Thursday, December 22, 2011

My top 5 albums of 2011!

Well the end of the year is pretty much here and while I have been busy lately I have just got to get at the very least a top 5 out. To me this was an all around good year in metal, there were some bands who I expected to release good albums that failed to please, and some underground bands who surprised me. So in no particular order:

Abysmal Dawn - Leveling the Plane of Existence

Borderline technical death metal with a nice groove to it. I still can quit listening to In Service Of Time.

Obscura - Omnivium

I was so looking forward to these guys' album this year and they didn't disappoint at all. While they borrow heavily from Death, Gorguts and a few other progressive/technical death metal bands they also have a sound that is Obscura that no one else plays.

Exhumed - All Guts, No Glory

I never gave these fellas much thought but AGNG was a happy surprise this year. Catchy grinding death metal at its best.

Wormrot - Noise

This very short EP is like an extension of their epic album Dirge released earlier this year. Wormrot are grindcore all stars in my book.

Immolation - Providence

Scion A/V proved they are actually interested in releasing good extreme music and this (and the Wormrot EP) is all the proof you need. Crushing catchy death metal with a nice heavy production, just what the doctor ordered!

Not too bad of a year!

Once the holidays are over I will probably start posting more often once more.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review: Wormrot - Noise

Band: Wormrot
Album: Noise
Year: 2011
Country: Singapore
Genre: Grindcore

Not only did the Singaporean grind band Wormrot release the epic album Dirge this year, but they have graced us with the excellent EP Noise released for free by Scion A/V. With 5 tracks coming in at just over 5 minutes, if you have listened to Dirge you know you are in for some blazing fast grindcore in the vein of Early Napalm Death.

This is some really great grind. The vocals range from an extremely high pitched yell to something resembling a death growl. The lyrics are spat out at times lightning quick and you know this would shock anyone who is not prepared. I heavily enjoy the style of vocals presented by the band. Don't get me wrong, this isn't anything different than what we have heard before. But for me the harshness of what these guys let lose from their throats just never gets old.

Each song is close to a minute long give or take 10-15 seconds. Loathsome Delusions starts it off with a sharp noise before blasting into absolute mayhem. In most songs here there are crazy frenzied sections of blasting and insanely quick riffing which will usually move into a slower more punkish sounding segment. Interestingly enough Perpetual Extinction actually has a brief harmonized guitar section that comes out of no where but sounds awesome.

Wormrot continue to impress the extreme metal world with this EP. Even as short as it is it lives up to the praise they have been receiving lately. Its got the blast beats, chaotic riffs, throat shredding vocals, and plain good song writing that makes a band (in this sub-genre) truly great. If you are looking for a quick grind fix, look no further than Wormrot's Noise.

Score: 9.5/10
Standout Tracks: Loathsome Delusions, False Assumptions, Outburst of Annoyance, Breed to Breed, Perpetual Extinction

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Jungle Rot - Kill On Command

Band: Jungle Rot
Album: Kill On Command
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Genre: Death Metal

Well this is a treat! I am so happy I finally decided to look into Jungle Rot, and especially that Kill On Command was my first experience with them. This is pure face smashing death metal. Do you know how people mention the boneheaded chest beating neanderthal death metal some people talk about? Yeah that is what this is, but its actually really great stuff.

What's quite intriguing about the music you hear on KOC is that there is a certain element of hardcore to it. No no no not the deathcore type but actual genuine death metal with proper hardcore influences. You can especially hear it in the breakdowns. We have all heard our fair share of breakdowns but Jungle Rot doesn't go overboard throwing too many into one song. In fact the breakdowns that are there (No Mercy, and Push Comes To Shove for example) are interesting because the fellas decided to actually add something to them and play different riffs over them or throw in guitar solos so that they aren't the borefest we are all used to. Not only that but there is an actual style of riffing that sounds very punk/hardcore like in tracks like Born of Contagion, and I Predict A Riot. This is actually refreshing since I have found so few bands who successfully combine elements of hardcore with death metal while still maintaining a proper death metal sound. Not to mention Rise Up and Revolt has a killer intro!

The vocals are a deep throaty sort but not so dissonant that you cant understand what is being said. I'm not sure if there are effects done to them in the studio but they sound good, and sort of different. Whether it was added or natural I like it. The bass seems to be a little buried in the mix but if you pay attention you will notice it there. It mostly just goes along with the guitars though. The drumming is solid, and pretty conservative with the blasts. No constant blasting here but it is peppered through the album here and there. One thing that is a little annoying, and this will be different for everyone, is the sound of the bass drum. It sounds a little odd and I don't especially like it especially during the double bass parts.

So chalk this up as a win for Jungle Rot. This is really good mid paced death metal with a good amount of groove to it and a dash of hardcore thrown in for good measure. All the songs are generally sounding the same but I could equate them to Bolt Thrower, it may sound similar but it sounds good. There is the cruddy sounding bass drum but its not at all a deal breaker. Cheers to JR for successfully melding bits of hardcore (awesome breakdowns, hardcore like riffs, and gang shouts) with death metal without it sounding like garbage.

Score: 8.5/10
Standout Tracks: Blood Ties, Rise Up and Revolt, Push Comes to Shove, Born of Contagion

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus

Band: Morbid Angel
Album: Illud Diviunum Insanus
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Genre: Death Metal

I had briefly sampled a few of the songs off of IDI back when the album had first come out. I felt almost embarrassed at the time. As someone who follows numerous metal blog and forum sites, experiencing people's shock and disgust over Morbid Angel's Illud Divinum Insanus was like watching a train crash. You knew something awful was happening but it's just too difficult to take your eyes off of it. So lets get this out of the way, all the negative things you have heard about this album are true.

MA fans seemed to be really excited about the I album. Maybe it was because it had been 8 years since the last album, maybe it was because David Vincent was back, but they couldn't have been expecting this. You can easily split the album into two forms of music. There are the proper death metal songs like Beauty Meets Beast, Nevermore, Blades of Baal, and Existo Vulgore. Then you have the techno/industrial saturated tracks with hints of death metal like Too Extreme!, Radikult, Destructos Vs the Earth, and I Am Morbid.

First I will get into the pure death metal tracks. They are really lame. Alright, Beauty Meets Beast is actually a good song, in fact the only one on the album. Nevermore is just ok. I mean Nevermore/Blades of Baal/Existo Vulgore are just pretty mediocre death metal with some groove in them. But compared to the other tracks on the album these shine, but they still aren't all that good. Thing of a generic by the numbers death metal song and any of these three would probably sound pretty similar to that.

This album has become so infamous that its spawned its own memes within the metal community. Who hasn't seen/heard someone randomly shout or type Too Extreme! or Killa Cop? Those memes alone made those songs difficult to listen to. Once the instrumental Omni Potens finished and the awful electronic drum beat started for Too Extreme! I knew this was going to be a chore. The first time David Vincent screamed "Too Extreme!" I couldn't help but chuckle. That happens a lot on this album. Those electronic drums also sound downright dreadful, like this was some sort of Ministry joke track. The album ends almost as badly as it starts with Radikult being the second to last track. MA completely ape Marilyn Manson and you can't help but think they were listening to The Beautiful People way too much as they were writing this track. This one also got some laughs from me, listen yourself and tell me how this can be taken seriously.

Lyrically Illud is just as comedic as the music. It's mostly tough guy bullshit or some weird shallow science fiction crap. The tough guy songs are even worse because the band seems to have a complete hard on for themselves. Too Extreme, and I Am Morbid seem to be about how super duper awesome the band are. I'm glad they are here to tell us these things, how ironic. To put it simply, there is just no substance here.

David Vincent's vocals are really nothing special here. He gives your run of the mill performance that fails to impress. Maybe hes just getting old, but its not super bad. Just a bit boring. Then there is the bass, or is there? You could have fooled me cause I didn't hear any. The production is a minor annoyance since the vocals soar over everything else, which sucks cause they aren't much to write home about. The drumming sounds kind of fake, especially the double bass. Some parts seem programed which sounds like trash and the real drumming isn't the least bit interesting.

The major reason this album fails isn't because of the electronic parts, but because the electronic parts just aren't done well. It comes off sounding like some awful joke/satire of 90s industrial metal. And not only do the industrial songs sound like shit but they are some of the longest on the album and get most of the time. I just can't see how the members of Morbid Angel thought they could get away with this and not be the laughing stock of the metal scene. Even the straight up death metal tracks are bad with the exception of Beauty Meets Beast. And now there is news of a Remix album? I guess here goes round 2.

Score: 2.5/10
Standout Track: Beauty Meets Beast

Friday, November 25, 2011

Review: Evocation - Apocalyptic

Band: Evocation
Album: Apocalyptic
Year: 2010
Country: Sweden
Genre: Death Metal

During the mid to late 00s we began to see the new wave of old school Swedish death metal bands begin to permeate the death metal scene. With these new bands came a few who were both new and old. Evocation is a death metal act who released a few demos in the early 90s before going on hiatus. The band later reformed and started releasing new material and Apocalyptic is their sophomore effort.

While Evocation plays in the style of Entombed and Dismember (crunchy guitar tone and all) they are also a bit unique. Why? Well they also seem to take queues from mid 90s melodic death metal as well. Most specifically you can hear some At the Gates Slaughter of the Soul type stuff in the guitar riffs. So we could say musically Evocation is 2 parts Stockholm death metal and 1 part Gothenburg. But don't let that worry you, the Gothenburg influences it isn't the flowery folk/power metal stuff of bands like In Flames but the thrashy guitar harmonies of AtG. I personally enjoy this greatly.

Sweet Obsession kicks off the album with a fast picked intro that calls to mind the hallmark Sunlight Studios buzzsaw guitar tone the Stockholm bands are known for. Evocation seem to be masters of creating pleasing yet aggressive melodies that are catchy without being pretty. Every song on the album is a winner in my book. Psychosis Warfare showcases the band's ability to seamlessly blend the conflicting OSSDM and melodeath sounds perfectly. The band plays mostly mid paced death metal but they occasionally slow down here and there like on Its All Your Fault.

Expect a lot of the fast snare hits from drummer Janne Boden which isn't too different from what you hear on SotS. He also throws in some nice blasting here and there as well but doesn't do it the whole time. The Swedish bands always seem to know just when a blast is most effective rather than blasting the whole song long like many of their American counterparts were prone to do. I can hardly hear the bass of Martin Toresson but I do feel what I do hear is him giving a helping hand to the low end by following the already crushing guitars.

Vocalist Thomas Josefsson has a very strong voice. It is a bit on the higher side and he wouldn't sound out of place in a Carcass clone band imitating the brand of vocals Jeff Walker popularized. At times he will let out a lower proper death growl which sounds just as good.

If Evocation had just been another Dismember or At the Gates rip off band this probably would have been a rather boring album. But the fact that they use the templates laid by both bands puts them in a very unique spot giving them a niche for those who enjoy both sub-genres. While I enjoy the 90s output of Dark Tranquillity, At the Gates, and In Flames, this is true melodic death metal played the way it was meant to be. And not only does the band have a foot planted on both sides of the fence, they are damn good at it!

Score: 9/10
Standout Tracks:Psychosis Warfare, Sweet Obsession, Infamy

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Savage Messiah are offering their new album Plague Of Conscience, free!

Earache Records and the U.K. Thrash band Savage Messiah are cool enough to offer up Plague Of Conscience as a free download! Savage Messiah's third album will be coming out as a physical release (CD/Vinyl) on January 23rd this coming year.

As usual with Earache the only catch is you must enter your email address in order to get the download link. Check it out Here .

Review: Norther - Circle Regenerated

Band: Norther
Album: Circle Regenerated
Year: 2011
Country: Finland
Genre: Melodic Death/Power Metal

I'm really not into the whole Children of Bodom clone deal. CoB themselves and the bands they spawned have just never really interested me. They are dull, weak, and try to rape you with their over use of keyboards. When you use a shit band as the basis for your sound, results should be rather obvious. So its not wonder that Norther's new album, Circle Regenerated, is just not my cup of tea.

First of all the vocals are trash. Its like an even further watered down version of Alexi Laiho who sounds like crap to begin with. Setting aside the harsh vocals, who ever does the clean singing here needs to be fired. Its not the fact that there are even clean vocals at all, I can stand them but they have to be good. This is just not good singing. While the singing is on the melodic side its just not very good.

Lets see what else, oh the riffs! There isn't really much to talk about here. I mean they are there but seem so shallow and poppy. Its hard to find much substance to what the band has come up with on CR. I will admit the solos are melodic and probably the best part of the album. But when you look at the big picture that isn't really saying much, is it?

The drumming and bass are standard melodic death metal fare. Not that I can really hear the bass at all, but like I said, standard melodic death metal. You get what you would expect from these kind of bands for drumming. A lot of double bass, but overall the rest is boring and unimaginative. Some creativity in the drums (or the album as a whole) would have been nice. And the keyboards? When they take center stage as they always seem to do with these power metal melodeath hybrids, its just annoying. I personally enjoy keys when they are used for atmosphere but bands like Norther just love to shove it down your throat. The production is ok, but the guitars seem a little thin. They have no punch and come off as very light.

I just cannot enjoy this drivel. Its so derivative and Norther are basically aping an already worn out style. The guitar solos are the only redeeming factor in this album for me. Some of the chorus parts are just ok but since the rest of the song is crap it doesn't help too much. We already have a Children of Bottom, must we be subjected to a slew of other bands who sound like them? I guess if you like CoB or the other bands that follow that trend you might like this, but I still don't get why.

Score: 2/10
Standout Track: Please don't make me listen to any of this again!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: All Shall Perish - This Is Where It Ends

Band: All Shall Perish
Album: This Is Where It Ends
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Genre: Melodic Deathcore

Awaken the Dreamers is where I first got into All Shall Perish, but only after discovering the band Gunmetal Grey which Hernan Hermida fronted for their one and only release. I really have enjoyed the blend of melodic death metal and deathcore ASP are so good at and they have really perfected it on TIWIE.

Hernan's vocals are pretty unique, at least I haven't really come upon anyone else who sounds like him. He has a gravely high pitched growl he uses the majority of the time. He can actually get pretty high with it too and its impressive. There is also a lower death growl he throws in from time to time as well. I like that when you hear him you instantly know what band is playing and who is fronting it.

There are some really good melodic heavy riffs on the album too. While you have the more melodic tracks like There Is Nothing Left, Procession of Ashes, and The Past Will Haunt Us Both, there are heavier songs as well like My Retaliation, The Death Plague, and Royalty Into Exile. The Past Will Haunt Us Both is this album's Never Again..., its soft but aggressive at the time and full of emotion. The harmonies are excellent and there are plenty in every song.

While the drumming is nothing special its rather solid. Adam Pierce throws in lots of double bass which is pretty standard. The bass can be heard which is nice as well. I really like the production here too, its crisp, clear, and clean in all the right ways. Its clean but not overproduced like many modern bands often are. Everything seems to be mixed properly and nothing is too high or low in the mix.

This Is Where It Ends is another good release by All Shall Perish and is another bright spot in the melodic deathcore scene. With its mix melody and brutality ASP are on the right track here. There is really not much to dislike about TIWIE, my copy even had a Spanish version of Royalty In Exile which is pretty awesome little addition! Get this if you like All Shall Perish, Deathcore, melodic deathcore, or just really good extreme metal.

Score: 9/10
Standout Track: The Past Will Haunt Us Both, There Is Nothing Left, Royalty Into Exile

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Review: Threat Signal - Threat Signal

Band: Threat Signal
Album: Threat Signal
Year: 2011
Country: Canada
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

Threat Signal play some a sort of groovy melodic death metal along the lines of what Devildriver has done with their last couple of releases. But you can immediately tell they take a heavy influence from Fear Factory in the mechanical guitar riffs. With their third album the band streamlines their sound and becomes a bit more consistent.

The album starts off with what I think is probably the heaviest song here, Uncensored. TS shows they can get pretty heavy on this one and the blast beats are a treat, though I don't remember hearing them really on any other track. And I guess even if they were there they didn't stand out as much as they did here. A thing that began to bug me as time went on and I listened to the album a few times over was a certain sound the guitars made. Listen to just about any song on the album and you will notice the guitars make an almost snarling noise in every riff (which are repeated of course ad nauseum).

What usually bothered me in the past about Threat Signal was the clean vocals. Jon Howard has a dreadful singing voice. Its like hes channeling Chester Bennington from Linkin Park. Its nasally and comes off almost whiny, and not in the emo kind of way but the normal complaining manner that we all hate so much. Other than that his growls and screams are close to what Randy Blythe from Lamb of God sounds like. But a lot of what is used is like part Howard's singing voice half scream which doesn't really make the singing part of it sound any better. But his proper screams are decent and he throws in some lower death grunts here and there that sound really good.

The drumming is solid, though I wish Alex Rudinger had been able to throw in some more blasts. They sounded so well in Uncensored I think they missed a chance to keep that going for the rest of the album. And the bass seems to follow the guitars note for note, the norm for the genre. A nice fill here or there would be nice. I will give them credit for the great sounding production on the album though, its about perfect minus the annoying snarling guitar noise that is so prevalent.

Threat Signal (the album) is on the better side of average and actually even good if you can get over the parts I mentioned not enjoying. They have given us a decently crafted melodic death metal album that will please fans of the band and probably bring in a few more people who may have been on the fence. And on a closing note, they had a pretty sweet album cover made up as well!

Score: 7.5/10
Standout Tracks: Uncensored, Buried Alive

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Review: Suicide Silence - The Black Crown

Band: Suicide Silence
Album: The Black Crown
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Genre: Deathcore

I noticed Suicide Silence isn't on the Metal Archives and after listening to The Black Crown a few times I can understand. I suppose you can say that this band is deathcore but far more on the core side of things. There are a couple of alright songs here but for the most part its boring breakdown heavy deathCORE.

I don't actually mind one or two breakdowns a song, I'm a fan of deathcore and metalcore and even some hardcore so it's something that never bothered me. Except when a band goes way over the top with it. The Black Crown starts with Slaves to Substance and you automatically known there are going to be way too many breakdowns on this album. The chorus of the album is almost a borderline breakdown itself.

Then there is an almost Korn/nu metal sort of vibe to the music and structures (outside of the breakdowns...for the most part). O.C.D. is like a tribute to Korn the chorus reminds me of something that band would have written in the mid 90s. In fact take Korn's first self titled album throw death growls over it and add breakdowns and more double bass and it would probably sound something like this. Even the lyrics and song titles scream 90s nu metal angst with a track even called "Fuck Everything".

To round out the nu metal inspiration Jonathan Davis from Korn even does guest vocals on the song Witness the Addiction. This whole album is rather boring, there are just too many breakdowns! And what few riffs that are here between breakdowns aren't very imaginative or memorable. The vocals were probably the best part about The Black Crown for me. Cancerous Skies is a pretty decent song but it doesn't make up for a whole messy album.

I would suggest only listening to this if you don't mind breakdowns and/or already enjoy Suicide Silence.

Score: 3.5/10
Standout Track: Cancerous Skies

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: Blood Stain Child - Epsilon

Band: Blood Stain Child
Album: Epsilon
Year: 2011
Country: Japan
Genre: Electronic Melodic Death Metal

The Japanese are known for being really out there when it comes to most things, their music included. If anyone was wondering what happens when you throw electronic music/melodic death metal/metalcore and bits and pieces of what seems like J pop in a blender Blood Stain Child have given you Epsilon. I had heard a song or two previously but I was in for a strange ride when I decided to review this album.

So there is some bad news. A number of the songs on Epsilon are extremely unbalanced when it comes to how much of one style or another they put in a song. Like Dedicated to Violator. Sure it has a cool name but the electronic portion totally pushes all the other instruments to the back of the mix. I mean I wouldn't be surprised to hear this playing in a club somewhere. The same goes for tracks like SOPHIA, Electricity, and the aforementioned Dedicated to Violator. In all these songs the band takes a back seat to the female vocalist and the electronic music.

There are other tracks as well which are more in the vein of proper melodic death metal but with electronic bits present throughout, just not to the degree that the others possess. These types of songs can be put into two camps, the melodic death songs with mostly clean vocals, and with mostly harsh vocals. With female vocals the woman actually has a pretty strong voice and coupled with the heavier music it works completely. La+ is catchy throughout, and Stargazer, and Moon Light Wave all play to the strengths I mentioned before. Catchy music, good vocals, all with strong pop sensibilities.

While growler Ryo is allowed to take part in most of the songs i've mentioned its in very much a back seat kind of way. He can be heard though his screams are usually muffled in order to give the female singer, Sophia, priority over him. Luckily there are a few heavier songs where both he and the music turn it up a few notches. This is pretty much when the band is at their best too, Sirius VI, Forever Free, and for the most part Unlimited Alchemist are all pretty much just good melodic death metal. The band seems to have adopted some of the metalcore riffing start stop kind of thing though which I personally have gotten tired of. Most every band in that genre and way too many melodeath bands do it already.

There are also some songs that just plain suck as well. Sai-Ka-No is a slow boring bit that sounds completely like a pop ballad. Merry-Go-Round is about the same though there is more use of guitars through most of it the over all electronic sounds they use are just yawn inducing. Dedicated to Violator is almost embarrassing to listen to. There are guitars way in the background and screams here and there but its just screaming for effect rather than anything intelligible.

One of the biggest issues I have with Epsilon and BSC is that the album does not flow well. The styles are so jumbled that the album is incredibly disjointed. You could probably separate the songs by what style dominates them and have 3 different EPs worth of music and each would sound rather different. This makes it really hard to listen to. And while the female vocals are good, she is given way too much time over the harsh vox. Sometimes it actually works well like on La+ where the woman does 90% of the singing but its so hit and miss on Epsilon as a whole. They also need to tone down the techno stuff a little, on some songs it overwhelms all the other instruments and even at times the growls its almost like there is no point having the band play when they are washed out by computerized garbage.

Epsilon has a few good songs (La+, Sirius VI, Moon Light Wave, Eternal) but the rest is challenging to listen to because it skips from domineering genres from song to song. The vocals also follows this same pattern. The good stuff here is really good, but the rest is forgettable and mostly annoying and weak. I guess at least BSC can say they tried something new, though it is a moderate failure.

Score: 5.5/10
Standout Track: La+, Eternal, Sirius VI

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: Exhumed - All Guts, No Glory

Band: Exhumed
Album: All Guts, No Glory
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Genre: Death Metal

Imagine if Carcass had decided to make an album while they were transitioning from the gore drenched death metal of Necroticism to the melody ridden Heartwork. A best of both worlds if you will. I imagine it would sound something like what Exhumed have brought us with AGNG. Being a Carcass clone doesn't mean you can't still make great music (i.e. Impaled), and if there is one release that proves that its this one.

Now the really deep gutturals are here like you would expect, but they are just an addition (though a good one) to the main vocal style of Matt Harvey. These are much higher but not in the same way Jeff Walker does it. Walker does more of a snarl while Harvey sounds similar to Tomas Lindberg if a little lower pitched. At first this kind of annoyed me but after too long I noticed there is something endearing about Mett's screams.

There is a pretty good dose of melody in this album but one thing it doesn't lack is savagery. You can actually draw quite a few parallels to Heartwork here. There is the melodic soloing on As Hammer To Anvil, Through Cadaver Eyes and most other songs along with the harmonies of Your Funeral, My Feast, I Rot Within, and Through Cadaver Eyes. But there is the furious no nonsense aggression from Necroticism on Death Knell, and Necrotized. Now most songs actually contain all these elements and use them to great affect no less. I need to give special to mention to the album closer So Let It Be Rotten...So Let It Be Done. This song is probably the most fun to listen to for the catchy chorus alone.

There is lots of blasting on this album and the drumming is very tight. The drummer keeps up well with the usually speedy approach used by the guitars. The bass is back there somewhere and occasionally makes it known there is even a bassist but it seems to mostly just follow the guitars note for note which is a little boring. The production is really solid for this album as well. All Guts, No Glory is pretty clean sounding, the guitars are thick the drums are pronounced and the vocals aren't buried in between them.

So with a mix of the melodic and energetic this album gives all you could ask for in a Carcass clone but so much more. An amalgam of Heartwork and Necroticism that we didn't get to experience with that band. This makes All Guts, No Glory sort of a unique clone, which I know hardly makes any sense, but in the end it really does. Exhumed deliver the goods and give us everything we need to thrash away.

Score: 8.5/10
Standout Tracks: So Let it Be Rotten...So Let It Be Done, Your Funeral, My Feast, Through Cadaver Eyes

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review: Bleeding Through - Bleeding Through

Band: Bleeding Through
Album: Bleeding Through
Year: 2010
Country: USA
Genre: Metalcore

Metalcore gets a pretty bad rap at times but there are a few bands who stand out above all others. Bleeding Through happens to be among the elite of the metalcore scene. It mostly has to do with the fact that they meet an almost perfect blend of both metal and hardcore. Where most metalcore bands play plain boring and ultimately simple (beyond belief at times) hardcore with some metal elements thrown in.

First I need to mention I have The Truth and This Is Love, This Is Murderous but skipped over Declaration. If you've heard anything before Declaration you know BT is basically a mix of At the Gates styled melodic death metal, Hardcore, and some regular ole death metal.

But here you can tell the band are taking a heavier influence from black metal these days. A big reason is the keyboards and their role in the music. They provide a lot of atmosphere and a little melody like you would expect from some black metal bands. But it is also in the riffs. Most songs have hyper fast riffing that could be mistaken for something a proper black metal group would play mixed among the breakdowns and thrash riffs. Anti-Hero has a few instances of this, the tremolo riffs and they are sprinkled in different spots on the album. And the soloing is more fleshed out than on previous albums. They are both more numerous and interesting to listen to. Just take a listen to the solo in Divide the Armies.

Brian seems to have almost completely abandoned his lower growls for a higher pitched scream. I've never had a problem with his style and actually enjoyed his lows so I have to admit the higher sounding growls he uses here grate a little with me. They aren't a deal breaker and not even necessarily that bad its just a little high for my taste at times. The cleans are hardly there anymore as well. On Salvation Never Found, Divide the Armies, Light My Eyes, and Distortion Devotion they pop up but for the most part sparingly. I enjoy what they did here, only using cleans when they make the music better rather than going the formulaic route of just stuffing them in during the chorus.

The drumming is also really good too. There is a lot of blasting throughout the album but it isn't overkill, there is just enough. The bass is no where to be found of course but oh well.

With their sixth album Bleeding Through have created a heaping mass of aggressive, angry, and well put together metalcore. They've put together a number of different genres successfully and pretty seamlessly at that. While there are only a few tracks that stand out based on the style most of the album follows (Light My Eyes, Distortion, Devotion) they are just as good as anything else here and don't suffer for it. On their self titled the band has solidified their position as belonging to the small number of metalcore bands that you can be proud to listen to.

Score: 8.5/10
Standout Tracks: Light My Fire, Anti-Hero, Salvation Never Found

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: Mutiny Within - Mutiny Within

Band: Mutiny Within
Album: Mutiny Within
Year: 2010
Country: USA
Genre: Progressive Melodic Death Metal

This band (and album) seemed to not be received very well by some people in the metal community. I honestly cannot figure out why! Sure it isn't "brutal", but not all bands have to be. Mutiny Within play some blend of progressive melodic death metal but you wouldn't be far off calling them progressive/technical power metal with harsh vocals. Either way the melodic tag is what really fits the band best.

This album has a number of good things going for it and one of them is singer/growler Chris Clancey. Clancey has an incredibly strong singing voice that is sort of in the vein of power metal in that it is usually done in a higher register. This guy can really belt it out for sure. A lot of the songs are done in cleans only, the strongest probably being Undone. He also throws in growls as well and while they aren't as strong as his singing it doesn't really sound forced. He seems to pick and choose the right moment to let out a scream so they aren't just shoved into songs for the sake of having harsh vocals.

Next is the music itself. The guitar riffs bash your brains out with melody. I mean a number of these songs could easily be put on the radio and become popular. Don't get me wrong they are absolutely a metal band but listen to songs like Undone, or Forsaken and you can see that the band clearly had the ability to become something big in the metal scene. The guitar playing is sort of technical in that it can be complex at times while keeping a thrashy speed. But as for speed as a whole the album is all over the place, but they were composed so that they flow well.

The drumming is straight up melodeath style but a bit more inventive than the norm. There is a good bit of double bass but there is some variety as well so it doesn't become boring. The bass is mostly inaudible accept for a few parts of the album where it is given the center stage for a moment or two (like at the start of the second verse of Images). There are also some keys and they are put to good use never really being pushed over the rest of the band but making it known they are there.

This album is a great piece of melodic/death metal and if I were to describe it the best I could say is that it sounds like an American version of Scar Symmetry. Maybe Roadrunner fumbled the ball with this band but there is no reason why they didn't become much bigger than they did and unfortunately they are now on hiatus. With strong vocals and music with a massive amount of melody its really a shame Mutiny Within were looked over by most in the metal community.

Score: 9/10
Standout Tracks: Undone, Lethean, Forsaken, Year of Affliction

Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: Mercenary - Metamorphosis

Band: Mercenary
Album: Metamorphosis
Year: 2011
Country: Denmark
Genre: Melodic Death/Power Metal

Originally Mercenary were a mix of melodic death metal and thrash. Over time they evolved into a more power metal and melodic death metal mix. On Metamorphosis they also add a little bit of metalcore as well. This Danish band has in the past put out some pretty decent albums so what did they come up with for Metamorphosis?

Alright so the metalcore influence becomes most apparent when listening to the guitar riffs. On Through the Eyes of the Devil it is plainly obvious the band has taken a hint of the choppy sort of guitar play a lot of the melodic metalcore bands use and did their own thing with it. It doesn't significantly effect their sound but there is a bit more chug chug chug guitar parts here. The melodies are pretty sweet to the ear as well. But while a lot of the songs are pretty easy to listen to there are parts where the band shows more muscle. In A River of Madness has a part near the middle that practically breaks into symphonic death metal which is totally unexpected but completely awesome.

Vocally the band traded in two separate vocalists for just one. Rene Pedersen does both the harsh and clean singing on Metamorphosis and its a strong effort. He has a deeper voice when singing but can hit the high notes when its necessary. I also enjoy the screams/growls he does. He does a more normal sounding growl in between high and low and a higher one also.

Most of these songs range from decent to pretty good. The album opener while showing more metalcore like tendencies is memorable, and in a good way. As is most of the album. The first four tracks are especially good. The Follower has a nice break in the middle where it slows down and builds back up. In A River of Madness has the awesome symphonic section, and Memoria is full of excellent guitar riffing that has melody on steroids.

Now all those positives being said, the album has a couple of lemons. Shades of Gray is the poppy all clean sung song that every melodeath album seems to have. Its pretty boring and all the aggression and feeling is missing because its obvious this song was made for something resembling a single as its much more easy to listen to for those who don't enjoy singing. The Black Brigade is another strange addition to the album. The chorus has an almost sleazy rock feel to it and the whole song sounds a bit out of place being upbeat almost like a party song.

Metamorphosis is a pretty decent album and while its not exactly what a lot of Mercenary fans might be expecting I think fans of melodic metal in general would enjoy it. Rene has a strong vocal performance and most of the songs are unique, so you will probably never mistake one track for another. This isn't a good thing in the case of a few songs but it is what it is. All in all pick this up if you're into melody over dissonance, you'll get the most bang for your buck.

Score: 7.5/10
Standout Tracks: In A River of Madness, Memoria

Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: Hail of Bullets - On Divine Winds

Band: Hail of Bullets
Album: On Divine Winds
Year: 2010
Country: The Netherlands
Genre: Death Metal

I love Hail of Bullets so to say I was awaiting On Divine Winds is to put it lightly. ...Of Frost and War had become one of my favorite death metal album and the band itself harkens back to the simplistic groovy style of Bolt Thrower, war themed lyrics included!

Where on the last album HoB seemed to be almost a shadow of Asphyx with their doomy sections on this release they had cut back significantly on the doom and gone for straight mid paced death metal. Sure there are still slower parts but as a whole the album moves along a bit more quickly than before.

There is an undeniable groove to the riffs constructed here. You have the main riff of Operation Z or the easy to headbang to Guadalcanal that has a sort of bounce to the verse riffs. Like I said the slower numbers are still there, To Bear the Unbearable is kind of the epic ending track and like Berlin from the last album it marches along slowly. Tokyo Napalm Holocaust has a few chuggy sections that sound absolutely bad ass as well but a lot of the song crawls and those more speedier sections are almost separate climaxes.

Martin Van Drunen as always brings his A game. He has one of those growls where as soon as you hear it you know exactly who it is. On ODW he belts out line after line of lyrics pertaining to the Pacific theater. I like what the band has going here with the different theaters of war they are exploring with each album.

As always the production is massive. Dan Swano over at Unisound Studio once again did the mixing/mastering. The guitar sound is thick but not in the way you usually think. They sound like a freight train more than anything else. The mix is done pretty well and the guitars/vocals are up from with the drums not far behind. The bass guitar for the most part is no where to be found, maybe I just don't have it up loud enough though. But I think if they gave Theo Van Eekelen more room and a higher spot in the mix they could improve the heaviness of their sound even further. I always loved how Jo Bench filled out the bottom end of Bolt Throwers sound and it would be cool if that was done here as well.

On Divine Winds is an improvement on the foundations HoB laid with OFaW. This is sort of a defining record where they drop the Asphyxisms and do their own thing. Now their own thing might sound really close to what Bolt Thrower was doing but this doesn't bother me one bit. This band still has their own identity though and a sound that is quite their own. This along with God Dethroned's album is easily one of the top releases of 2010.

Score: 9/10
Standout Track: Operation Z, Tokyo Napalm Holocaust, Guadalcanal, Full Scale War

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: God Dethroned - Under the Sign of the Iron Cross

Band: God Dethroned
Album: Under the Sign of the Iron Cross
Year: 2010
Country: The Netherlands
Genre: Blackened Death Metal

This was my introduction to God Dethroned. In fact the only reason I decided to check out this album was because I was looking for war themed death metal. God Dethroned play blackened death metal so there is an excess (though not in a negative way) of ripping fast riffs and blast beats.

To add some atmosphere the album starts with what sounds like a German radio message as drums and guitars slowing fade in. Storm of Steel is probably the best track on the album though its hard to say because it is all so good here. The riffs while often pretty fast paced are very melodic for the style of metal being played. In fact that is one of the big things I enjoy about UtSotIC, there is so much melody fused with the brutality that the riffs and vocal/lyric lines stick with you long after you've finished listening.

Whats more the album is only 36 minutes long. Tracks like Storm of Steel, Fire Storm, The Killing Is Faceless, and The Red Baron all are memorable headbangers with excellent riffs and face melting lyrics about WWI combat. To add to the combat theme there are small sound bytes taken from Saving Private Ryan of some of the battle scenes. Fire Storm has the sounds of a tank being blown up with machine gun fire in the background, Chaos Reigns At Dawn takes from the scene where the Germans are firing a heavy weapon at allied troops tearing them to pieces. This all adds to the war theme giving an extra bump to the atmosphere.

But there are two really epic tracks here. The self titled song has an excellent clean sung portion in the middle while the drums blast. Soon its over and the song gets back to its massively heavy sound. On Fields of Death and Desolation comes in at 7 and a half minutes with a long intro that builds up to the heavier part. This song isn't so much about being "brutal" or heavy but once the intro is over it definitely displays that. Half way in the song goes back into riffing slowly with harmonized leads in almost the same way it began. There is some pretty nice soloing in this section as well.

Henri Sattler is an awesome vocalist with his gravely yet sharp growling. The drummer blasts like a heavy machine gun rat a tatting away. The bass drumming also sounds pretty heavy on a bass heavy sound system, I love listening to this album in my car. Under the Sign of the Iron Cross is a brutally awesome album that melds Bolt Hammeresque military/war themes and melody with speeds verging on black metal. This was easily one of my favorite albums of 2010 and you shouldn't miss out on the masterpiece created here.

Score: 9/10
Standout Track: Storm of Steel, Red Baron, Under the Sign of the Iron Cross, The Killing Is Faceless

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: In Flames - Sounds of a Playground Fading

Band: In Flames
Album: Sounds of a Playground Fading
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Genre: Modern/Alternative Metal

I personally think SoaPF is an improvement over A Sense of Purpose. While I did enjoy ASoP it was still a rather weak release. On Sounds In Flames seem to go for a little heavier approach and while its nothing like their old school melodic death metal albums its better than the last album.

First, either I'm getting used to Anders' vocals or he is actually getting better at his singing and growling. Where as post Colony his screams seemed almost too forced and like he was trying to copy Jonathan Davis from Korn. Here I don't even cringe while listening. This is a big deal since in the past Anders Friden was probably the weak link of the band. I'm interested to see how those who disliked his style in the past feel about what they might hear here. I have to admit though on Ropes his singing voice kinda falls flat and sounds a bit weak, probably because his accent is so obvious.

The lyrics are still a mess. Its not even necessarily the subject matter (personal struggles which has been done to death), but the lyrical make up itself. Old In Flames always had interesting lyrics about science fiction and future issues. But on the last 3 or 4 albums they switched to inner turmoil. But Anders must still not have a good grasp on english or something because the lyrics just don't flow properly in a number of places.

One of the big things about this record is how guitarist (and the last founding member) Jesper Stromblad left before the recording began. But as soon as you go through the album once you can tell that with the last few releases Jesper played a smaller and smaller part in the writing process. This sounds like a proper progression of A Sense of Purpose and what you would expect the band to sound like even if Jesper had stayed. So Bjorn and Niclas Engelin pull off the same sound you know and love (or don't) from the past few albums.

In Flames continue adding a little more of a progressive/experimental edge to their sound. The Jester's door is a mix of electronic and instrumental music but is very quiet and soft. The title track is soft guitars for about the first minute before shooting off into something resembling what you might hear from Come Clarity. There are really no bad tracks on this album save for maybe Jester's Door which is basically a throw away/filler track. The band really hits the melody strong here though with tracks like Deliver Us, All For Me, The Puzzle, ect ect. As always there is a big emphasis on the guitar harmonies, one of my favorite things about IF.

There album hits on a darker tone though as well. Along with Jester's Door there is The Attic which is like this albums shorter version of The Chosen Pessimist. The last minute or two of Liberation isn't quite as dark but the clean guitars going on with the drumming sticking to the background as the song finishes give it that sort of feel.

Sounds of A Playground Fading is an excellent album if you take it for what it is, a modern metal album. It's a sort of mix between A Sense of Purpose and Come Clarity with a little more progressive/experimental frame of mind to it. As always Daniel Svensson's drumming is a joy to listen to and the melody makes this an easy, fun album to get into. The riffs stand out as being easy on the ear without crossing into alternative/rock territory. And with Anders vocal improvements I think In Flames fans who enjoy their discography as a whole are in for a treat.

Score: 8/10
Standout Tracks: Deliver Us, Fear Is The Weakness, The Puzzle, All For Me

My soundtrack to Halloween!

Since Halloween is coming up I thought I'd make a post of a number of bands that I like who fit the holiday. After all this is probably the most metal holiday of the year (not counting trying to shop for people on Christmas Eve which is pure torture and brutal to the max!).

Here are a few songs by bands I listen to who set me in the mood for Halloween:

Impaled - Death After Life - Mondo Medicale

A concept album about the band members being medical students doing experiments (that often go wrong) on their fellow professor and students trying to bring the dead back to life. Along with that medically homicidal lyrics Impaled mimic Carcass in their Heartwork era of sound. Expect Death Metal with a nice amount of melody included.

Ghoul - Splatterthrash - Splatterthrash

Formed by members of Impaled, Ghoul is what you get if you were to mix old school Crossover Thrash with Death Metal. Splatterthrash is a concept album telling the story of the band members (mutants from Creepsylvania) fighting a Cult intent on their demise. The lyrics and story are done in a comic book horror kind of way and the music itself is probably the most fun you will have listening to Death Metal.

The Devil Wears Prada - Zombie EP - Survivor

Ok not the most metal band but their last few releases have shown improvement. TDWP actually make pretty decent Metalcore these days. And who wouldn't like an EP where all the songs are about human survivors of a zombie apocalypse? There are some nice sound bytes throughout the album that keep the end of the world type atmosphere going too.

Entombed - Left Hand Path - Left Hand Path

Just listen to the song! Whether its the scream at the start, the creepy music near the middle or the lyrics about some sort of satanism this song is perfect!

Eucharist - Mirroworlds - Demons

Great old school melodic death metal. Like Left Hand Path, Demons starts with the sounds of a stormy night, bells ringing, and growling dogs/wolves. The song itself has a sort of menacing feel to it.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

RIP Dismember 1988 - 2011

One of the pioneers of Swedish Death Metal decided to call it a quits last week. Its really a shame too because like Bolt Thrower, Dismember were one of the more consistent death metal bands in the scene.

If you don't know much about the band and their music I suggest going onto iTunes finding the Requiem Metal Podcast's page and downloading episode 4. Jason and Mark go through the history of the band and play a song or two from each album.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: Insomnium - One For Sorrow

Band: Insomnium
Album: One For Sorrow
Year: 2011
Country: Finland
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

The Finnish melodic death metal scene just doesn't do very much for me. Whether its Omnium Gatherum, Mors Principium Est and up until this album Insomium. But One For Sorrow is a bit better than the rest, including Omnium Gatherum's album New World Shadows that came out earlier this year.

If I were to describe Insomnium on One For Sorrow I would say they sound like a slower In Flames (Pre-Clayman) with a focus on doom and gloom type riffs and atmosphere. In fact the guitar harmonies are straight up what you would expect to hear off of Colony or Whoracle. This isn't bad though, it might not be very original but In Flames always were my favorite with how well done the harmonies were. Its easy to see that band was probably the biggest influence on Insomnium, listen through Only One Who Waits.

But the slower songs rule this album though. Lay the Ghost to Rest (which has great riffs), One For Sorrow, and Inertia all exude the slower more depressing kind of sound that Insomnium are well known for. Not to mention the instrumental Decoherence which is an extension of that sound but even darker and softer.

The one thing I do enjoy about these bands from Finland though is the vocals. They completely drop the higher pitched growls that the Swedish bands make such heavy use of and go for a lower more obvious death metal tone. There are some clean vocals here but they are used sparingly and done very well. Its not really that the cleans are even that good as far as vocal quality is concerned, but that they are put into parts of songs where they add another dimension to it all.

The only real complaint I have is the thing that most people seem to enjoy about this band. The whole sad/depressing sound does get a little tiring. The songs are good but that atmosphere isn't as well done as I have heard on other albums, Mirrorworlds by Eucharist being the most obvious example. Though if you enjoy that sound as many people seem to it won't bother you at all like it does me.

One For Sorrow is a really solid album with great melodies and harmonies. The dark sound is interesting but it kind of became tiring to me. The vocals, both clean and harsh, are really well done and I enjoy hearing the guttural style that Niilo Sevanen uses. This has become probably one of my favorite releases from a Finnish melodeath band.

Score: 8.5/10
Standout Track: Regain the Fire, Through the Shadows, Only One Who Waits

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Movie Review: Paul (2011)

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have become one of my favorite comedic film duos of modern times. Whether its Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz these guys just crack me up. But I when I first heard about Paul I was more than a little apprehensive. I mean the trailer was probably what did it. It came off as probably being a really stupid movie...and not funny stupid just stupid stupid.

I am happy to say that I was proven completely wrong. When an alien named Paul (after a little girls dog whom he hit with his ship while crashing) finally realizes that hes not just a guest but a prisoner he escapes and happens upon Graeme and Clive, two English nerds in the states to attend comicon and visit famous alien crash sites. The film follows their adventures as they take Paul to his destination to leave earth all the while being pursued by government agents intent on preventing Paul's exodus from our planet.

Let me tell you, this film is a geek film through and through. With references to Aliens, Star Wars, Star Trek, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T. if you are a sci-fi nerd you will love this movie. Right off the bat as Graeme and Clive are walking to comicon they chuckle at the fantasy fans dressed as Orcs. This is a movie people in that community will totally understand though people who aren't too much into the science fiction/fantasy genres might not quite understand some of the jokes or references. Whether its a country bar band playing the Mos Eisley Cantina music from A New Hope, the two main characters re-enacting Kirk's fight with the green lizard man, or The Devil's Tower being the meeting place for Paul and his ride back into space, these all add to the entertainment and fun provided by the film.

Frost and Pegg do wonderful jobs playing fanboys, the exact kind of people who most of us have met in real life (or we happen to be). The unkempt greasy fans who see most things through the lens their favorite genre. Seth Rogen also does a good job voicing Paul. Of course having been hanging out on Earth for decades Paul has assimilated to our culture and comes off as just another one of the guys. Jason Bateman plays a hilariously serious government agent who has to put up with Bill Hader (Knocked Up, Superbad) and Joe Lo Truglio (Superbad), his moronic peers. The only character I didn't really enjoy was the one played by Kristen Wiig. Wiig's character realizes a bit into the movie there is probably no higher power and begins to let lose with cursing left and right. While I don't mind cuss words with her doing it so often (and horribly as someone without experience would sound) it just seemed a bit forced and unnecessary.

Besides Wiig's character the story also takes potshots at religion. While this didn't bother me at first it became a little stale as it was referenced to a little too much as the film went on. And while I wouldn't exactly consider myself very in line with the Christian faith it might get annoying to some who practice it. Though I did read it was basically done as a nod towards the bible thumping religious wack job mother of Carrie from the Stephen King book (and later movie) of the same name.

You could say Paul is to Science Fiction geekdom as Fanboys was to Star Wars lovers. It's a hilarious movie but even more than that it comes off very heart felt in many ways. It totally sounds cheesy I know but you can tell the movie follows the queues of E.T. where it is an alien being taken care of by a few friends who are trying to do the right thing after befriending the E.T. in the process of their journey together. Watch this not only if you enjoy previous movies done by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, but if you are a science fiction fan in general. There is plenty here to give you a good time!

Score: 9/10

Review: The Haunted - Unseen

Band: The Haunted
Album: Unseen
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Genre: Alternative Metal/Hard Rock

It seems The Haunted have decided to seriously try their hand at some sort of modern/alternative metal sound. To say the effort falls on its face is really putting it nicely. I'm a fan of a couple of their earlier albums but there is really none of that thrashy melodic death metal style present on Unseen. What we instead get is a blatant attempt at commercially accessible radio rock/metal. But lets face it, if that's what I was looking for I'd just turn on the radio.

This album is seriously lacking in real aggression. We get glimpses here and there but they are just that. Its strange but The Skull is probably the most raging song here. Its strange because its starts off more mellow than most the others with clean guitar parts before ramping into a heavy build up. And to be honest, even being probably the best song on the album its only ok. The City actually has some pretty decent riffs as well. Its not that much heavier than anything else on Unseen but the quality is there so I can look past it.

And then there is Peter Dolving. Peter is like the Swedish version of Phil Anselmo. He does a sort of hardcore shout that a million other vocalists have done, many better than him. There is nothing unique or interesting about his style. He isn't heavy or interesting and nothing about his vocals stand out. This goes for his cleans as well, which have just as much if not more time on Unseen than his shouting. Its sort of a plain style through and through.

The problem with Unseen is that it is highly forgettable. The vocals, the music, is all just kind of there. We get hints in tracks like Them, The Skull, and The City, of the former greatness of the band. But just hints. Ocean Park somehow made it on the album which is a "song" that comes in at under a minute and proves rather useless. I cant fathom why this is even on here. The Haunted seem to have been trying to emulate some sort of heavy grunge sound. Take a listen to All Ends Well, there is a sort of Stone Temple Pilots thing going on there. Which is another problem, a lot of the songs on Unseen just sound derivative.

In the end there are very few redeeming factors in this album. Besides a few songs this is a extremely weak showing. There are other bands out there doing the same thing but better and you should probably go listen to them. Even if I had heard most of this on the radio one day it wouldn't have stuck with me. In keeping with their fellow countrymen like In Flames, Soilwork, and Sonic Syndicate, The Haunted have opted for safe, uninteresting and drab music. What a shame.

Score: 3/10
Standout Track: The Skull, Them, The City

Download the Earache Winter Sampler Free!

Earache Records is offering a free sampler download here. All you have to do is type in your email address and you are given a link to a .zip file containing the sampler songs.

The sampler consists of tracks by the following bands:

Rival Sons
White Wizzard
Savage Messiah
Diamond Plate
The Browning
Cerebral Bore
The Soulless
Hour Of 13
Woods Of Ypres


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Amon Amarth - Surtur Rising

Band: Amon Amarth
Album: Surtur Rising
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Genre: Melodic Death/Metal

I have never really enjoyed Amon Amarth. I mean my experience with the band is limited to having listened to Twilight of the Thunder God a few times. I have a big issue with that album and it holds true with Surtur Rising as well.

Amon Amarth don't seem to play melodic death metal so much as down tuned heavy metal or hard rock with death metal vocals over them. Lets keep in mind, just having death metal vocals does not make a band death metal. Are they catchy? Yes, so I can see why people like them. But in the metal community not many people seem to call them out for the fact that they play really weak melodic "death metal".

I mean is anything on Surtur Rising any heavier than Slipknot or 5 Finger Death Punch or even Killswitch Engage? In the vocal department I can give Johan Hegg credit. He has a very death metal sounding growl. But musically this is far from death metal or even the crud that passes for melodic death metal these days.

There are some fast picked parts in songs like Tock's Taunt - Loke's Treachery Pt 2 and Destroyer of the Universe which are actually more in line with what you would normally hear in the genre. But for every one of these parts you have stuff like The Last Stand of Frej or their cover of the System of a Down track Aerials. A Beast I Am is actually a pretty decent song and the furthest away from the heavy rock/metal style they play in. Its both aggressive and heavy which makes me wish they could have done this throughout the entire album.

So for those looking for good melodic death metal rather than hard rock on steroids I suggest you look elsewhere. While the vocals are good and some of the tracks (A Beast I Am, Live Without Regrets, Destroyer of the Universe) are good, most of it is just watered down metal lite with death metal vocals over it. In fact the best part of this album is probably the cool album artwork. I'm sure there are plenty more enticing bands and albums out this year than this drivel.

Score: 4/10
Standout Track: A Beast I Am

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Movie Review: Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

There seemed to have been a really big wave of alien invasion films that came this year and Battle: LA was one of them. The whole alien invasion rah rah rah lets fight them off type of films happen to be some of my favorites. I mean at heart I am a huge Sci-Fi nerd so this movie was sort of like nerd porn for me, though it did have its flaws.

Aaron Eckhart is a Marine Staff Sergeant who is close to getting out of the Marines. But it seems the whole hostile aliens thing is about to get in the way of that. We are introduced to the various members of his soon to be squad in different parts of their lives both inside and outside the Marine Corps. This is supposed to get us familiar with the characters and even care about them but I don't think it goes far enough in some aspects and it becomes fairly obvious once the action starts that not many of them are going to make it through to the end of the film.

The story itself is actually pretty decent. A squad stuck behind enemy lines during an invasion and trying to make their way to safety. But things go south one after another and many of the Marines end up wounded or dead. I enjoy it when movies do that too, when people are getting blown away left and right it gives a sense that no one is safe though Aaron Eckhart's character was the only one to escape this feeling since you just knew he wasn't going to get so much as a scratch.

A lot of the actors I'd never seen in films before and it kind of shows. Whether it was the script itself or just poor acting, this kind of hurt the film. There were a few people who you can tell did the best with what they had, most obviously to me being Will Rothhaar who played Corporal Imlay. Even a number of Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez's lines fell kind of flat. In fact it had to have been for the most part the script, which had people saying things that had me facepalming or chuckling aloud while watching the film. Having spent a lot of time around Marines I can say there would have been a lot more cursing and less stating the obvious though I suppose that last one can be given some room considering it was for the audiences sake.

But I doubt most people went to Battle: Los Angeles expecting award winning acting. No you came for the action right? The CGI in the movie looks really good and blends with what I can only assume is live action set pieces rather well. Like I said before no one (mostly) seemed safe from getting ganked and we are made aware of that after the first fire fight when wounded Marines are taken out on a medevac helicopter only for it to be knocked out of the sky in a big ball of fire. There is a scene where the Marines hop into a tracked vehicle and a humvee to try and get to another destination that could have probably been much better, it was just too short. The combat scenes are intense because at any moment someone could be killed or injured and its always cool when a new alien weapon enters the movie.

Battle: Los Angeles suffers from at times shoddy dialogue that might make you cringe but the rest of the movie makes up for it. Imagine Black Hawk down but with aliens instead of Somalis and you have a good idea of what you are in for here. The movie offers mindless fun and by the end you actually do care about those who are still left in the squad. And the end? It totally leaves this open for a sequel which I would gladly go see.

Score: 8/10

More Stuff

I'm thinking of doing some movie reviews as well and maybe a book here and there to switch things up a little. I've never reviewed a movie before so hopefully it will turn out decent.

Review: Opeth - Heritage

Band: Opeth
Album: Heritage
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Genre: Progressive Rock/Metal

I thoroughly enjoy Opeth's first 3 albums, along with Watershed. But My Arms, Your Hearse is probably their zenith as far as what I have heard. So lets get this out of the way right now: if you are much more into Opeth's older albums, Heritage is probably not for you. Gone are the growled death vocals, and most traces of even the metal aspects of Opeth are gone, traded in for a retro 70s prog rock sound as hinted at by Akerfeldt prior to the album's release.

There are still elements of metal left here. Especially on The Devil's Orchard and Folklore. But they are mostly what you would expect out of a sort of 70s proto metal band. The guitar sound does have a sort of thick metal sound at times as well.

Now a lot of people are a little pissed that the death metal vocals are missing in action on Heritage. It bothers me to a degree but Mikael has always had an excellent singing voice and he lives up to the hype he gets here.

Heritage begins with a self titled instrumental track. It also ends with another instrumental called Marrow of the Earth. Both of these songs are really good and the piano in Heritage gives it a sort of dark, gothic, depressive sort of sound. It almost seems fitting of a dark dreary rainy October day. Marrow of the Earth is along those lines as well, except where Heritage uses a piano MotE is mainly an acoustic affair though near the end the drums softly enter the song. I really enjoy the soft darkness of these two songs and they do a lot to set the atmosphere at both ends of the album.

The keys evoke probably most strongly the feeling of 70s progressive rock. Look no further than the first proper song, The Devil's Orchard, to hear it. But the keyboards stick a little further in the background so as not to choke out the rest of the instruments. Well perhaps not to far back but the guitars don't have to compete with them anyways. They are present throughout most of the album but the two instrumentals so they are sort of an integral part to the sound of Heritage.

On some of the songs Opeth's influences are worn a little more on their sleeve than others. Like on Folklore, there is a part near the start where there is a flute playing and the whole section of music following that just screams of something like Jethro Tull. In fact Folklore while being the second longest song on Heritage at a little over 8 minutes long is probably my favorite song. Famine also gives off the same Jethro Tull vibe at around the 5 minute mark it could have been taken right out of one of that band's songs.

But there is something wrong with Heritage that I cant quite put my finger on. It's a good album but by Opeth standards, the good of Heritage doesn't really seem good enough. Certain songs like Nepenthe and Haxprocess seem to just drag on and go no where at all. Its missing the aggression that was in almost all those early songs in one way or another. The closest we probably get here is Slither with its more fast paced speed and undeniably metal guitar solo. Stylistically a lot of the music here has an almost happy upbeat sound to it which seems a little out of character for Opeth. An upbeat part will lead straight into a somber acoustic piece or something else and this makes the songs sound a tad disjointed because it doesn't seem to flow just right.

All in all Heritage is sort of a confusing ride. While a good portion of it is pretty good (Folklore, The Devil's Orchard, Heritage, Marrow of the Earth, Famine) there are also parts of the good songs or songs as a whole which are difficult to listen to (Nepenthe, Haxprocess and portions of I Feel the Dark). But like I said there is good, the songs I listed like TDO, Folklore, and the instrumentals are all really great listens. The drumming is jazzy and fun to listen to and Mikael's vocals are right on.

Heritage has many good qualities but it has it's flaws as well. I can see myself going back to listen to certain songs but probably not the album as a whole.

Score: 6.5/10
Standout Tracks: Folklore, Famine, Heritage, Marrow of the Earth

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: Immolation - Providence

Band: Immolation
Album: Providence
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Genre: Death Metal

I have never really listened to Immolation before, but it is a band name I've heard thrown around quite a bit. So keep in mind Providence is my first experience hearing the band. And I have to say I am quite happy with what they have presented here.

Coming in just under 20 minutes Providence packs a punch for being so short. I've listened to the whole thing 6 or 7 times now and I find myself still enjoying it. Ross Dolan has what I would consider along with Karl Willets the epitome of a death growl. Its deep but like Willets if you actually listen to the vocals you can still understand what Dolan is saying. It may be a little one dimensional but it doesn't hurt the album at all since it fits the music so well.

Robert Vigna and Bill Taylor create some really crushing riffs as well. Even the intros are instantly recognizable, like in Illumination, Providence, and Swallow the Fear. And the songs aren't all fast or all slow either. They mix it up and you will find slower heavy riffing mixed in with riffing done at breakneck speeds.

As far as the drumming is concerned Steve Shalaty has a pretty solid performance. Its your usual death metal drumming and to my untrained ear I don't really have any issues with it. Though I have to admit there is a part in Illumination that sticks out where the guitars are more in the background and the drums are playing an almost jungle beat but sped up. Unfortunately as often happens I couldn't really hear Ross Dolan's bass playing which is one of the things that sucks. Had it been more audible it would have added a lot more punch to the sound I think.

Providence is a really good EP that I have enjoyed listening to. It holds all the qualities that you should look for in good death metal. Its even got a pretty dark tone to it as well, especially when you first hear the horror movie sounding orchestral intro to Illumination. Anyone who likes death metal should probably get a hold of this EP because they are missing out on some pretty solid stuff. If anything I wish this were longer...

Score: 9/10
Standout Tracks: Illumination, Swallow the Fear

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Shadows Fall material

So I checked out Shadows Fall's first live stream today and we got a little preview of the drumming. Jason Bittner's stuff is sounding good and really energetic. I'm a big fan of SF so it was pretty cool to see them interact with the fans and I even got to ask a question that Brian answered. I asked how they felt about switching labels to Razor and Tie which they very recently did and was told they happened to be the ones who set up the whole live stream deal so that's cool.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Download the Immolation EP Providence for free!

So Scion A/V is giving away the new Immolation release, Providence, as a free download. It was actually released today so go download it here so you don't miss out! These five songs are probably just left overs from Majesty and Decay but who cares? I've heard that was a pretty good album (unfortunately I haven't gotten it for a listen) so these should be pretty good too.

Oh and lastly if you are one of those people who absolutely NEED a physical copy, the band will be giving away cd's of Providence at their shows on their next tour I believe. So either catch a show or check ebay.

Review: Trivium - In Waves

Band: Trivium
Album: In Waves
Year: 2011
Genre: Metalcore/Modern Metal

I will admit I am an unabashed Trivium fan. Well of their metalcore stuff anyways, for the most part The Crusade was just not my cup of tea. But still, I have been a fan since Ascendancy and barring TC, in my opinion they make some pretty aurally pleasing metalcore.

With In Waves the band seems like they are both experimenting and regressing. IW is in fact a mix of Ascendancy and Shogun with an experimental edge to it. Now I dont mean experimental in the avante garde prog kind of way. In Waves is quite melodic, probably even more so than any of their previous albums.

So where as Shogun had more singing than screaming this album does the opposite. Dont get me wrong there is still a lot of singing here but it was toned down a little bit more and the harsh vox were given a little more room. But luckily its not forced. And not one style dominates the album either. We have songs like Black and Of All These Yesterdays where there is mainly clean singing, while In Waves and A Skyline's Reverence with mainly harsh vocals. The rest of the songs run the gamut being anywhere in between. But I guess the main thing here is if you didnt like matt's voice on previous albums, you still wont like it here.

One thing I am glad for is that Nick Augusto took over on the drums. His drumming is a little more inventive and interesting than Travis Smith's. I mean Smith's drumming just became so...formulaic and boring. He got a little better with Shogun but Augusto's drumming here is all around better. The addition of blast beats into the songs also makes them feel heavier, probably heavier than they really are.

As always I enjoy the guitar riffs created by Heafy. For all the crap they get, Trivium have some of the better solos in the metalcore genre. They are technical to a degree but also seem to be written to add more to enjoyability to the song than just being able to say they are technical. They are actually a real joy to listen to. The thrash riffs are pretty much gone and the band is back to their Ascendancy era sound.

In Waves is a good listen if you are a fan of Trivium, or metalcore in general. The band has always been more metal than hardcore in my eyes anyways. It should appeal especially to those who just enjoy melodic metal. The only problem I really have with the album is that it could be a little shorter but that's not really too big of an issue since I still like hearing the songs. In Waves might not change people's minds about Trivium but it should be something fans can be happy about getting.

Score: 7.5/10
Standout Tracks: In Waves, Black, Caustic Are the Ties That Bind

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: Entrenched - Preemptive Strike

Band: Entrenched
Album: Preemptive Strike
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Genre: Death/Thrash Metal

I love war themed metal, especially in the death metal genre. I mean what is more in line with death metal than to growl your guts out about mass destruction and hot hunks of metal tearing people to pieces? Entrenched play death/thrash with a heavy war theme like Bolt Thrower, or Hail of Bullets.

While listening to Preemptive Strike I first noticed the vocals. There is a high pitched rasp and a low death growl that remind me heavily of Bill Steer and Jeff Walker's older work in Carcass. Needless to say being a big fan of Carcass I love what Sean Fitzpatrick and Charles Snyder are doing here. Its a complete throwback and with the thrash thrown in it also makes me think of Ghoul.

Death/thrash can be a lot of fun and when you play the first song (Intro (Mobilized)) you know exactly what you're getting. The riffs are often very groovy and are all rather pleasing to the ear. Landbrecher 666 is especially good and it bleeds right into Frenzied Amputation, another good track. The solos on the album are also pretty cool. What they lack in technicality they make up for in quality.

I really enjoy the production here as well. Unlike a lot of the modern thrash bands who prefer to thin out the guitars to make it sound like they were recorded in the 80s Entrenched went with a meaty thicker sound and it fits the theme and style. There are also a few sound bytes thrown in to some of the songs for good measure and its done well. The intro to ICBM has a piece of what sounds like an old documentary or something recounting how fragile the human body is when it comes to the different ways a nuclear bomb can kill you.

Preemptive Strike is a good (not great) album that people who like bands like Bolt Thrower, Warbringer, or HoB will enjoy. Its some good punishing death/thrash with excellent vocals and I hope to hear more from them in the future.

Score: 7/10
Standout Tracks: Landbrecher 666, Frenzied Amputation

Cynic Release a preview of Carbon Based Anatomy

So Cynic released that yesterday. As a fan of Focus I have to say Traced In Air and this don't really make me want to go out and buy the albums. After Traced In Air I wasnt really expecting them to return to what they sounded like on Focus anyways but this is so far from what they originally did its difficult to enjoy.

On the upside the album art is freakin awesome:

Carbon Based Anatomy has a release date of November 11th on Season of Mist.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review: Nightrage - Insidious

Band: Nightrage
Album: Insidious
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden/Greece
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

Nightrage is back with their all start lineup that reminds one of the good ole days of Sweet Vengeance. I have been awaiting this album for a while as SV is an excellent melodic death album and the band's last album, 2009's Wearing A Martyr's Crown, was a decent outing starring their latest growler.

The music style isn't that different from WAMC but maybe a little more in the style of Sweet Vengeance. Of course I have to make mention of guitarist and founder Marios Iliopoulos who seems to do Gothenburg melodic death metal better than most (if not all) of the bands who originated from that scene. I mean the guy has got serious chops on the guitar and he writes more in the aggressive thrashy vein of old Soilwork but with almost a flair of old school metal to it, especially in the soloing.

But that may be thanks in part to the fact that Gus G. contributed to the album as he previously had and these two guys make one of the better guitar duos of the genre. The soloing on this album is outstanding and stands apart from most of the garbage that comes out under the tag of MDM these days.

Just listen to the riff during the chorus of Poignant Memories, or anything out of Hate Turns Black. The guitar harmonies are top notch! Try not to bang your head during Hate Turns Black, I dare you. Some of the tracks have Tom Englund as a guest vocalist making them reminiscent of SV. You have to listen to Solar Corona not just for his great vocal work but for the soloing on the song. Tomas Lindberg also contributes to a number of songs here but I would have to say most strongly on This World Is Coming To An End where near the end of the song he echoes Tom Englund's clean vocals making the second half of the song pretty epic.

Now main vocalist Antony Hämäläinen would have to be the only part of the album I may have issue with. While he doesnt have a terrible growl it seems like a weaker version of what Tomas Lingberg does. It becomes even more obvious when you hear both of them in the same song. The guy still does a decent job though but I wouldn't be upset if they found a new vocalist for the next album.

The drumming is very solid on Insidious. I am happy that Johan Nunez decided to throw blast beats into the mix. I can't say the album is heavy on blast beats but for a melodeath album it sticks out like a sore thumb, but in a good way. And poor bassist Anders Hammer...did you even do anything on the album? Can't really hear his contribution to Insidious for the most part which as always is a shame.

I was sort of surprised by how well this album turned out. It was the one I was looking forward to the most in this genre for the year 2011. After all the hype of having most of the players from the first couple albums back again in one way or another I have to say the band lived up to it. Insidious is a shredding aggressive melodic death album that you can listen to and really appreciate the musicianship and skill present. Whether its the beautiful harmonies, top of the line guest appearances, or crazy drumming, if you love melodic death metal this is the one album you should not miss this year.

Score: 8.5/10
Standout Tracks: Hate Turns Black, Poignant Memories

Review: Times of Grace - Hymn Of A Broken Man

Band: Times of Grace
Album: Hymn of A Broken Man
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Genre: Metalcore

I will admit that I am a HUGE fan of Jesse Leach. Whether its his time spent in Killswitch Engage, his current band The Empire Shall Fall, or this side project with Killswitch guitarist Adam D, I love it all. And lets face it, this is probably the closest we will ever get to a proper Alive Or Just Breathing lineup reunion. So all that being said I was obviously excited to hear this album was coming out.

The influences on this album are kind of curious. We have an almost experimental modern metal(core) album steeped in Killswitch Engage like riffs. Now it was obviously going to happen that this album would either sound like KsE or get compared to it but it also stands on its own merits.

But where the guys really shine is when they mix dissonance with beauty. The two most obvious songs that we are presented with in this style are Until the End of Days and The End of Eternity. Both songs start off with a nice soft and slow intro but then out of no where Leach's tortured vocals rip through the song and the heavier riffs kick in. I have to congratulate the fellas on their ability to create songs where it flows so well from one form of music to another. I mean the songs literally go from beautiful instrumentals with clean vocals to just sounding ugly, and I mean that in the best way possible.

There are even a few more out of the ordinary songs here as well. Adam does a lot of the vocals on the album as well and its really showcased in his duet with Jesse in the acoustic song The Forgotten One. Then we have the instrumental In the Arms of Mercy that should sound familiar to anyone who has heard any of the Killswitch albums that have the instrumental tracks on them.

You have to give Adam credit both in his ability to add vocally to the album and mainly to the riffs he wrote. I mean whatever you may say about the guy you cant say that he doesn't write catchy tunes. Every song is melodic beyond belief and that's perfectly fine with me. Nothing here gets heavier than you would expect Adam to write but I don't think that's what they had in mind with the music on Hymn of A Broken Man.

Jesse did a wonderful job here. He shreds his voice in the harsher moments and croons when the music calls for it. The songs both vocally and musically seem to be split between uplifting and angry and it really shows through in the vox department. Its impressive how he can go from singing something really beautifully to sounding borderline demonic.

Hymn of A Broken Man is a wonderful effort by two titans in the metalcore scene. Its stunning in both its ability to shift from being pleasing to the ear to making you want to head bang. Adam also did the rest of the parts on the album including drumming and bass and while neither of these are anything to write home about it shows his skills as a musician. This album easily stands up against anything either of these fellas have put out so far in their careers.

Score: 9/10
Standout Tracks: Where the Spirit Leads Me, Until the End of Days, The End of Eternity

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: Abysmal Dawn - Leveling the Plane of Existence

Band: Abysmal Dawn
Album: Leveling the Plane of Existence
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Genre: Death Metal

This is one of the better death metal releases in my opinion this year. The guys in Abysmal Dawn play semi technical death metal in the vein of old Morbid Angel. But its also pretty groovy at times as well which in the grand scheme of things works in their favor. Now the album clocks in at just under 40 minutes which is just about the perfect length I think. It isn't too short but doesn't drag on too long either.

On vocals (and guitars) we have Charles Elliot and he does a pretty good job here. Elliot mainly uses a deeper death growl but bassist Mike Casio also chimes in with higher rasps as well from time to time. Just enough to change it up and make sure the vox aren't so one dimensional.

As far as Elliot's skills with the guitar they are pretty good and the riffs are enjoyable. They are technical to a degree without having the listener lose interest in whats going on. I especially enjoy whats going on in In Service of Time which serves as the best cut on the album in my humble opinion. But its not all fast paced death metal there are a few slower numbers which are just as good like Perpetual Dormancy and The Sleeper Awakens. These two tracks break up the speed but flow well with the rest of the more technical tracks. The Sleeper Awakens is especially a nice album closer.

The drumming of Scott Fuller isn't very showy its sort of your run of the mill death metal stuff. Its actually pretty tight and in no way sloppy but not over done which can annoy me with certain drummers. As usual there is quite a bit of blast beats and pretty constant double bass.

Leveling the Plane of Existence gives us some in your face straight to the point death metal. The riffing doesn't get old and continues to be a good listen which is always great. And thankfully the songs are kept short instead of treading into the norms of some death metal bands to write "epic" songs that go off into the double digits for time. There is really nothing I can complain about accept if perhaps the drumming were a little more inventive, but that's about it.

Score: 8/10
Standout Tracks: In Service of Time