Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 46: God Dethroned

The Dutch band is expected to call it quits at the end of this year. What a wild ride it's been though. I first took notice of the band with their 2009 album, which was an absolutely epic look at a particularly bloody World War I battle. Their prior blackened death metal material sounded a bit more like Behemoth's recent work, but Passiondale and Under the Sign of the Iron Cross are more of a mix of the aforementioned blackened death and Swedish death. That style is probably more appealing to me personally.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Initial Impressions: Psycho: Pain Addict Pigs

Singapore is not a country with a real rich metal scene, other than the very impressive Impiety. Well, now add Psycho to that list. I first heard about the band from a review in Decibel that described them as a horror metal band, which is not really a thing. At any rate, when I ordered my Satan's Host album direct from Moribund Cult, I felt like adding something to it, so I decided to go for this one as well. I was pleasantly surprised by it.

Despite forming in 2005, this is the band's first ever release. The music is a little crude and raw, but that could also be intentional. This is not meant to be pretty music to begin with. Decibel is right that the band is clearly influenced by horror movies. The band includes quite a few samples from low-budget cult horror movies such as "The Wizard of Gore", which probably is not exactly the biggest selling point. Impetigo also sampled from that particular movie.

No, the real selling point is that Psycho, for being such a young band, really knows what they want to accomplish with their music and they do just that. This is absolutely filthy death metal with an old school flare, with no real melodic attempts. This is just completely raw. The lyrics certainly reference horror movies and even tell some tales of their own, and the music is designed to provide the atmosphere for the often grotesque and macabre lyrics.

Psycho has a bright future. I am looking forward to seeing where this band goes from here.

EDIT: Apparently, you see the name "Penny Torture" and the pics from the liner notes with a woman standing between four men, and you think that must be Penny. Apparently not. I apologize for the confusion.

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 45: Goatwhore

Sometimes bands can completely take themselves out of ever having any mainstream exposure with a particularly ridiculous or offensive name. Goatwhore is a perfect example. Their music really is not so offensive that they would fly completely under the radar, although it is certainly aggressive and angry. But it's their name that has completely taken them out of ever receiving much publicity other than metal magazines. Which is just fine. The band was formed by ex-Acid Bath and Crowbar guitarist Sammy Duet, who wanted to find a way to explore more extreme forms of metal. Boy did he ever succeed with Goatwhore, the sludgy black/death/thrash outfit from the swamps of Louisiana.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 44: Flotsam and Jetsam

Flotsam and Jetsam is a bit of an overlooked thrash metal band from the 1980's. Most of their exposure comes from the fact that they were Jason Newsted's band before he left to replace Cliff Burton in Metallica. The band was from Arizona, so they really were not a part of any of the major thrash metal scenes. Nevertheless, Flotsam and Jetsam is a damn good band. Combining thrash and American power metal, they were more on the melodic side than many of the other bands of the era. Singer Eric A.K. is a great vocalist with a soaring voice and the guitar work of Edward Carlson and Michael Gilbert has been underrated. Their debut is a great album, and also the only full-length with Newsted.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 43: Fear Factory

Fear Factory is a band that I first got into early on in my formative years as a metal head. They got some play on the local hard rock radio station and appeared on a couple of soundtracks that I liked. So I checked them out. Their earliest material is a perfect blend of death metal and industrial metal. Fear Factory's singer Burton C. Bell is also largely credited with being a pioneer in the clean/extreme vocal style. Bell's voice was the first thing that stuck out to me, but Dino Cazares's guitar work was also top-notch for the style. Though their material after Obsolete is hit and miss, they are still an important band in my metal history. They were also only the second band that I liked enough to get a t-shirt, after Sepultura.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Initial Impressions: Satan's Host: By the Hands of the Devil

I have been a big fan of Satan's Host since discovering them a few years back. Of course when I found out about them, they were more of a blackened thrash metal band with raspy vocals and long, riff-driven songs. I was aware of their earlier material with Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin of Jag Panzer from the 1980's, but had not had the opportunity to check it out. Sometime last year, it was announced that The Tyrant was coming back to Satan's Host. I was not sure what to think. I like Jag Panzer, but I also like the blackened thrash output of Satan's Host. What was going to happen? What would I think of this reformation?

Well, to put it simply, this is a contender for Album of the Year.

Holy shit, this is a great album. This is very dark American power metal with some almost death metal style riffing at times. It is aggressive and nasty stuff. The guitar work by longtime guitarist Pat Evil is terrific. Whether it's a particularly heavy riff or an incendiary solo, Evil is truly an underrated guitar master. The guitar really drives the album, as is the case for all of the band's material. This is a powerfully melodic album but still remains dark enough to satisfy those fans of their previous sound.

The vocals are extremely impressive. Conklin has always had one of the best voices in American power metal, and now he brought it back to the darkness that is Satan's Host's music. It matches surprisingly well, even bearing similarities to Mercyful Fate's early material. His soaring style contrasts with the dark and heavy riffing, but it still just sounds great together.

I am particularly impressed with the surprisingly powerful "Fallen Angel", which will likely be among my favorite songs of the year by the end. It is an amazing song that sends chills down my spine.

There is still a lot of time left, but so far, this is the Album of the Year.

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 42: Exodus

Dave Mustaine once said that he thought Exodus should be considered one of the Big 4 instead of Anthrax. I do not really agree with him, but it is tough to say he is completely wrong. Exodus's first album was thrash in its purest form. It was all razor-sharp riffs, frenetic vocals, and pounding drums, without a single soft song. Quite simply, Exodus's first album was the perfect embodiment of thrash. The band released several more great albums too before their decline for a few years. They put out good music once again, but after several vocalist changes and now their much longer songs, they barely sound like they once did.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 41: Entombed

Entombed basically makes this list on the strength of one album, but what an album it is. Left Hand Path is the standard against which all Swedeath albums are measured. It was truly a landmark album. Though nothing the band has done since has risen to that same level, they still manage to put out some decent stuff. It just can not compare to their first album.


My Favorite Metal Band from the United States

We have reached the final post in this series. And we close things out with what is probably a bit of a surprise. Yes, I prefer Megadeth over Metallica. I believe that the first four Metallica albums were amazing and probably as good a run as any band out there, but I am considering more than just those four albums. The larger discography Of Megadeth is superior to Metallica's. Megadeth has only released one bad album, compared to three by Metallica. Furthermore, Dave Mustaine was largely responsible for a lot of the best songs recorded by Metallica on their first four albums anyway. One other reason for my preference for Megadeth over Metallica is that Megadeth is better right now. If I had to choose between a new Megadeth album and new Metallica album, I would take the Megadeth album. Endgame was better than Death Magnetic to my ears.


Too many to name, Metallica gets second billing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 40: Enslaved

Like Emperor, Enslaved is a bit of a hard luck miss on the favorite spot for Norway. Oddly, I was not much of a fan of the band until seeing them in concert, opening for Opeth with my fiancee a couple of years back. Their live show blew me away and I became a fan. Enslaved is largely credited with taking the Viking metal sound that Bathory created and running with it. They were a bit of a different band than some of their countrymen and peers from the time frame. Their music now bears little resemblance to black metal and is instead more of a progressive extreme metal. I love their most recent stuff, perhaps even moreso than their earlier material.


My Favorite Metal Band from the United Kingdom

Well, duh. If you need me to explain why Black Sabbath is my favorite English metal band, you are not a true metal fan.

NOTABLE SCENES: NWOBHM, gothic/doom metal, early death/grind.

Bolt Thrower
Cradle of Filth
Electric Wizard
Iron Maiden
Judas Priest
My Dying Bride
Napalm Death
Ozzy Osbourne
Paradise Lost

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 39: Emperor

One of the most difficult countries to name a favorite band from was Norway. I eventually decided on Immortal, but Emperor was one of the bands that was very difficult to pass up. Emperor was the first true black metal band that I ever really got into. Their melodic and symphonic take on black metal was extremely influential and helped spawn a whole subgenre, along with their countrymen Dimmu Borgir. Emperor though has always had much better music. In fact, their second album still rates as one of my all-time favorite black metal albums.


My Favorite Metal Band from the Ukraine

Blood of Kingu is a side-project of members of Ukrainian pagan black metal band Drudkh. Drudkh is a very well-regarded band in their own right, but for some reason, I have just never checked them out. Blood of Kingu, on the other hand, I have heard and they are quite the interesting band. Playing an eerie style of atmospheric black metal with lyrical themes based on various ancient cultures' mythology, including Egyptian, Sumerian, and Tibetan. Definitely an interesting group that has flown under the radar so far.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 38: Down

This is a side-project band that eventually proved to be far superior than any of the other bands whose members comprised it. Made up of members of Pantera, Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, and Eyehategod, Down burst onto the scene in 1995 and put out a terrific album which combined doom, sludge, and a little bit of southern rock. The album was an instant classic. It was originally supposed to be a one-off, but the band re-formed a couple more times to put out more albums. Though neither of their other albums quite reached the same level as the first one, they were both very good in their own ways. Down is also an incredible live act.


My Favorite Metal Band from Taiwan

Chthonic is essentially a Taiwanese Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir. They have black metal influences, but their music is more of a gothic extreme metal with symphonic elements. Which is not such a bad thing really. I like Cradle of Filth and I like some of Dimmu Borgir's material, so this is fine. The band members are all capable musicians and they do craft some interesting songs. I have really only heard one of the band's albums and I do keep meaning to check out more. I just have not really gotten around to it yet.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

One and Done? Pt. 5: Willard: Steel Mill

Had they lasted long enough, Willard probably would have been thrown under the "grunge" moniker. I say that based only on the fact that they were a hard rock/metal band from Seattle. Of course there are examples of bands that prove that theory correct, such as Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. This was fairly common at the time. But Willard did not last long. Their only full-length was released in July of 1992, a full two months before Nirvana released Nevermind. They broke up some time afterwards. So no, they are not often named as part of the grunge scene, but likely would have been.

Instead, Willard played a style of stoner/doom metal and were very similar in style to the more metallic moments of fellow Seattle band the Melvins. Their music is fairly simple and direct: distorted Sabbath-style riffs, throbbing bass, and punk-esque vocals.

These guys suffered from bad timing, releasing their only album two months before Nirvana. Therefore they faded into obscurity. Who knows what would have happened had they stuck around?

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 37: Dissection

As I mentioned yesterday in my post on Sweden, Dissection played a major part in introducing me to international extreme metal. In particular, Dissection was one of the first bands with black metal in their sound that I ever listened to. And I owe it all to picking up the album simply based on the cover art for Storm of the Light's Bane. The first time I heard this album, I was not sure what to think. It was the most extreme thing I had ever heard at that point. It took a little while for everything to really sink in, but once it did, I was amazed by it. Specifically the cold atmosphere and the insane drumming. I picked up the band's previous album as well and then waited patiently for vocalist Jon Nodtveidt to be released from prison and then got their last album. Dissection was instrumental in bringing me into black metal, and Storm is still in my Top 5 albums of all time.


My Favorite Metal Band from Switzerland

Okay, I listen to a few bands from Switzerland, but most of them are basically the same band. Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, and Triptykon are essentially all one band. So, because Celtic Frost was around significantly longer than the other two versions of the band, they get the honors. Plus, it's damn hard to beat To Mega Therion. Celtic Frost of course was hugely influential on several styles of extreme metal. So they get the win here.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Initial Impressions: Vomitory: Opus Mortis VIII

It must be Sweden day here. This certainly was not intentional, but all three posts today deal with Swedish groups.

Vomitory is a death metal band more in line with groups like Dismember, Grave, and the early material by Entombed. But they are a hell of a lot heavier and definitely more brutal. Vomitory is all about violence. Their sound is violent, their artwork is violent, and of course their lyrics are violent. I guess you could probably expect that from a band with such a grotesque name.

The buzzsaw riffing style typical of the Swedish death sound is present in Vomitory, but it is played heavier and with more ferocity. The songs are all fast and abrasive with only some melody present in the form of the occasional guitar lead amongst the jackhammer drums and razor-sharp riffs. The vocals are typically delivered in a deep and guttural style with very little diversity. But fans of Vomitory do not expect diversity. Vomitory has been brutally consistent for more than two decades and some things just should not change.

It is tough to use a term like "best" when describing an album by Vomitory because the band has always basically sounded the same. You know what you are getting with a Vomitory album. So this could be their best album. Or it could be their worst. The fact of the matter is that there is so little to differentiate between the two with this band that that does not really matter. If you want brutal Swedish-style death, then Vomitory is the band for you.

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 36: Dismember

Dismember has been one of the most consistent bands in the Stockholm death metal scene. They are the band to point to best characterize the sound that is typical of the scene. Their buzzsaw-style riffs and deep guttural vocals have been often imitated by other groups in the scene, but Dismember has been doing it consistently since the late 1980's. Their sound is rooted in thrash metal and crust punk, but Dismember plays it extremely heavy and extremely violently. Dismember has never released a bad album either, and picking just one favorite is very difficult.


My Favorite Metal Band from Sweden

This was perhaps the toughest decision I have made in this series. Not even the U.K. or U.S.A. were as difficult as picking my favorite Swedish band. Sweden of course played a major part in my branching out into the international metal scene. I got into In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Opeth, and Dissection early on in my experimentation. It really is no surprise then that one of those three bands made it as my favorite. But which one became a difficult choice.

Ultimately I chose Dark Tranquillity because they are still around and they have never let me down with any of their albums. I love the first two full-length Dissection albums, probably more than any one DT album, but that is pretty much it for them. I liked In Flames's material up until their last album and am seriously considering skipping their new album if the first track is any indication. DT has remained constant throughout their career. Their early stuff is spectacular melodic death and their later stuff, while losing a little bit, still remains impressive. DT is the flag-bearer of the melodic death scene, a scene that I discovered early in my exploration of extreme metal.

NOTABLE SCENES: Of course Gothenburg-style melodeath and Stockholm-style death. Also an impressive black metal and thrash metal scene.

Amon Amarth
Arch Enemy
At The Gates
Dark Funeral
Edge of Sanity
Grand Magus
In Flames
Lost Horizon
Scar Symmetry
Tad Morose
The Crown

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Initial Impressions: Lair of the Minotaur: Evil Power

I will start this out by saying that I really like Lair of the Minotaur. Their combination of thrash metal and sludgy doom is definitely distinctive and is often very well-done. Their songs are catchy, fast, and though cheesy, very entertaining.

You can feel the "but" coming can't you?

BUT (there it is), this album is a bit of a letdown for me. It just feels like they lost something. Maybe it's because War Metal Battle Master was such an impressive album that LotM could not possibly live up to it on their very next album. I am not really sure what the reason is. I just know that this album does not grab me like their earlier material.

The songs are a bit too simple on here, with only four songs longer than three minutes, compared to their earlier stuff. Sure this means that songs do not meander endlessly, but it also means that once the song really starts feeling good, it's over. I think the punk influences kind of took over this album in that respect.

The other components of the band's sound are all here, the brash vocal style, the heavy thrash riffs, and the metal cliche-ridden lyrics. This is still definitely a fun album and Lair of the Minotaur is still one of my favorite newer bands. I guess most bands have a bit of a letdown somewhere in their catalog. Let's hope that this is not the start of a downward trend.

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 35: Devourment

I had to get some slam in here somewhere and Devourment was the most likely culprit due to their pioneer status and the fact that "Babykiller" is pretty much the quintessential slam metal song. If you do not like that song, you do not like slam, period. All of the "hallmarks" of the genre are here: perverse and grotesque lyrics, grooves, slams, blasting drums, gurgly vocals. This is the band that put the influences like Suffocation, Internal Bleeding, and Pyrexia together. This is the first real slam band.


My Favorite Metal Band from Spain

I said yesterday that brutal death has been a bit underrepresented in my discussion of Slovakia's Sanatorium. Well, now we have two countries in a row, because Wormed is awesome. Wormed is something of a cross between technical death metal and slam, but does not fall into any of the pitfalls of either genre. The vocals are delivered in a croaking style that sounds like a mixture of Lord Worm and the vocalist from Demilich. The sound is unrelentingly heavy and intense. I am still eagerly anticipating a follow-up from these guys.

Dark Moor
Dawn of Tears

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 34: Destroyer 666

Okay, this one is really #1 at this point in time. What more do I really have to say about them? I listed their 2009 album as my Album of the Year. They pulled in the top spot in my favorite albums of the last decade. They were listed as my favorite Australian band, in a very deep scene. I am really not sure there is much more to say about this band here that I have not said in other places. They are an incredible band.


My Favorite Metal Band from Slovakia

I have only heard one band from Slovakia, so Sanatorium wins by default. Which I am okay with really. Brutal death metal has been a bit underrepresented in this series and Sanatorium is pretty good. Sanatorium is pretty much as brutal as it gets, with a thick and murky production, frog-croak vocals, and pounding riffs and drums. Sanatorium does border on slam at times, which is perfectly fine with me as I do enjoy slam on occasion. They do have a tendency toward the absurdly grotesque lyrics, but again that is pretty much par for the course for this style of metal.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Initial Impressions: Fleshgod Apocalypse: Mafia

I am not sure of the connection between the giant octopus of Kraken or whatever on the cover and the title "Mafia". Perhaps it is a metaphor that is just a little over my head, I don't really know. Maybe if I just sat down to think about it a little, I could figure it out.

That is all neither here nor there though. The real reason we are here is to look at this album from a musical standpoint and I really have to say that I am impressed with Fleshgod Apocalypse. This is already the band's fourth release since forming in 2007 and it is clear that the young Italian band has already become a leader in the technical death metal scene.

This is not just some soulless, overly technical wankery though, as is often the criticism of this style. Fleshgod Apocalypse has a lot of depth. Every riff is played with purpose and form coherent musical ideas. The death metal core is brutal and intense, but many other influences are present. There is a violin part, piano, and a clean singer present at various points in the album which breaks up the brutality for a little while.

This is an EP and as such only features five songs, one of which is a cover of At The Gates's "Blinded by Fear". The final track is a classical piano piece that would be at home in any mob movie. So, we really have three tracks here to get a handle on Fleshgod Apocalypse's core sound, but this little peak shows a truly impressive band. I will definitely be looking for more from Fleshgod Apocalypse.

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 33: Deicide

Yes, the lyrics can be a bit on the cheesy side. Yes, Glen Benton's antics can be a tad on the ridiculous side of things. Yes, they have put out some bad albums on occasion. All of these things are true of Deicide, but so is this: their first two albums are absolute death metal classics. They have put out a number of excellent albums on top of that. And Deicide has tons of copycats out there. A truly influential band. You just have to take the absurdly anti-Christian lyrics and Satanic imagery with a grain of salt. You just have to grit your death and bear the radio show call-in feuds and skunk ape sightings. You just have to ignore certain aspects and realize that without Deicide, much of what we know as death metal would have never come to be.


My Favorite Metal Band from Singapore

Sometimes, some of the best metal comes from unexpected places. Take Singapore for example, a southeastern Asian country with strict regulation of media but a surprisingly high quality of life. However, arising out of this country is the amazing Impiety, a band that combines black, death, and thrash metal into an extremely volatile, violent, and aggressive sound that calls to mind the South American scene of the mid 1980's and the Australian "war metal" scene. Impiety though have been doing the same thing since the early 1990's. And they continue to put out great albums even today.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Initial Impressions: Inquisition: Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm

The name of the album and most of the song names are incredibly long and probably require a dictionary to interpret, but the music is much more straightforward. For those lamenting the disappearance of black metal similar to the Norwegian second wave, this is definitely the band for you. Taking cues from groups like Immortal and Darkthrone, Inquisition has put together an amazing album that proves that old school black metal is not dead.

The principal sound Inquisition unleashes on this album is definitely influenced by Immortal. Featuring swirling riffs and a dark and cold atmosphere, one would not be wrong to believe this band came from the frozen reaches of Norway instead of the much warmer climates of Colombia. Vocalist Dagon even has the Abbathian croak down pat.

This is absolutely essential listening for black metal fans out there. Inquisition does a masterful job of capturing the old school black metal sound and updating it and bringing it into the modern age.

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 32: Decrepit Birth

This one to me is a bit of a surprise. I am not much of a technical death metal fan, but there is something truly amazing about Decrepit Birth that cannot be found in most other technical death metal bands. They do not sound soulless. Yes the riffs are technical, but there is a much more organic feel to Decrepit Birth. Decrepit Birth concoct actual songs that just happen to be technical. They are not worried about cramming as many riffs into a song as humanly possible. Decrepit Birth really do sound like a death metal orchestra at times. That is why they make this list.


My Favorite Metal Band from Russia

Another country without a lot of possible choices. I chose Arkona because the band is very unique: a pagan folk metal band with a female lead singer is a little unusual. Or not, maybe I am just full of shit. But the one album I have by Arkona can best be described as epic. Arkona is a band that does so many things so well that it is hard to pick out just one song. It does not help that no two songs by the band sound the same either.

NOTABLE SCENES: Russia has a pretty decent slam scene.

Abominable Putridity

Friday, May 13, 2011

Initial Impressions: Grave Desecrator: Insult

I have been on a bit of a South American metal kick. Luckily Hell's Headbangers has quite a bit of the stuff available. Brazil's Grave Desecrator definitely satisfies that hunger for some good, old-fashioned South American metal. Despite forming in the late 1990's, Grave Desecrator sounds like a band from the 1980's, back when Sepultura was just barely showing signs of selling out, and Sarcofago and Holocausto were playing their dirty take on thrash metal that influenced a ton of the early second wave black metal bands.

This is raw and filthy blackened death metal with some surprisingly good production values, which is pretty rare for this type of South American metal. The band sounds like a mix between the aforementioned Brazilian bands and American acts like Angelcorpse with some Celtic Frost thrown in for good measure. They have a very dark and evil atmosphere going for them which is accentuated by the murky production. Parts of the album sound almost like the soundtrack for an occult horror movie.

This is an impressively evil and dark-sounding album from a little-known Brazilian band. Check it out if you dare.

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 31: Deceased...

Quite possibly one of my favorite bands going right now, Deceased... is also one of the most underrated bands out there. They released a terrific death metal album in 1991 which went largely unnoticed. Then in 1997, they released what was probably the best American metal album of the year. Again, it went largely unnoticed. Such has been the curse for the band because every release they put out is terrific, yet there really are not that many people out there aware of them. For shame people, for shame. Deceased... is set to release their first full-length since their amazing 2005 album this year sometime. It will likely make my Top 10 at the end of the year if clips I have heard are any indication, but they will barely register a blip anywhere else.