Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cover Songs That Introduced You to New Bands

A little while ago there was a thread on the Metal Archives forum about this topic. I got to thinking about it and not a lot of things jumped out at me right away. So, I decided to explore it a little bit more.

Here is my list:

AT THE GATES: "LEGION" (SLAUGHTER LORD COVER)
This cover appeared on the reissued version of the Swedish band's landmark Slaughter of the Soul album. Slaughter Lord is an Australian thrash metal band that never released a full-length album but did release a few demos. They are one of the major influences on the war metal scene.

DIMMU BORGIR: "SATAN MY MASTER" (BATHORY COVER)
Appearing on 2003's Death Cult Armageddon on the bonus disc, this was the first I time I had heard of Bathory. This was an ugly, relentless song. I needed to hear more.

DRAGONLORD: "BLACK FUNERAL" (MERCYFUL FATE COVER)
One of the bands responsible for turning me on to Mercyful Fate was this side project of members of Testament, Sadus, and Nevermore.

IN MEMORY OF CELTIC FROST (TRIBUTE ALBUM TO CELTIC FROST)
One of two tribute albums I picked up before I actually heard anything by the original band. This album featured covers from Morgion, Enslaved, Opeth, Mayhem, Emperor, Grave, Slaughter, and several other bands. This had a dual purpose in introducing me to Celtic Frost as well as a ton of other bands.

METALLICA: "IT'S ELECTRIC", "HELPLESS", "AM I EVIL?", "THE PRINCE" (DIAMOND HEAD COVERS)
Metallica was very clearly influenced by NWOBHM band Diamond Head, as can be seen here. There are only three other tracks on their Lighting to the Nations album that did not appear on this cover album by Metallica.

METALLICA: "MERCYFUL FATE" (MERCYFUL FATE MEDLEY)
The other band that turned me on to Mercyful Fate. This medley was so incredible it did not take me long to seek out Melissa.

METALLICA: "BLITZKRIEG" (BLITZKRIEG COVER)
Another NWOBHM band that was covered by Metallica early on, I used to listen to this on repeat, it was such a great song. The original is even better.

NATIVITY IN BLACK VOL. 1 (TRIBUTE ALBUM TO BLACK SABBATH)
This is the first tribute album I ever bought, but it was a damn good one. Not only did it introduce me to Black Sabbath, but it also helped me get into Corrosion of Conformity, Sepultura, Type O Negative, and featured great tracks by White Zombie and Megadeth.

SEPULTURA: "ORGASMATRON" (MOTORHEAD COVER)
Yes, it's strange. The first time I really remember hearing Motorhead was on this cover by Brazilian thrash metal band Sepultura.

SWALLOW THE SUN: "SOLITUDE" (CANDLEMASS COVER)
An excellent cover of a doom metal classic by this death/doom outfit on their debut. I was pretty quick to get into Candlemass after hearing this.

THORNSPAWN: "DIVUS DE MORTUUS" (NECROVORE COVER)
The 7 inch record this appears on is a bit of an odd item in my collection. Necrovore never released a full-length but they were instrumental on the development of death metal in the 1980's. This originally appears on a four track demo that is very hard to find.


What's next? I have not checked out these original bands yet, but will be soon.

DAWN OF AZAZEL: "PLATEAU OF INVINCIBILITY" (ORDER FROM CHAOS COVER)

DRACONIAN: "FOREVER MY QUEEN" (PENTAGRAM COVER)

IMPIETY: "READY TO EXPLODE" (VULCANO COVER)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Compilations: Century Media Spring Sampler 2007

I am going to take you on a trip to a faroff time, the Spring of 2007 and see what Century Media had in store for us. I think this shows a little bit of a transition in the label. There are several clearly metal bands on here, but there is also quite a bit of metalcore and deathcore. This was before Century Media completely caved into the latter styles but the warning signs were there.

DARK TRANQUILLITY: "FOCUS SHIFT"
This is a typical DT song. Melodic death with layers of keyboards and Mikael Stanne's deep vocals. I have been a fan of DT for a long time now and even though they are kind of stuck in neutral musically now, have enjoyed all of their albums. I of course have this album.

VITAL REMAINS: "HAMMER DOWN THE NAILS"
Vital Remains HATES Christianity. I know that probably comes as a bit of a shock in heavy metal, but they really do. It's almost cartoonish. To emphasize this, they brought in Glen Benton of Deicide to provide vocals on this album, the only person who hates Christianity more than the band. I like this album, but the production is a little muddy and it is definitely over the top.

DESPISED ICON: "IN THE ARMS OF PERDITION"
Oh, here we go. This was before the deathcore scene became an ungodly parody of itself and this song is actually not too bad for deathcore. It's a shame that the band became a complete farce on their next album. That's not to say that this is good though. Just that it's better than some other deathcore bands.

INTO ETERNITY: "TIMELESS WINTER"
Very good song from this Canadian progressive melodeath band. Singer Stu Block has a great voice and can sing in a variety of styles without skipping a beat. He will be the new singer for Iced Earth. This is a great album as well.

IN THIS MOMENT: "PRAYERS"
In This Moment has risen to prominence mostly due to the presence of Maria Brink and her cleavage-baring outfits. She is not a bad vocalist, just kind of annoying. The music though is extremely stereotypical metalcore. If not for Brink and her breasts, this band would be forgotten.

DIECAST: "NOTHING I COULD SAY"
Essentially In This Moment without Maria Brink. Anyone remember these guys? No? I rest my case.

THE HAUNTED: "THE DROWNING"
I have said it before and I will say it again. I never really got into The Haunted. Their early material is okay, but it just never captivated me enough to get much of it. Their later stuff though shows a real attempt to capture a radio-friendly sound. It just sounds too sterile to me. Thrash is supposed to be dangerous. The Haunted just isn't dangerous enough.

FU MANCHU: "HUNG OUT TO DRY"
Stoner rock, kind of similar to Monster Magnet. I never really liked Fu Manchu even though I did like Monster Magnet. This does not change my mind.

BRAND NEW SIN: "REAPER MAN"
I am not familiar with this band. They sound like a hard rock band with some southern elements. Pass.

FINNTROLL: "KORPENS SAGA"
This is Finntroll doing what they do best, lilting folk melodies playing over some harsh blackened metal. The band is quite good at fun songs and catchy melodies. This is no exception.

NAGLFAR: "THE DARKEST ROAD"
I think Naglfar is a little underrated. The melodic black metal band has put out some great albums, but they get a lot of hate. Perhaps because they are melodic. Not sure. Anyway, this is another very good song by the band off of one of my favorite Naglfar albums.

ABORTED: "THE CHONDRIN ENIGMA"
Aborted, the Belgian brutal death metal band, made an effort to tone down their sound for this release. The result sounds like a really brutal melodeath album. They also added quite a few breakdowns. The result really disappointed a lot of longtime fans. I quite like the sound, but was not terribly familiar with them before this. The band does seem to be following the career path of their obvious idols in Carcass.

IMMOLATION: "WORLD AGONY"
This is off of what I think is one of Immolation's best albums. Their Morbid Angel style of dirty, razor-sharp riffing is at its best and vocalist Ross Dolan sounds even more powerful than usual. Just a terrific album.

FEAR MY THOUGHTS: "BLANKNESS"
Another band I was unfamiliar with. This is basically melodeath/metalcore. Nothing terribly exciting.

CELTIC FROST: "GROUND"
Of course Celtic Frost's reunion album in 2006 ranks as one of the all-time great reunions. Frost did not attempt to recapture their old sound. They released something new and exciting. It's too hard to catalog this under a simple genre tag, it's completely unique and powerful.

SATYRICON: "K.I.N.G."
Satyricon was one of the more unique bands in the Norwegian second wave black metal scene. Incorporating folk melodies and instrumentation into their sound, they really stood out for awhile. By this point though, Satyricon had streamlined their sound into a fairly simple black 'n roll style. It is okay for what it is, but it is nothing like what it was.

FIREWIND: "FALLING TO PIECES"
Firewind is a fairly straightforward power metal band with some great hooks and an impressive pop sensibility. This is definitely radio-friendly and infectious. It makes you wonder why radio stations can't play Firewind instead of Nickelback. Frustrating.

THE TEMPEST: "RISE AND FALL"
Apparently this band changed their name prior to the release of their first album and became The Agonist. Basically a harsher, more metallic version of In This Moment. Same analysis applies from In This Moment. I do like the singer's voice though. Everything else is terrible.

TENET: "INDULGE ME"
I have never heard of this band either. Apparently this is a demo track from an upcoming album that was not released for another two years. Not sure what happened there. Apparently this is the side project of the guitarist for Strapping Young Lad and it is pretty impressive heavy thrash metal. I like this quite a bit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Initial Impressions: Amon Amarth: Surtur Rising

Amon Amarth is nothing if not consistent. This is their eighth album and the Swedish band still has a knack for crafting catchy songs and infectious melodies. Amon Amarth has always been an impressively melodic band, but that has always been lurking a little bit beneath the surface of their crushing riffs and singer Johan Hegg's deep guttural roars. However, on this release, Amon Amarth actually does sound as if they are focusing on the melodies.

This is not a massive change of pace for Amon Amarth. The band has been stripping away the death metal sound for quite some time. This is just a natural progression for the band. While this is not as heavy of a release for the band, it is still very clearly them. It is still recognizable.

All of the other elements are still present. Hegg's vocals sound just as powerful as they did on their debut album. The dual guitar attack still churns out melodeath riffs and rips off some impressive solos. And the rhythm section still thunders along as the foundation of Amon Amarth's sound.

As I stated earlier, Amon Amarth still puts out some catchy songs. Opener "War of the Gods" is another great leading track from the band and captures the listener's attention early on. "A Beast Am I" is an absolutely crushing song. Most of the rest of the songs definitely have their moments and fall in line with typical Amon Amarth material.

Amon Amarth has switched up the formula a little bit. While this is not an instant classic like some of their other albums, it is definitely a good album. This may disappoint some of the band's longtime fans, but it will more than likely win them many more.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Initial Impressions: Destruction: Day of Reckoning

German thrash titans Destruction recently released their eleventh studio album. Destruction made their comeback from the typical 1990's thrash lull in the late 1990's being way ahead in the game opposed to some of their contemporaries. Despite this, they have not really been able to match their early material. Destruction has pretty much released the same album the last several times out of the gate.

This is pretty much the same thing we have grown to expect from Destruction. Sharp thrash riffs with just a little bit of technicality to them, fast tempos, and of course Schmier's sneering howl. The guitar work is once again very impressive and the new drummer does an admirable job. Everything else is typical for latter day Destruction.

"Devil's Advocate" is the standout track, featuring an impressive riff and some truly great moments. It is one song that sounds like it would have fit on earlier Destruction releases. There is a Dio cover of "Stand Up and Shout", which is decent but not exceptional, but a good way to pay tribute to a metal god who we lost last year.

Ultimately this is Destruction doing what Destruction do. They do not really offer anything new and spectacular but continue with their tried-and-true formula. If you are a fan of Destruction, you will probably like this. If not, then skip it. I am a huge German thrash metal fan, so this is a necessity for me, but Kreator and Sodom's recent releases have been better.

WTF?: March Metal Madness

Anyone seen this wreck?

The short story is that Thrash Magazine is doing a bracket for metal bands made up of the following labels: Metal Blade, Nuclear Blast, Victory, and Sumerian. I am not sure of Thrash Magazine's audience, but we have had some odd results from this.

My list of complaints are as follows:

1. I do not understand the presence of Victory and Sumerian on this thing. Victory is more of a hardcore label and Sumerian is a niche label focusing on technical and progressive styles of metal and hardcore. Why not use Relapse and Century Media or some better-known labels? Metal Blade and Nuclear Blast are fine.

2. Just look at some of the results. Whitechapel over Cannibal Corpse, All Shall Perish over Kataklysm, As I Lay Dying over Behemoth, etc.

3. Amon Amarth is in serious jeopardy of being eliminated by Whitechapel.

So there you have it. March Metal Madness.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Flashback Song: Bolt Thrower: "World Eater"

Spurred by Full Metal Attorney's Heavy Week, this is one of the heaviest opening riffs in death metal.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Year in Metal: 2004

2004 was a big year for me. It was the year I first started dating the girl who would years later become my fiancee. We had known each other for a little while prior to that, but not real well. We started dating in June. It was also the year my older brother got married and it was the year the Boston Red Sox, my favorite sports team, finally won the World Series after an 86 year drought.

3 INCHES OF BLOOD: ADVANCE AND VANQUISH
Probably an odd choice, but again, these are not necessarily my favorite albums from the year, just some that I feel like discussing. I was really impressed with this album though. 3IOB got lumped in with the metalcore genre for some reason. The music here is decent traditional-style metal with modern influences. There are two vocalists, one with a falsetto scream and the other more of a hardcore style. The songs are fast and aggressive. None of their subsequent albums have come close to matching this one.

AMON AMARTH: FATE OF NORNS
I keep forgetting Amon Amarth in this series even though they are one of my favorite bands. Any release could have been considered for this, since they do pretty much release the same album over and over again. This album has the classics "The Pursuit of Vikings" and "Valkyries Ride". Other than that, if you have heard anything by Amon Amarth, you know what to expect, heavy melodeath riffs and Johan Hegg's deep guttural growls, and of course, some damn catchy songs. Amon Amarth is NOT a viking metal band, just thought I would clear that up.

CRADLE OF FILTH: NYPHETAMINE
Similar to 2003's Dimmu Borgir in that this was an album I found at Target of all places, while I was working there. This was another album that served as a gateway into harsher black metal, not to say Cradle of Filth was really a black metal band at this time. Their dark, gothic sound and impressive horror-filled lyrics captivated me at the time. Dani Filth's vocals take some getting used to, but the music and everything else was so interesting that I kept picking up more and more releases by the band.

MASTODON: LEVIATHAN
Metalsucks listed this as their Album of the Decade recently. I was somewhat familiar with Mastodon. The song "Blood and Thunder" was on some soundtrack that I got as well as being a featured video on the Target sampler video that was played in electronics for hours on end. I had to be back there quite a bit, that's where most of the shoplifters were. Anyway, this is my favorite Mastodon release, although I only have two, because they are not really a favorite of mine, but this one is quite good and is probably the best overall representation of their sound.

ORPHANED LAND: MABOOL
This is probably my favorite release from 2004. It is an absolutely beautiful and majestic album. It tells an amazing story as well. The progressive metal band from Israel blends elements of Middle Eastern folk music seemlessly into their metal foundation. At times, the music is definitely not metallic, but the music is so impressive and awe-inspiring that that does not matter in the least. The vocals are delivered in a variety of styles to symbolize different characters, going a long way toward helping the story along. This is a very impressive album and is the band's masterpiece.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: BEHEMOTH: DEMIGOD; DREAM EVIL: THE BOOK OF HEAVY METAL; ENSLAVED: ISA; LAMB OF GOD: ASHES OF THE WAKE; MEGADETH: THE SYSTEM HAS FAILED; NIGHTWISH: ONCE; SHADOWS FALL: THE WAR WITHIN; TAD MOROSE: MODUS VIVENDI.

BANDS THAT FORMED IN 2004: Scar Symmetry, Vreid, Wintersun

Friday, March 25, 2011

Compilations: Metal Maniacs March/April 2009

This was from the final issue of Metal Maniacs.

MY DYING BRIDE: "FALL WITH ME"
Starting things off in gloomy fashion with everyone's favorite doomsters. I am not a huge fan of My Dying Bride, though I do like them okay. This song convinced me to pick up this album so it is quite impressive. It's a little faster and heavier than some of the rest of MDB's stuff I had previously heard so it resonated with me instantly.

CRIMFALL: "WILDFIRE SEASON"
As you might guess from the band's name, Crimfall is a folk metal band. They also have elements of symphonic power metal in their music as well. It's a bit of a different take on things. Not too bad, but probably not something I would spend money on, although the closing minutes are pretty impressive.

HOLLOW: "SLAUGHTERING THE WICKED"
Sounds like groove/thrash metal. The drumming is pretty impressive, but most of the rest of the music is basic groove metal.

VERMEFUG: "THE GRATEFUL SHRED"
Vermefug is a thrash metal/crossover band. They definitely sound like a band out of the 80's and their vocalist has his punk sneer down. The gang vocals also add to the overall sound. They are competent at what they do, but I can't really see myself listening to a whole album of it.

DEATHRASH: "THRASH BEYOND DEATH"
Deathrash has been around for a long time, but have never really released anything other than a demo and the compilation that this came from. They sound a bit like early Overkill and I am completely okay with that because I love Overkill. The vocals are different which is not a problem. You don't want them sounding exactly like Overkill.

LION'S SHARE: "JUDAS MUST DIE"
I was immediately impressed with this heavy/power metal band. So much so that I went out and found this album. This song is not even the best song on the album. It's a damn good album.

MAY RESULT: "HOLD THIS WORLD IN THE HANDS OF SULFUR"
Kind of a stupid band name for a black metal band. May Result is from Serbia, which is not a country I would expect to hear much from. This is a somewhat melodic black metal sound that brings to mind early Dimmu Borgir, before the symphonic elements completely dominated their sound. It does make use of keyboards, but they are not too overpowering. This is pretty good actually.

AUTOPSY: "SEVERED SURVIVAL"
The editor's choice is from a reissue of an album from twenty years ago. This is Autopsy being Autopsy. Early death metal that is extremely fucking heavy. Excellent and somewhat underrated band.

THE PROPHECY: "BELIEF MEANS NOTHING"
Extremely impressive death/doom metal done in the style of the early works of fellow British bands My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost. I really enjoyed this one and will have to try to look further into this band.

FAITH FACTOR: "KEEP IT TRUE"
'80's style power metal with an obvious Christian message. The vocals don't really match up well with the music and get a little grating after awhile. I would probably pass. It's generally not a good idea to name-drop a bunch of much better bands in your song either, it just reminds the listener of who else they could be listening to instead of you.

CASTROFATE: "NIGHTMARES"
This is pretty decent modern-sounding thrash. It has just enough originality to the riffs and vocals to sound decent. I may have to look further into this band as well, being the thrash-head that I am.

BATTLEMASTER: "DEATH IS A WARM CUBE"
Kind of amateurish black/death metal band. Some decent ideas are present, but they are not fully fleshed out here. They have some promise and may be pretty good in a little bit of time, but not yet. The vocals are a little annoying too.

DREAMING DEAD: "STAIRS INTO THE VORTEX"
Dreaming Dead is a highly underrated death/thrash metal band. This is off their extremely impressive debut album which brought comparisons to the almighty Death. Elizabeth Schall is a terrific vocalist and an amazing guitar player. The Death comparisons are apt.

This was the last Metal Maniacs comp and they went out with a bang. I bought three albums because of the tracks included on this thing. Other than those, I was very impressed with the tracks from Deathrash, May Result, The Prophecy, and Castrofate.

Need Some Help

I have until the end of the day today to come up with a decent, wedding-appropriate song for our reception. My fiancee has provided an additional criteria: the lyrics must make her cry. I have no idea.

The only song I have found so far is Sentenced: "You are the One"

Any help would be appreciated. I am stumped. I am pretty sure "I Cum Blood" is NOT going to work.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Initial Impressions: Ulcerate: The Destroyers of All

Kelly, Full Metal Attorney, said I would not like this album. Challenge accepted. I found the CD for cheap when I was in Omaha last weekend and could not find Mitochondrion, so I bought this.

Ulcerate is described on Metal Archives as a brutal death metal band. The reality is significantly more complicated than that. They are definitely not just a blasting, heavy brutal death juggernaut. Those elements are definitely present, but with much more of a free-moving atmosphere and riffs (if you can call them that) that do not feel confined and rigid. The album is not in-your-face with its brutality. Instead the brutality comes from the seriously oppressive atmosphere. It is unnerving and spine-tingling.

The guitar parts are not really delivered as what we would normally call riffs. Instead, they are more of dissonant and ambient chords. They are the major source of the melody but do not really possess any sort of defined structure. They have a bit of a droning quality to them, although the drums and vocals keep it from devolving completely into an unstructured mess. This has been described as Neurosis playing death metal. To be honest, I am not overly familiar with Neurosis, so I will not comment on that comparison.

The drums are completely the opposite of the free-form guitars. Heavily blastbeat-driven and intense, the drumming is extremely impressive. The drums provide the major driving force in Ulcerate's music. They are also the major ingredient signaling that this is in fact a brutal death metal band.

The vocals are pretty standard. Nothing we really have not heard in several other brutal death metal bands, deep growls and little variety. The lyrics though are well-written and interesting and would probably be better served with a different vocal style.

This album is kind of draining, being nearly an hour long, yet consisting of only seven songs, but it is interesting enough to keep attention focused on it. I like it reasonably well, but have a feeling that it is more of a grower. It is kind of similar to the band Portal's releases, although a little bit better structured. All in all, it is certainly a creative album, different than a lot of the other stuff out there. Who knows, by the end of the year this could be a contender for my Album of the Year.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 51: Wrathchild America: 3-D

Quite the trippy album cover, huh?

I have not done one of these in a long time. I recently picked up this album from a used record store. Having half-remembered some comments about Wrathchild America being a decent band, and it being fairly cheap, I bought it.

Wrathchild America is a largely forgotten band and that is a shame. They were around for a long time, but only really started attracting notice with the release of their debut album 1989, toward the end of the rein of thrash metal in the American mainstream. This album was released in 1991 and it was not much longer before metal got kicked back to the underground and many bands were forgotten. Wrathchild America falls into this category despite renaming themselves and continuing under the name Souls at Zero for a few more years.

As you might have guessed from the above discussion, Wrathchild America is a thrash metal band. They named themselves after the Iron Maiden track "Wrathchild" and then added the America part to avoid being confused with another band by the same name. Wrathchild America is more than just a straightforward thrash metal band though. They experimented with a lot of progressive structures and other non-metal elements in crafting this album. The band utilized elements of hard rock, funk, and jazz into their thrash metal foundation. It was an interesting collection of influences but would not prevent the band from fading into obscurity like so many others.

This is a grower. It's pretty unique but it was just released at the wrong time so Wrathchild America is barely remembered today.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Initial Impressions: Hour of 13: The Ritualist

I have been aware of traditional doom metal band Hour of 13 for some time, having picked up their debut eponymous album some time back. The band achieved recognition with their 2007 debut album which brought to mind a time when Black Sabbath was really the only metal band. Their old school take on the oldest metal subgenre was refreshing and impressive. Now, a whole lot of other bands are playing in the same style.

Kicking things off with the ominous intro "The Gathering", the album immediately shows the listener that this is old school doom metal done right. The heavy riffs lead the charge on the second track and this is the sound that Hour of 13 would use over the next several tracks. Third track "Naked Star" is surprisingly upbeat for a doom number. The guitar solo in the middle section adds some surprising melody as well. From there, Hour of 13 settles into more of a mid-paced crunch for the rest of the album.

The vocals by singer Chad Davis are sort of a cross between Ozzy Osbourne and the singer for Cirith Ungol, sort of nasally but still powerful. The instrumentation is impressive and the songs are catchy. This is definitely a solid release.

Hour of 13 do an admirable job of sounding like an old-school doom band without sounding like they do not have their own sound. The band should continue to improve. This is one band to watch.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Initial Impressions: Deicide: To Hell With God

Glen Benton is feeling grumpy again. This time, once again, expressing his anger with his favorite whipping-boy, God. Last album was a surprisingly personal album, detailing his frustration with the ongoing divorce and custody battle he was embroiled in. This time, he is back to his old tricks.

Musically, Deicide seems to be making a concentrated effort to play music more similar to their early albums, fast and riff-based death metal with very little melody. The only melody comes from the amazing solo work of Ralph Santolla, who puts in his third appearance on a Deicide album with this release.

Apart from all that, this is standard God-hating Deicide. The song titles tell you what you are in for. "Empowered by Blasphemy", "Servant of the Enemy", and "How Can You Call Yourself a God?" are the most typical.

If you like Deicide, you will probably like this. If not, you probably will not. Deicide is just one of those bands that have always done their own thing and that's just fine. I like Deicide. I therefore enjoyed this album. It's not anything special. It's just Deicide.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New Poll: Favorite Big 4 Debut

I have a new poll up. It's fairly simple. Which debut album from the Big 4 of U.S. thrash is your favorite?

Year in Metal: 2003

DIMMU BORGIR: DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON
2003 saw Dimmu Borgir break through to the mainstream. I actually bought this album at Target of all places. This is by no means a great album, though it is still my favorite from the Norwegian symphonic black metal band, but it was instrumental in my interest in black metal. It was an album that caused me to look deeper into the genre. There are some damn good songs on it though and I do remember it completely freaked out my girlfriend (who later became my fiancee).

ENSLAVED: BELOW THE LIGHTS
The seventh album by Enslaved is more of a mix of their earlier black/Viking metal style and their later more progressive sound. This album features the haunting "Havenless" which is my favorite song by the band. Enslaved was at the peak of their creativity on this album, crafting several classic songs while retaining the depth and atmosphere of their previous works.

LOST HORIZON: A FLAME TO THE GROUND BENEATH
Yes, the album cover is cheesy as hell, but this is easily one of the best power metal albums of the decade. The Swedish band has thus far only released two albums, this being their last, but it is an incredible album. The vocals really make the album, being technically impressive and incredibly emotive. The music is powerful, majestic, and epic. This is a brilliant power metal album that is unfortunately too often overlooked.

SWALLOW THE SUN: THE MORNING NEVER CAME
I have made my feelings on this album pretty clear for some time. One of my absolute favorite albums in the death/doom genre and a true blind buy. This is the exact opposite of the prior album as it is extremely dark and depressing. It crawls along at a snail's pace and leaves the listener feeling dread and darkness overtaking them. And this was just the band's first album. It also has one of my favorite album covers of all time, perfectly capturing the feel of the album.

THE CROWN: POSSESSED 13
The Swedish death/thrash band released their last album before going on hiatus, the horror-themed Possessed 13. This album featured the return of original vocalist Johan Lindstrand, but was otherwise more of the same from The Crown. Hyper-fast death/thrash that takes no prisoners and leaves the listener reeling.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Akercocke: Choronzon; Arch Enemy: Anthems of Rebellion; The Black Dahlia Murder: Unhallowed; Children of Bodom: Hate Crew Deathroll; Dragonforce: Valley of the Damned; Lamb of God: As the Paces Burn; Moonspell: The Antidote; Overkill: Killbox 13.

BANDS THAT FORMED IN 2003: Abysmal Dawn, Korpiklaani, Through the Eyes of the Dead.

Flashback Video: Dio: "Last in Line"

What a cheesy video. Great song though.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Initial Impressions: Overkill: The Years of Decay

Recently I found this CD hiding in the used section of the local Hastings and snatched it up. Being a big Overkill fan, any deal on their music is a good one. This was their 1989 release, which came right before Horrorscope, an album that I would classify as my favorite one by the band. So, I figured I knew what I was getting into. I was actually very surprised by this album.

Typically with Overkill albums, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. You are going to get songs that are going to kick your ass. They are going to be fast and energetic and aggressive as all hell with a punk attitude and killer riffs. However, on this album we hear some departures from the typical Overkill sound. Obviously the elements that have made Overkill Overkill are still present and in great numbers, but this was a more experimental release by the band.

Let's start with the epic length songs. Overkill until this point played mostly fast and shorter songs. But this album features the ten minute "Playing with Spiders/Skullcrusher" and two additional eight minute tracks. This makes this a longer than usual Overkill album at nearly an hour long.

The first half of the album thunders along in typical Overkill style, but the second half features a lot more melodic moments. The title track is a surprisingly good ballad track. Many thrash bands were attempting these in the late 1980's and Overkill succeeded in putting together a decent one. "Who Tends the Fire?" features a number of impressive tempo changes.

In the late 1980's many thrash metal bands were trying a number of things to stay relevant. They were experimenting with progressive song structures, softening their sound, and trying to be more diverse. Overkill attempted all of these things on this release and largely succeeded. This is a tremendous album by the band and one of their highlights.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I am Irish, along with quite a bit of other stuff, so I thought I would take the opportunity today to play some Irish metal bands. Here is what is in store:

CRUACHAN: FOLK-LORE
Cruachan is a folk metal band with a heavy emphasis on the folk elements. They use a variety of traditional instruments such as tin whistles, banjos, pipes, and a violin. The result is an album that sounds a lot like a traditional Celtic folk album. The metal elements are impressive when they are there, but they are not present as often. The vocals are handled by a female lead and a male backing vocalist. The male does some rougher yells along with clean vocals while the female simply sings cleanly.

GAMA BOMB: TALES FROM THE GRAVE IN SPACE
Gama Bomb is a part of the retro thrash metal wave. They happen to be from Ireland, but do not play anything that sounds uniquely Irish. They are more from the Anthrax/Overkill East Coast style of thrash metal. It's fast and it's a lot of fun. Gama Bomb deliver a lot of humor in their lyrics, as can probably be deduced from the album's title. They are one of the better bands in the retro thrash scene.

MOURNING BELOVETH: A DISEASE FOR THE AGES
Death/doom metal merchants Mourning Beloveth certainly know how to put together a morose and depressing album. Holy shit is this thing oppressive. It's five tracks and damn near an hour's worth of music. The music crawls at an exhaustingly slow pace. Gama Bomb above is a lot of fun, it's pretty clear that Mourning Beloveth are on the complete opposite end of that spectrum.

PRIMORDIAL: TO THE NAMELESS DEAD
I will also be listening to A Journey's End, but discussing the above-listed album more because it is absolutely amazing. It's one of my favorite albums from 2007. Primordial plays folk metal mixed with some black metal elements. The band actually started out as a black metal band but slowly diminished much of those elements in favor of a melodic and hauntingly powerful overall sound. The lyrical themes mostly involve historical topics, making this a truly Irish metal album.

WAYLANDER: HONOUR AMONGST CHAOS
Finally, we have Waylander, another Celtic/folk metal band, but unlike Cruachan, Waylander has much more metal influences and in fact, Waylander is far closer to a black metal band than any of the above bands. Waylander's album is one of the bright spots in folk metal. Yes, there are lots of folk instruments and melodies, but this is also very clearly a metal album.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Several other bands have played Irish-sounding metal but are not actually from Ireland. They deserve a mention.

ELUVEITIE

SKYCLAD

THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Iced Earth Brings in New Singer

Link.

A few weeks ago, Matt Barlow announced he was leaving Iced Earth. The band hired Stu Block of Into Eternity to replace him. I have mixed feelings about this. I love Block's vocals with Into Eternity. He, like Scar Symmetry's former vocalist, is able to switch between a variety of vocal styles with ease, but I am not sure how this will help with Iced Earth, who has always used cleaner vocal styles. Also, Iced Earth's last album was kind of disappointing, resembling much more of a hard rock album than a metal album.

I guess time will tell.

Compilations: Metal Maniacs February 2009

VELVET CACOON: "P.S. NAUTICAL"
This is extremely raw black metal that sounds like it was recorded in someone's bedroom. There is apparently a market for this. I kind of draw the line at Xasthur and I Shalt Become, but there are plenty out there eating this stuff up.

WINO: "RELEASE ME"
The Editor's pick this month is from the venerable stoner doom pioneer. For some reason, I have not looked into Wino's music with any of his bands. Perhaps lack of opportunity, I don't really know. What I have heard from Wino I have enjoyed, including this song. Perhaps it's just a matter of time before I check his work out further.

HELLRAZOR: "THE PAWN"
This is kind of a more melodic Testament-style thrash metal band. Not too bad, but not overly impressive either.

BILE MOVEMENT: "SPREADING HERPES"
That's just great. The song is also absolutely terrible. Just some irritating clanging and yelling. I don't even know how to describe it musically because there just is no substance to the music.

HARLEQUIN'S VOICE: "THE CUSP OF REBIRTH PT. II"
Screamo/metalcore. I did not expect to hear this on a Metal Maniacs compilation. Blech.

LACRIMAE: "COURSE TO ARSONING"
I am pretty sure "arson" is not a verb. I am a criminal defense attorney and I have had a client charged with arson and the County Attorney did not in his complaint allege that the defendant arsoned. Musically, it's black/death metal with a sinister sound. Not too bad actually. But then it throws in some electronics and that's just fucking weird. Also, if you're going to have a song on a compilation, edit the two-plus minutes of ambience and feedback at the end so the fucking song will actually end.

EXECRATION: "SUBMISSION TO FALSITIES"
Pretty decent brutal death. Nothing groundbreaking, but entertaining nonetheless. I like it.

SYMPATHY: "ENSLAVED BY DEPRAVITY"
Oddly, it's death metal. Kind of a bad name for a death metal band, but it's well-crafted. Production is not great and the guitars are kind of buried, but it sounds okay nonetheless.

SICARUS: "BREAKING FREE"
Ugh. More metalcore with awful vocals. Definitely more on the core side.

TRASHER: "REANIMATION PROCLAMATION"
Really amateurish thrash/hardcore. The thing sounds like something a garage band would put out. Not too impressive.

Ugh. That was mostly completely awful. I suppose highlights were Wino, Sympathy, and Execration.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Initial Impressions: Lamb of God: "Hit the Wall" Flexi-Disc from Decibel

Huh. I could not have described Lamb of God's present career any better than they did with that song title. Unless maybe it was "Treading Water" or "Splat". Lamb of God has been stuck in neutral for several years now. Once a promising groove metal band with the occasional thrash and metalcore influence, the band really has not done anything truly worthwhile since their move to big-time record label Epic for their 2006 release. Obviously the hyphenated words "sell-out" have been bandied about for awhile and probably with good reason.

"Hit the Wall" actually appeared on the Iron Man 2 soundtrack, apparently. I was under the impression that only AC/DC was on that soundtrack, which was enough reason to cause me to steer clear of it. Lamb of God is not much of a step in the right direction.

Enough of my bitching though, how is this thing? Well, it's pretty typical. That is to say, Pantera and Machine Head worshipping groove metal. Lamb of God have always tried to do some interesting things with their riffs, and the opening melody is somewhat entertaining, but it just devolves from there.

Randy Blythe is trying to alter his voice to try to sound like a badass, but he ends up affecting a vocal tone that sounds like the microphone is stuck in his mouth and he is trying to call for help.

So, yeah. More of the same from Lamb of God. Perhaps "Retired" should be the name of the next one.

Initial Impressions: Crowbar: Sever the Wicked Hand

The fact that this is the first 2011 album I bought tells you a few things. First, I have not been ordering much music online due to my ongoing efforts at starting my own firm, and second, Hastings has been really horrendously bad at getting new metal in lately. So with that out of the way, this is the first 2011 album I have bought. I did review those albums for Metal on Metal Records but that does not really count.

Now, on to the actual review.

Crowbar is of course a legendary band from the swamps of Louisiana. This is their first album since 2005 and features most of the things you would expect from a Crowbar release. Crowbar is the baby of Kirk Windstein, who uses the band as a vehicle for expressing his own personal struggles and hardships, in particular with this album, his ongoing attempt at sobriety.

Windstein's sludgy, doom-laden riffs are of course the main highlight in any Crowbar album. His Sabbathian riffs are extremely distorted and down-tuned and they twist and writhe along with the pounding rhythms. The rest of the instrumentation is impressive as well, but let's be honest here, this is Windstein's show at this point. The other musicians are just along for the ride.

The lyrical theme of the album is, as I mentioned, Windstein becoming sober. Even the cover art and title of the album allude to it. Windstein has a gift for writing heart-wrenching and somber songs and he takes full advantage of it with the tracks "Liquid Sky and Cold Black Earth" and "Let Me Mourn".

This is a powerfully emotional album. It's often slow, but oppressively heavy. Windstein has done a lot of work with other bands, such as Down and Kingdom of Sorrow, but he always saves some of his best work for Crowbar. This is an early frontrunner for Album of the Year.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nebraska Metal Pt. 5: Deadechoes: Case File I: The Dead Will Walk

I am always on the lookout for metal bands from my home state of Nebraska. I first heard about Deadechoes some time last year when they were a part of some Next Big Metal Band contest through various independent record stores and handpicked by Brian Slagel of Metal Blade.

Deadechoes definitely has a more modern approach to metal, blending influences from thrash metal, death metal, groove metal, and some nu-metal as well. That is probably more a function of where they developed as Nebraska is hopelessly several years behind the times and is one of the few places where nu-metal bands are still very popular. Nevertheless, the band does combine their influences reasonably well and the music is still quite interesting. The better tracks are the more clearly metal ones, while tracks like the very Mudvayne-esque "Everything" tend to bring things down a bit.

The vocals are delivered in a harsh yell with some clean vocals thrown in for good measure. The earlier Mudvayne reference is probably the best comparison vocally, along with Slipknot's Corey Taylor. The riffs are typically reminiscent of groove metal era Machine Head and Pantera. There are some industrial elements and electronics thrown in occasionally and the bass is a driving force in the riffs.

This particular album from Deadechoes is a bit heavy on the nu-metal side, with some definite metal riffs present, but also quite a bit of the dreaded 1990's genre present. I would still argue it is clearly a metal album, but it is pretty close. The band did focus more on the metal riffs on their next album though.

It is not a bad album, but it all depends on your view of nu-metal influences in metal bands.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Year in Metal: 2002

BEHEMOTH: ZOS KIA CULTUS (HERE AND BEYOND)
The sixth album from the Polish metal band represented a bit more of a departure in musical style from their previous albums. At this point, the band existed far more on the death metal side of the fence with some black metal influences. Behemoth has always had a very dark sound and this album took that to even more of an extreme. Of course, the twisted Morbid Angel-style riffs, the deep vocals of Nergal, and the mystical and occult lyrics are all present. This is one of my favorite albums by Behemoth.

IMMORTAL: SONS OF NORTHERN DARKNESS
Norwegian black metal goofballs Immortal released their seventh album, and at the time, their final album in 2002. The band would reunite years later, but at this time, this was to be it. This album was a bit more of a streamlined blackened thrash metal album and was a little on the slower side than their previous hyperfast material. Nevertheless it is one of the catchiest releases in Immortal's impressive discography.

LACUNA COIL: COMALIES
I have a bit of a soft spot for this release from Lacuna Coil. The music is fairly standard gothic metal/rock, but it is Cristina Scabbia's voice that makes this one worthwhile. Her sensual crooning is definitely the highlight of this album. This is much more of a romantic metal album than aggressive or angry. This album garnered the band quite a bit of attention and they were often compared to Evanescence, although their music was significantly better.

NIGHTWISH: CENTURY CHILD
I apologize about having two albums from groups with female lead singers that are more geared towards the mall-goth demographic this year, but this is my favorite album by Nightwish and one which my fiancee really enjoys as well. The symphonic power metal band's fourth album featured the first male vocals of the band's career which were delivered in more of a gruff style and some of the darkest music.

SYMPHONY X: THE ODYSSEY
Progressive metal band Symphony X released one hell of an epic album in this, their sixth album. This was the first time I had heard of the band though and was interested in checking them out due to the 24 minute take on the travels of Odysseus after the Trojan War. I have always been interested in Greek mythology and The Odyssey is one of my favorites. Musically, this album reminds me a lot of Kansas's progressive rock albums, with more of a metal bent.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: IN FLAMES: REROUTE TO REMAIN; KATAKLYSM: SHADOWS AND DUST; OPETH: DELIVERANCE; SHADOWS FALL: THE ART OF BALANCE.

BANDS THAT FORMED IN 2002: DevilDriver, Eluveitie.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Random Thoughts: Promo Discs

When I was unpacking some things recently, I came across a couple of promo discs from Century Media. One was for Dimmu Borgir's In Sorte Diaboli, and features two of the tracks from the album. But, the songs fade out at the end instead of being complete songs. The other is two tracks each from Exodus's The Atrocity Exhibition-Exhibit A and Soilwork's Sworn to the Great Divide. I don't recall listening to this much at all.

I was wondering, what is the point of these? I have never seen promos in stores. Maybe I am not going to the right stores I suppose. I have occasionally gotten one attached to some other CD, but that's pretty rare. I have only really gotten them when I placed an order with a label. Even then, typically I will get a compilation, not a promo with two tracks on it. I just don't really understand the point of making a CD with two songs on it as a promo and then not having a way to get it out to people. Maybe that's just me.

Flashback Video: Exodus: "The Toxic Waltz"

Story Behind the Song: Cathedral: "Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)"

One of my favorite songs from the pioneering British death/doom metal band Cathedral is "Hopkins (Witchfinder General)". The song starts off with the very distinctive great horror actor Vincent Price introducing himself:

"My name is Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder."

So, I assumed that it was just based on an older British horror movie, which is of course where the samples came from as well as clips in the music video.


I was unaware that Matthew Hopkins was a real person and held the self-made office of Witchfinder General around the mid 1600's in England. He was active from 1645 to 1647 and during that time, he and his associates were responsible for more hangings than anyone else in the previous 100 years.

Hopkins used a variety of methods to elicit confessions, even though torture was unlawful at the time. He would also cut the arm of an accused witch with a dull knife, and if they bled, they were considered to be a witch. He also used the swimming test to see if the accused would float or sink. It was a swimming test in name only though as the accused would be tied to a chair and thrown in the water. If they floated, the water had rejected them and they were a witch.

Hopkins wrote a book about his time as a witch hunter called The Discovery of Witches, which was published in 1647. Some of his methods were used in the Salem Witch Trials in the United States.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Initial Impressions: Voivod: Dimension Hatross

We have reached the final post for Voivod week. Today, I will be covering the band's fourth album, which was the predecessor to the groundbreaking Nothingface, perhaps the band's most famous album.

The first thing to notice is that vocalist Snake has dramatically altered his vocal style. Gone for the most part are the harsh and aggressive sneering vocals he exhibited on the previous albums. In their place are vocals that can best be described as sounding like a Britpop singer from the mid 90's.

Musically, Voivod continued their progression to the next logical step. This time, they had more of a sound foundation and understanding of how best to accomplish their unique riffs and song structures. Voivod also made a conscious attempt to avoid recycling ideas on this album, which was fairly common on their previous three.

This is a truly unique and mind-bending piece of work from these guys. It is also a harbinger of things to come as Voivod would continue to expand on the ideas present in this album on their next one.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

R.I.P. Mike Starr

Link.

Taking a break from Voivod week to express my condolences to the family and friends of original Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr who was found dead yesterday. Starr appeared on all AiC albums through 1993, including the groundbreaking Facelift and Dirt albums. Rest in peace.

Initial Impressions: Voivod: Killing Technology

The title cut from this album is actually the first Voivod song I ever heard. I think. It's kind of hard to pin these things down sometimes. But it was a track on one of my favorite compilations I own, the Skullcrushers compilation which can be found here. I recall enjoying it quite a bit but I did not really pursue the band much, other than getting their then-new album Negatron. This is probably most likely due to the difficulty of finding Voivod albums in mid 1990's Nebraska.

This is the first of Voivod's albums to have more of a progressive tendency. The raw punk feel and aggressive nature is still present, and it is clear that this is still a very thrashy Voivod, but the song structures are much more complicated, the riffing style more diverse, and the vocals slightly less angry. The lyrics are also more geared towards science-fiction storytelling.

The atmosphere is very impressive. One gets the feel of an industrial juggernaut in outer space. Difficult to describe without sounding completely crazy.

This is undoubtedly one of my favorite albums from the band. It combines their aggressive thrash side with their later spacey prog side. It also has some of their best songs on it. An amazing album.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Initial Impressions: Voivod: Rrroooaaarrr

It's Day 2 of Voivod week and today I will be looking at the band's sophomore album, the strangely titled Rrroooaaarrr. This is the band's last album before going in a more progressive direction and it mostly builds on the ideas from their debut album with a bit more of a straightforward thrash metal sound.

The music on this release is very fast and aggressive. The riffs are powerful and the vocals are in-your-face with a sneering punk inflection. This is particularly evident in second track "Fuck Off and Die". The bass is a very strong element of Voivod's sound on this release, being a major driving force in the riffs.

The thing that is most impressive about this album is that the production quality makes it sound as if the band is live in your living room while listening to it. Voivod has a raw energy that is infectious and comes through loud and clear while playing this album.

This still does not hold a candle to Voivod's progressive era, but it's still pretty damn good. Yes, they still have a little bit of a punk-band-doing-metal sound, but it's a catchy and damn fun album.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Initial Impressions: Voivod: War and Pain

It's Voivod week here at the Metallattorney Law Office. I recently picked up four Voivod albums and plan to take an initial look at each one this week.

To begin with, I have the debut album from the Canadian sci-fi prog-thrashers. At this point, the band was quite a ways away from finding the sound that rocketed their popularity. No, at this point, Voivod was still very rough around the edges and raw. They sounded more like a punk band experimenting with some thrash metal elements than the spacey thrash metal band they would later become.

That is certainly not to say that this is a bad release. In fact, it's quite the opposite. This is an intriguing look at what the band once sounded like. The rawness of their sound is endearing actually. There are enough thrash and heavy metal influences present to keep the metalheads interested while also appealing to punk fans. One must remember that thrash started with groups like Metallica and Overkill combining metal with punk. This is just a further example of that.

This is actually an amazing debut album. Voivod's sound is a cross between the early albums of Slayer and Venom, mixed with Motorhead for good measure. The sci-fi leanings are present in the atmosphere and lyrical content, but it would be a while before they would be major factors in the band's sound. To really understand Voivod, you have to hear their evolution. There is no better start than their debut.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Flashback Video: Slayer: "Serenity in Murder"

This is the first Slayer video I remember seeing.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cover Songs: The 80's

I am a child of the 1980's. It's true. Growing up, MTV was enormously popular and everyone wore really stupid fashions. I remember the music very well. It was all terrible. No, that's not true. It always intrigues me when a band decides against all reasonable judgment to cover a song from the 1980's. Let's look at a few such tracks.

DELIGHT-"CARELESS WHISPER" (GEORGE MICHAEL)


TWILIGHT GUARDIANS-"LA ISLA BONITA" (MADONNA)


TEN MASKED MEN-"BEAT IT" (MICHAEL JACKSON)


GRAVEWORM-"IT'S A SIN" (PET SHOP BOYS)


TO/DIE/FOR-"(I JUST) DIED IN YOUR ARMS" (CUTTING CREW)


BLUDGEOND-"MAD WORLD" (GARY JULES)


IN FLAMES-"LAND OF CONFUSION" (GENESIS)


ATROCITY-"HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN" (EURYTHMICS)


STEEL PROPHET-"(DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME" (SIMPLE MINDS)


SENTENCED-"WHITE WEDDING" (BILLY IDOL)


VISION DIVINE-"TAKE ON ME" (A-HA)


WARMEN-"SEPARATE WAYS" (JOURNEY)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Compilations: Metal Maniacs January 2009

This one was pretty heavy on lesser-known bands. There were really only three bands I was familiar with before hearing this compilation.

BLACK TEMPLE: "PARTY MATERIAL"
This one took me by surprise. I was not expecting this kind of gothic metal. The vocals remind me of Rammstein's singer. They are a little bit laughable. This is not a bad song, but I have outgrown this type of music. When I was in my late teens I probably would have liked it better.

SATYRICON: "BLACK CROW ON A TOMBSTONE"
Satyricon has become more of a black 'n roll band at this point. That is not to say that this is bad at all, but it has lost that epic and majestic feel that helped them stand out from the other Norwegian black metal bands of the early 1990's. I do own this album, so I do still enjoy them. They just are not the same.

GRAVE DIGGER: "BALLAD OF A HANGMAN"
German trad/power metal band Grave Digger has been around for a LONG time. This is off of their 13th album. This is not European "flower" metal, it is real power metal and I enjoyed this song so much that I bought this album.

AGONY WITHIN: "OBLITERATING MEMORIES"
This is kind of a death metal/hardcore hybrid. The vocals remind me a bit of Gwar. They are pretty bad. The music is pretty simple, relying on ever-repeating crunching riffs before the final melodic ending. There are a lot of ideas here but none get really fleshed out. I think I would pass.

TORRID FLESH: "ASYLUM OF THE DAMNED"
As you might guess from the band's name, this is death metal, plain and simple. The vocals are delivered in a deep roar, similar to Cannibal Corpse's vocalists. Upon checking this band out on Metal Archives, the vocalist here is a woman. That is a shock.

FIFTYWATTHEAD: "WHITEOUT"
This is sludge/stoner doom that sounds a lot like early Mastodon with a little bit of Acid Bath thrown in for good measure. I am pretty impressed with this one. It is a good song with some pretty decent riffing and great vocals. I may have to look further into this band.

SUCCESS WILL WRITE APOCALYPSE ACROSS THE SKY: "10,000 SERMONS. ONE SOLUTION"
I have no idea what this band's name is supposed to mean. Despite the name, this is more of a death/grind band instead of some terrible haircut deathcore group. I am not sure I really care for it at all though.

BLACK REIGN: "VIKING"
Fairly standard thrash metal reminiscent of Sacred Reich, which has never really been a favorite of mine. I love thrash metal, but this really does not do a whole lot for me. It just is not anything that has not been done a thousand times before. Not bad, just not at all original.

K626: "DAMNATION"
Starting off with a sample from some Jim Carrey movie and then immediately jumping into some competent death metal, this is actually not too bad. Again, fairly unoriginal, but well-played and some decent elements.

AGONY ECLIPSED: "THE RAZOR EDGED WINGS OF AN ANGEL"
Fairly standard melodeath-influenced metalcore. The breakdown goes on and on and on and on and..... The song does get better as it goes along though and at the end it was not too bad. The guitar solo was pretty good.

I, YOUR LIEGE: "THE PHILOSOPHER'S LEGACY"
This is technical deathcore with some elements similar to Necrophagist and others more similar to Despised Icon and the like. It can be a little difficult to listen to at times, and ultimately, I do not think I would like it too much.

MOURNBLADE: "MACHINES OF WAR"
Decent thrash/hardcore. I can not find any information about this group anywhere. It is fairly simple music, but brutally effective.

KILLER OF THE RISE: "WAFFLE"
This is more deathcore. It is not too bad of a song, but it drags a little bit at times. I kind of lost interest.

MASTER: "SLAVES TO SOCIETY"
Finishing the compilation off is the legendary Master, one of the first death metal bands. This song is typical of their style, groove-laden death metal. A great song from a truly great band.

That's it for that. The highlights from the unknown bands were Torrid Flesh and Fiftywatthead.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Year in Metal: 2001

One of these days, I will get this series caught up.

AMORPHIS: AM UNIVERSUM
Amorphis continued to change their sound on this release, abandoning almost all of their prior death metal influences for a much more progressive and even psychedelic sound. Nevertheless, this remains a terrific album from the band. I actually prefer their more progressive metal sound to their death metal roots, but I may be in the minority there. The additions of the saxophone to several parts, especially the baritone sax in the last track, is my favorite part of this release. I used to play the sax in high school.

FINNTROLL: JAKTENS TID
This was the first folk metal album I ever heard, and I got it in a grab bag from Century Media. As it is, I cannot think of a better introduction into the world of folk metal. There is certainly more than enough influences from death and black metal here as well as the folk melodies. It does not stray too far into folk territory, clearly resting on the metal side of the fence. It is also catchy and memorable. A great introduction to this scene.

MOONSPELL: DARKNESS AND HOPE
Moonspell is another band whose sound is constantly evolving. On this release, the band has adopted more of a dark, gothic metal sound. This was the first album by the Portuguese band I had heard and it got me very interested in checking out further releases. This is a slower, somber, and darkly beautiful release. Vocalist Fernando Ribeiro's deep, soothing baritone is the highlight of the album. Moonspell even does a decent job at covering Ozzy's "Mr. Crowley" on this.

OPETH: BLACKWATER PARK
Often considered Opeth's masterpiece, this one is not my favorite but it is definitely up there. The band's fifth album features one of their most complete and well-formed combinations of their progressive rock side and their death metal side. This is definitely the album to point to as the best summation of the band's sound. It is a great album, full of excellent instrumental passages and of course Mikael Akerfeldt's terrific voice. It's not my favorite Opeth album, but it is amazing all the same.

SONATA ARCTICA: SILENCE
I have a bit of a soft spot for romantic, powerful European power metal and Sonata Arctica can definitely deliver on that. When they are not playing ballads on this release, their music is extremely fast and infectious. But the ballads also shine brightly on this album. "Tallulah" in particular is a very emotional song. This is a long album, but it never feels long. It is instead, an impressive take on European power metal and one of the best albums in the scene in my opinion.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: ARCH ENEMY: WAGES OF SIN, ICED EARTH: HORROR SHOW, MEGADETH: THE WORLD NEEDS A HERO, SLAYER: GOD HATES US ALL.

BANDS THAT FORMED IN 2001: The Black Dahlia Murder, Dragonlord.