Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ghost B.C.: Infestissuman (2013)

I had this album going on a continuous loop on Halloween.  It was not the greatest day in the world.  I worked and then went back to the old house to finish cleaning it up so we could turn the keys over to the landlord.  After that was finally finished we went to the new house and watched Event Horizon.

But at least it felt a little like Halloween to have this album playing while I was working or driving in the car.  This album has a pretty good Halloween vibe to it, it is kind of spooky in a somewhat campy way.  Ghost followed up on their highly-acclaimed debut full-length with an album that builds on their sound that captivated so many on their previous release.  It is a strange and varied album that was not immediately rewarding, but it grew on me so much with repeated listens that it could make my Top Ten for the year.

When Ghost (as they were known then) released their debut many were comparing them to a mix between Blue Oyster Cult and Mercyful Fate.  I have no idea where the Mercyful Fate comparisons came from, honestly, other than the dark and ominous sound.  Blue Oyster Cult is a much better comparison due to their often eclectic sound.  On any given album you had no idea what the next song would sound like.  That is much the case here where the band can go from straight-forward 70's rock to the bizarrely campy "Guleh/Zombie Queen" which would not sound out of place played after "The Monster Mash".

I said earlier that this album was somewhat disappointing the first time I heard it.  Maybe it's because I was looking for more of the same as their first album.  But it was a grower and it formed the perfect soundtrack to Halloween this year for me.  It is clear we are never going to know what to expect from Ghost.  And that's kind of a good thing.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

I know I have not been around much.  I bought a house and am putting the finishing touches on moving out of the old house.  Things have been busy.  My hope is that I will be able to return to posting by early next week.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Little Update

Right now I am working on buying a house which has greatly decreased the amount of time I have had to devote to listening to music.  Unfortunately packing has also taken a lot of time away as well.  I have been able to do a little bit occasionally.  I know I have a lot of stuff to catch up on.  It's become a bit daunting.  But I will catch up at some point.  Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

FMA Reviews: Azure Emote: The Gravity of Impermanence

Originally reviewed here.
What a weird album. I am not even really sure how to classify this band. I suppose the best way would be to compare them to a group like Hollenthon, Septicflesh, Sigh, or the oddball projects of Dan Swanö. In other words, they seem to have influences from a wide variety of metal styles, such as black, death, and industrial. Never has the term avant-garde been more fitting than when listening to this album from Azure Emote.

This is Azure Emote's second album and it has gained them a fair amount of interest. I have been in a little bit of a metal black hole in the last few months due to an extremely busy work schedule and even I have heard some hype about this release. Azure Emote is the new band of former Monstrosity frontman Mike Hrubovcak. But it definitely does not follow in the footsteps of Monstrosity. Monstrosity was a fairly paint-by-numbers death metal band. As previously stated, this is anything but formulaic. The songs do not follow any traditional song structure and the music is widely varied, crushing and intense one minute, slow and dissonant the next, and allows with a number of sonic surprises.

Azure Emote is at their best when they are pushing the boundaries of extreme metal. Utilizing synthesizers, strings, saxophones, and all kinds of other weird and eclectic instrumentation (harmonica, really?), Azure Emote never settle on anything that can be considered traditional metal structure and instrumentation. These moments are frequent and lend a schizophrenic feel to the overall listening experience. There are still obvious metal riffs, but those seem somewhat lackluster when not accompanied by some off-the-wall instrument or sample.

The only real complaint I have about this album is that the band sometimes does too much. There is a lack of cohesion to a lot of the moments and the whole thing feels like a collection of disparate parts rather than one impressive whole. It can be a little off-putting at times.

Azure Emote is certainly unpredictable and have a lot of talent, but at times they just appear to be weird for weirdness's sake. That can be problematic and often prevents any real connection with the listener.

FMA Reviews: Lord: Digital Lies

Originally reviewed here.
First things first, the awful title. This is the kind of title you would have expected in the 1990's when that newfangled internet showed up, but now it just seems outdated. That, added to the cover that looks like something out of a cheap SyFy channel movie is not really the best way to make a first impression.

I will admit I was a little surprised by the sound. I probably shouldn't be anymore, but I was a little surprised by the upbeat power metal. I was expecting something darker. But this is not the "flower" metal style made popular by bands like Sonata Arctica, Rhapsody, or anyone like that. This is the more extreme form of power metal which found its roots in groups like Jag Panzer in the United States. Lord is the new band of Lord Tim (pretty sure that's a Monty Python reference), who previously headed Dungeon in Australia. I was never really familiar with Dungeon other than hearing the name occasionally, but they had a decent track record.

Lord's sound is typical of modern power metal bands. There are some aggressive riffs and some very impressive vocals. The band focuses on crafting memorable songs with catchy choruses and hooks. It is not something unusual for this genre but it has become increasingly unusual in other metal genres. What results is a fun, high-paced and energetic album that actually sticks in the memory. This reminds me a lot of Dream Evil, the sound is very similar, light-hearted power metal with strong vocals that does not descend into the dreaded "flower" metal sound.

For the most part, the songs are pretty well-written and stay away from the standard "swords and sorcery" lyrical themes that a lot of power metal bands gravitate towards. There are still some cheesy moments, the song "2D Person in a 3D World" is really awful. The gang vocals and ridiculous lyrics certainly do not help. But that is the one bad song in the bunch. The rest are solid songs without any real high highs but no low lows either.

This is a pretty solid release. It does not really do anything we have not heard before in power metal but it does not descend to the cheesiness that so much of the genre does.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Rotting Christ: Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού (2013)

I really have no idea what I managed to cut and paste up there.  I am not even sure what language it is, but due to the fact that Rotting Christ is from Greece, I can take a wild stab in the dark.  I could look it up, but it's late as I am writing this and I just finished mowing the lawn.  My motivation to do anything is pretty low.  Someday I will, but not today.

Rotting Christ has been one of my favorite bands since I discovered them on Theogonia back in 2007.  This is the second full-length they have released since then and I have also picked up almost all of their past albums.  They have yet to disappoint me.

This one is a little different though.  There is not a lot sonically different from Rotting Christ's last couple of albums.  It is still the same gothic/black metal with symphonic elements.  But the songs feel less complete.  The best way I can think of to describe the music on this album is that it sounds as if it is the soundtrack to a Greek mythology-based movie.  Think Clash of the Titans or something of that ilk.  The hooks are not as present.  None of the songs really sink in like they have on past albums and they all sort of run together.

None of this is to suggest that this is a bad album.  It just is not quite what I was hoping for.  The music still has the same sinister quality that has been such an impressive element in the band's sound for so long.  Sakis Tolis's vocals still sound amazing after so many years.  If anything, this album makes some terrific background music.  It just does not rise to the same level as past releases.    

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

FMA Reviews: Power Trip: Manifest Decimation (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
If there is one style of metal that has kind of passed me by to my regret, it is crossover. I just do not have a lot of experience listening to the subgenre. But that is slowly starting to change. It all started a few months ago when I was listening to my Skullcrushers compilation, which has tracks from Exodus, Megadeth, Celtic Frost, Voivod and more, when all of a sudden this track came up that I had heard a million times before, but it just stuck with me. That song was from Nuclear Assault and it was called "Critical Mass". Corrosion of Conformity's "Loss for Words" and Prong's "Beg to Differ" also appeared in the compilation and grabbed my attention. All of a sudden, crossover clicked for me.

Obviously I would not be telling this long-ass, boring story if there were not some connection to this review. Some day I will tell a boring long story that has absolutely no relevance to the review just to keep readers on their toes.  But that will not be this day.

Anyway, Power Trip is a crossover band whose sound shows a very strong Nuclear Assault influence. It is an incredibly harsh and chaotic sound. It is aggressive, biting, and angry. And most of all, it gets the blood pumping. This is terrific music to listen to while working out because of its speed and intensity. It is just a vicious album all the way through. A lot of people may think of Suicidal Tendencies or other bands who use a lot of humor and light-hearted party attitudes toward music. This is definitely not in the same ballpark. This is angry, much more like Nuclear Assault.

For some reason this came from Southern Lord, which is very surprising. That label is well-know for doom, black, and sludge, so this album really stands out.

The only complaint that I have about this one is that it flies by so fast and once it is done, it is hard to think of any real highlights, other than the crushing "Crossbreaker". But it is a hell of a ride.

VladPromotion Quick Reviews Pt. 1

I have a ton of Reader Submissions to slog my way through.  So in an effort to catch up, I am going to do some of these together in kind of a quick hits sort of way.

BETRAYER F.T.M.:  No Life Till Fury (2010)
I have no idea what "F.T.M." means.  Fuck the Mormons?  Full Throttle Mongooses (Mongeese?)?  Forging the Mississippi?  No idea.  But it does not really matter.  Betrayer F.T.M. are a thrash metal band with some punk influences shining in.  It is more of a retro sound.  Think early Exodus, Suicidal Tendencies, etc.  The vocals are a little too high in the mix and threaten to take too much focus away from the music.  Musically, this is pretty decent.  If you are a fan of early party-thrash-type stuff, this is definitely for you.  It is a fast and intense record that I found myself tapping my foot to quite a bit.  Tough to bang my head when I am at my workdesk.  I love the cover art too.

D.A.M.:  Human Wreckage (1989) and Inside Out (1991)

England actually had a decent thrash metal scene in the late 1980's/early 1990's.  It is mostly overlooked these days and Sabbat is probably the best-known band from that scene.  D.A.M. also produced a couple of albums in this time period.  D.A.M. was mostly forgotten, even on their own label due to the presence of standouts Coroner, Helloween, Voivod, Celtic Frost, and others.  So it is not shocking that few people remember them.  These two albums are another example of the oversaturation of re-releases into the metal market.  Not every single metal album really deserves to be dug up and resurrected.  These albums are okay in their own right, but they are certainly not exceptional.  These are not exactly lost gems.  They are fine, but there are a lot of other bands with a similar sound out there.

Demise Awaits: 2009 EP (2009)
Demise Awaits is a newer group without a lot of recorded material to their name yet.  This is their first EP and they also have a demo out.  The Pennsylvania band plays a 1980's-sounding hybrid of thrash and heavy, American power metal.  They have a very raw and primal sound, helped out significantly by the lower quality of the production.  What results is something similar to the early Metallica recordings prior to Kill 'Em All.  I am not going to come out and say this is the next Metallica or anything like that, but they have a decent sound.  It's not one we have not heard over and over though.  A good effort.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Enforcer: Death By Fire (2013)

I was pretty excited for this one.  I loved Enforcer's 2010 album Diamonds.  The band struck the right chord with their take on NWOBHM crossed with speed metal.  Not only that, their songs were catchy as hell.  The album was a ton of fun, and even my wife liked the album quite a bit, which is pretty damn rare.

The first time I heard this one though I was slightly disappointed.  All of the elements from the previous album were present, but there was no track like "Running in Menace", which was the standout song to me on this one.  That is not to say that the songs were not good, there just was not that one track that made the entire album.  However, with repeated listens, the album grew on me.  I still do not think that I like it quite as well as Enforcer's last album, but it is no longer a disappointment.

The sound on this album is a little bit different.  The NWOBHM sound is still very much present, but instead of focusing on the poppier groups as they did on the last album, this time around they went for a heavier Diamond Head-meets-Blitzkrieg sound.  "Satan" even sounds like Metallica pre-Kill 'Em All.

The elements that made Enforcer's last album are still there.  The band combines an impressive melodic sensibility with some biting riffs and impressive vocal work.  The songs are catchy, though not as much as on their previous album.  I do not think this album will gain the band new fans, it is not quite as good as Diamonds after all, but it is a reasonably impressive follow-up.

Monday, July 29, 2013

FMA Reviews: Toxic Holocaust: From the Ashes of Nuclear Destruction (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
Hmmm. I am not quite sure why I am reviewing this. I did not realize it at first until listening to it for the first time that this is a compilation rather than a full-length release. I realized it finally when I kept thinking to myself "I know I have heard this song before". I guess it helps to pay attention occasionally.

Anyway, I am a big fan of Toxic Holocaust so even though this is a compilation, I enjoyed listening to it. This is a collection of tracks off of EPs and splits that the band has done over the years. Toxic Holocaust has a lot of music out there and this puts together some of the rarer tracks for easier consumption. That is what a good compilation does after all.

Toxic Holocaust is never going to break down any barriers to new musical ideas not previously heard. Joel Grind is perfectly content to play music bearing sonic similarity to the early days of blackened thrash, paying homage to groups like Sodom, Hellhammer, Venom, and Bathory in their earliest incarnations. Back when playing ability took a backseat to playing raw and vile metal infused with punk. That too is what Toxic Holocaust does.

This is raw thrash metal without a care in the world. The band, mostly Joel Grind, is not the most musically-talented group in the world but it always sounds like they have an absolute blast ripping through short, sharp shards of metal. This is not for people who want their music to really say something. It just rocks, plain and simple.

I am not going to pretend that everyone should check this out. This is a compilation and is really just there for the completists and huge Toxic Holocaust fans

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Coming Back Very Soon...

I had a busy few months but it looks like I am finally coming out of it.  I had a trial today and one two weeks ago.  So things have lightened a little.  I will be getting back into the swing of things next week, of course I will be on vacation soon after that.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

FMA Reviews: Lair of the Minotaur: Godslayer (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
I have been a big fan of Lair of the Minotaur since I first heard their War Metal Battle Master album. Since then I have been able to track down most of their releases. LotM have not released a new full-length since 2010. I suspect this short EP was released to keep the fans happy while continuing to wait for the new release. This EP was released as part of this year's Record Store Day, an event which I have unfortunately never been able to attend as I do not live within two hours of any independent record store.

This is a very short EP, featuring only two songs and clocking in at less than nine minutes but it exhibits all of the best characteristics of LotM. The riffs are fast with a lot of bottom end and the sound bears no small resemblance to a runaway train. It just steamrolls the listener into submission, but that is all part of the fun.

Of course they slow things down a tad at points with some ridiculously heavy riffing and the frantic howls of Steven Rathbone.

All in all this is exactly what I expect from a Lair of the Minotaur release and I am definitely looking forward to more.

Quick Update

Yes I am still alive and yes I fully intend to get back to writing soon.  It's been pretty busy lately.  Summers usually are for some reason.  Next month I fully expect to have at least two jury trials.  Hopefully after that there will be a little bit of a respite.

I know there are a ton of albums that have been sent to me that I need to get to.  I assure you, I will at some point soon.  I have not forgotten.  I just have not had the time.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Suffocation: Pinnacle of Bedlam

Suffocation has never put out a bad album.  That is impressive.  Since rising out of the early 1990's New York death metal scene, Suffocation has been one of the most influential metal bands in the world.  Think of all of the genres we would not have without Suffocation.  We would not have brutal death metal, slam death metal, technical death metal, or deathcore.  It does not matter what you may or may not think of those genres, Suffocation is the band to which all bands in those genres strive to be.

Despite the band's long history, this is just their seventh full-length album.  This is due to a long hiatus from 1998 through 2004.  This is the band's first full-length without pioneering drummer Mike Smith who left the band in 2012.  Dave Culcross had been with the band briefly in the late 1990's so he was no stranger to the large shoes he had to fill.  Smith revolutionized death metal drumming and is largely responsible for the blastbeat style of drumming.

Well enough introductions, it's time for a new Suffocation album.  I was slightly disappointed with Blood Oath, which is not a big deal, since it was still a damn good album.  And I was a little concerned with how this album would go without Smith for the first time.  But it turned out to be business as usual in the Suffocation camp.  This album still absolutely crushes everything in sight.

All of the necessary elements for a Suffocation album are here: blastbeat-driven drums, heavier-than-fuck riffs, and the ferocious bark of frontman Frank Mullen.  Suffocation have once again proven that none of their imitators can ever hold a candle to the masters.  Suffocation is still one of the heaviest bands in the world and do not look like they will be giving up that title anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

It is Going to be a Busy Month

I want to get back to a normal posting schedule, but this month is going to be a killer.  I am currently scheduled for five trials, three of which are jury trials.  So I am going to try, but I am not going to make any promises.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

FMA Reviews: De Profundis: The Emptiness Within

Originally reviewed here.
De Profundis is a melodeath band, despite the materials listing them as a black/doom metal hybrid. But do not let that word influence your decision about whether to check them out. Because that term has become diluted over the years the same way that the music has. Melodeath has come to be thought of as just recent In Flames, Soilwork, Dark Tranquillity, and the like, but it used to be something different. Something more aggressive and powerful. And that is what De Profundis is.

My personal favorite era of melodeath was the early years. Think Lunar Strain-era In Flames, Skydancer-era Dark Tranquillity, and the like. Back when melodeath bands were just more melodic death metal bands. De Profundis has that kind of sound. Yes there are elements of black metal and doom metal present, but the basis of this album is in the tremolo riff-driven style of the early wave of melodic death metal.

De Profundis uses much more progressive song structures. There are a lot of parts to the songs that flow together surprisingly well. That is often a problem with more progressive styles of metal. Sometimes the musicians focus too much on being unusual and forget to write coherent songs. That is never a problem with this release. The progressiveness only serves to make things more interesting and entertaining.

I find myself extremely impressed with the instrumentation, particularly the guitar and bass work. And when was the last time a bass was that impressive in a metal album? That is how good it is. It almost brings to mind the type of bass-playing that would be featured in funk. This is probably something that might alienate fans of black metal, but I think it sounds amazing.

Overall this is a very strong album. It sounds very much like the early bands in the melodic death metal era, which is an era that I really enjoyed.

Womb/Hellcharge: This Knot...

I was recently sent this review request from HellDProd, or something like that, I am not really sure.  This small label has been sending me some really underground recordings for a little while now.  This is really raw stuff, stuff that most people have probably never heard of, but it is always fun to discover some deep underground material.

This is a split of a couple of black metal bands from Portugal.  It was released on Valentine's Day this year, making someone a very nice Valentine's Day present, I am sure.  I assume that this split is available only on cassette.

Womb is up first and they have a very punkish sound to their black metal, bearing more similarity to the early days of Venom, Sarcofago, and Sodom than to anything released under the black metal genre today.  It is all nasty and raw.  Utterly filthy stuff.  The songs are all very short and typically only feature one riff.  The Womb side consists of four tracks and less than eight minutes of music.  Short and not very sweet.

Next up is Hellcharge.  As low as the production values on the Womb side were, this is even lower.  The guitar can barely be heard and the vocals are even murkier.  The drums are about the only thing that can be heard that well at all.  That is a shame because I think Hellcharge's songs are a little more interesting.  I just wish I could actually hear them.  Hellcharge also has a big punk feel to the riffs and vocals.

Not a bad split.  Definitely geared more towards the ultra lo-fi black metal fans who like a hearty helping of punk in their sound.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Helloween: Straight Out of Hell (2013)

Helloween has been doing the same thing for thirty years now.  They are one of the pioneering bands in the power metal genre.  This is their 16th full-length album, an impressive pace for a band.  Helloween has not always put out quality releases though.  They have been a bit inconsistent over the years, but since 2007's surprisingly great Gambling With the Devil, they have been on a run of great albums that has been unmatched by the band since their first three albums.

This album proves that Helloween still has it.  The album is fast, which has always been Helloween's strongest point, they did start out as a speed metal band after all.  It features the consistently good, siren-like vocals of Andi Deris, who has been the singer since 1994 when Michael Kiske left the band.  Deris has been one of the best singers Helloween has ever had.  And of course there are a ton of catchy songs on this thing.

There really is not a lot to say about this release.  Longtime fans of Helloween will definitely appreciate it.  People who do not like the band or speed/power metal likely will not find anything to change their mind.  Helloween has continued on a recent hot streak as this album stands up well with other albums the band has released lately.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

FMA Reviews: Be'lakor: Of Breath and Bone (2012)

Originally reviewed here.
Apparently "Be'lakor" is the name of a demon in the Warhammer series. I will admit to not knowing a damn thing about Warhammer, or any other table top/RPG game for that matter. I could not tell you the difference between Warhammer and Dungeons & Dragons. It is just not something I have ever known about. What I do know is heavy metal. And I know what I like.

Be'lakor is a melodeath band in the vein of mid-era Dark Tranquillity. Oddly they are from Australia, which is kind of bizarre for a band of this style. I would have assumed Be'lakor hailed from Sweden or Finland or some other country in that area. Australia is not really known for its melodeath.

I will admit that I have listened to this album a number of times trying to figure out where I was going to go with this review. Unfortunately after listening to it that many times, I can honestly say that nothing really sticks in my mind about it. It is just kind of there. I do not think there is anything about it that is bad, it just exists.

As I have mentioned, Be'lakor is a Dark Tranquillity clone without the personality of Mikael Stanne. If I heard it without knowing what it was, I would think DT replaced Stanne on vocals. The vocals are the big complaint that I have. There is nothing really interesting or dramatic about them. And that is a shame because once in awhile the music is actually pretty decent, if a little bit stale.

The major thing this album did for me was to cause me to dig out my copy of The Gallery by Dark Tranquillity.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Satan's Host: Celebration - For the Love of Satan (2011)

As a general rule I do not typically check out re-recordings.  I usually prefer the original versions of songs and do not see any need to mess with it.  I made an exception with this release.  Of course this will be very rare.

As much as I liked the black/thrash metal period in Satan's Host's discography, I much prefer their blackened power metal style.  After Harry Conklin, aka Leviathan Thisiren, left the band, Satan's Host went for the black metal style.  I personally liked them quite a bit, particularly at the times in which Pat Evil was given free reign to simply shred on the guitar, but I can definitely see where some people would think they were not interesting enough to pay a lot of attention.

But their blackened power metal is different.  Because there are not a lot of bands out there playing in this style, Satan's Host stands out.  When Conklin came back, the band made waves in the metal underground.  Their debut album was an underrated classic.  Their most recent full-length was listed as my favorite album of 2011.  I was aware of this release but never really checked it out.  Until now.

I have to say that this release is incredible.  Satan's Host re-recorded some of their best songs from their black metal era, including the awesome songs "Dark Priest (Lord Ahriman)" and "Satanic Grimoire".  Musically the songs are virtually identical.  It is the vocals that have been changed.  Gone is the blackened rasp of L.C.F. Elixir, and in his place is the wail of Conklin.

I always enjoyed these songs with the prior singer, but they are given even more of a boost with Conklin.  I love it.  Looking forward to more blackened power metal from Satan's Host.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

FMA Reviews: Amnion/Balmog: Grim Repulse of the Southern Lodge (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
I really enjoy splits. They are an excellent way to discover new music from a couple of different bands in one place. I usually prefer them when there are more than one song from each band on the split, as is the case with this one. No matter though. Amnion and Balmog are two black metal bands from Spain. Spain has quietly developed a fairly impressive black metal scene.

Amnion is a bit of a mysterious band. I can not find much current information on the band. This song is very dark. It is particularly hateful styled black metal. Nothing pretty about it. The drums are a bit too high in the mix and there is nothing remarkable about the instrumentation or vocals. The riffing gets a little repetitive at times and the song kind of drags toward the end. This really is not anything terribly new.

Balmog is even darker and more sadistic-sounding. The production values are not quite as good though and the song sounds a little murky. The vocals are probably the most interesting part of the song. Oftentimes the vocals are just odd moaning and groaning while others they come close to forming words. There is a pretty decent guitar solo at the end though.

Overall these are interesting tracks but it is very hard to form any sort of real opinion on either band from them. It is just one track from each group after all.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Aura Noir: The Merciless (2004)

I checked out Aura Noir's latest album last year.  I loved that release and it made my Top Ten albums list for 2012.  So recently when I saw this album for cheap on I had to check it out.

Aura Noir is a blackened thrash metal band from Norway featuring Blasphemer, known mostly for his work with Mayhem, and a couple of other members who have played with a variety of Norwegian blackened-something metal bands, such as Immortal, Ved Buens Ende, Cadaver Inc., Nocturnal Breed, and many more.   I am a big fan of blackened thrash metal personally, so even though it has taken me a long time to get into Aura Noir, I am attempting to make up for lost time.

This is the band's third full-length album and came out after a hiatus that lasted several years.  It is a significantly more raw and primal sound than the relatively cleaner style in their latest album.  Which is saying something.  It is not as if Aura Noir are known for being clean anyway.

These songs have a little bit more of a punk vibe to them than their more recent material.  The music bears a strong resemblance to the early material of genre legends Sodom and Hellhammer.  It is raw and aggressive with absolutely no apologies.  The lyrics are a little ridiculous with song titles like "Black Metal Jaw" and "Condor", but that's not a problem.

I am definitely looking into more Aura Noir material in the future.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Once Again, an Apology

I really have been trying to get back to a regular posting schedule.  But thanks to a busy week with court last week and no let-up so far this week, my plans have once again changed.  Unfortunately work takes precedence because I have to eat.  So here we are.  Hopefully later this week I will be able to get some stuff up.

Friday, May 3, 2013

FMA Reviews: Mortillery: Origin of Extinction

Originally reviewed here.

A lot of ink has been spilled discussing the topic of women in heavy metal. I am not going to waste a bunch of time rehashing that mostly tired subject. Suffice to say that metal musicians are mostly male. The rare female member garners a lot of attention solely based on her gender, fair or not. What I will discuss briefly is the fact that even for metal, women are underrepresented in thrash. One very notable exception is Sabine Classen from the underrated German group Holy Moses. Classen is who I would classify the Queen of Thrash. Unfortunately she has not really opened the floodgates to many young bands with female lead singers and thrash remains mostly a man's game.

Mortillery is a very young band from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. As one can probably guess by the opening paragraph, their singer Cara McCutchen is a female. Their bassist Miranda Gladeau is also female. So Mortillery has two female band members. Certainly rare for a thrash metal band.

I have spent a lot of time listening to groups coming out of Canada recently. It seems that there is a major resurgence in 1980's styled heavy and thrash metal coming out of the Great White North. Mortillery is definitely no exception to this. Their style remains staunchly rooted in early Canadian metal masters Sacrifice, Exciter, Razor, and others. They even reference Voivod with "F.O.A.D.", an acronym the sci-fi thrashers coined in "Fuck Off and Die". Mortillery does not really bring anything new to the table to this style, but it is still good-time, beer-drinking thrash metal.

What Mortillery may lack in originality they make up for in musicianship and energy. The riffwork is razor-sharp and uptempo. The vocals lack the ferociousness of the aforementioned Classen yet she definitely has a snarl all her own. The songs are fast-paced, neck-breaking tracks that grab attention and hold onto it.

This is Mortillery's second full-length album. It captured my attention. I will be looking for them in the future. Perhaps in time McCutchen and Gladeau will be ready to take over the throne as Queens of Thrash.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman

As a longtime Slayer fan this one stings a little.  He was just 49 years old.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Holy Grail: Ride the Void

Hmmm.  I remember really enjoying Holy Grail's last album.  But upon hearing this one, I can not really remember much about it.  Easily fixed of course, I just need to go back and listen to it.  This one though does not really do all that much for me and I think I know why.

I actually liked a lot of metalcore bands back when that trend had really gotten going.  I liked Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, and other bands from that scene.  I even kind of liked Avenged Sevenfold at one point.  Here me out.  I had not really gotten into black and death metal yet and my knowledge of metal was mostly mainstream.  I don't make any excuses about that.  Nu metal and metalcore were big and I had not delved terribly deeply into the underground.  I had only a burned copy of Avenged Sevenfold's Waking the Fallen and I kind of liked it.  Some time later I heard City of Evil for the first time and I hated that one and that did it for me with Avenged Sevenfold.  I have never looked back at them.

Now why did I spend an entire paragraph talking about Avenged Sevenfold?  Because Holy Grail singer James Paul Luna sounds an awful lot like Zacky Vengeance on this album, and in particular the second song.  It is so close that it absolutely ruined the first time I heard this album.  It's bad.  I have listened to this album several times now and that is always the first thing I think.  "This reminds me of Avenged Sevenfold" is not the best thought when listening to an album.

Musically of course there is almost no similarity.  Holy Grail is a traditional heavy metal band with speed metal riffs and melodies.  The music is actually quite good.  But man, those vocals really threaten to ruin it all.

I hope some day to be able to block that similarity out of my mind, but so far it keeps coming back.  It makes it real damn hard to listen to.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lightning Swords of Death: Baphometic Chaosivm

Lightning Swords of Death is one of those ridiculous names like Lair of the Minotaur that makes it hard to take the music seriously.  Not in a "this is terrible" sort of way, more in a cheesy, ironic sort of way.  It is just such a bizarre name, how could you look at it any other way?  And after their first album I still thought that the band name was more of a joke.  Then this one came out.

The first thing that needs to be discussed is the stylistic change.  Lightning Swords of Death definitely had some black metal influences shining (darkening?) through, but thrash and death metal seemed to be the foundation on which the band built their sound.  This album though is almost entirely black metal.  I am not quite sure how to feel about that in this case.  I enjoyed the last album, but I always like black metal as well.  This album bears very little sonic resemblance to their last one.  This album sounds more like something one would expect from melodic black metal acts like Naglfar or Nifelheim.

LSoD went for more of an occult, mystical vibe with this release.  The atmospheric riffs, vocals that sound like they were recorded in the pits of hell, occasional chanting sections, and swirling melodies add to the mysticism.  But there is still something of a lighter sense of fun going on at the same time.  It is strange.  Black metal is not typically known for having a sense of humor about itself, but there is something about this album that tells me that it is not entirely meant to be taken seriously.  I missed it the first few times but as I listened more and more it became more evident.

This album has been a grower for me.  I was initially turned off by the perception that LSoD had gone completely serious.  I no longer think that is the case.  The music is much more rooted in black metal than their previous work, but it is still well-done.  This is not terribly original, but there is an energy that is surprisingly infectious.  This has grown on me.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

An Apology

Things have been extremely busy with work the last several weeks.  I hope to get back to a regular posting schedule next week some time.  Much of the issue has been the fact that up here we had two judges retire last Fall.  This has caused things to get backlogged which is only now starting to unclog.

I have a lot of reader submissions that have built up and a lot of new stuff to review from the last few months.  Hopefully I can start getting to that soon.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

FMA Reviews: Striker: Armed to the Teeth

Originally reviewed here.
I took one look at that cover art and knew that I absolutely had to check this one out. It is an animated skeleton of a carnivorous dinosaur, can not tell which one, possibly a tyrannosaurus. But the skeleton is equipped with two machine guns on its arms and a mini gun on its back. It is seriously awesome.

So the album art definitely grabs attention, but the music really keeps it. An album is disappointing if the music does not live up to the artwork on the cover. Luckily Striker is not a disappointment. This is Canadian speed metal, very much in the vein of Exciter and other underground bands from the Great White North. The music is certainly energetic and fast-paced and it is almost impossible not to find your self keeping time with it.

I will say that my first listen to Striker did not lead to me being terribly impressive. The vocals kind of turned me off on the first attempt at the album, but on repeated listens, this was less and less of a problem. The vocals are very similar to those in other power/speed metal bands like Hibria and Lost Horizon. So if you enjoy those bands, you will likely not have any problems with Striker's vocalist.

The music really resembles the kind of album that would have come out in the early 1980's when metal was still finding its own voice away from the glam and arena rock sound. The result is music that definitely gets blood pumping while remaining heavy enough that it would not have been heard on the LA strip in the mid 1980's. There are a lot of bands playing this style of metal these days, so groups need to be really impressive to stand out from the litany of groups that sound the same. Luckily for Striker, their keen sense of songwriting and penchant for writing fist-pumping anthems like "It Could be Worse" and "Feed the Fire" is just what they need to stand out.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Forlorn Chambers: Unborn and Hollow

I mentioned some time ago that I have been getting some random packages from Finnish bands.  Well I initially thought this was pretty random until I was digging through some old emails and actually came across the email requesting me to review Forlorn Chambers.  I must be getting old.  I am slipping.  I will blame work for it.

Anyway, on to Forlorn Chambers.  This is a very short, three-song EP, which is disappointing because there is some really intriguing stuff here.  Forlorn Chambers is a death/doom metal band in the vein of Insomnium, a band I very much enjoy.  The music is oftentimes incredibly solemn, and yet it retains an aggressive bite to it.  The lead vocals in particular are delivered in a sharp and aggressive low-pitched growl.

The first track is a slower one with a lot of emotion behind the tremolo riffs and melodic guitar leads.  The second track is a little faster, but it retains the melodic tremolo riffs.  The backing vocals are clean and add a level of eeriness to the sound.  The final track sounds a lot like the aforementioned Insomnium with a pained delivery and sense of mourning throughout much of the proceedings with the occasional much more hopeful moment, such as the buildup halfway through.  It is fittingly titled "Desolate Resolution".

I really enjoyed this EP.  I like a lot of the melodic death/doom metal bands and Forlorn Chambers definitely belongs in this group.  Forlorn Chambers has a strong grasp on blending the solemness of doom metal with the aggression of death metal.  This mix is particularly potent in the hands of this band.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

FMA Reviews: Joel Grind's Yellowgoat: The Yellowgoat Sessions

Originally reviewed here.
I am not really sure what this session is that is referred to in the above title. Joel Grind is the mastermind behind Toxic Holocaust, which is a band I particularly enjoy due to its mix of thrash and early punk, calling to mind Hellhammer, Bathory, and Venom. This Yellowgoat project is not considerably different than Toxic Holocaust although it tends to settle more on the speed metal/hard rock stylings of Motorhead, which of course was a big influence on the earlier-named bands. So I am not really sure what to say to introduce this recording. It's basically Toxic Holocaust but with a different name.

I suppose the major distinction between this release and the more recent Toxic Holocaust albums is that this has a little bit more of a rock 'n roll vibe to it. It grooves and swings a bit more than previous albums. Is that enough to distinguish entirely from Grind's other big project? Who knows? But at least it is something of a distinction rather than saying that this is a Joel Grind project with a different name but the same sound.

Obviously if you have heard Toxic Holocaust before, you are going to have an idea of what this project sounds like. But for those that have not, it is fast-paced, thrashy speed metal with some early black metal influences. Yellowgoat sounds like a band out of the early 1980's at the time that Hellhammer, Venom, and Bathory were just starting to break. First wave black metal with a lot of Motorhead influences.

This album is a lot of fun. It is a fun album to listen to while exceeding the speed limit down the highway. Probably. I don't know I haven't done it, I swear. But I am still not completely sure why this is not just a new Toxic Holocaust album.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Requiem for Oblivion: EP 2011

This one is a little bit outside my box as far as metal goes.  I typically listen to the more aggressive strains of metal, so this Pennsylvania-based project and their much more atmospheric style is probably not one that I would have sought out on my own.  However, I think there is enough going on musically that it is fairly impressive.

Requiem for Oblivion's sound is a very dramatic atmospheric one with crashing riffs breaking things up and adding a sense of danger and hostility to the mix.  There are elements of doom and death metal thrown in to spice things up a little bit.

The first track is a little more ethereal and dreamlike with nightmarish moments.  It reminds me very much of Decoryah.  There are ambient sounds and aggressive riffs together.  The second track is much more of a straightforward metal track with occasional softer moments.  Unfortunately I have not been able to listen to the third track due to recording issues, so I only have the first two to go on.

I was fairly impressed with this band.  I think they have some interesting ideas and would be interested to hear a full-length from them.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Testament: The Legacy

Even though Testament is one of my favorite bands, for some reason I never really got around to picking up their first two albums.  I really have no idea what the hell that is all about.  So, recently I decided to rectify that and get their debut album.  And what a debut it is.

Their later albums sound a little bit more refined.  The band had found its sound and ironed out any flaws.  That was not quite the case on this release.  This one is rawer and more energetic.  That is oftentimes preferred with thrash metal.  This album definitely grabs attention early on and refuses to let go.  It is incredibly fast with riffs blazing by.

This album has a number of classic tracks from the band.  "Over the Wall", "Alone in the Dark", and several others are Testament classics.

This is an older album that many people have probably already formed an opinion on, so there is really not much else to say.  I am late to this one, but I would have to say it is likely one of Testament's best albums.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

FMA Reviews: Circle II Circle: Seasons Will Fall

Originally reviewed here.
A couple of bands have formed over the last couple of decades from former members of Savatage. Of course there is the big one, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, featuring Jon Oliva, Al Pitrelli, and Chris Caffery, all of whom were major parts of the band. Then there is Circle II Circle and Jon Oliva's Pain. Circle II Circle was created when Zak Stevens, Savatage's singer that took over when Jon Oliva stepped away after the death of his brother, left the band. Stevens was the vocalist for most of the 1990's and was in the band when they started drifting toward the TSO sound.

Stevens was not really my favorite singer that Savatage has had. Part of that is perhaps due to the fact that I generally liked the music better on the albums with Jon Oliva as vocalist. Stevens is a decent vocalist, he just never really clicked with me on the later era Savatage material. On this album though he sounds great. He has a powerful voice with a lot of character in it. He is definitely the best part of this album.

As far as the rest of the album, this is a standard album straddling the border between hard rock and American power metal. The band's focus is on creating well-crafted and catchy songs without a lot of filler or superfluous music that is out of place in the songs. Circle II Circle do have some longer songs on this album, and the album is quite lengthy reaching 70 minutes, but everything flows together reasonably well.

The only real problem is that the album gets boring. At 70 minutes, it better be really good at keeping attention from drifting and it just does not do a real good job at that. Some of the individual songs are certainly standouts and serve to draw the attention back, but it drifts in other parts. The music is typically mid-paced with some faster tracks here and there and the occasional ballad.

All told this is not appreciably different than the later era Savatage material, other than not being as cinematic. This is just a straightforward, hard-rocking album, but its inability to hold the listener's attention makes it a little tedious.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Voivod: Target Earth

This is quite possibly my most anticipated album of 2013.  If not, it is pretty damn close.  I have become a huge Voivod fan in the last year or so.  The band at one point had called it quits entirely.  Denis "Piggy" D'Amour had died of cancer and, even though he had recorded a lot of riffs prior to his death, those riffs had since dried up.  The last two albums were made up almost entirely of stuff that he had written prior to his death and it looked like that was the end.

It did not work out that way though.  Blacky came back on bass, replacing former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, and they brought in a new guitarist, Chewy, formerly of Canadian tech-death underdogs Martyr.  The band was rejuvenated and recorded an entirely new album.  Well I was excited so I pre-ordered it complete with a t-shirt.

This album is a little bit of a grower.  The first time I heard it, I was somewhat impressed with the twisting, futuristic riff work, but it did not really sink in.  After several more listens, I can honestly say I love this album.  It is easily the best album Voivod has released since Nothingface.  And that is saying something because I love a lot of the albums the band has released since then.

Voivod has proven that they still have it on this release.  The band really does sound rejuvenated.  Chewy's riff work bears a striking resemblance to Piggy's without sounding like he has copied his predecessor.  Blacky back on bass sounds terrific, and Snake's snarling vocals sound as good as ever.

Voivod has released an early frontrunner for Album of the Year.  It is great to have them back.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

FMA Reviews: Ensiferum: Unsung Heroes

Originally reviewed here.
Ensiferum were kind of at the forefront of the whole folk metal wave of the 21st century. They took a sound that had been experimented with and twisted it and perfected it. Prior to Ensiferum breaking through there were very few bands that could be considered folk metal bands. Not to say that they were the first, but they definitely helped bring about the wave of bands that emerged in the years to come.

Folk metal has never been one of my favorite genres. I certainly enjoy some bands, but I typically do not go out of my way to seek out new bands unless they are doing something that interests me. Despite this, I have found that I generally enjoyed Ensiferum in their early days, but I have not liked much of their material after Jari Mäenpää left the band. He seemed to be the major element that drew me to Ensiferum's work. This is the first album I have heard from Ensiferum in quite awhile. Unfortunately it may be a while before I check them out again.

Folk metal is supposed to be lively and exciting. At least the type that Ensiferum plays. But most of this album comes across as somewhat boring and uninspired. There are some decent tracks on here, but it just does not move me the way that folk metal should. Many of the songs are incredibly slow and those that are faster-paced do not really add anything that Ensiferum or any of the litany of other folk metal bands have not done before, and much better I might add. It is just stale and lifeless for the most part.

All of the individual elements are basically okay. The instrumentation sounds good, the vocals are impressive, and the production is definitely slick. Ultimately it is all about the songwriting. It is just somewhat lackluster. The other problem is that it just drags on and on. Particularly final track "Passion, Proof, Power" which does not feature any of those things and changes gears three times completely before mercifully ending.

Ultimately this is just flat. There is nothing really bad about it. It just does not stand out at all. Jari left the band several years ago to form Wintersun. This seemed to have killed Ensiferum.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Desolator: Last Wish

Poland is not really a country that is well-known for its metal scene.  Obviously it has a few big name bands to call its own, the most obvious being Behemoth and Vader, but it has never really gotten the level of notoriety of some of the other European countries.  This is a shame because many of the bands from Poland are particularly vicious, which lends itself very well to death, thrash, and black metal in particular.

Desolator is an older Polish band that actually had its start in 1989.  They released one demo in 1992 before breaking up in 1994.  Recently, original member Kosciej re-formed the once-dead entity, this time as a one-man project.  Kosciej performs all of the instruments and takes over the vocal duties this time around.  This is technically the group's debut full-length.

Desolator fits in well with Vader and other Polish groups due to a raw and intense energy infused into their own brand of merciless death metal.  They have a rather organic brutal and fast-paced style that reminds of some of the earlier death metal bands, before groups began cleaning up their sound.  This is fitting because, as mentioned previously, Desolator originated early on in death metal's history.

I found myself very impressed with this release.  It has the kind of energy and intensity that is missing from a lot of death metal bands these days.  Desolator is certainly a throwback to a more visceral time in death metal's history.  There is a place for that still.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

FMA Reviews: Devourment: Conceived in Sewage

Originally reviewed here.
Despite my seemingly intellectual exterior, I am a lawyer after all, I love slam death metal. I know it is mostly stupid and juvenile, an excuse for bands to get as brutal as they want with ridiculously filthy lyrics. And even though I admit that it is ridiculous and juvenile, I still can not get enough of it. It is a dichotomy that perplexes me. Some slam bands are surprisingly talented musically with some well-written lyrics, just look at Wormed and Defeated Sanity. But then there are groups like Devourment, who were instrumental in giving slam death metal a formula.

Despite the fact that Devourment had a large deal to do with the inception of slam death metal as a valid subgenre, they themselves have been distancing themselves from the genre in a lot of ways. Their sound is much more rooted in standard brutal death metal these days, and especially since their last album. That does not mean that the slam parts are entirely absent, they can still be heard in a number of places throughout this release, but they are not as important to the structure of each individual song, and there are even some songs that do not appear at all.

Not that all that is out of the way, this is an okay release. It really does not forge any new ground in a genre that is already fairly stale and bereft of anything truly interesting. Devourment certainly make a lot of noise, that is to be expected. You pretty much know what to expect from a Devourment record. It is not going to be pretty. They are going to offend a lot of people ("Legalize Homicide", "Fucked with Rats"). They are going to blast away on the drums, which is kind of impressive time and again, though I would not argue their drummer is incredibly talented, but he is fast. The vocals actually show a little bit of differentiation, with vocalist Mike Majewski alternating between his deep guttural croaks and a higher-pitched more stereotypical death metal roar. The band does actually have some decent riffs on this thing, which is something that they have ignored in the past in an effort to bring in more slam parts.

The production was done by Hate Eternal leader Erik Rutan and actually sounds quite good, which is somewhat rare for Devourment. It is clean enough to clearly hear the vocals and riffs. But it is not so clean that it comes off as sterile.

This is basically a run-of-the-mill brutal death metal release. It is not likely to earn Devourment any new fans, nor is it likely to turn off any old ones. It just sort of exists.

Monday, March 18, 2013

R.I.P. Bagheera (1997-2013)

I had to put one of my cats to sleep today.  I have had him for a very long time, since I was a junior in high school.  I named him after the panther in the Jungle Book and he definitely lived up to his name.  He was just like a miniature panther.  Constantly stalking and playing.  It is a very sad day.  He was the first real pet that I could call my own.  Heavy metal can wait for a day.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

FMA Reviews: Convulse: Inner Evil

Originally reviewed here.
Convulse has been missing in action for years now. The band once released one of the most interesting death metal albums ever at a time when death metal was still fresh and new. As such, they were often thrown in the same conversation as groups like Demilich, groups that brought something strange and exciting to death metal. They released one more album after World Without God and were seemingly lost to time. They re-emerged this year.

Owing to the re-release of their stunning debut album and the revitalization of old school death metal, Convulse have come back from the dead. This is just a teaser unfortunately, a very brief two-song return to the fold. With any luck it does mean that we will be seeing a new full-length from the Finnish death metallers.

One thing that Convulse did well in their first go-around was marry death metal and doom metal into a sickening and chaotic sound that had not really been done before. This was well before there was such a thing as death/doom. Convulse always stuck clearly on the death metal side of things, it is just that they had the occasional slower, down-tempo moment. But their music still sounded as if it was rising out of a deep and dank pit leading to hell. It was dark and disturbing. They have proven with this release that the years have not caused them to lose their touch. This sounds like it should have come shortly after their last album was released in 1994. Age has not caused them to lose any of their gift for crafting rotting and putrid death metal.

Hopefully Convulse can translate this impressive two-track EP into a full-length album. This thing sounds pretty damn good and there just are not enough bands that sound like this.

FMA Reviews: Denouncement Pyre: Almighty Arcanum

Originally reviewed here.
Those who have been following me for awhile probably know that I am a big fan of the Australian extreme metal scene. You know the one, the bestial thrash/black/death mix that come to be referred to as the "war metal" scene. That scene had started to lose its lustre over the last several years but there are signs that there may be a revitalization at work lately. Groups like Denouncement Pyre, Vomitor, Black Jesus, and Mongrel's Cross have all emerged in a major way over the last few years. Though Denouncement Pyre and Vomitor have been around for quite awhile, Denouncement Pyre since 2003 and Vomitor since 1999, they have really gotten notice recently. These are likely the bands that are leading the Australian extreme metal scene for years to come.

If anything, this sophomore full-length from the Aussie crushers is an improvement over their debut release. This is mostly due to the improvement in the production quality. Their last album was murky, and while it sounded good for the type of chaotic metal that was on that disc, it is nice to hear that they have cleaned things up a little bit without going too far and sounding sterile. This is just about right where it should be for a raw black/death/thrash metal album.

The title track is a true barnburner, kicking things off with a thrash metal riff that would make even the members of Destroyer 666 stand up and take notice. Much of the rest of the album also goes for the dirty, hell-raising blackened thrash that D666 perfected on Cold Steel. That is one of my favorite albums of all time, so I am definitely intrigued by this release. There are some truly impressive moments on this album. The closing moments to "The Deceiver" had me tapping my foot and banging my head. But Denouncement Pyre also know how to slow things down to make the faster moments seem even faster. The interlude track "Drakon: All is One" is a perfect example. It is an instrumental track that acts as a bridge between two very fast songs but it builds atmosphere incredibly well at the same time.

Atmosphere is one thing that Denouncement Pyre excels at. Every track on this release has such a dark and evil vibe to it. It is something that is strived for on a lot of albums but few are able to make it connect as well as Denoucement Pyre. This is another place that the improvement in production values has really helped the band. Instead of sounding like a muddled mess, the atmospheric moments shine through cleanly and crisply.

Denouncement Pyre released a hell of a good debut album a few years ago, but they have topped it with this release. This is incredible.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sorry for the Lack of Posts

I will get back to normal posting tomorrow.  I was scheduled for a jury trial today, which did not end up going, but preparation over the last few days has taken priority.  Trial scheduled at the last minute today.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 124

ARTIST:  Iron Maiden
ORIGIN: London, England
TITLE:  Best of the Beast
LABEL:  EMI Records
YEAR:  1996
GENRE:  Heavy Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "The Evil That Men Do"
NOTES:  When doing some research on this release, I found a double CD listed.  Mine is just one CD with a lot fewer songs than the double disc release.  I picked this one up after being so taken with their latest album.  It covers the first album with Bruce Dickinson through the Blaze Bayley era.  It lead me to pick up several more albums from Iron Maiden.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 123

ARTIST:  Iron Maiden
ORIGIN:  London, England
TITLE:  Brave New World
LABEL:  EMI Records
YEAR:  2000
GENRE:  Heavy Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "The Wicker Man"
NOTES:  I had gotten a couple of Iron Maiden albums by this point, but this one really opened the door to the band for me.  After getting this one I began a little bit of an obsession with the band which resulted in me buying several of their albums in a very short time.  So look for a few more Iron Maiden albums over the next couple of weeks or so.  I was so obsessed with this album that I chose to write a review of it for my History of Rock Music review project.  I got an A+.  I also love the book it is named after.

FMA Reviews: Defeated Sanity: Passages Into Deformity

Originally reviewed here.
This year is shaping up to be a decent one for brutal death/slam death metal. Devourment and Katalepsy both have new albums this year, but there are two that I am looking forward to above all others. Defeated Sanity and Wormed.

Defeated Sanity's last album was an incredibly interesting take on slam death metal by incorporating a lot of technical and progressive death metal elements. It ranks as one of my favorite slam death metal albums of all time. That has typically been the case with Defeated Sanity. They are difficult to pigeonhole into one genre because they frequently mix things up a little bit in their compositions. That all continues on this release. Defeated Sanity has once again proven that they are one of the better bands going in the vast brutal death metal genre.

This album marks the debut for new vocalist Konstantin Luhring. His vocals are fairly typical for the style, very deep and guttural, with the occasional gurgling roar and higher-pitched shriek. As is typical for Defeated Sanity, one of the most interesting members to listen to is bassist Jacob Schmidt, who brings a technical mastery to the instrument that is exceedingly rare in brutal death metal. The band acknowledges this by having the bass high in the mix and giving him occasional moments to shine through. The drumming is another often-overlooked instrument for which Defeated Sanity seems to be blessed with an incredibly talented musician.

Defeated Sanity bring an impressive amount of musicianship to a genre that is often bereft of this level of talent. And that is coming from someone who generally enjoys slam death metal and brutal death metal. There is just something about what Defeated Sanity brings to the table that is sadly lacking from a lot of other bands in the genre. There is technicality there, but the band uses that technicality to accentuate their brutality, rather than as a means to garner attention. There is brutality, but the band does not try to out-pummel other brutal death and slam death metal bands. They do not try to show off, they just come out and play. That is what makes Defeated Sanity unique. That is what makes Defeated Sanity so damn good.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 122

ARTIST:  Megadeth
ORIGIN:  Los Angeles, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Risk
LABEL:  Capitol Records
YEAR:  1999
GENRE:  Heavy Metal/Hard Rock
FAVORITE SONG:  "Prince of Darkness"
NOTES:  Oh good Lord, what happened to Megadeth?  This album is horrendous, there is no better way to put it.  I think Megadeth really tried to capture the success that Metallica was able to achieve with their softer stuff.  Well they failed miserably.  This is easily one of the worst albums in my entire collection.  I rarely listen to it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 121

ARTIST:  Pantera
ORIGIN:  Arlington, TX (United States)
TITLE:  Reinventing the Steel
LABEL:  Elektra
YEAR:  2000
GENRE:  Groove Metal
NOTES:  Ah yes Pantera.  This would turn out to be the band's last full-length album.  They broke up in a flurry of bad blood soon after.  I actually liked this album pretty well for awhile.  I would place it above Vulgar Display of Power personally, but below Far Beyond Driven.

Neferion: The Primordial Mode

Lately I have been getting some completely random promos sent to me from bands in Finland.  I have not been contacted beforehand and have only a vague idea of how these bands have my address.  I am not complaining, but it is kind of weird.

Anyway, Neferion is the first of these bands.  I had not heard of the band before receiving the promo in the mail, so this was my first exposure to them.  Their sound is kind of a groove/heavy metal and it rumbles along at a mid-tempo pace.  The music is competent and well-played but it does take a back seat to the real star of the band.

Meija Saari is one hell of a vocalist.  She really draws most of the attention with her incredible range and tone.  She can easily alternate between an absolutely breathtaking clean vocal style to much more of a death metal styled growl.  Her voice reminds me a lot of Benedictum vocalist Veronica Freeman.  That is definitely a compliment as she has one of the greatest, most underrated voices in all of metal.

This is a fairly short demo, with only four songs on it.  With the impressive vocals and the decent music, this increases the re-playability of the release.  I have listened to it four or five times in a row already today and it just does not get old.  This band should be signed soon.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Grand Magus: The Hunt

I am late on Grand Magus every year for some reason.  It is unfortunate because Grand Magus is good enough to make my Top Ten every year.  Seriously.

So this is the latest album by the band, the third one that I have heard.  The basic sound has been the same for years.  Grand Magus plays heavy metal in the style of bands from the early 1980's.  It is melodic, fast-paced, and as infectious as the plague.  They just churn out great song after great song.  Each song is anthemic.  It's the kind of music that can easily get you banging your head or pumping your fist along with it.

Of course being able to write decent songs and being able to play an instrument are two distinct skills.  Luckily Grand Magus are incredibly talented musicians as well.  Each member of the band is a terrific talent. The music is propelled forward by the riffwork of JB with the impressive bass of Fox Skinner and drumming of Ludwig Witt covering the rhythm sections.  JB is also one hell of a vocalist and is easily one of the best clean vocalists in metal today.

The big highlights are "Storm King", "Valhalla Rising", and "Silver Moon".  Each one of them catchier than the last.

There really is not much to say about this album.  If you enjoy heavy metal, you should be listening to Grand Magus.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 120

ORIGIN:  Vasteras, Sweden
TITLE:  Freaks of Nature
LABEL:  PolyGram Records
YEAR:  1999
GENRE:  Heavy Metal
NOTES:  They had to add the "STH" to their name due to a trademark issue, otherwise they are known simply as Drain.  They definitely achieved more notoriety due to the makeup of the band, four beautiful Swedish women, rather than their musical talent.  Which is a shame since they are actually very competent musicians.  Unfortunately this album is more of a product of its time.  It fit in well with the nu-metal scene.  It has not aged well.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

FMA Reviews: Hour of Penance: Sedition

Originally reviewed here.
Hour of Penance is another band that really does technical death metal well. They combine brutality with technicality with some fantastic results, ending up sounding like a more technical version of Nile. The brutality never lets up on this album either. Hour of Penance kick things into high gear in the second track, after a melodic introduction, and never lose their energy. The result is a punishing and intense album that threatens to crush the skull for about a half an hour or so before it is finally over. The only reprieves are the few seconds in between tracks.

What Hour of Penance do well on this release though is to weave some incredibly melodic guitar leads throughout the otherwise colossally heavy riffing. And the lead guitar has a terrific tone to it as well, adding to the distinctiveness. It is almost beautiful in an otherwise ugly sound.

The songs on the album do tend to sound somewhat the same by the end. The nice thing about Hour of Penance is that they do not overstay their welcome though. The songs are all reasonably short, none of them are longer than five minutes. The album itself is fairly short as well. The band just kicks the listener's ass over and over for half an hour and then calls it a day. That detracts somewhat from the fact that the songs kind of run together. So at least if they are not totally original, they make things quick and move on.

I enjoyed this quite a bit. I think I would still prefer Spawn of Possession and Gorod over Hour of Penance from technical death metal albums released last year. But Hour of Penance is plenty good.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 119

ARTIST:  Alice in Chains
ORIGIN:  Seattle, WA (United States)
TITLE:  Nothing Safe: Best of the Box
LABEL:  Columbia Records
YEAR:  1999
GENRE:  Grunge Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Man in the Box" (Live)
NOTES:  Alice in Chains released a box set in 1999 as well as this album which basically collected the best tracks from the box set.  I picked it up because, other than the self-titled album and the acoustic album, I did not have any full-lengths by the band, despite loving most of their music.  So I got this.  The best track is actually on the short bonus disc with a live version of "Man in the Box" with an incredibly sludgy main riff.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 118

ARTIST:  Metallica
ORIGIN:  San Francisco, CA (United States)
LABEL:  Elektra
YEAR:  1999
GENRE:  Thrash Metal/Heavy Metal
NOTES:  This is of course the live album featuring the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Kamen, who died just a few years later.  For a long time this became the definitive Metallica that was played on the radio.  Hell they even played with the orchestra again for an awards show performance.  It actually works pretty well and I really enjoy this one.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 117

ARTIST:  Testament
ORIGIN:  Oakland, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Souls of Black
LABEL:  Atlantic Records
YEAR:  1990
GENRE:  Thrash Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Face in the Sky"
NOTES:  It was time to start looking back into Testament's earlier albums.  I had really enjoyed everything I had heard from the band to this point.  Most of their material before Low is fairly interchangeable, not to say that there is not some great stuff there, but it all kind of runs together.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 116

ARTIST:  Type O Negative
ORIGIN:  New York, NY (United States)
TITLE:  World Coming Down
LABEL:  Roadrunner Records
YEAR:  1999
GENRE:  Gothic/Doom Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Everyone I Love is Dead"
NOTES:  Type O Negative has always been somewhat depressing, but this one really takes the cake.  The gloomy group focuses on death and loss throughout the album.  The result is an album that, while good, can sometimes be very difficult to listen to.  This is not one of my favorite albums by the band, but that is mostly due to the sadness and gloom that permeates the entire thing.