I bought several albums over the weekend. A couple of them were new releases from this last month, two were released last year, and one came out nearly 20 years ago. It's a fairly diverse group of albums, spanning several genres.
EXODUS: EXHIBIT B-THE HUMAN CONDITIONI will resist the urge to make this review done in a trial argument format as most reviews of the album, including twice in the same issue of Decibel, have already done so. Exodus is one of the pioneering bands in thrash metal. But they're not one of those bands who saw that thrash was popular again and reunited. No, Exodus have been together for the most part. They have had some lead singer difficulties though and this is the third album for Rob Dukes.
Exodus has released several classic thrash metal albums, including the incredible Bonded by Blood. This is part of a two-part album series. Exhibit A was released a couple of years ago. It was a somewhat tedious listen. Exodus packs a lot of riffs into songs these days and plays them ad nauseum making for some very long songs. That has not changed for the most part on this, but the album seems a lot more listenable, despite the 78 minute run time. The riffs are a bit more interesting this time around, and they are generally played faster than the slower groove style of the last album overall.
The vocals are decent. I do miss the band's other two vocalists as they seemed to fit better with the band's style. Dukes is a good screamer, but he's not all that unique-sounding. He sounds like several other vocalists out there.
This is a very long album, especially for thrash metal. It's a decent album though. It does not come close to the band's successful albums in the past, but Exodus has still proven to be a vital thrash metal band. They have certainly not had the missteps that some of their Bay Area contemporaries have had. I'm looking at you Metallica.
KYUSS: BLUES FOR THE RED SUNI mentioned in a recent post that I have avoided Kyuss for many years because of one song on a compilation that I could not shake. Well that finally ended over the weekend after nearly ending a couple of times that I can remember in the past. Yes, Kyuss is partially responsible for a glut of stoner rock bands, including the increasingly annoying Queens of the Stone Age (Josh Homme was guitarist for Kyuss). But that doesn't matter because when stoner doom metal is done right, it's fantastic and this band definitely does it right.
The band utilizes mostly sludgy, heavy, Sabbathian riffs to drive their songs. The songs are mostly mid-paced, typical for the genre, with a few exceptions. "Green Machine" is a faster song than most and is propelled by some excellent bass riffing. There is a fair amount of instrumental stuff and otherwise long gaps between vocals, but there's nothing wrong with that when the music retains interest as well as this.
The only real issue I have with this album is that it bogs down early in the second half. The band becomes a little fixated on psychedelia and spends a great deal of time working with different sonic textures and avoiding clear riffs. It's okay for a little while, but becomes a little tedious after awhile.
This is one of the most respected stoner doom metal album. It's not hard to see why. Much of the album is incredible and even the mistakes are still interesting enough to hold attention.
ROTTING CHRIST: AEALOI had been looking forward to this album all year and I finally found a store that had it over the weekend. About damn time. Yes, the band's name does them no favors as far as stores stocking their music. It's a shame though as Rotting Christ is a truly interesting band.
The Greek band has been incorporating more and more folk elements into their blackened gothic metal base. So, in between their tremolo-picked riffs, the band uses some very exotic-sounding melodies. The music actually sounds as if it would be a fitting soundtrack to a Greek mythological epic movie or video game. The music is potentially even more melodic than much of their past material.
Rotting Christ actually started as a grindcore band, if you can believe that. They have played a variety of styles since that time, including black and gothic metal. This album comes out a little more on the blackened gothic metal side, with some very interesting folk elements thrown in.
Sakis is still clearly the leader of the band. It is his vocal style that drives the band. His vocals are typically done in a black metal style, but they are very clear and easy-to-understand.
The only problem I have with the album is the closing track which is a little overlong and features very loud, often annoying female vocals.
This is one of the best albums of the year. Hard to believe this band has been around for more than 20 years. They still sound fresh and vibrant. Every album is a masterpiece. This is no exception.
SAMAEL: ABOVESamael has been around for a long time as well. The Swiss black metal band has taken some interesting turns in their long career. The last few albums prior to this can best be described as Rammstein playing black metal, or a black metal band playing Rammstein. There are varying theories as to whether that was a good or bad career move, mostly bad. This album though is a more of a return to the black metal Samael.
This is very melodic black metal, but it is definitely a return to the band's original style. The riffs are mostly fast and take place under some impressive blasting drums. This is not atmospheric black metal, it's bludgeoning, yet melodic.
I happened to enjoy the industrial metal Samael. The music was catchy enough and different. But man, does this ever blow that Samael out of the water.
BARONESS: BLUE RECORDI resisted the temptation to check this band out for a long time, but a couple of things convinced me otherwise. Kelly over at Full Metal Attorney listed it as one of his favorite albums of 2009 and Decibel listed it as the best album of the year. So, I relented. I'm pretty glad I did too.
Baroness is a progressive sludge metal band, playing a style very similar to Mastodon. I guess it was only a matter of time before more bands popped up playing that style of music. We have a lot more than Baroness, but for the most part, I have not checked out too many of them. Nothing against Mastodon, I quite like them actually, but for some reason never felt compelled to check out others in the style.
Enter Baroness, and this is some damn good stuff. It's heavy without being too slow and lumbering, proggy without being too beardy, and it's catchy as hell. The music itself sucks the listener in and does not let go. It's a very diverse album but it never strays too far off the beaten path. It's focused and direct enough to keep me entertained, which is a little unusual for this type of metal. Mastodon does tend to lose me sometimes.
I would not go so far as to say this is the best album of 2009. Destroyer 666 still has my vote, but it was a damn good album. This style of metal is catching on with people who are not overly familiar with the metal genre. I can see why it's popular, but I still prefer thrash and death.