Friday, November 30, 2012

Interview with Cadaverous Condition

Last January, I was sent an album to review by the Austrian band Cadaverous Condition.  I was asked about the possibility of an interview at the time, but due to my own busy schedule was not really able to put one together.  Until now.  I sent some interview questions, dealing with the band's progression from death metal to death/neofolk hybrid and the scene in Austria, to founding member and vocalist Wolfgang Weiss.  After the jump, you can see the interview.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 24

ARTIST:  Megadeth
ORIGIN:  Los Angeles, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Rust in Peace
LABEL:  Capitol Records
YEAR:  1990
GENRE:  Thrash Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Tornado of Souls"
NOTES:  My favorite album by Megadeth, this is also one of my favorite albums of all time.  Top five even.  It is that good.  This is when it all came together with Megadeth, the speed and intensity is there, but it is melodic and quite frankly epic.  There are a ton of great songs on here, including live favorites "Holy Wars" and "Hangar 18", both of which were played at the concert I saw just this year.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Evoken: Atra Mors

I have listened to this album over and over again today, just taking in the sound.  It is an extremely intense album and definitely takes some time to fully absorb.  That is what I have been doing today.  This is my first experience with Evoken, and what an experience it is.  This is an incredibly dense and challenging album, but once absorbed it is definitely worth it.

Evoken is about as bleak and desolate as music gets.  Fitting for funeral doom of course.  But the somber tone that Evoken has mastered is incredibly dark even for the genre.  The songs are all long epics with an atmosphere of desolation and pain.  But it is the clean vocals and clean riffs that really capture the listener's attention.  Many funeral doom bands utilize a wall of sound, oppressive and intense, but Evoken are able to convey the same misery and hopelessness with even their cleaner moments, soulful wailing and acoustic melodies.

It is extremely difficult to talk about this album.  I am not going to waste space talking about why you should check this out.  It is an all-encompassing experience.  It is truly something that one has to pay full attention to and interpret for themselves.  This is an incredible album, quite possibly one of the best albums in the funeral doom genre.  A modern-day masterpiece.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 23

ARTIST:  Testament
ORIGIN:  Oakland, CA (United States)
LABEL:  Atlantic Records
YEAR:  1994
GENRE:  Thrash Metal/Groove Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Legions (In Hiding)"
NOTES:  This was a very extreme album for me at the time.  Testament used a much more gruff vocal style than anything I was used to.  Nevertheless, this album really clicked for me.  I loved it from the first time I heard it.  "Low" had been played on the radio quite a bit which lead me to check out the album.  Testament was a favorite band of mine throughout high school and I even got to meet the band.  Unfortunately I was too young to see them in concert at the time.  Some day I will.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Corrosion of Conformity: Megalodon

Corrosion of Conformity did not waste much time following up their self-titled reunion album.  The band just this year released an album as a reformed trio made up of the three original members.  Pepper Keenan, quite possibly the driving force of the band over the previous fifteen years of the band's existence, is gone.  So the band's sound reverted to more of a sludgy hardcore, the sound that the band first rose to prominence with.

As I have previously mentioned Deliverance is where I got on board with Corrosion of Conformity.  As far as I am concerned, the band has never done better than that album before or since.  But I did enjoy some of their other work, including on their self-titled album released earlier this year.  So I did not really have any qualms about checking this one out.  Especially since it was free.

There are a couple of moments on this album where the band really does sound like Deliverance-era C.O.C.  "Feed On" and "The Megalodon" both really have that Southern metal swing to them.  The only thing missing on those tracks are the vocals of Keenan.  Not to say that the three members of C.O.C. (I honestly do not know enough about them to tell their vocals apart) are not fine vocalists, a couple of them anyway.  I just do not think they quite have the same charm.  Again, perhaps that is due to when I got into the band and I might have felt differently if I had gotten into them earlier.  Most of the songs on this EP would have fit in reasonably well on Deliverance, so I am definitely liking it, at least musically.  My only real complaint is with the vocals which do not grab me as much.

For a free EP, I am definitely not complaining.  This is a pretty good release from C.O.C. and is shockingly even better than the full-length from earlier.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 22

ARTIST:  Soundgarden
ORIGIN:  Seattle, WA (United States)
TITLE:  Superunknown
LABEL:  A&M Records
YEAR:  1994
GENRE:  Heavy Metal/Hard Rock/Grunge
NOTES:  I was getting into music when grunge was popular, but the two bands associated with the grunge scene that I loved most were Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.  And no, that is not revisionist history on my part trying to claim I never really liked grunge and only liked metal.  My older brother had albums by Nirvana and Pearl Jam and I recorded songs off those albums, but only certain songs and I never owned any albums by them, though I did have Bush and Candlebox.  I had Soundgarden and Alice in Chains though.  This album was huge when it was released.  It had at least five big songs, including "Black Hole Sun" and "Spoonman".

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ahab: The Giant

One look at the cover art of this release reveals that this is going to be a little bit different than Ahab's previous works.  Where the past two albums had stunning and realistic paintings for their covers, this one features more of a psychedelic and mythological artwork.  It just did not really look like the Ahab I had grown to love.

But it's not just the cover art that is different.  Ahab has changed things up in the sound department as well with this release.  Where the past two albums were morosely slow and monolithically heavy, this one has moments where it veers dangerously close to traditional doom metal and has a much cleaner overall tone.  It is still slow and heavy, but not in the same bleak way that their past albums were.  This is by no means a complete departure for the band, but there is enough of a change to make it quite obvious.

The album starts off with the very typical slow and haunting build.  Ahab has always used this.  But instead of a crushing riff immediately, the acoustic music continues on for awhile and the singing is done in sorrowful clean manner rather than the gruff roars done in the past.  That heavy riff does kick in eventually.  As do the deep vocals, but the cleaner parts are there to stay, popping up frequently throughout the album.  Ahab definitely focused their attention on adding some melodies to this one.  The riffs are cleaner as well as the vocals.

This album is not nearly as bleak as Ahab's previous works.  There is almost a glimmer of hopefulness with each track, something lacking on their other albums.  Oh it is still very funereal at times, just not as hopeless.  I do not want to give off the impression that I dislike this album.  I like it very much.  It just does not measure up to the other albums in my eyes.

FMA Reviews: Nails: Obscene Humanity

Originally reviewed here.
It was with a lot of trepidation that I agreed to take a listen to this release. I was not familiar with Nails before so I had to look them up. What I found concerned me even more. Nails is a hardcore band. I do not care much for hardcore music. Nails is often associated with Converge. I really do not care for Converge. And Nails is on Southern Lord Records. With the exception of Lair of the Minotaur, I have never really cared for that label. But I did agree to give this a shot, and the fact that the release is three songs from an upcoming seven inch, I figured it would not be too painful. I can probably handle ten to fifteen minutes of hardcore.

Yes I can. This is a very impressive release, which is likely made better by the fact that it is so short. I am not sure I could listen to a full album of this, but I can definitely listen to these three songs.

This is a short but very intense release of metallic hardcore. And no, not metalcore in the sense of Avenged Sevenfold, etc. It is all pummeling riffing, pounding drums, and shrieked vocals. The third track "Lies" is the highlight as it features a very quick guitar solo and one hell of a breakdown leading to the end of the release.

The complaints are typical for this style of hardcore. There is a bit of a lack of dynamics, particularly with the vocalist. He shrieks all the way through. Other than the closing breakdown, there is a lack of any real tempo shift throughout the runtime. And the first two tracks are basically the same song. The third track stands out due to the soloing and the tempo shift but it basically starts the same way as well.

This is not likely something I would listen to often, but I can see some good things in it.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 21

ARTIST:  Faith No More
ORIGIN:  San Francisco, CA (United States)
TITLE:  King for a Day...Fool for a Lifetime
LABEL:  Slash Records
YEAR:  1995
GENRE:  Alternative Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Digging the Grave"
NOTES:  This was my first full-length album by Faith No More but I had been aware of them for years.  In fact, they may have been the first metal band I really heard as my older brother was a big fan of theirs for quite some time.  I think I was in fourth grade when my brother got The Real Thing and I heard it a lot.  This was a bit of a different sound from Faith No More.  It is more stripped down and does not have some of the rap elements that first garnered the band attention.  There are some filler tracks on this release, but as a whole, it is a fairly strong album.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mortalicum Interview

As I think I have mentioned many times on this blog, there has been a resurgence in 1970's/1980's style heavy metal.  You know, the classic stuff, stuff like Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, and others.  Much of it is incredibly catchy and melodic.  One such band that I had the chance to review earlier is an upstart group from Sweden called Mortalicum.  Their album is a contender for Metallattorney's Album of the Year.  So I jumped at the opportunity to interview the band.  After the jump, you can see answers from bassist Patrick Backlund.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 20

ARTIST:  White Zombie
ORIGIN:  Haverhill, MA (United States)
TITLE:  Astro-Creep: 2000 - Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head
LABEL:  Geffen Records
YEAR:  1995
GENRE:  Groove Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Blur the Technicolor"
NOTES:  White Zombie was massive in 1995, easily one of the biggest metal bands in the world.  With great videos, amazing live shows, and a kickass album, the band had a great year.  Unfortunately it was all downhill for the band after that.  Their tour took them through Lincoln that year, but I was 14 and missed it.  Damn.  Still, I love this album.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

FMA Reviews: God Seed: I Begin

Originally reviewed here.
Any discussion of God Seed will necessarily include some discussion about the band's origins. The album title here is particularly apt because of this. God Seed is made up of King ov Hell and Gaahl, formerly of black metal psychos Gorgoroth. In actuality, these two members attempted to carry forward with the name Gorgoroth after splitting from Infernus. A lengthy court battle ensued with Infernus actually being granted the rights to the name Gorgoroth. In the meantime, God Seed formed for a couple of months and then disbanded when Gaahl retired temporarily. King used the material written for God Seed for a project with Dimmu Borgir's Shagrath which was called Ov Hell. Gaahl eventually returned and God Seed was formed.

God Seed has already released a live album from Wacken and a single. This is the debut full-length however and the first exposure that a lot of people will get to the band. Expectations are certainly high as Gorgoroth has been a stalwart in the Norwegian black metal scene for a very long time.

Gorgoroth has always been known for particularly hateful black metal that had moments of softness to it. God Seed for the most part follows this same formula. The riffs are explosive and Earth-shaking. The atmosphere is still cold and terrifying. One of the things that I always liked most about Gorgoroth was their ability to be punishing and brutal one second and be dissonant and unsettling the next. God Seed accomplishes this same fluid shift throughout most of this album. For example, the band shifts easily from the darkwave-sounding "Hinstu Daga" to the much more traditional black metal crunch of "Aldrande Tre".

The truly unusual moments are the usage of electronics, keyboards, and organs. Gorgoroth did not do a lot of experimenting with different instrumentation in their releases, but God Seed actually employs a member to play the keyboards. This is kind of an unusual thing for a black metal band that does not fall into the melodic black metal genre. But the keyboard moments do work. They add a certain unsettling flair to the already destructive and evil riffing and vocals.

This is a widely varied album. Gorgoroth had been working towards that and perfected it. Their early albums were simply fast barrages of riffs. The band slowly added more and more atmosphere to their music. God Seed does a fantastic job in carrying this forward on this release. Gaahl's vocals fit in well with this constantly evolving sound. He uses a variety of vocal styles from high-pitched rasp, to deep-throated bellow, to some actual clean moments. One thing is for certain though, they are never boring.

So we finally got that God Seed album from the dismissed members of Gorgoroth and it is everything it was hoped to be. This album proves that the second wave Norwegian black metal band members are still capable of putting out some high-quality releases.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 19

ARTIST:  Queensryche
ORIGIN:  Bellevue, WA (United States)
TITLE:  Empire
YEAR:  1990
GENRE:  Progressive Metal
NOTES:  Another album that I got for my 14th birthday from my grandmother (she really came through on this one).  This was my second album by the Washington-based progressive metal outfit.  Though I never quite liked this one as much as my first album by the band, even though it is arguably heavier.  "Silent Lucidity" is probably Queensryche's most well-known song.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 18

ARTIST:  Ozzy Osbourne
ORIGIN:  Birmingham, England
TITLE:  No More Tears
LABEL:  Epic
YEAR:  1991
GENRE:  Heavy Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "No More Tears"
NOTES:  I got this for my birthday from my grandmother at the same time as the prior Black Sabbath album.  It is kind of odd that I got an Ozzy album and a Black Sabbath album at the same time but the Black Sabbath album did not feature Ozzy on vocals.  I was aware by this time that Ozzy did sing for Sabbath early on, even though I did not have anything that featured him.  This is still one of my favorite albums by Ozzy, and his last really good one.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Reader Submissions: Inquisitor: Dark Ages of Witchery

I love it when a band comes out of nowhere to blow me away with a release.  Enter Portugal's Inquisitor.  They have only been around for a few years now and have yet to release a full-length.  Thus far their entire discography consists of a demo, this 7" EP, and a split with Virgin Killer.  But if this EP is any indication, Inquisitor should have a bright future.

Inquisitor is a thrash/speed metal band with a sound firmly rooted in the 1980's.  Their music strongly resembles bands that straddled the line between thrash metal and more melodic styles.  Names like Flotsam and Jetsam, Exciter, and Razor come to mind.  The vocals are done in more of an early extreme thrash metal style, most similar to Teutonic thrash masters Destruction, Kreator, and Sodom.  The riffs are fast-paced and memorable and the band possesses some impressive songwriting chops.

The production on this sounds great.  The sound is beefy and muscular, which befits the style of music.  There is a heavy bottom-end which is sometimes missing in more traditionally-minded metal albums.  Everything is clear without sounding sterile.

This is an extremely impressive release, but it is just a teaser.  There are only two tracks here and they both sound very good.  I am looking forward to something longer.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 17

ARTIST:  Black Sabbath
ORIGIN:  Birmingham, England
TITLE:  Cross Purposes
LABEL:  I.R.S. Records
YEAR:  1994
GENRE:  Doom Metal/Heavy Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Cross of Thorns"
NOTES:  My very first Black Sabbath album was one with Tony Martin on vocals.  I still think that this is one of the most underrated Black Sabbath albums.  There are some truly great songs on this thing and it is a shame that it is so often overlooked.  I have a lot of memories of playing video games with this album on, to the point that I still think of Super Metroid whenever I listen to it.  Odd.  I got this around my 14th birthday from my grandmother.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 16

ARTIST:  Various
ORIGIN:  Various
TITLE:  Monsters of Rock Vol. 3: Molten Metal
LABEL:  Priority Records
YEAR:  1994
GENRE:  Various
FAVORITE SONG:  Fear Factory: "Scapegoat"
NOTES:  Another compilation that I picked up early on.  This one featured songs by Motorhead, Flotsam and Jetsam, and Fear Factory that I eventually checked out.  It also featured White Zombie and Aversion.  There were some non-metal bands such as L.A. Guns, Mudhoney, Kiss, and Biohazard as well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Reader Submissions: Mystical: Demo I

One of the results of our current technology-dominated society is that just about anyone can now make music.  And it is much easier to get music out to people as well.  I do not mean to start this out on a negative note, but it is fairly clear from the quality of this release that the members of Portuguese black metal band Mystical are fairly new to the game.  A cursory glance at the members' respective backgrounds would confirm this, beyond guitarist BHJS.  But this is just a demo, so it is hard to be too hard on the guys.

The big complaint that I have here is that it sounds too synthetic.  The drums are programmed, the keyboards sound a little bit too sterile, and the samples are an odd choice.  The only real instrument is the guitar which simply plays some basic black metal riff, usually just one or two riffs per song.  It is hard to achieve a good black metal atmosphere when the instruments do not sound real.  The music is fairly simple and direct.  The songs are all very short as well and rely on a couple of ideas per song.

There are a couple of silver linings for this band, glimmers of hope that could be improved on and result in a decent next recording.  "Eternal Damnation" is a pretty decent song, with some interesting riffs and a decent sound, despite the overly-programmed drumming.  A couple of the other tracks also have the hint of some good ideas present, such as the keyboard-driven break in "Torture of the Damned" and the riffs in "The Cursed Earth".  In addition, the vocals, despite being stereotypical for black metal, do sound pretty good.

When all is said and done, this is a demo.  It is hard to have high expectations and it is hard to be disappointed.  There are some things that Mystical could do to improve, but that is typical for bands on their first demo.  There is room for growth.  It will be interesting to see where they go from here.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 15

ARTIST:  Various
ORIGIN:  Various
TITLE:  Metal Mayhem
LABEL:  Priority Records
YEAR:  1993
GENRE:  Various
FAVORITE SONG:  Flotsam and Jetsam: "Iron Tears"
NOTES:  I started picking up some cheap various artist compilations early on in order to find new bands to check out.  This was one of the first ones.  It included songs by Flotsam and Jetsam, Prong, Gwar, Voivod, and Pro-Pain that I eventually checked out, partially on the power of these songs.  Suicidal Tendencies and a few non-metal bands appeared as well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 14

ARTIST:  Anthrax
ORIGIN:  Yonkers, NY (United States)
TITLE:  Sound of White Noise
LABEL:  Elektra
YEAR:  1993
GENRE:  Thrash Metal/Groove Metal
NOTES:  Maybe it is because it was my first Anthrax album, but I really like this one.  Maybe it would have been different if it was heard after some material with Joey Belladonna on it, but it does not really matter at this point.  This was Anthrax's first album with former Armored Saint wailer John Bush behind the mic.  His voice never quite fit the typical Anthrax sound, but the band sounds a little different, a little more serious this time around.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Initial Impressions: Cradle of Filth: The Manticore and Other Horrors

Just like clockwork.  Every two years or so around the end of October (Halloween time kiddies), English gothic extreme metal mavens Cradle of Filth drop a new album of horror stories upon us.  And every time, I feel absolutely compelled to pick it up.  Let's face it, I am a Cradle of Filth fan.  I know they have their detractors, but I cannot help but love what they are doing every time.  It's a sickness I know.

This one is a little bit different sounding than the band's typical fare.  For one thing, the sound has been stripped down a little bit.  And this even effects the run-time of the release.  There are no ridiculously long songs, everything is tightened up and a lot of the musical meanderings have been cut out.  The riffs have become much more prominent on this release, replacing a lot of the keyboard melodies.  This is the most aggressive Cradle of Filth has sounded in years.  The riffs frequently resemble punk and thrash metal riffs.  Again, this is something that has been missing from Cradle's sound for a long time.  It is a welcome change.  After so many albums of the band doing basically the same thing, it was time to change up the formula a little bit.

No review of Cradle of Filth's new record would be complete without discussing Dani Filth, the only constant element in the band.  Dani's vocals are not as strong as they used to be, that is an unfortunate inevitability when a band has been around as long as Cradle of Filth has been.  But that is not to say that he does not have anything left, he certainly does.  His high-pitched shrieks and low grumbles still do the trick.  And of course, his songwriting has always been very impressive.  His ability to weave stories of gothic horror into the darkly melodic, atmospheric music of which Cradle of Filth specializes.

This is not one of Cradle of Filth's greatest albums, but it is one of their best in years.  It does not touch the levels of Dusk...and Her Embrace, Midian, or Cruelty and the Beast, but I would stack it up against anything from Nymphetamine onward and it would hold its own.  The riffwork definitely stands out as a welcome change from their previous albums and the stripped-down songs make this a slightly easier listening experience.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 13

ARTIST:  Corrosion of Conformity
ORIGIN:  Raleigh, NC (United States)
TITLE:  Deliverance
LABEL:  Columbia Records
YEAR:  1994
GENRE:  Southern Metal/Sludge Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Clean My Wounds"
NOTES:  Corrosion of Conformity frequently changes their sound, and this definitely stands out from anything the band had done previously.  Taking a Southern/sludge metal sound, this was quite a bit different than anything I had heard before.  But the results, including the tracks "Clean My Wounds" and "Alabatross" were incredible.  A great album.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Non-Metal Post: Misfits

For a long time I did listen to a number of non-metal bands.  It's true.  I seldomly listen to non-metal bands now, but there are a few exceptions.

Misfits is the biggest exception.  I started out on them after hearing the numerous Metallica covers of Misfits songs and finding out that Glenn Danzig used to be their singer.  I am not the biggest punk fan in the world, but Misfits are so ridiculously catchy that it is hard not to get into them.  Their lyrics deal almost strictly with horror themes and the music is infectious.  It is not the most technically impressive, in fact far from it, and the musicians were certainly not terribly talented, but they could write a damn good song.

I have the Walk Among Us album and have been listening to it over and over again today.  It is the only album I have picked up from the group, but I love tracks like "I Turned into a Martian", "Skulls", "All Hell Breaks Loose", and pretty much everything else on the album.  The fact that it is only a 25 minute album certainly makes it easy to turn it on, rock out for a little while, and move on.  I keep meaning to check out more, but for now, this is a fun album to put on when I am in the mood for it.  Today I definitely was in the mood. 

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 12

ARTIST:  Suicidal Tendencies
ORIGIN:  Los Angeles, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Join the Army
LABEL:  Caroline Records
YEAR:  1987
GENRE:  Crossover/Thrash Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "War Inside My Head"
NOTES:  As I recall when I was younger, my parents found a bunch of tapes abandoned by a lake.  This was one of the tapes in there.  They never did anything with them, so they were fair game.  This was the only thing remotely metallic in the tapes, so when I was getting into metal, I claimed it.  This is a short and very fast album with a ton of energy.  I am not the biggest Suicidal Tendencies fan, but this is a very good release.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

One and Done? Pt. 12: Church Bizarre

Among the many styles of metal that I am a big fan of, there is melodic black/death metal, particularly of the Swedish variety.  You know the type, Dissection, Watain, Naglfar, and the like.  One band I discovered in this vein a couple of years ago is the Danish group Church Bizarre.  Their album, Sinister Glorification, was an excellent example of the style with catchy tremolo riffing and some of the most decayed vocals ever.  The band actually released a few demos and EPs as well, but nothing since 2006 after the full-length.  The reasons for the ending of the band are unknown.

It is a shame.  Their release is terrific and it would have been interesting to see what happened next.  They had a unique sound amongst their genre.  Cerekloth formed out of the ashes of Church Bizarre and fellow Danish black/thrash metal act Victimizer.  But Cerekloth does not have the same feel as Church Bizarre and is not quite an acceptable substitute.

There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon though.  It appears as if Church Bizarre will likely release another EP for Hell's Headbangers in 2013.  Maybe they will rise from the grave and curse us with another full-length some day.  One can hope.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 11

ARTIST:  Pantera
ORIGIN:  Arlington, TX (United States)
TITLE:  Cowboys from Hell
LABEL:  Atlantic Records
YEAR:  1990
GENRE:  Heavy Metal/Thrash Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Cemetery Gates"
NOTES:  At the time, this was the most extreme album I had ever heard.  It actually gave me a headache the first time I heard it. But I did not give up on it and kept listening to it to the point that it was a favorite album pretty quickly.  At the time, "Cemetery Gates" had been played a lot on the local hard rock radio station as a result of appearing on a soundtrack.  Of course Pantera changed their sound soon after this release, but it remains my favorite Pantera album.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Initial Impressions: Enslaved: RIITIIR

A few years ago my interest in Enslaved skyrocketed as a result of seeing them in concert with fellow prog-metal masters Opeth.  Prior to that I enjoyed them quite a bit but would not have gone so far as to say that they were one of my favorite bands.  However after that concert, their status was elevated quite a bit.  I developed an appreciation for their sprawling sound with all of its quirks.  Ordinarily the overly progressive metal stuff has not done much for me, but Enslaved has been an exception.  So I look forward to each new Enslaved album.

This one gave me some pause as some individuals that I usually expect to really enjoy Enslaved have not cared as much for it, calling the album a disappointment or even boring.  Nevertheless, I still felt like I had to check it out.  I have heard every single album since Below the Lights and I was not about to start missing albums now.

I think this one is definitely a grower.  Enslaved have stripped away almost all of their black metal sound.  Of course that has been happening for several albums now at this point.  They have stripped away more and more with each release since the aforementioned Below the Lights.  There are still traces here and there, but this is mostly a progressive metal release.

The album does start fairly strong with "Thoughts Like Hammers", but it slows way down for several songs after the opening track.  The next several songs are kind of a blur, before the band picks things back up with "Materal", probably my favorite song on the album.  This is definitely Enslaved.  They do not do anything markedly different from anything they have done on the last several albums.  As such I am not really sure what a lot of the complaints have been about.  I certainly do not feel the same way about this release as some others do.

I would not say that this is one of Enslaved's stronger releases, but I do like it well enough.  I do not think there is anything markedly different this time around.  Is it a masterpiece?  No, but it is good enough.  I find myself enjoying it more and more with each successive listen.

FMA Reviews: Eïs: Wetterkreuz

Originally reviewed here.
My German is non-existent so the first thing I will say is that I do not understand a word these guys are saying. Ever. But luckily music is consistent across language barriers. And one thing I do understand is black metal when I hear it.

This is Eis's third full-length since a messy legal dispute forced them to change their name from Geist. They released three albums under that name prior to the change, giving them six full-length albums since 2005. Eis is apparently quite prolific. The band is currently made up of only two members. Alboin handles the vocals and all of the instruments except the drums. Marlek covers the drums.

Eis is a black metal band that is clearly heavily influenced by some of the more atmospheric black metal acts. Sort of like the more epic material of Immortal crossed with early Satyricon. The music gives off a very cold feeling and is driven by tremolo riffing and pounding drums. The keyboards add some melody to parts that otherwise lack it, but it is clear that the atmosphere is the most important aspect of Eis's music. The songs are all very long. All of them exceed the seven minute mark with two breaking ten. But they really do not seem long. The songs are so engrossing that it is not even noticed how long the songs really are.

The lyrics are all done in German. The vocals are also typically harsh though they are spoken at some points. The harsh vocals combined with German lyrics lead to a very sinister overall feel from this aspect of the music. Again, I have no idea what the lyrics are about so they could be singing about puppies and it would still sound menacing. That's German for you.

This is a decent enough release. It does not do a lot to stand out from the pack of other black metal bands out there, but it is entertaining. I am not sure how much staying power it really has. I do not envision too many scenarios in which I will really want to listen to Eis, if it happens to be on, it will keep me entertained.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 10

ARTIST:  Megadeth
ORIGIN:  Los Angeles, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?
LABEL:  Capitol Records
YEAR:  1986
GENRE:  Thrash Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Peace Sells"
NOTES:  Megadeth's sophomore album produced one of their biggest early songs in "Peace Sells".  The opening bass riff is iconic.  This is one of many great thrash metal releases from 1986.  Megadeth's sound has always been much more raw and angrier than Metallica's sound.  Perhaps this is due to Dave Mustaine's inferiority complex about Metallica.  This was my second album by the band which was quickly becoming a favorite.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Initial Impressions: Rumpelstiltskin Grinder: Ghostmaker

Their name is ridiculous of course, but Rumpelstiltskin Grinder is absolutely one of my favorite bands from the nu-thrash wave.  Part of that is their bizarre and morbid sense of humor.  Thrash metal has never really been humorless, groups like Anthrax, Exodus, and some others have definitely shown their sense of humor through their work.  Rumpelstiltskin Grinder is not as off-the-wall as Lich King, but they definitely show their sense of humor throughout.

Part of what makes Rumpelstiltskin Grinder so compelling musically is that the band does not really sound like anyone else.  With a lot of the newer thrash metal acts, it is fairly easy to trace their influences, oftentimes it is obvious by the band's name, but there are some definite giveaways in the music itself just as often.  That is not the case with Rumpelstiltskin Grinder.  This is a band that stands out from the litany of groups aping their sound from more-established acts.  Rumpelstiltskin Grinder utilizes influences from a variety of non-thrash metal genres as well, but incorporates those influences into their thrash sound rather than toe the line between genres.

In the past, RG's albums have been a little messy and all over the place.  That rawness was part of their charm.  This was a band that really seemed like a bunch of oddball guys that got together and played some ferocious thrash metal.  On this release though, the band has really tightened up their sound.  Nothing has been lost as far as their ferocity is concerned, but the riffing is tight and packs a considerable punch.  The vocals sound great along with the music and the outside influences mesh well with the thrash riffing.

What results is a truly impressive album by a band that has been steadily improving with each new album.  This is their best album yet and is a very strong contender for the thrash metal album of the year.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 9

ARTIST:  Various
ORIGIN:  Various
TITLE:  Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey: Music from the Motion Picture
LABEL:  Interscope Records
YEAR:  1991
GENRE:  Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  Megadeth: "Go to Hell"
NOTES:  I think this cost me a buck and I bought it at the same time as the previous Queensryche album.  It was cheap and featured music by a bunch of bands I felt that I should be listening to as an impressionable young metalhead, such as Kiss, Slaughter, and others.  Hey, I was pretty naive.  There is some terrible stuff on here too.  That being said, it does feature some hard-to-find tracks by Megadeth, Faith No More, and King's X which are about the only reasons to actually listen to it.  I am not the proudest of owning this but at least it was cheap.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

FMA Reviews: Finsterforst: Rastlos

Originally reviewed here.
Folk metal has been one of the latest genres I have really gotten into. Finntroll was the first folk metal band I heard and I soon realized that not all folk metal sounded like that. While I still like the fun, beer-drinking music that Finntroll specializes in, I gravitate more towards darker and more serious-sounding folk metal. Finsterforst, whose name means "dark forest" in German, seemed like it would be likely to be up my alley in that respect.

I will admit this one was a little bit daunting when looking at the track lengths. This band writes some very long songs, including the 22 minute opus "Flammenrausch". But long songs can be very entertaining when they are well-written and variable enough to keep things interesting. Luckily, this is what Finsterforst does here. There are five tracks that break the ten minute barrier, but it does not feel like that.

The music is, in a word, epic. It is extremely dramatic with impressive guitar riffs and melodies. Even the accordion sounds great in this music. Finsterforst does a great job of molding the folk elements with the metallic elements. The vocals are typically delivered in a harsh snarl which is to be expected from this type of metal.

The only real issue I have with this album is that it does not do much to stand out from the pack. Other than the ridiculously long songs, there is not much to say that Finsterforst does that is appreciably better than most other folk metal bands. The music is certainly interesting, but that does not mean that I would be clamoring for Finsterforst over a group like Thyrfing or Moonsorrow.

The Greatest Music Video Ever

Poor Goblin.  All he wants is the girl and a little respect.  What is a goblin to do?

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 8

ARTIST:  Queensryche
ORIGIN:  Bellevue, WA (United States)
TITLE:  Promised Land
YEAR:  1994
GENRE: Progressive Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "One More Time"
NOTES:  I picked this one up on the aforementioned trip to Indiana.  Songs off of this album were getting a lot of play on the local hard rock radio station at the time.  I remember three songs being played somewhat frequently, all of which I liked quite a bit.  Queensryche was a bit of a departure musically for me as to that point thrash metal was the major genre I was getting into.  "Someone Else?" is an extremely powerful song with just a piano and Geoff Tate's incredible vocals.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Initial Impressions: Witchcraft: Legend

Witchcraft is another of those bands that I have heard a lot of great things about but sadly never checked out.  It is strange though because it would seem that the band is up my alley.  So I have no idea why it is that I have not checked them out before.  Perhaps it is due to the fact that there are so many bands these days playing the same style of traditional doom/1970's hard rock that Witchcraft plays.  That's probably what it is.  But given the fact that I am a huge fan of groups like Grand Magus means that the chances of me enjoying Witchcraft were probably pretty good.  That coupled with the fact that I have only seen good reviews for the band's latest had my hopes high for this release.

Well it was definitely worth it.  The influences are obvious from the opening strains in the album.  This is clearly a band that takes its sound from the early metal bands like Black Sabbath and Pentagram and adds in some classic hard rock groups like Thin Lizzy and other groups of their ilk to fill out the gaps.  The result is a sound that would have fit in perfectly in the 1970's rock scene but yet is fresh and relevant even today.  It is not truly retro-sounding even though there really are no modern influences, but it definitely is not modern either.  It is kind of a conundrum.

The songs vary quite a bit from slower-paced doomy-sounding songs to faster-paced crunching rock songs. It is hard to classify this as a doom metal album.  That feeling and atmosphere is for the most part absent, but calling it a traditional metal/hard rock album is definitely accurate.  Not that that is really a problem, I just think the misclassification can throw people at times expecting a Sabbathian record.

I really enjoyed this album.  I find myself wanting to listen to stuff like this more and more lately.  It is melodic, yet still relatively heavy.  The vocals sound amazing, and the songs are powerful and yet catchy enough to induce singing along.  It is a terrific album and the band definitely sounds like they had a lot of fun creating it.  I definitely have a lot of fun listening to it.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 7

ARTIST:  Various
ORIGIN:  Various
TITLE:  Nativity in Black: A Tribute to Black Sabbath
LABEL:  Sony Records
YEAR:  1994
GENRE:  Heavy Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  White Zombie: "Children of the Grave"
NOTES:  I bought this at the same time as the Megadeth album of the last post.  This was my first various artists compilation and tribute album.  Featuring a variety of popular metal artists of the time such as Megadeth, White Zombie, Corrosion of Conformity, Sepultura, Faith No More, and Type O Negative, all covering classic Black Sabbath songs.  This was also my first experience with Black Sabbath material.

Monday, November 12, 2012

FMA Reviews: The Sorrow: Misery-Escape

Originally reviewed here.
Maybe it's time to actually look into some of the bands that I am asked to review before agreeing to it. I had no idea that there still were bands like this. I might have really liked this seven years ago or so back when I liked Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, and the like. If you have not figured it out yet, this is metalcore tinged with melodeath. Most metalcore bands by now have changed their sound somewhat, but this is definitely early 2000's metalcore sound.

The Sorrow has been around since about 2005, so they should have missed out on the scene that would have most welcomed them. But they are from Austria so maybe they were just a little bit behind and metalcore was just getting to that country. So yeah in addition to being a metalcore band, they also sound stale. That is not helping.

All of the metalcore cliches are present here. Chugging riffs, frequent breakdowns, good cop/bad cop vocals. Add in Christian-tinged lyrics and swooped haircuts and we have an extremely stereotypical metalcore band. Some of the songs are a little catchy but this is nothing that has not been done thousands of times before.

This one was very difficult to make it through. I might have liked this several years ago, but now it does absolutely nothing for me.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 6

ARTIST:  Megadeth
ORIGIN:  Los Angeles, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Youthanasia
LABEL:  Capitol Records
YEAR:  1994
GENRE:  Thrash/Heavy Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Train of Consequences"
NOTES:  My first metal album by a band that was not Metallica was of course Megadeth.  I picked this one up with some Christmas money along with one other album shortly before going to Indiana on a family vacation to see my grandparents.  At this point my parents were starting to get concerned about my burgeoning love of heavy metal.  I had been exposed to Megadeth before by my older brother, and saw the video for "Train of Consequences".  That was the driving force behind me getting this one.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 5

ARTIST:  Metallica
ORIGIN:  San Francisco, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Kill 'Em All
LABEL:  Elektra
YEAR:  1983
GENRE:  Thrash Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "The Four Horsemen"
NOTES:  Metallica's debut was the last of their albums I picked up, that they had released to that point in time.  It is another one I find myself going back to time and time again.  The raw energy on this album is unmatched by anything else Metallica has ever done.  Dave Mustaine wrote most of the most riffs on this album and it would have been interesting to hear Metallica with Mustaine on lead guitar.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 4

ARTIST:  Metallica
ORIGIN:  San Francisco, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Master of Puppets
LABEL:  Elektra
YEAR:  1986
GENRE:  Thrash Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)"
NOTES:  When I was younger, my parents used to make me go to church.  One of the advantages was that every summer there would be a work camp trip.  On my first trip to Chicago, I picked up this album.  This is one of my favorite Metallica albums and is easily one of their most complete.  Every song on this album is great and it is one of the albums I have listened to the most.  It is also widely considered the greatest metal album of all time.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Initial Impressions: Weapon: Embers and Revelations

Weapon has been getting a lot of hype for this album and a little bit of negative publicity for trademarking the name "Weapon" forcing other bands called Weapon to change their names.  Bad publicity aside, I decided to take a flyer on the band due to the hype for the album.  Plus, they are from Canada and Canada is awesome.

Taking influence from a variety of deep underground black and death metal bands and twisting those influences into a darker, filthier sound, Weapon has definitely crafted their own unique sound on this release.  Weapon blurs the line between black and death metal so convincingly that it is hard to discern whether the band is a blackened death metal band or a black metal band with death metal leanings.  The line is ever-shifting throughout this album.  All that is unimportant however in light of how good this release actually is.

This album features an incredibly dark atmosphere.  That mixed with the impressive riffwork and pulsing drumming combine to create one hell of a sound, pun not intended but definitely a happy accident.  It is a very occultish sound, the kind of music you would expect to be played at a Satanic mass, if you attend such things.  I don't.

This is definitely an impressive release.  I remember the band having some hype surrounding their previous album but for some reason did not act.  I am glad I decided to check them out this time around.  

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 3

ARTIST:  Metallica
ORIGIN:  San Francisco, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Metallica
LABEL:  Elektra
YEAR:  1991
GENRE:  Thrash/Heavy Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Holier than Thou"
NOTES:  I do not really remember when I got this one or how.  Obviously it was a matter of time until I did.  Metallica was huge at the time that I was getting into metal, so of course I got The Black Album.  Oddly though it never really grabbed me like their earlier stuff.  I liked it, I just did not love it.  Nevertheless, there are some great songs here.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Initial Impressions: Cattle Decapitation: Monolith of Inhumanity

Ultra gory death metal with grotesque lyrics and artwork has been a little lacking in recent years.  Oh sure there is always Cannibal Corpse, but nothing they do really comes off as shocking anymore.  However, Cattle Decapitation has been steadily filling that niche.  It is a little bit of a juvenile niche, but it is a niche all the same.

I am a little late in checking out Cattle Decapitation.  Mostly the reason for that is my disagreement with their politics when I actually cared about such a thing in a band.  Cattle Decapitation, until recently, was made up of all vegans and PETA activists.  There has been a little bit of band turnover and this is no longer entirely the case.  A few years ago that kind of pissed me off about them.  Now, I don't really give a fuck.

I chose to check them out this time around based on the hype that this album has been receiving and based on hearing "Forced Gender Reassignment", a particularly filthy slab of deathgrind.  Cattle Decapitation definitely bring the pain on this, their fifth full-length album.  The band is absolutely relentless, pounding the listener into submission with rampaging riffs and blasting drums, and some of the most brutal vocals I have ever heard.

The band does not just pound away pointlessly though.  There are melodies and some impressive guitar solos here and there.  While not technical or progressive, they add something more to the otherwise brutal proceedings.  The vocals are delivered in a variety of styles from deep guttural roars, to harsh screams, to some interesting dynamic screaming that is almost melodic.  The band does occasionally slow things down to incorporate some more melodies as well.

I may have been late in checking out Cattle Decapitation, but they have definitely left an impression.  This is a hell of an album.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 2

ARTIST:  Metallica
ORIGIN:  San Francisco, CA (United States)
TITLE:  ...And Justice for All
LABEL:  Elektra
YEAR:  1988
GENRE:  Thrash Metal
NOTES:  My second metal album.  I remember buying this at Target and having to return it once because there was a problem with the tape.  I lost the album insert a long time ago.  This is the album that put Metallica on the map from a mainstream sense due to the massive success of the epic video for "One", which is still one of my favorite music videos.  It would have been even better if you could hear the damn bass.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 1

ARTIST: Metallica
ORIGIN: San Francisco, CA (United States)
TITLE: Ride the Lightning
LABEL: Elektra
YEAR: 1984
GENRE: Thrash Metal
FAVORITE SONG: "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
NOTES: This is the first metal album I ever owned.  My grandmother bought it for me for my birthday when I was 13 years old.  I remember that I convinced her that Metallica did not use bad language, which was important to her.  So I lied.  This is still my favorite album of all time, partly due to the fact that it was my first.  I still have the cassette that I got way back then and it still plays well.  I also bought the reissue on vinyl a couple of years ago.

Initial Impressions: Voivod: Infini

Wrapping things up for my recent Voivod pickups is the band's latest album, which was released in 2009.  This was rumored to be the final Voivod album.  It was the second release after the death of longtime guitarist and founding member Denis "Piggy" D'Amour.  The album, like its predecessor, uses original recordings that Piggy recorded prior to his death from cancer.  It is something of an innovative idea and allowed Voivod to live on for a couple of albums.

It was recently announced that Voivod has a new album coming early in 2013 with a new guitarist.  This is the last recording Piggy will likely appear on but the band has found a way to keep going.

Well enough of that, how is the album?

It is certainly a catchy album.  Many of the songs stick after listening to it.  Like the prior album, it feels very stripped down, but this makes sense given the cut-and-paste nature of the recording.  It is impressive that the band was able to make this work.  The songs are all simple and straightforward without any of the progressive noodling that Voivod has used in the past.  Again, given the nature of the recording none of this is at all surprising.

Like the rest of Voivod's recent material, this is a grower.  I did not care for it much the first time I heard it, but it has grown on me.  Perhaps their self-titled will as well with time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Initial Impressions: Voivod: Voivod

Continuing on with my recent Voivod kick, comes this album.  This is Voivod's tenth full-length album and their first one with former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted.

This is a very stripped-down album.  Most of the spacey riffs and sci-fi weirdness that typically accompany Voivod albums has been taken away.  What is left is still obviously Voivod, and I think that most people familiar enough with the band would be able to identify it as such.  But it is missing a lot of what made the band interesting in the first place.

This was a highly anticipated release at the time.  It was the first album with Snake back in vocals and there was a sense of excitement with Newsted coming aboard.  And there are definitely some good moments on this release.  All of the songs have a hard-driving feel to them and many of the riffs are very impressive.  Piggy has always been a terrific riff-writer and that ability shines through on this release.  The songs are definitely catchy.

The problems are as mentioned earlier, that there is a dearth of what made Voivod truly special on this release.  The riffs still have the typical Voivod feel but the band feels like a shell of its former self.  It feels more like a band trying to be Voivod than Voivod itself.

This is by no means a bad album, but it does not hold a candle to Voivod's first five albums.

Monday, November 5, 2012

FMA Reviews: Tiamat: The Scarred People

Originally reviewed here.
It was with great trepidation that I started listening to this album. My experiences with Tiamat have been inconsistent to put it lightly. I absolutely loved The Astral Sleep. It was a terrific album of atmospheric death metal and sounded quite unlike anything else I had heard to that point. I became aware that the band altered their sound drastically but checked out A Deeper Kind of Slumber anyway. That one bored me into a coma. So this is only the third full-length album that I have listened to by Tiamat. I guess we will see where this comes in.

Well this is gothic rock. There is the occasional metal influence but for the most part there is little to no aggression present in these songs. At the same time it is not as ethereal and dream-like as Slumber. The songs are slower paced with a lot of melody. There are guitar leads weaving around the mostly keyboard-driven melancholic music. The vocals are typically delivered in a dry, soothing baritone sounding similar to the vocals of Moonspell's Fernando Ribeiro.

If you are looking for atmospheric death metal, do not look here. This sounds like a completely different band than the one that recorded Astral Sleep. There are some metal influences present such as the driving force of the opening track and "Love Terrorists", but even those moments are fleeting. For the most part this is fairly straightforward gothic rock. The songs do grow old after awhile and I had a hard time retaining interest in it.

This is a perfectly acceptable release if you like this sort of thing. I however do not. There is a little bit more musically going on than on Slumber but I still will likely not listen to this very often, if at all.

Friday, November 2, 2012

FMA Reviews: Havok: Point of No Return

Originally reviewed here.
Havok is yet another retro-thrash metal band. They are often overlooked in the mountain of similar bands that have popped up over the years, but that is a little unfair. Havok has a way of showing off their influences but still making music that sounds fresh and vital. Unlike a lot of the retro thrash metal groups, Havok has not picked one particular style of thrash to try to emulate. Influences from the Bay Area, East Coast, Germany, South America, and the almighty Slayer can all be heard. As such, they are one of the more interesting retro thrash metal bands and one that I try to check out whenever they release something new.

Coming off a well-received full-length, Havok offers this short EP as a holdover until they can get a new full-length onto shelves. The EP features two original songs and two covers. The originals do a fantastic job of showcasing what Havok is all about. The opening title track is fast and furious with a throbbing bass line propelling the song forward. It has an almost Overkill-esque quality with its menacing sneer and use of gang vocals. "Cradle to the Grave" features the kind of frenetic energy that Anthrax was well-known for along with more use of gang vocals.

The final two tracks are covers of major influences on the band, Sepultura and Slayer. Both songs have been covered frequently so there may be some temptation to write them off and skip them. Havok does a nice job with them though. They capture the anger of "Arise" by Sepultura almost perfectly. The complaint that I have about "Postmortem/Raining Blood" is that it is kind of silly to combine them into one track. "Raining Blood" has always been a standalone classic in the genre. To combine it into one track with "Postmortem" is kind of a slap in the face.

Overall this is hardly a necessary release. It is a nice showcase of an impressive band, but an EP is almost never a can't-miss release. This is the case here as well.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Initial Impressions: Voivod: Katorz

I have been on a bit of a Voivod kick again lately which lead to the purchase of three of their newer albums. This was probably stirred by news of the band's upcoming album, but I do not really know for sure.

Katorz is Voivod's eleventh full-length album and was released in 2006.  To say that the band had changed somewhat since their heyday in the 1980's to this album is a bit of an understatement.  I was previously mostly familiar with the band's first five albums, although I had heard the sci-fi progressiveness of Negatron as well.  This was really one of my first forays into their later material and what I heard was kind of surprising to me.  I did not expect the same sound that the band perfected in their earlier material, but this was quite a bit different than I expected.

There is definitely still a weird science fiction vibe carrying through most of the material on this album.  The riffs in particular sound almost mechanical, which is something that Voivod had been doing for years.  For the most part though this a much more stripped-down version of Voivod.  Gone are most of the progressive metal meanderings and in their place are some just straightforward rock/metal/punk songs.  The riffs are heavy and feature a lot of groove and the vocals have a dirty rock sound to them.

This is kind of a grower, but I found myself enjoying it more and more with each listen.  The first song definitely captures attention early on and the rest of the songs really do nothing to lose it.  Do not go into this expecting Nothingface or Dimension Hatross and this will be an enjoyable album.