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.