibility. I guess we'll find out when their third album is released this year.

Initial Impressions: Forbidden: Twisted Into Form

When I saw a used copy of this album sitting in the cheap bins at the local bookstore/music store, I had to get it. Forbidden albums are not very easy to find all the time. Certainly not in stores. So, this was easily one of my favorite buys, still not quite my favorite (I will have a post about that one later), but certainly a very good one.

Forbidden is a thrash metal band from the San Franciso Bay Area. However, as far as popularity goes from the time, they were somewhere in the third tier, below Metallica (which occupied a tier by itself), below Exodus and Testament, and somewhere along with Heathen, Laaz Rockit, Vio-lence, and Death Angel. Nevertheless, Forbidden was (and is as they have recently reformed) an excellent band.

Musically, Forbidden is not dissimilar from the other bands in the Bay Area scene. They are probably closest to Exodus. The riffs are fast and inspired by a mix of punk and NWOBHM. Guitar leads frequently stand out from the riffs. The drumming is also fast and guitar solos are frequent. The songs are often around the five minute mark and are performed in a more progressive structure.

Where Forbidden is distinguished from other Bay Area thrash metal bands is the vocals. Russ Anderson possesses a higher singing voice, similar to power metal bands of the day. These vocals add more melody and power to the already energetic performance of the musicians. Anderson is a very underrated vocalist.

This is an underrated gem of an album. Forbidden is not an unknown band, but they certainly have not managed the same type of career as their peers in Exodus, Metallica, and Testament. However, they recently reformed, and may soon be in for the kind of success they just missed the first time around.

Initial Impressions: Dark Fortress: Ylem

Germany's melodic black metal masters have been going at it for quite some time. However, this is only the second album that has been released to a wide market in the U.S. On this release, Dark Fortress is going for a bit more of a melodic, slower, and overall far more sinister sound. Prior albums have been more similar in tone to Naglfar and Lord Belial. Here, the band branches out a little more.

Dark Fortress retains the black metal base to their sound, but have added some slower parts open to a bit more experimentation. Some near psychedelic moments shine through when the band is not blasting away. The band also benefits from a clearer, more crisp production sound. Every instrument can be heard well and nothing is buried in the mix.

Some of the songs on this album almost sound as if Dark Fortress has been taking influence from Nachtmystium. The songs are longer, a little more progressive in structure, and with some non-black metal elements showing through. It's an interesting take, and not one I was really expecting to hear on this album. The Dissection-esque riffs and rough vocals are still present, but there is a lot more going on this time around.

I am not sure what to think of this album yet. I really enjoyed the band's last album, and this is not all that similar to that. It might be a grower, but there's nothing wrong with that. Some of the songs are a little on the long side, but there's nothing really wrong with that either. I don't know. We'll see how I feel after the album has had some time to sink in.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Initial Impressions: Exciter: Heavy Metal Maniac

Canada apparently had a great metal scene in the 1980's. Exciter, Anvil, and Razor were all playing fast thrash/speed metal. Meanwhile, Slaughter, Sacrifice, and Voivod were playing on the heavier end of the thrash spectrum. It's too bad many of those bands were not as well-known south of the border.

Exciter plays speed metal influenced by the NWOBHM, Judas Priest, and early thrash metal acts. It's very fast and also aggressive. The album starts out slowly with the opening track and sounds of an oncoming storm. Then it kicks into gear and does not slow down until it's over. The riffs are impressive, but they could stand to be higher in the mix.

The vocals are a little bit of a weak point. Perhaps the problem lies more in the production values of the album though, as the vocals are certainly not bad. They just kind of echo which gets a little annoying after awhile. Like I said, this is probably more due to the production than the actual vocals.

This album is just another example of some great Canadian metal that went largely unnoticed in the U.S. It's unfortunate, but with the internet, all of this stuff that was only heard regionally can now make its way to the masses.

One last thing though: there are three interview tracks on this album at the end as bonus. That's awful. It's one thing to have bonus tracks, it's quite another to have them be separate interviews.

Initial Impressions: Diamond Head: Lighting to the Nations

Diamond Head is a somewhat well-known band, but not for what they themselves have done. This album, also known as The White Album, features four songs that were covered by Metallica over the years. The NWOBHM band was a major influence on the career of the pioneering thrash metal band. This is a very solid album and people who enjoy Metallica should check out one of the bands responsible for leading them in the metal direction.

Diamond Head plays faster songs than many of their contemporaries. Of course this is partially due to the punk influences. The punk influences though merely caused the band to play faster. Diamond Head sounds more like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden than any punk band.

The musicianship is very impressive. The riffs are incredible. This is easily one of the best early metal albums from a riff standpoint. Every song here is memorable and the reason for that is the catchy riffs. The guitar solos are also very well-played and add a lot to the music. The vocals are a little on the high side, and are really the only weakness on the album. Metallica covered "The Prince", "Am I Evil", "It's Electric", and "Helpless".

Before I sum things up, here's a little rant. I like it when record companies reissue albums. I even sometimes like it when they put bonus tracks on the album. I don't like it when they add a bunch of random bonus tracks that ruin the overall feel of the album. This is the reissue. There are seven bonus tracks on it, as many songs as the original album. That means this is twice as long as intended. The bonus tracks are nowhere near as strong as the original material either, making the last half of the album somewhat boring. If you want this album, try to get one without the bonus songs.

Other than that, this is a great NWOBHM album. It was the last one on my list when I started looking into the scene a little bit more. It's the best one I have heard so far.