Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Underrated Doom Metal Albums Pt. 2 of 2

Sorry for the brief hiatus.

Morgion is a U.S. death/doom band that is far closer to doom metal than death metal. The only real death metal elements are the occasional (very occasional) extreme vocals. Otherwise, the music is much more of a somber and solemn doom metal style. The music is very similar to My Dying Bride, in that the songs are long and very slow. This is not music to listen to while operating heavy machinery, but if you can put it on in a dark room, it will sound great to just sit and listen to.

This Norwegian doom metal band also has some death metal elements in their music, but they are a little more obvious than those of Morgion. The vocals are very impressive: gravelly death metal-style growling. The music is slow and heavy with melodic guitar leads running throughout. "Stigma Diabolikum" is an incredible song, with a great lead running during the chorus and brudge. It's melodic, yet somber and pained. This album completely went under the radar but is a great example of death/doom from a country not really known for it.

The Swedish epic doom metal band Isole presents an extremely slow and melancholic album. The music is slow-building yet majestic. The band really does play epic music. The vocals are mostly done in a clean style and match up very well with the music. The riffs can be earth-shakingly heavy at times, yet the melodies still remain very powerful and strong. This is a very long album and it is slow, so patience is needed, but it is a very rewarding listen.

Okay, this one is terrifying. This is an EP from a band that plays what can best be described as blackened doom metal. It's not a real big subgenre, but there are a few bands. Australia has been on the cutting edge of combining black metal with other styles for awhile. This is an extremely dark and hostile album with the cold atmosphere and utter sense of impending doom that the two genres each cover separately but which is expertly crafted together on this album. The vocals are what really drives this EP, as they sound frenzied and completely unhinged. The full-length was a little disappointing after hearing this which is why I chose the EP for this list.

A newer band that plays excellent traditional doom metal. The album has a retro feel to it. It really sounds like something that would have come out in the 1970's. The music has a bit of an occult feel to it, like something that would be played in an old horror movie involving Satanic rites. The vocals are delivered in a style common to old doom metal bands like Candlemass. This is a great example of a newer band that plays a retro style of metal. I'm looking forward to hearing more from this band.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Underrated Doom Metal Albums Pt. 1 of 2

Picking just ten underrated doom metal albums is a little tough. By and large, the entire genre is underrated. Doom metal just does not get the same exposure and notoriety of some of the other genres. I stuck mostly to traditional doom and stoner doom in filling out this list, along with a few death/doom hybrids. I did not get into the funeral doom genre, because the whole thing is so inaccessible as to make the entire genre underrated.

I love stoner doom sometimes. I picked this album up in a closeout CD lot on ebay once and fell in love with the somber, yet heavy tones. The dry-throated crooning of the singer certainly adds to the entire mystique of the album. It's fairly easy to straddle the line between stoner doom metal and stoner rock, but this band is very clearly on the metal side of that line. The whole album is catchy and raw, and it sounds great.

Another pickup from that same lot, Unorthodox possesses much of the same traits that Lost Breed does. In fact, the two bands were on the same record label and creating music at the same time. Unorthodox uses some more unusual song structures and lives up to their name. Some of the songs are quick and short, while others carry on at great lengths. This stoner doom band is not as catchy as their labelmates, but still possess great songwriting ability.

Reverend Bizarre was one of the bands at the forefront of the true doom metal movement over the last several years. The Finnish power trio was one of many bands attempting to play doom metal the way the genre's originators like Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Pentagram, St. Vitus, and others played. The sound is a traditional doom metal sound. The first three songs are faster tracks including the incredible "Doom Over the World", while the others are much slower. The band's entire catalogue is amazing.

Coffins is Japanese band that plays a very strong style of doom/death. The band has a mostly eerie-sounding and heavy riffing style. The riffs sound as if they are mostly influenced by Celtic Frost and Hellhammer. Even the singer's grunts sound a lot like Tom Warrior. The result is a slower, lumbering, but immensely heavy beast. If you enjoy death metal and want to get into doom metal, Coffins is a good place to start. The band combines many death metal aspects, but plays them with a sludgier sound more common to doom metal.

I considered not putting this band in here, mostly because I have seen a video on MTV's Headbanger's Ball. Yet, I put them here because I really do not see much about them on metal sites and I think they are absolutely amazing. This was one of my favorite albums of 2008 and is sadly kind of overlooked. TGOS plays a more traditional style of doom metal with some other trad metal influences and occasional stoner doom/psychedelic moments. I love everything I have heard from this band.

Weekly Recap 9/19-9/25

Busy week last week as I had a trial on Tuesday and spent the rest of the week trying to catch up on the stuff I had to miss to do the trial. My fiancee and I went to Omaha Saturday night to see my friend who is a grad student at Iowa State. Good to see him again.

Amon Amarth: The Avenger
Archgoat: The Light-Devouring Darkness
Armored Saint: La Raza
Atheist: Piece of Time
Autopsy: Severed Survival
Averse Sefira: Tetragrammatical Astygmata
Azaghal: Omega
Behemoth: Evangelion
Behexen: My Soul for His Glory
Blind Guardian: At the Edge of Time
Blood Ritual: Black Grimoire
Bolt Thrower: Realm of Chaos
Catholicon: Treatise on the Abyss
Dark Fortress: Ylem
Diamond Head: Lightning to the Nations
Eluveitie: Everything Remains (As It Never Was)
Enslaved: Ruun
Exciter: Heavy Metal Maniac
Forbidden: Twisted Into Form
Gallhammer: Ill Innocence
Godless Rising: Rising Hatred
Grimbane: Let the Empires Fall
Guillotine: Blood Money
High on Fire: Snakes for the Divine
Horna/Behexen: Split
Impaled Nazarene: Nihil
Impiety: Formidonis Nex Cultus
Kataklysm: Heaven's Venom
Kawir: Ophiolatreia
Landmine Marathon: Sovereign Descent
Lecherous Nocturne: Adoration of the Blade
Master's Hammer: Ritual
Mictlantecuhtli: Warriors of the Black Sun
Morbid Angel: Altars of Madness
Nevermore: Dreaming Neon Black
Obeisance: Unholy, Unwholesome, and Evil
Ravencult: Temples of Torment
Riot: Fire Down Under
Root: The Black Seal
Rusty Eye: Possessor
Sabbat: Karmagmassacre
Sigh: Gallows Gallery
Sigh: Hangman's Hymn-Musicalische Exequien
Sigh: Scenes from Hell
Sodom: Agent Orange
The Sword: Gods of the Earth
Varathron: Genesis of Apocryphal Desire
Venom: Welcome to Hell

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Compilations: Metal Maniacs Sept. 2008

Onward we march.

Kelly really likes this band. This song is a little too Elvis-like for my taste at the beginning. I understand the band is going for a metal-meets-1950's rock vibe here, but it's a little too weird for me. Maybe with repeated listens I could get into it. Not now though.

This is more of an ambient/black metal track. It's eerie and uncomfortable, but there's nothing really here to grab the attention. Pass.

Good old Motorhead. This band has not changed much at all since they formed in the 1970's. This is another, good old-fashioned metal beatdown. If you've heard anything by Motorhead at all, you know what to expect here. But, that's the band's charm.

Kind of a thrash/crossover-sounding band. I have not heard of this band before. They are not too bad, probably a very amateur band. Nice guitar tone.

The Editor's Pick this month. Unleashed is like Motorhead in that they have changed very little over the course of their careers. Unlike Motorhead, they play Swedish death metal with Viking-inspired lyrics. I enjoy this band and own this album. Nothing much more to say than that.

I'm planning a post on Satan's Host as they are truly an enigma. This is one of their more groove-oriented tracks, but it still has thrash metal riffs running through it. The band is more concerned with creating an atmosphere on this track. It's not one of my favorite Satan's Host songs, but even the band's mediocre songs are interesting.

This is metalcore with some melodeath influences and heavy use of clean vocals. Nothing new.

I'm pretty sure this was on last week's compilation. I don't think I liked it then, why the hell would I like it now?

This is pretty competent death metal with thrash influences. I kind of like it. Much better than the last two pieces of crap.

Stoner/doom. This is pretty decent, I do tend to like a good stoner/doom song. I'm not sure what to think about a bunch of guys naming their band "Young Widows" though. Baroness has always confused me as well though.

More competent, amateur death metal. The rumbling riffs are pretty good, but it's tough to hear what's actually going on musically. There's an occasional technical guitar shred in here as well.

And to finish things off, we have symphonic blackened death? It's okay, but this should have better production to really catch listeners' attentions.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Year in Metal: 1989

I was not terribly thrilled with the outcome of 1988's review. I felt it was a little too mainstream. Therefore, this time out, I have five examples of extreme metal albums from 1989. Not that the quality is diminished, these are five excellent albums, but they are not appearing on Rolling Stone's top albums list anytime soon.

Atheist is an excellent band that never quite got the recognition that they deserved in their first go-around. The band has since reformed and is releasing a new album soon. This is death metal with some thrash moments, but more interestingly a lot of jazz and fusion influences as well. Atheist was at the forefront of the groups that were taking death/thrash metal and combining it with outside influences to result in an extremely interesting overall sound. It's thinking man's metal. This is the band's amazing debut album.

One of the first real death metal bands, Sein Reinert started this band after leaving Death, and the sound is similar, but heavier and murkier. Autopsy experimented with some doom metal influences, but for the most part this is pure death. The vocals are more extreme than Death's vocals as well. Autopsy utilized a lot of gore and horror lyrics which were extremely influential on the future releases by such acts as Cannibal Corpse.

Bolt Thrower has long been one of the most consistent acts in death metal. However, they had a bit of a different sound for the first couple of albums. Bolt Thrower was more of grindcore band on their earliest recordings. This album represents a bit of a crossroads between the old grindcore sound and the newer death metal sound and is my favorite album by the band. "World Eater" is one of the heaviest songs with one of the heaviest riffs ever.

Morbid Angel finally released their debut album in 1989 after a series of demos. The album finds the band playing the style of death metal they would popularize and that would be endlessly imitated. This is true occult death metal with some fantastic riffs and blazing guitar solos, David Vincent's trademark extreme vocal style, and some of the best songs ever in death metal. This is a true landmark album for the death metal genre and ranks as quite possibly my favorite death metal album.

From death metal to thrash metal. This is one of my favorite German thrash metal albums. Everything about this is perfect. It's fast, with great riffs, and Angelripper's trademarked raspy, almost black metal vocals. This was the first album by Sodom to go completely in the thrash metal direction. All of the songs are great, including the crossover-sounding "Ausgebombt" and the cover of the Tank classic "Don't Walk Away". The thrash break at the end of "Tired and Red" is the greatest breakdown ever.

Honorable Mentions: Annihilator: Alice in Hell, Blind Guardian: Follow the Blind, Carcass: Symphonies of Sickness, Dark Angel: Leave Scars, Faith No More: The Real Thing, Kreator: Extreme Aggression, Obituary: Slowly We Rot, Overkill: The Years of Decay, Sabbat: Dreamweaver-Reflections of Our Yesterdays, Sepultura: Beneath the Remains, Testament: Practice What You Preach, Voivod: Nothingface, Watchtower: Control and Resistance.

Bands that formed in 1989: Bal-Sagoth, Beherit, Benediction, Cathedral, Dark Tranquillity, Dissection, Edge of Sanity, Gorguts, Immortal, Incantation, Novembers Doom, Pitchshifter, Sentenced, Sigh, Unleashed, Vital Remains, Vomitory.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Underrated Black Metal Albums Pt. 2 of 2

I had a trial yesterday so did not have time to put anything up. Here's the continuation from Monday.

Like Root, Master's Hammer is a first wave black metal band from then-Czechoslovakia. Also like Root, they fail to get the recognition they deserve. Master's Hammer is a musically-amazing band. They capture the early black metal sound and meld it with an epic atmosphere. The vocals are grainy, raspy, and sound amazing. Especially for a band playing a genre that had not totally broken through yet. If you want to hear a great example of an early black metal album, before the second wave Scandinavian bands, this is it.

I said before that I would have a few examples of Greek black metal bands on this list. Here's another one. Kawir takes the more standard black metal sound but infuses it with melodies that sound like those of the band's native land. The music often becomes melodic and atmospheric with beautiful keyboard melodies and chanting vocals. The lyrical subject matter involves Ancient Greek mythology, a particular favorite subject of mine.

Sometimes, great metal can be found in unexpected places. Meet Singapore's Impiety. Impiety covers a variety of extreme metal genres, running the gamut from black to death to thrash. However, it remains rooted in the very early extreme thrash metal bands that bordered on black metal. Groups like Sodom, Bathory, Vulcano, and Sarcofago are the main reference points here. The band is fast and brutal as hell.

This Canadian black metal band essentially came out of nowhere to produce an amazing black metal album a couple of years back. Very little is known about them. Grimbane sounds like they are trying to channel the early proto-black metal bands such as Venom and Bathory. Their style is raw and aggressive with extreme vocals and the occasional melody. Grimbane came out of nowhere, released this monster of an album and then returned to the mist. There are rumblings about a follow-up however.

In my opinion, Averse Sefira is the greatest U.S. black metal band since Absu. Averse Sefira is extremely fast and intense with a feel for an incredibly hostile atmosphere. The band arose out of that incredible Texas black metal scene and are easily one of the better such groups from that scene. Averse Sefira sounds like a more serious and shockingly louder and heavier early version of Immortal. If that sounds like high praise, it's because the band deserves it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Underrated Black Metal Albums Pt. 1 of 2

Black metal is not one of my favorite genres, though I do like quite a bit of it. I have not done as extensive of research into the genre as I have for death and thrash metal. Therefore, my choices for this post may not be quite as unknown. And I'm probably missing quite a few good ones as well.

Anyway, here we go:

One of the great black metal scenes that has gone largely unnoticed by those not in touch with the underground is the Greek scene. Obviously Rotting Christ has become fairly well-known, but other groups still languish there. Case in point: Varathron. This is not really an album but a collection of demos. The music is melodic with that Hellenic touch that the Greek scene is known for and that Rotting Christ has perfected and the vocals are very extreme and deep. This is a very good album from a very interesting scene.

Root is one of the earlier black metal bands, coming from Czechoslovakia, and yes I'm aware that it's now the Czech Republic, but that's how long ago this band formed. The music mostly falls under black metal, with some other metal genres thrown in for good measure and an overall epic feel. However, the vocals are where this band really shines. The vocals are mostly done clean with the singer possessing a powerful baritone which he uses to great effect and theatricality. It sounds like an opera singer fronting a black metal band. Very cool stuff.

Another Greek band, but this one is more of a standard black metal band, without the Hellenic sound that Varathron and Rotting Christ use. The music sounds more like a second wave Norwegian band with its frequent use of pounding drums and tremolo riffs. The vocals are hoarse and raspy and the overall atmosphere is dark and hostile. The album does a lot better at capturing the feel and atmosphere of the second wave of Norwegian black metal than many other bands. If I didn't know better I would swear they were one of those bands.

Mictlantecuhtli sounds like a thrashier version of Dissection. Seeing as how Dissection is an all-time favorite band of mine, I obviously really like this. Where the band differs though is their subject matter. Mictlantecuhtli covers Aztec mythology, a somewhat unusual subject to cover in black metal, but they do it right and it is very interesting. The music, as I said, is Dissection with some more thrash to it and taking away the occasional acoustic interlude. This is fantastic stuff.

Texas has a very extreme black metal scene. It must be the oppressive heat that has caused its bands to uniformly have a gritty and grimy sound. Some of the best U.S. black metal bands come from Texas and Obeisance is no exception. With some thrash metal riffs buried under murky production and an aboslutely filthy sound, Obeisance is really quite a good band. Too bad I have heard very little about them from other people. They are missing out.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekly Recap: 9/12-9/18

On Tuesday, my fiancee and I celebrated our one year anniversary of the day we got engaged. We went out to a nice dinner on Wednesday as she had class that night. Other than that, I have been preparing for a trial coming up on Tuesday.

Alice in Chains: Black Gives Way to Blue
Angel Witch: Angel Witch
Anthrax: Persistence of Time
Anthrax: Sound of White Noise
Anthrax: Stomp 442
Anvil: Forged in Fire
Arch Enemy: Rise of the Tyrant
Armored Saint: La Raza
Armored Saint: Symbol of Salvation
Arsis: Starve for the Devil
Asphyx: Death...The Brutal Way
Bathory: Blood Fire Death
Bathory: Under the Sign of the Black Mark
Blind Guardian: At the Edge of Time
Blood Ritual: Black Grimoire
Carnifex: Hell Chose Me
Charred Walls of the Damned: Charred Walls of the Damned
Death: Scream Bloody Gore
Demolition Hammer: Necrology-A Complete Anthology
Destroyer 666: Defiance
Devastation: Idolatry
Dying Fetus: Descend Into Depravity
Einherjer: Blot
Eluveitie: Everything Remains (As it Never Was)
Eluveitie: Slania
Enslaved: Vertebrae
Estuary: The Craft of Contradiction
Evile: Infected Nations
Exhorder: Slaughter in the Vatican
Eyehategod: Dopesick
Helstar: King of Hell
Holy Moses: Agony of Death
Holy Moses: Finished with the Dogs
Hyades: And the Worst is Yet to Come
Intruder: Psycho Savant
Iron Maiden: Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
Kataklysm: Heaven's Venom
King's-Evil: Deletion of Humanoise
Landmine Marathon: Rusted Eyes Awake
Landmine Marathon: Sovereign Descent
Lost Breed: Save Yourself
Manowar: Kings of Metal
Megadeth: Endgame
Metal Maniacs August 2008
Necrophagia: Holocausto de la Morte/Black Blood Vomitorium
Nocturnal Breed: Fields of Rot
Omen: Battle Cry
Orphaned Land: The Never-Ending Way of ORwarriOR
Overkill: Ironbound
Queensryche: Operation: Mindcrime
Razor: Violent Restitution
Sabbat: Dreamweaver-Reflections on Our Yesterdays
Sarcolytic: Thee Arcane Progeny
Savatage: Hall of the Mountain King
Saxorior: Volkerschlacht
Slaughter Lord: Thrash 'Til Death '86-'87
Thanatos: Justified Genocide
The Lord Weird Slough Feg: Ape Uprising!
Thornafire: Vorex Deconstruccion
Trench Hell: Southern Cross Ripper
Vader: Necropolis
Warth: Hateful Speed
Waylander: Honour Amongst ChaosWormed: Planisphaerium

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Compilations: Metal Maniacs August 2008

Time for another compilation album. I'm trying to do one of these a week, if you couldn't tell, until I run out of them. Compilations, not weeks.

I really enjoy Satan's Host although I wish they would just stick to writing catchy songs on their albums, instead of all this Satanic invocation crap they always do. When they want to, they put out some amazing songs, this is one of those moments. Pat Evil is an amazingly talented guitarist. I have this album, so no need to praise it further.

Technical death metal. It definitely shreds and it does sound a little better than some of the other soulless stuff. I am not a huge fan of this genre though. I have some bands I really like, but I don't go out of my way to find it. Those into this sort of thing, one in particular, should check this out.

Pagan folk metal from Russia, with a great opening thrashy riff. This features a very strong female lead singer who is equally adept at clean and extreme vocals. This is one of those that I was so impressed by that I eventually bought the album. It was a little uneven, but still pretty damn good.

This is awful.

It's hardcore, or crossover, or something. I don't really care for it personally. I will pass.

This is a band that sounds like they are trying to catch that Mercyful Fate/King Diamond vocal sound and couple it with some almost Thin Lizzy-sounding guitar riffs. I have no idea what this is supposed to be. But hey, at least they're trying something here.

Another song I was so impressed with that I had to find the album. This is an Australian traditional metal band featuring beauty and beast vocals. The female vocalist is the lead vocalist and the male only contributes occasionally. But this is catchy and vastly overlooked.

Kalmah is probably the best band from those Finnish power/melodeath bands that include Children of Bodom and Norther. Unfortunately, COB gets all the love for some ungodly reason. Kalmah is a much better band and continues to put out great releases, including this one. COB has gone down in flames faster than In Flames.

I thought metalcore was on the way out? This band offers nothing that hasn't been done a thousand times before. They sound like an All That Remains ripoff. No thanks.

This sounds like a blend of nu-metal and metalcore. What an unholy mix of shit.

Bizarre is the operative word here. We have some industrial/electronic elements and death metal elements. This is really strange. It works pretty well though. I would be interested in hearing more from these guys.

I have reservations about any band with the word "Vampire" in their name, thanks to the awful Twilight bullshit and Kelly's least favorite band Vampires Everywhere!. This band though is not too bad, it captures the gritty and evil spirit of what vampires once were in movies. It's more of a doom/gothic metal band. Not bad at all.

I expected an old school-sounding death metal band and that's exactly what I got. I think these guys are on Ibex Moon now, one of my favorite underground labels, because of their amazing death metal releases. This is a terrific song, I am definitely looking into this band.

More metalcore. At least this is a better song than the last couple of metalcore songs on this thing. Still though, this is a dying sound. Thankfully.

The Editor's Pick for the month is a hardcore supergroup featuring a bunch of people, the only one of whom I can remember is Shane Emsbury of Napalm Death. I'm sure Dan Lilker is involved too, because between the two of them, they have been in every band ever. That's probably a little exaggerated. Anyway, this is definitely an homage to old school hardcore, a genre I care very little about. So, pass.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Year in Metal: 1988

It's not often that one band can be responsible for the rise of two musical genres. That is the case here on Bathory's second inclusion into this series. This album saw a new sound arise out of Bathory's early take on black metal, a sound that the band would develop more thoroughly the next album out. That sound is viking metal. This is my favorite Bathory album because it is raw and epic at the same time. Truly a classic.

This is the last truly great album Iron Maiden released and is a culmination of all of their musical experimentation since the band was formed. It is truly a landmark album, not only for the band, but the entire heavy metal genre. In my early list of my favorite metal albums of all time, this came in second overall. It is filled with amazing melodies and riffs, great songs, and one of the best vocal performances in metal by Bruce Dickinson.

I have never been a huge Manowar fan, but this album is undeniably great. Manowar helped influence the American power metal movement, which is a substantially different sound than the European sound. This is one of the band's better mid-period albums, not quite rising to the classic heights of their early days. It was also the last album to feature guitarist Ross the Boss. The band suffered a little after his departure and never rose to this level again.

I suppose I can talk about Metallica once in this space. Not to say this will definitely be the only time, I have not played far ahead here. But this is an amazing album. The band has never before been as fast, technical, or progressive as they were on this album. This is also the first album in which many casual fans became aware of Metallica. Thanks to the blistering "One" and it's accompanying landmark video, Metallica started to forge a mainstream following. This is the last excellent album by this band.

This is a concept album about a man becoming involved in a revolutionary group as an assassin of political leaders. It is one of the better concept albums in the metal genre, and let's face it, I don't know about any from other genres better than this. It is truly unique because it is more of a rock opera, the characters all have their own voice and the story really comes alive. In between, there are simply great songs.

Honorable Mentions: Blind Guardian: Battalions of Fear, Bolt Thrower: In Battle There is No Law, Carcass: Reek of Putrefaction, Danzig: Danzig, Death: Leprosy, Death Angel: Frolic Through the Park, Fates Warning: No Exit, Forbidden: Forbidden Evil, King Diamond: "Them", Megadeth: So Far, So Good...So What!, Morbid Saint: Spectrum of Death, Overkill: Under the Influence, Razor: Violent Restitution, Slayer: South of Heaven, Testament: The New Order, Vio-Lence: Eternal Nightmare.

Bands that formed in 1988: Amon Amarth, Cadaver, Cannibal Corpse, Dismember, Eyehategod, Gamma Ray, Paradise Lost.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Underrated Thrash Metal Albums Pt. 2 of 2

Picking up from yesterday, here's some more of my favorite lesser-known thrash metal albums:

Exhorder has recently gotten some attention and praise from people who came to the realization that Pantera pretty much ripped off this band's sound in the early 1990's. Yes, Exhorder played a part in the creation of groove metal. Not to say that this is a groove metal album. This is a thrash metal album played at a slower speed than many of the band's contemporaries and it is one hell of an album. Later they would slow things even more and become a groove metal band, but this is just straight thrash.

This Japanese thrash metal band only released this one album, but it is a fucking good one. Featuring a sound that can best be described as Kreator meets Sodom, this album features some monster riffs and blazes by at a hundred miles an hour. The album is short but it still leaves the listener absolutely exhausted. Plus, it has one hell of a scary looking album cover. Bonus points.

I have discussed in the past that Norway, despite being best known for black metal, also has a propensity to produce some amazing bands in other genres. This is their best thrash metal band, in my mind. Some of the best thrash metal riffs of the last twenty years or so are on this album. The band is clearly more influenced by the more brutal German scene than the U.S. scene. This is truly a brutal thrash metal album.

This album has to be one of my absolute favorite thrash metal albums. Sabbat clearly has a sound and style all their own. Martin Walkyier has one of the most unusual voices in thrash and a very unique style. His staccato rhythms match up well with the music cadences and present a catchy total listening experience. Sabbat is unfairly overlooked, mostly because they did not rise out of one of the major scenes.

The younger Italian thrash metal band does not quite fit in with the recent thrash revival, however, they play a style heavily influenced by Anthrax and Exodus. It's fun and infectious thrash, yet it's still heavy. Hyades plays fast and hard, but it truly sounds like they are having a blast while doing it. This probably should be held up for the neo-thrash acts to look at to see a band carving their own sound out of their influences.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Underrated Thrash Metal Albums Pt. 1 of 2

I started last week with death metal. This week I will be looking at ten thrash metal albums. Thrash metal is my favorite genre, but this was hard to do. I had a tough time with the meaning of underrated on this genre, so I went with overlooked bands, groups not in the major scenes, or if they were, groups that have not received as much attention. I strongly considered Morbid Saint for this post, but I have covered them quite a bit in the past and that album is getting quite a bit of recognition now.

I also had a problem limiting it to ten, but here we go:

Brutal thrash metal is not a sub-genre that gets thrown around often. But if any band, and there will be several in these two posts, show more of what brutal thrash can do, it's this one. Devastation was completely overlooked in the late 1980's/early 1990's and that is a major shame. Along with Sadus, Morbid Saint, and Demolition Hammer, Devastation played a major part in bringing brutality to thrash metal in the U.S.

This is not technically an album, but rather a collection of demos. The reason for that being that Slaughter Lord never released a full-length album. The Australian thrash metal band can be looked at as a major influence on the Australian war metal scene, along with Hobbs' Angel of Death, headed by Destroyer 666. Their thrash was razor-sharp and brutal. The band was even covered by At the Gates on some bonus tracks for their Slaughter of the Soul album. Yet, very few people have actually heard this band. Strange.

I have talked this album up a little bit in recent weeks and it fully deserves it. Even for a Canadian thrash metal band, Razor is overlooked. And that is a major shame because they were every bit as good and powerful as any of the Bay Area bands. Providing tons of catchy riffs and infectious songs, Razor had a long run of great albums. This is my personal favorite by the band. Razor really should be a better-known band.

This technical progressive thrash metal band recorded an absolutely fantastic album. Easily the equal of luminaries such as Heathen and Anacrusis. However it came out at the wrong time. It was released after Metallica's black album and thrash was becoming a bad word. Poor timing. If it had been released a few years earlier, this band could have been legendary. As it is, this is a fantastic example of the style of thrash metal.

I name-dropped them earlier and here they are. Either of the band's first two albums could have been considered, but I chose this one because it was more apparent that the band knew what they were doing. Demolition Hammer is extremely heavy and brutal thrash metal. It comes close to death metal, without straying over the line. It is however, fast and brutal. It's rare for thrash to achieve this type of brutality.

Initial Impressions: Blind Guardian: At the Edge of Time

Power metal is not one of my favorite genres, although I enjoy quite a bit of it. Blind Guardian is one of the bands that I really like, having gotten into them through my best friend. The band is one of the pioneering power metal bands, being influenced by groups like Iron Maiden and Helloween. The Blind Guardian of today though is not nearly as fast as they once were, those elements have been replaced by continued progression.

This album is a bit of a return to the faster Blind Guardian albums of the past, but still not a return to their earliest albums. But speed is not necessary when the band is as good as Blind Guardian at writing interesting albums with catchy songs. There is a reason that Blind Guardian is at the forefront of the power metal genre. The band has simply never recorded a bad album. This one is no exception, featuring some truly great songs.

There is some increased experimentation with orchestras on this album. There are several parts with lots of string instruments playing along with the main riffs. This does not have the effect of sounding cheesy at all, in fact it is very well done. Blind Guardian has always sounded somewhat classical anyway, so the additions of the string instruments add to that sound.

The lyrics of course deal with fantasy elements. Blind Guardian is well-known as being major fans of Tolkien and other fantasy stories and dress as medieval minstrels for their stage show. So, if you like your metal brutal as fuck, stay away from this one. I am not a huge fantasy fan, but Blind Guardian's albums are so good that I have no problem with the lyrical subject matter. Besides, I do enjoy the Lord of the Rings movies.

Blind Guardian keeps trudging along on this one. I will say that it's the best Blind Guardian album in years. Although I do not have a lot to compare it to, having only heard one of their albums from the last ten years as I prefer their earlier material. It was better than A Twist in the Myth though, so that counts for something. This really is a very good power metal album, so if you enjoy the genre, check it out.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Initial Impressions: Kataklysm: Heaven's Venom

Kataklysm has been a long-running Canadian death metal band. They have undergone some major changes, most notably the change in guard at lead vocals. Maurizio Iacono has been the singer since sometime in the early 2000's and that change has seen the band get more commercial recognition, but has harmed the band's reputation in the death metal underground. Iacono's vocals are not terribly unusual and he typically only has two volumes: loud and louder. He does occasionally attempt the raspy sound in conjunction with the deep growls, but Deicide does this as well and better.

Even though the vocals are nothing special, something has kept this band going for this long. Iacono's vocals match well with the music and the music is impressive enough. It's mid-paced death metal without a whole lot of variety. It is however, somewhat catchy. The music occasionally borders on melodeath, but otherwise trudges along, just the same as the band's previous albums.

I have been listening to Kataklysm for a little while now after first hearing them on some horrible horror movie soundtrack. I have enjoyed each album the band has put out, but will freely admit that they are all very similar. There is not a whole lot of difference from album to album, but the band is good at what they do. They are just another band that has found a formula that works for them and has kept it going. There's nothing really wrong with that.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Weekly Recap: 9/5-9/11

Not a lot to say this last week. Work was pretty boring, not a lot going on at home.

Angel Witch: Angel Witch
Anthrax: Among the Living
Apophis: Heliopolis
Baroness: Blue Record
Blind Guardian: At the Edge of Time
Blitzkrieg: A Time for Changes
Cenotaph: Saga Belica
Dark Fortress: EidolonDark Fortress: Ylem
Deceased...: Luck of the Corpse
Decrepit Birth: Polarity
Defeated Sanity: Chapters of Repugnance
Demilich: Nespithe
Desaster: 666-Satan's Soldiers Syndicate
Destruction: Sentence of Death/Infernal Overkill
Devastation: Idolatry
Electric Wizard: Witchcult Today
Endstille: Endstilles Reich
Enforcer: Diamonds
Exciter: Heavy Metal Maniac
Exodus: Exhibit B-The Human Condition
Forbidden: Twisted Into Form
Heathen: Victims of Deception
Hellhound: Anthology
Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier
Kataklysm: Heaven's Venom
Kawir: Ophiolatreia
King Diamond: Abigail
Kyuss: Blues for the Red Sun
Metal Church: Metal Church
Metal Maniacs June/July 2008
Militia: Released
Nebula: Apollo
Omen: Battle Cry
Panzerchrist: Battalion Beast
Possessed: Seven Churches
Raven: Wiped Out
Razor: Violent Restitution
Rotting Christ: Aealo
Sacrifice: Forward to Termination
Saxorior: Volkerschlacht
Scar Symmetry: Dark Matter Dimensions
Scar Symmetry: Symmetric in Design
Slaughter: Strappado
Slauter Xstroyes: Winter Kill
The Chasm: Spell of Retribution
The Sword: Gods of the Earth
Thornafire: Exacerbated Gnostic Manifestation
Triptykon: Eparistera Daimones
Voivod: Negatron
Vomitory: Redemption
Watchtower: Energetic Disassembly
Xenomorph: Empyreal Regimes
Yyrkoon: Occult Medicine

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Compilations: Metal Maniacs June/July 2008

This was the first time Metal Maniacs started including CDs with their magazines. Ihsahn is the featured artist.

This was off the Emperor mainman's second solo album and features more progressive elements and unconventional metal structures than the previous release. Ihsahn is a very gifted instrumentalist and keeps things very interesting on this one. I own this album, so, of course I enjoy this song.

Simple groove metal. Not terribly interesting stuff, but it's okay if you think metal reached its height with Pantera. Interesting fact: Droid's music was featured in an episode of the TV show "Bones" when they were investigating a band for murder, thet they referred to as a death metal band, but had the stage show and image of a black metal band. A major facepalm.

Melodic and solemn death/doom metal. Daylight Dies is an incredibly underrated band. I own this album as well, so I won't need to say much more than that about it.

I'm not sure what this is, some kind of hardcore with some metal influence. It's just terrible. The vocals are really bad, the riffs are nothing special, and it's fucking annoying.

Viking metal from the tiny Faroe Islands in Northern Europe. This band focuses more on folk elements, melody, and clean vocals than their counterparts who are offshoots from black metal. It's drinking music. I'm not a big fan of these guys, so I would have to hear more to decide my interest in picking up an album.

Boris is kind of a weird band. Sometimes drone, sometimes stoner metal, sometimes pscyhedelic rock, they really have no set sound. This is one of their more stoner doom tracks, but the vocals and grating guitar kind of kill it for me. It's better than drone, but I'll pass.

These compilations provided tracks by several new bands without label deals. This is one of those bands, a fairly competent death metal band. I would like better production values to be able to hear the vocals, but this is okay. Let's see what this band can do in the future.

I think this band was on a previous compilation. I remember not feeling overly impressed with them then. That has not changed. Groove/thrash metal in the vein of mid 90's Slayer. Eh.

Christian deathcore. I don't mind the Christian themes, it's just that deathcore is tiring. Constant brutality gets annoying after awhile.

The best thing about these compilations is discovering new bands. I loved this track so much that I hunted down the album by this German melodic black metal band with folk elements. It's a great song and a great album. Good stuff.

Another new band, it's some sort of groove/metalcore outfit. Not too bad, but again the production is not terribly great. Everything is kind of murky and the drums are too high in the mix.

Death metal kind of in the vein of Immolation and Incantation. It does not have the occult, sickening sound of those bands, but it's deep and doom-laden. This is pretty decent actually.

Okay, this is just weird. Very ethereal, at times with beautiful female vocals, occasionally bordering on techno. I have no idea why this is here.

This sounds like Marilyn Manson with a more glam metal sound. No thanks.

Blackened death metal. This is pretty good, but again some bad production values hurt it, though not as much. I would be interested in checking this band out further.

Shackles is an Australian blackened death metal band. This song came out before the album that I own, but since I have an affinity for this style of music from Australia and own an album by this band, you can tell how I feel about it. Pretty decent stuff and the band has a gift for an epic feel to the music, which is rare for this style.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Year in Metal: 1987

Let's keep this going, shall we?

I have never been a big Anthrax fan. In fact, of the Big 4 of American thrash, Anthrax is my least favorite. However, this is undeniably a great album from the band. Anthrax has always been lighter-hearted than their more serious brethren and this album definitely demonstrates this. This is a fun, catchy album that is essential for any thrash metal fans. That's not to say that it is not a heavy album, Anthrax shows off some great riffs and has always had a gift for speed. If you only get one Anthrax album, this is the one I would recommend.

Here we have what is quite possibly the first fully-formed black metal album. Bathory had been pushing the boundaries for a little while, but this is one album that can be heard today and easily identified as black metal. Bathory took thrash metal riffs and made something unholy out of them. Many black metal bands that emerged from Norway in the late 1980's/early 1990's modeled their sound after this album. Kind of odd, considering Bathory was Swedish and there was such a backlash among Norwegian artists against Swedish artists.

From the first black metal album to one of the first death metal albums. This is the debut album from Death. Even at this early stage in the band's career, it was clear that Chuck Schuldiner was calling all the shots as he played guitar, bass, and provided the vocals. This album took thrash and played it with more distortion and it clearly defined what death metal was to sound like. Bands in previous years had come close, but this album was the breakthrough. This is the band that truly kickstarted the genre.

Holy Moses is a massively underrated thrash metal band. Coming from Germany around the same time as Kreator, Sodom, and Destruction, somehow Holy Moses got lost in the shuffle. It is possible that they were not taken seriously due to their vocalist, Sabina Classen. It's not a gimmick, Classen is a terrific frontwoman and one of the very first women in extreme metal. Her snarling vocals really matched with the razor-sharp riffs and blazing solos. Holy Moses is one of the best bands from the German thrash scene but have unfairly not been given the attention they deserve.

Wow, I keep managing to get King Diamond/Mercyful Fate in here. That's how massively important that the man, King Diamond, was to the metal scene in the 1980's. This is the solo band's second album and the measuring stick against which all other albums from the band would be compared. This is King's greatest horror story, a story about the evil spirit of a child planning to be reborn again. The music is terrific once again, marked by more melody than Mercyful Fate previously had. King's vocals are once again the focus and they remain incredible.

Honorable Mentions: Death Angel: The Ultra Violence, Dio: Dream Evil, Exodus: Pleasures of the Flesh, Helloween: Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 1, Kreator: Terrible Certainty, Savatage: Hall of the Mountain King, Suicidal Tendencies: Join the Army, Testament: The Legacy, Voivod: Killing Technology.

Bands that formed in 1987: Alice in Chains, Asphyx, Autopsy, Burzum, Cynic, Danzig. Darkthrone, Deicide, Entombed, Meshuggah, Nitro, Primordial, Therion.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Underrated Death Metal Albums Pt. 2 of 2

Picking up where I left off yesterday, here are the remaining underrated death metal albums.

Really, any Panzerchrist album is capable of being listed here. The Danish death metal band has virtually no exposure in the U.S. and their albums are incredibly tough to find and often expensive when you do. The U.S. is missing out on one of the most aggressive, rabid, and powerful death metal bands ever. The band incorporates some black metal influences (mostly vocal style but some music) into their death metal sound, but this is more of the blast beat-driven black metal style. If you're looking for subtlety, look somewhere else, this band is raw and brutal as fuck.

The Finnish death metal band is really weird. Featuring unconventional song structures and absolutely bizarre vocal styles (think croaking bullfrog), Demilich was truly and unusual band. Coming around at a time when there was not much experimentation in death metal, Demilich pushed the boundaries of the genre to places it had never seen before. If it were not for Demilich's 1993 album, we would not have groups like Portal. Unfortunately, this album remains buried deep within the metal underground. Those who have heard it though, sing its praises.

Yesterday I mentioned Cenotaph, well The Chasm is a band that features the absolutely insane Cenotaph vocalist Daniel Corchado as well as other members from the group. The band originated in Mexico and then relocated to Chicago. They play a much more progressive style of death metal with some remnants of the Cenotaph sound, but taking it in a myriad of directions. The band also has influences from other metal styles, including heavy doom influences. Their albums are all spell-binding, but this is my personal favorite.

It would be possible to get Deceased... in both the death metal and thrash metal lists, but I will cut that back and only list them here. Deceased... started out as an early death metal band, incorporating death metal vocal styles and down-tuned, heavy riffs into their more traditional metal and thrash backgrounds. This is the band's masterpiece album, a concept album to the George Romero zombie movies. This band is criminally underrated, despite being clearly one of the most original bands in American death metal. They have in recent years gotten rid of most of their death metal influences, but on this album, they shined through.

I just got this album recently and reviewed it in depth. I have to mention it again here, because this is just incredible. Progressive death metal that is still punishing and brutal is not always easy to find, but this isolated band from Nebraska did it in the early 1990's. Xenomorph is an extremely twisted death metal band, but their album was not widely released and they are just now beginning to get discovered. The label Blood Harvest has plans to re-release this. I can't wait. Hopefully they will get the attention they deserve.