Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bands You Hate to Love

This topic came to my mind as I was driving home from work tonight. I was listening to Arghoslent in the car, a band I have discussed before. I absolutely love Arghoslent's music, they write killer riffs with a ton of energy. They basically sound the way that melodeath should sound had it not been watered down over the years.

Unfortunately, I find some of the lyrics of Arghoslent reprehensible. I can handle Satanic and Anti-Christian lyrics. But I have a hard time with racist and misogynistic lyrics. I really can not explain why those topics are so difficult for me, but they really are.

I do not normally judge a band by their lyrics, so obviously I continue to listen to Arghoslent despite my problems with some of their lyrics. That should not be construed as a tacit approval of their lyrics, just that I will not discontinue listening due to them.

Other bands I have issues with lyrically include a number of slam bands. Lyrics dealing with rape and necrophilia among other horrendous topics are pretty commonplace in that genre, which I find unfortunate.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Initial Impressions: Christian Mistress: Possession

It has been a little difficult for me to find new music lately. Most of those problems have been self-imposed. I have been making a concerted effort to avoid buying much music online and I have not been to my favorite music store in Omaha for some time, due mostly to being too busy to travel there. I do live two hours away after all. So I have been left with Hastings Book Store as the only source of buying music. I can never really count on them to get decent stuff in, so sometimes it comes as a surprise when I find something unexpected.

Which brings us to Christian Mistress. I had not heard of the band prior to seeing this CD on the rack but when I read the description touting the band as performing a raw style of NWOBHM, I knew this was speaking to me. The more I look into the NWOBHM style, the more impressed I am. Even groups like Raven who did not grab me at first have been listened to more and more lately and grown on me.

Christian Mistress absolutely capture the spirit and energy of the early years of the NWOBHM, prior to the scene getting watered down by dozens of imitators. If you are looking for something incredibly fast and heavy, look somewhere else. This is just good, old-fashioned riff-driven heavy metal. There are no frills, it is just stripped-down yet powerful.

The band is lead by Christine Davis, whose voice sounds incredible over the classic metal riffing. Her voice soars over the riffs. She has a very unique voice with some impressive dynamics.

I am very impressed with this album. This is Christian Mistress's second album. I am definitely going to keep an eye on them.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day - Initial Impressions: Eluveitie: Helvetios

Well it's a good day to take a look at the newest album from Celtic folk metal/melodeath band Eluveitie. I figure green beer and Eluveitie probably go hand in hand.

Well my feelings on this one closely echo what Full Metal Attorney says here. That is, I feel like Eluveitie is treading water and is desperately trying to recapture the magic of Slania. This was manifested on their last album when they basically re-released Slania. This time around, it is clear that there is some differentiation from their landmark album, but not enough real growth. In fact, Eluveitie seems to prefer trying to pick up on some modern rock influences. Such attempts to make their music palatable to the unwashed masses is sure to meet with a cold shoulder from longtime fans.

The other major problem with the album is that a lot of the songs just sort of run together. I was shocked when I looked at my CD player and realized I was already on track 6. It only felt like I had been listening for about five minutes. There are a few standout tracks here and there, but a lot of the stuff is all too samey-sounding.

Eluveitie still does a decent job of mixing melodeath and Celtic folk music and some of the songs do still sound really good. Unfortunately, the band's material does not sound as fresh as it did on their breakthrough release. I may still continue to check out albums by them because I am a big fan of the Celtic folk metal, but they are not likely to ever blow me away as they did the first time I heard them. That is quite unfortunate.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reader Submissions: Graveyard Dirt: For Grace or Damnation

We have come to the end of the Ashen Productions reviews for the week. I purposely left this one for last because it is kind of an outlier for the label. Graveyard Dirt is much more of a doom/death metal band, with no black metal influences. It is sonically very different from the previous bands.

The music reminds me a bit of Morgion, in that the songs are often slower-paced withh rolling riffs and some surprisingly harsh vocals. Over all it is a very melancholic record. The vocals are occasionally spoken, which is fine, but I much prefer the harsher vocal style.

Doom has been taking over the metal world of late and Graveyard Dirt fits in well. However, the band did not simply jump on the bandwagon. Graveyard Dirt actually originally formed in 1994 but went on hiatus for several years. This is actually the band's first full-length release. They have only released a demo in 1996 and an EP in 2007 before this.

Graveyard Dirt does an admirable job of still retaining heaviness even though the music is mostly somber. The band still provides crushing riffs to go along with the chilling guitar leads. The harsh vocals add to the atmosphere, making this an incredibly heavy yet melodic doom metal album.

This is a very impressive album. The band waited almost sixteen years before releasing their first full-length. All that time paid off.

Reader Submissions: Cold Northern Vengeance: Trial by Ice

This is a compilation of sorts. It apparently originally began as an idea to re-release the band's 2005 tape Curse, but gradually evolved into including some more demo and other rare material. I am all for bands re-releasing their material to a wider audience, especially when the band toiled in obscurity for a while. That is not to say the whole world was clamoring for a reissue of all of Cold Northern Vengeance's material. I had not heard of them before this, but I am not complaining either.

The opening track had a bit of a Varathron-esque feel to it. It was extremely murky and disturbing-sounding. But it quickly moves into a more raw Norse-style black metal sound with the next track. The third track sounds somewhat more industrial with death metal-style vocals. Basically what I am getting at here is that the band often sounds completely different from one track to the next. There is basically something here for every type of black metal fan. And that is where things get a little bit distressing.

I do not mind variation. A little variation is important from time to time on albums because it keeps things interesting. But when a band flips through so many different styles that the album sounds more like a various artists compilation than an album by one band, it is a little annoying. I can not tell whether Cold Northern Vengeance actually has a core sound.

It is very clear that Cold Northern Vengeance have the songwriting skills and chops to pull off a number of styles of black metal. I just wish that they would pick one style and maybe include some occasional influences from others. All of the songs are well-executed and generally sound pretty good, there is just no coherence. Diversity is good, but when you sacrifice identity, it becomes frustrating.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reader Submission: Sleeping Village: Fragments

Blackened doom is not a genre I have heard too much from. The only groups I am at all familiar with are Forgotten Tomb and Misery's Omen. With that said, here is Italian black/doom metal band Sleeping Village who share a country of origin with Forgotten Tomb. The promo information I received described them as a cross between Sonic Youth, Type O Negative, My Bloody Valentine, and Burzum, quite the odd mix of styles really.

The music consists of mostly fuzzy, droning guitar riffs, think some of the slower Type O Negative moments for a point of reference. The drumming is repetitive, adding to the droning quality. It is a drum machine afer all. Towards the end of each of the first two songs, it gradually gets a bit more melodic before returning to the otherworldly style of the beginning moments.

I could have done without the ambient third track, which is eight-plus minutes of random noodling on the instruments. I am not much of a fan of tracks like this. For a shorter time, they are okay, but this is the longest track on the album.

The major complaint I have with this album is the lack of diversity. Everything is very slow and the guitar tone never really changes throughout, retaining the same fuzzy sound as it did at the beginning. The only track that really stands out as different from the others is the third track, which I have already explained I did not care for. I like the overall atmosphere, I just would have enjoyed the release a little bit more if there was some more variation. It is not bad, but it is not really for me.

Reader Submission: Animo Aeger: Fieber

Well after reviewing the full-length Impuls, I was actually kind of excited to listen to Animo Aeger's follow-up. This is just an EP but it still clocks in at nearly 40 minutes.

This one kicks off with a bang. The first track is significantly faster and more aggressive than anything off the prior album. In general, there are more faster tracks on this release. There are still some slower atmospheric tracks, but the band has become more aggressive generally.

Another major change from the last album to this is the use of clean vocals. This was a big surprise because the shrieking vocals fit in so well on the band's prior material. The vocals are occasionally layered with the clean, almost spoken vocals over the top of the shrieking or some roaring death metal-style vocals. The clean vocals can be a little off-putting at times. Sometimes they work well, but others they are a little irritating.

On a brighter note, the production on the first several tracks has improved, though it was not really a problem on the full-length. This is due to Animo Aeger recording them in a real studio this time around. Beyond that, there are a couple of leftover rehearsal room tracks tacked on to this thing.

Overall, this is not really bad, but I did not care for it quite as much as the previous album. The vocals got kind of grating after awhile and that really drove it down in my opinion.

Reader Submission: Animo Aeger: Impuls

I read a review on this album prior to listening to it to get a general idea of what to expect. The review discussed this as being a depressive black metal band, but I am not really seeing much of that. Sure there are some elements here and there, but the album as a whole is much too active. It is not nearly morose enough to really be depressive black metal. None of that is to suggest that this band is the next coming of Immortal. The music is typically slower-paced and more atmospheric, but with some decent riffs thrown in here and there. It is a very dark album.

The vocals are the main draw here. The vocalist Graasjal emits agonizing and tortured screams for the better part of the album. Every once in awhile he can pull off a Tom Warrior-esque grunt, but he typically does not stray far from the aforementioned shrieking, which serves him well and fits the music.

Some of the songs on the album actually sound a bit more like Norwegian black metal. There is a lot of Mayhem evident in these songs. "The Box" is the best example of this. Other songs feature some surprisingly chilling guitar leads. The lead in "Den Laufstall Zu Brechen..." is spine-tingling.

Overall, this is a pretty decent album. It definitely has a cold and chilling atmosphere, and there is some surprisingly good riffing. It was not what I was expecting, it was better.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reader Submission: Zerstorer: Panzerfaust Justice

I still can't figure out how to do umlauts. I apologize, there should be one over the "o". The album name features the name of Darkthrone's monumental fifth album, so I had some idea of what I might be in for taking a listen to this one. I was a little surprised though. There may be some Darkthrone sounds here, but it is more likely to come from their thrashier, Hellhammer-worship material than their black metal material. Which of course is closer to what Panzerfaust was, so my prediction was not totally off the mark.

Zerstorer means "destroyer" in German and the name is certainly apt. The band would be right at home in the Australian war metal scene. This is punk-influenced black/thrash at its most aggressive. It is all blasting drums and blazing thrash riffs with insane screaming from the vocalist. It is chaotic and hellish, just the way the war metal scene is. The album does slow down a little bit toward the end, but it does not lose any of its edge. It brings to mind groups like Impaled Nazarene, Gospel of the Horns, and just about any Aussie war metal group.

This album definitely reminds me of Destroyer 666's Cold Steel, which is a major compliment. It does not quite have the same memorability in the songs, but the attitude and aggression is there. This is terrific black/thrash. While the band could stand to grow a bit into their own sound, this is still pretty damn good.

Reader Submission: Descending Darkness: Seelenruhe

Descending Darkness is an Austrian black metal band. Their sound is raw, but the production is surprisingly clean for a band of this style. Therefore, every nasty, filthy note can be heard clearly. It's quite the contrast really.

The sound is more reminiscent of early material from second wave black metal bands such as Mayhem and Darkthrone and other groups that were just starting to find their own voice and still had heavy death and thrash influences. The music is typically faster paced black metal using thrash-style riffs. It is raw and aggressive but with some occasional surprising melodies.

The vocals are typically delivered in an agonizing shriek, similar to the one possessed by Attila Csihar on some of Mayhem's albums. I do not understand the lyrics because they are typically in German, but something has him worked up.

I am pretty impressed with this album. It is one of the better black metal albums that has been submitted to me for my review. This is unabashed thrash-influenced black metal, the way it used to be done. Black metal has twisted and turned into so many different styles that it is nice once in awhile to find a band that still sounds like this.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reader Submission: Sieghetnar: Die Asche eines Geistes

Kicking things off for Ashen Productions this week is German one-man black metal/ambient band Sieghetnar. Sieghetnar's sole member is Thorkraft along with an occasional session drummer. This is the re-release of a demo that Sieghetnar originally released in 2008. It was originally limited to just 25 hand-numbered copies until the reissue. This release is made up of one track, clocking in at over 20 minutes.

I have not typically cared much for ambient music. I do not mind it much, but wen we are talking about a full album or EP, it does not really hold my interest. Burzum has produced some surprisingly good ambient music on some of their releases, but they typically mix it up with some impressive raw black metal as well.

This album starts out with several minutes of random, atmospheric keyboard noodling. Just shy of the six minute mark, the drums kick in and lead into some fuzzy Burzum-esque riffs. The music eventually takes on an almost symphonic quality, while still being obviously produced by keyboards. Unfortunately, that is pretty much it for Sieghetnar. The rest of the song/album pretty much carries on with the same general sound. It ebbs and flows a little bit, but the metal is definitely out from that point forward and it is just soft from that point on. The last two minutes are an acoustic guitar part.

The music reminds me of the soundtrack to 1980's underrated horror film The Keep. The music was provided by a group called Tangerine Dream. Now there is nothing wrong with this, it is certainly interesting to listen to when unwinding, but that is really all there is to it. I do not think I would pay money for a release like this, but it is interesting once in awhile to hear.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Reader Submissions: Ashen Productions Week

I have been sitting on this for a very long time and I am very sorry about that. I received an email from Ashen Productions to review a bunch of their new and upcoming releases. This week, I plan on putting up a review of the eight albums for which I have been provided.

Ashen Productions specializes in mostly various styles of black meta, with some exceptions. We have fairly typical black metal, black/thrash, and even some ambient styles. Black metal is probably the most diverse metal genre these days and that diversity is evident in these albums.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Random Thoughts: Best Vocal Performance in a Metal Song

I was listening to Iron Maiden earlier and the song "The Evil That Men Do" came on. It occurred to me that this is quite possibly one of the greatest vocal performances in heavy metal. Bruce Dickinson's vocal range at this time was absolutely incredible. Of course Dickinson in the early days was one of the most powerful vocalists in metal. Other great examples of his vocal talents are shown in "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner", "Aces High", "Moonchild", "Infinte Dreams", "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son", and several more. I'm not sure there are too many others out there like him.

Does anyone have any other examples of terrific vocal performances in metal?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I'm Trying

I am trying to get back on a regular posting schedule. But things are pretty hectic right now. I currently have six trials scheduled in the next five weeks. Four of which are jury trials. Three of those are felony jury trials which will likely take two to three days each. Business is booming right now. On top of the trials, I have been retained on very noteworthy case. I have been interviewed in the Omaha newspaper which is a city two hours away from my area of practice. Of course, I gave the standard "no comment", but that is besides the point.

Anyway, please bear with me. I am trying. Hopefully soon I will be back to some regular posting schedule of some sort.

Initial Impressions: Disma: Towards the Megalith

It is always nice to hear a band that sounds so unabashedly pure and filthy. This is death metal the way it was originally meant to be. And that is no surprise as this band features the incredible Craig Pillard of Incantation. Pillard has one of the more recognizable voices in death metal. Absolutely guttural and evil-sounding, Pillard automatically adds a sinister touch to anything he is roaring over.

Of course, this band does not belong to Pillard, he merely provides the voice. The original member is Bill Venner who seems to have a healthy respect for the old-school death metal sound, particularly the occult sound of the aforementioned Incantation, along with Immolation and Morbid Angel.

What we have is some filthy and disgustingly murky death metal. It is eerie and evil-sounding, just the way death metal was once supposed to be, before it became watered-down and safe. There are some almost doom metal elements present here, morosely slow and monolithic riffs that are almost stomach churning.

Disma has produced one of the best death metal albums in years. This is a can't-miss album.