Monday, January 31, 2011

Music and Gaming

These two seem to go hand in hand. And what better form of music to set the mood for shooting terrorists, building an empire bent on world conquest, or hacking orcs with your axe? Yes metal and gaming are the perfect mix.

Most specifically I would listen to Metallica's album Master of Puppets while playing Call of Duty 4 online. Songs like Battery, and Disposable Heroes were what really got me in a killing mood though! No seriously, I would usually put Battery on repeat and I would actually play better. Maybe it was the urgency of the music but I was near unstoppable when it was blasting.

I also played World of Warcraft for a while and never used to listen to music while playing. But let me tell you listening to the game's soundtrack over and over can get quite boring so eventually I would put something on. Usually it would be metalcore back in the day as I was (and to a degree) a pretty big fan back then. It never really affected my gameplay and was more background music than anything.

So! In the future find the bands/songs that suit you and get you into the game and watch the blood flow!

Now Playing: Edge of Sanity - Purgatory Afterglow - Silent

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Deja vu!

Its happened to us all before: you're listening to some new music or band and to your suprise the song sounds oh so familiar! Then you realize that you have heard that riff somewhere before.

It might bother some, others couldn't give a damn. Its almost like a guessing game isn't it? Well at least it can be anyways. I always find it interesting to see who guitarists rip off or show who influenced them.

This time Heaven Shall Burn is guilty. Who are they guilty of copying? Carcass, and more specifically a riff taken from the song This Mortal Coil off of Heartwork. Now after listening to This Mortal Coil check out Like A Thousand Suns off of the Heaven Shall Burn album Iconoclast.

This Mortal Coil:

You can hear it 20 seconds in.

Now Like A Thousand Suns:

You can hear it at 30 seconds in for about 25 seconds.

Sure as always it might be a coincidence and there is a very slight difference but seeing as they play in the same genre I think its just a little too obvious!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Still Remains - The Serpent

Band: Still Remains
Album: The Serpent
Year: 2007
Genre: Hard Rock/Metalcore

This album will probably surprise a lot of people who enjoyed the band's first album, Of Love and Lunacy. Not only have Still Remains changed their sound but quite dramatically. Now its far more a mix of hard rock and melodic metalcore where before they were melodic death metal with some metalcore thrown in.

The first track is an instrumental and its quite enjoyable. The Serpent starts with keys and goes shortly before the guitars kick in. Its all a build up as each instrument joins the song.

Ok I have to say, the big problem isnt that the band has introduced hard rock into their style. You know how bands usually do it? They mix their old style with their new influences or they just completely switch to their new sound. But Still Remains half divided the album into 2 musical styles. Half of the album showcases their hard rock sound and the other their melodic metalcore sound.

But dont get me wrong, the hard rock songs are actually good. Well for the most part. A couple of them really stand out, like for example Stay Captive. This song is ultra melodic and TJ Miller showcases his clean vocals that are actually decent and I would even say he could join a rock band and easily get radio play. The guitar play is fluid and not choppy like their metalcore songs on The Serpent.

Another track that displays their talent for writing accessible material is An Undesire Reunion. This one has a little more tendencies towards choppy metalcore riffing but still mixes the hard rock guitar style with this. The chorus is what really makes this song, its the definition of soaring. The verse parts are relatively mellow but it really gains strength musically during the chorus. At the bridge there is even a solo that isnt flashy or technical but still its nice to see them throw it in there.

Then we have the more throw away songs like Maria. Musically the song isnt too bad and is a 4 minute build up getting heavier and heavier as it goes on. Unfortunately lyrically the same 3 or 4 lines are repeated over and over and it just lacks any creativity and imagination. Dancing With The Enemy also seems to lack in those same qualities especially in the chorus. The singing just doesnt fit well with the music and it doesnt flow very well.

Its basically the same with the heavier songs, there are a few good and a few bad throw away tracks. The song Anemia In Your Sheets is my favorite of these. The band puts a lot of effort into the chorus of their songs and it shows here. TJ uses his harsh vocals here and their are a sort of mix of hardcore and death growls. I mentioned the chorus, its monstrous. The keys are playing and are catchy as hell while the rest of the instruments arent especially doing much it cover them but it still just fits very well. There is also quite a bit of lead harmonies scattered pretty liberally through the song.

On the opposite end we have something like Avalanche which starts off with the annoying ass start stop riffing metalcore is infamous for. There are some death growls thrown in here and there though they dont have very much punch or strength to them. The choppy riffs are present through the song and it is just a tired forumula. The only thing it has going for it is the last part of the song with its guitar harmonies that fade into a nice acoustic passage.

Overall The Serpent is just too hit and miss to be fully enjoyable. Individual songs are much more gratifying but there are just too many throw away tracks especially if you arent looking for the softer sound they developed. But there are a couple of redeeming factors, the production is good and the keys dont drown out the music (thankfully) as some bands seem to do. Still, that isnt enough to save an album as inconsistent as this.

Score: 5/10
Standout Track: Anemia In Your Sheets

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I've been posting reviews pretty frequently and its because I have a backlog of reviews I had written on another blog I did on a band's website. I'm going to be posting those reviews here and maybe tweaking their original form so that I'm satisfied with them.

Its crazy how much improvement I've made with my reviews. I'm no professional by any means but to think when I started...whew! The reviews were LONG! I rambled on and did a track by track analysis of albums. That just isn't the way to do it! I've cut down on the length of the reviews and have cut out a lot of the fat and useless info. Not to mention instead of reviewing each track I make note of the pros and cons of the entire album while sure, mentioning tracks that interest me or...don't.

Review: Ceremonial Oath - Carpet

Band: Ceremonial Oath
Album: Carpet
Year: 1995
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

Ceremonial Oath seem to be quite unknown to the melodic death metal scene which is kind of strange since it, for a time anyway, was home to a number of the guys in In Flames. This release even includes Anders Friden on vocals and former In Flames guitarist Anders Iwers.

I will be honest and say the instruments are played in a kind of sloppy manner at times. Look no further than the cover of Iron Maiden’s Hallowed Be Thy Name for this. There are lots of twin leads in that song and the guitarists seem to have some trouble keeping time with each other. The produce ranges from somewhere between primitive and the standard for a release at the time (think Lunar Strain). It can be muddy and dirty at times. This might totally bum people out and maybe I’m strange but to me it actually gives the album more character.

The band provides 7 good songs on Carpet. Tomas Lindberg of At the Gates lends vocals for The Shadowed End, One of Us – Nightshade, and Immortalized. For the rest of the tracks Anders does the vocals. This is pretty interesting practically giving half the tracks to each vocalist and it does a lot mix things up in that department. I would have to say I prefer Anders’ songs on Carpet though.

The last track on the album is Hallowed Be Thy Name and it’s a really great cover. The band plays at a faster speed than the original which gives it an urgency. The intro riff to Immortalized oddly sounds like something Metallica has or would have done in their old Thrash days. Even the mini solo sounds like Kirk, perhaps it is just an influence shining through. Someone mentioned the intro to Dreamsong having a metalcore like intro, though that same metalcore intro would be said to sound like a melodeath riff, funny stuff there. The song has an extremely catchy bridge that I could listen to over and over with a cool little solo.

Another favorite is The Day I Buried. It’s full of harmonized leads sometimes played at a more frantic pace. It also has some pretty good riffs within as well as some galloping moments. I also enjoy how at times the double bass is more pronounced giving it a heavier touch.

Overall Carpet is a pretty good album. I’m sure some people will be scared away by production (its really not that bad) or the at times sloppy musicianship but as I said earlier, it gives the album character. It has two of my favorite melodeath vocalists and some pretty good riffs and solos and a sweet cover. What’s not to like?

Score: 8/10
Standout Track: Hallowed Be Thy Name/The Day I Buried

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

well that sucks...

Looks like the big 4 of Thrash (Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth) will be playing in the U.S.!!! Yeah that's fuckin sweet thousands and thousands of people are going to...oh...what? Wait, really? They're only going to play one show? Well...fuck!

Yeah looks like the band is only going to play one stateside show and its going to be in California. I'm sure it doesn't matter that these guys could make a killing touring the country. People are pretty pissed off and I probably would be too. If something like At the Gates, In Flames, and Dark Tranquillity decided to play in the U.S. but only one show and all the way on the other side of the nation? I'd throw a fit!

Review: Dimension Zero - He Who Shall Not Bleed

Band: Dimension Zero
Album: He Who Shall Not Bleed
Year: 2009
Genre: Melodic/Death Metal

Dimension Zero is a Death Metal supergroup of sorts. We have Jesper Stromblad from (now ex)In Flames on lead guitar and bass, Daniel Antonsson who played for both Soilwork and Dark Tranquillity on rhythm guitar, and Joakim Gothberg who at one time did vocals for Marduk on vocals. To round out the group we have Hans Nilsson on drums.

The band comes up with a sound I've really been looking for in Gothenburg. If you were to mix the speed and aggression of At the Gates with the melody that old school In Flames pulled off so well you would have Dimension Zero.

The album starts off with a great song right off the bat, He Who Shall Not Bleed is fast and contains a sweet groove to it. But I especially enjoy the songs where the twin leads are sticking out like a sore thumb. This brings me to my favorite track on the album: I Can Hear The Dark. It starts off with violins in the background while Gothberg speaks a few lines. The music cuts in and you are hit with massive riffs that contain tons of melody. I find the main riff to be addicting myself.

I have to make note of the fact that the band recorded a cover of the Bee Gees song Stayin’ Alive. It’s the last track and it makes for a somewhat funny end to the album. Its played at light speed and Hans Nilsson throws in a lot of blast beats to compliment the heaviness. I actually enjoy it quite a bit.

Jocke Gothberg’s vocals are menacing and are far more black metal sounding than death metal with his high pitched throaty growls. There are some lower death growls peppered throughout the album as well.

The guitar riffs are for the most part memorable but there comes to be an issue. If you listen to the intro riff of Deny then skip ahead and do the same to The Was you will notice they are very similar. And that’s a problem throughout the album, some riffs seem to be recycled and reused here and there making you notice that certain guitar parts sound the same. This will probably bother a lot of people but I actually enjoyed the riffs so it wasn't too much of an issue for me. Still I have to deduct points for the lack of creativity here.

Even still it’s a great album, the vocals are ferocious, guitars are well played and melodic yet maintain their heaviness. The drumming is pretty standard. The bass rarely be heard except during breaks and its given a little fill. The production is top notch and you wouldn't be able to tell that it was recorded in 2007 but given a worldwide release of 2009.

He Who Shall Not Bleed is straight up melodeath with a larger focus on speed and “brutality” which is hard to come by these days where most the genre has been flooded by bands playing with a watered down hardcore influence. Props to Dimension Zero for being one of the handful of bands playing true melodic death metal.

Score: 8/10
Standout Track: I Can Hear the Dark

New cds!

Ah I find there to be something quite special about getting new cds! Looking at the cover art through the glossy plastic. Tearing it off like a little boy on Christmas morning. Then trying to get that fucking sticker off the top of the jewel case before I go batshit crazy. I mean seriously, I know I’m a pretty impatient guy, my girlfriend can attest to this. But what are they using industrial strength adhesive to keep that sticker on?

Ok ok enough about the sticker. I ordered these 4 albums from Barnes and Noble and to my surprised not of them arrived broken. I was pretty shocked to be honest, in the past its been normal for me to get (a) cd(s) in the mail and for the damn thing to practically disintegrate in my freakin hands upon opening the jewel case.

I’m one of those people who enjoys having physical copies of my music. Sure I’ve bought a song or two off of iTunes and have even downloaded stuff online but I keep going back to getting physical releases. For one its nice to have a backup that is easily accessible. If my computer and/or iPod get wiped or destroyed I have the music at my finger tips!

Anyways I cant wait to give the albums a listen and eventually get some reviews of them up!

Thine Eyes Bleed – Thine Eyes Bleed
Skeletonwitch – Beyond the Permafrost
Hail of Bullets - …Of Frost and War
The Crown – Crowned In Terror

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: Arch Enemy - Doomsday Machine

Band: Arch Enemy
Album: Doomsday Machine
Year: 2005
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

Arch Enemy have been creating Melodic Death Metal since their first release in 1996. Many fans consider the addition of Angela Gossow to be the downfall of the group. I can’t rightly judge that because I only have their first album and it seems to be of quite a different quality than their current material.

The first thing I noticed when listening to this album was the vocals. God they are awful. Its not that the vocalist is female, I quite enjoy Iwrestledabearonce and Light This City both who have female vocalists. Its that Angela’s vocals are so ridiculously processed and layered it just sounds terrible! It comes off mechanical and fake and totally ruins that part of the band and their music.

Secondly, I have to point out her lyrics. They are extremely shallow and it sounds like they were written by a pissed off 6th grader. She takes lyrical immaturity to a new level.

Still if you get passed the bad vocals and lyrics there is still some good music to be found here. The album starts off with an instrumental called Enter the Machine. Nothing real special but it does have a certain charm to it as it musically builds throughout the song.

The second track is Taking Back My Soul. This is a heavy number and the solo work by Christopher Amott is breathtaking. The actual verse riff isn’t half bad itself but it’s the riff during the chorus where the Amott brothers make it really work. The bridge isn’t too bad either and guitar chops are shown through a rather impressive group of solos.

After Taking Back My Soul is Nemesis. It starts off at thrash speeds but tapers off to a mid pace during the majority of the verse. This song especially showcases the awful lyrics and it becomes painful during the chorus. Once again the best of the music is during the chorus where Michael Amott can be heard playing a melodic little piece while Christopher keeps the rhythm going layered under his brothers guitar.

Its with the songs after the next track, My Apocalypse, that the quality kind of drops off. This song itself isn’t too bad and is a slower song but is quite enjoyable. There is an electronic sound that pops up throughout the song, like a radar ping on a submarine going off that sounds alright. Halfway through the song there is a sort of softer interlude with clean guitars being played and it’s a nice change of pace. There is also a nice slower solo played here as well. The next song, Carry the Cross isn’t that annoying but nothing really to speak of, it does have a strong chorus but its also VERY slow through the majority of it.

The album’s drumming isn’t too bad, Daniel plays quick, slow, whatever the song requires. He is a very competent drummer and its easy to see why he was chosen to replace Ken Owen after Carcass decided to reform (allowing him to play with his current band mate Michael Amott who is also in their lineup).

The rest of the tracks are kind of “meh”, nothing special. Seems the first half of the album isn’t actually all that bad, and depending on how you like your metal you might even enjoy the second half. But for me its just too difficult to get over the sad vocals and juvenile lyrics. This is a case where one person can single handedly ruin an otherwise alright album. So in summary, first half of album isn’t too bad in spite of the shitty growling and bad lyrics because the songs are pretty good themselves but after that I kind of kept checking my watch wondering how much longer I'd have to listen to this.

Score: 4/10
Standout Track: Taking Back My Soul

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mastodon you are kicking my ass!

Alright so I had heard of Mastodon before checking out Crack the Skye, but I had only heard about them. Not heard them directly. That is until I was listening to the Requiem Metal Podcast (if you haven't listened to Jason and Mark go download their shows off of iTunes NOW!) Best of 2009 show and they played The Czar. This 11 minute monstrosity peaked my interest so I got the album. I've given it a few listens and its all around a great album!

I know I'm late to the party since it came out in 2009 but oh well. The album has a lot of melody and a melancholy atmosphere throughout which at least to me really rubs off on the listener.

I'm not really a prog fan myself but this album is great fun to listen to and is accessible enough that you can have your little sister hear it and not look like someone just pulled a knife on her.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Melodic Death/Metalcore?

Where should we draw the line with genres? I think it goes a little too far and its pretty apparent with the actual need for a separate genre tag for "Melodic Metalcore".

Let's face it, the only significant difference between Melodic Death Metal (MDM) and Melodic Metalcore is the addition of breakdowns, sometimes choppy Metalcore riffing, and at times Hardcore like vocals. Sure a number of bands use clean vocals in the chorus of their songs but MDM bands have been doing this since the late 90s. Go listen to the In Flames album Colony or Soilwork's A Predator's Portrait. Though obviously as simplified as most Melodeath is, the Hardcore influenced bands seem even more so streamlined.

But still, does it warrant its own sub genre? We have bands like Children of Bodom, Brimstone, and Norther who play MDM heavily influenced by Power Metal but we don't give them some new name. Or the Melodeath bands influenced by Thrash like The Crown, Darkane, and Thine Eyes Bleed. I don't think Melodic Metalcore bands are distinct enough to be labeled outside Melodeath.

Bands like Shadows Fall, As I Lay Dying and Killswitch Engage use the twin leads popularized by Iron Maiden and which influenced bands like In Flames, Dark Tranquillity and At the Gates. The drumming is practically the same, though I find it funny that the Hardcore tinged Melodeath bands tend to be more likely to use blastbeats.

So seriously, for the sake of simplifying the craziness that has become over genrefication of Heavy Metal, let's just keep all the bands under the Melodic Death Metal umbrella. Yes, let's keep bands like Nightrage, Trivium, At the Gates, All That Remains, Dimension Zero, and Unearth in the safe grouping. Its ok I swear, you won't die seeing Still Remains lumped in with Gates of Ishtar.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: Bolt Thrower - Those Once Loyal

Band: Bolt Thrower
Album: Those Once Loyal
Year: 2005
Genre: Death Metal

Having been together since 1986 Bolt Thrower have survived the ups and downs of the metal scene. And through all this time they have relatively retained their core sound, often times being called the AC/DC of Death Metal. It was with their 3rd album, War Master, that they found their niche within the Death Metal community.

Since 1991 they have ever so slightly tweaked their sound with each new album but never strayed off the beaten path. So what do we get here? We have thrashy Death Metal with guttural vocals that sound brutal as hell, yet Karl Willets is fully understandable. The bass is completely audible on every song adding a low end to the music that is crushing, and the guitars while fast are also melodic. But we're not talking twin leads and Iron Maiden worship here. The riffs are catchy and memorable while still being punishing. Drumming is nothing overly special, but it is well done and plays its part.

Those Once Loyal is great album and holds together well. It starts off with At First Light, the best song on the album for me. An acoustic piece begins the track but its a short build up to the start of the song. The riffs here are monstrous and the solos are fun. The chorus is very memorable both musically and lyrically/vocally. This is definitely a must to listen to!

A couple songs later we have The Killchain, a continuation of a few songs the band had done on previous albums. Starting with World Eater on Realm of Chaos, Cenotaph on War Master, Embers on The lVth Crusade, and Powder Burns on Mercenary, that continue this pattern of having the same intro and outro riff that is heavy as hell. This string of songs creating a sort of on going song which is kind of a fun idea they came up with.

Those Once Loyal, the title track is another good one. The chorus especially has a lot going for it but so does the rest of the song. The band slows it down through parts though it doesn't hinder the fluidity of it all.

Another thing is the lyrics as usual deal with warfare and destruction in its various forms. This album specifically deals with themes of the First World War, At First Light being about soldiers ordered out of their trenches and into battle, Those Once Loyal talking about “traitors” who are by some seen as heroes, and Anti-Tank (Dead Armour) speaking of as the name suggests, tank warfare and things of the sort.

I wont go through every song because its just not necessary, they are all excellent! I have to say the band has succeeded in creating an album chock full of groovy masterfully crafted riffs. I love the fact that unlike a lot of bands Bolt Thrower decided not to mix the bass out of the album. In fact its mixed almost evenly with the rest of the music which shows their confidence in the skills of Jo Bench (who is also considered one of the first females to play in an extreme metal band).

This probably will go down as the bands best album and unfortunately, probably their last. They were so pleased with how TOL turned out that they didn’t feel they could surpass it so they decided to not even make another album. With an entire discography dedicated to the topic of warfare and a distinguished sound Bolt Thrower are going to go down as one of the less significant but most loved bands in Death Metal and its great of them to go out with a bang.

Score: 9/10
Standout Track: At First Light

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I guess I could get to blogging, my thoughts on current/old school metal and different things in the world of extreme metal.

I got some stuff in the mail at the moment:

Skeletonwitch - Beyond the Permafrost
Hail of Bullets - ...Of Frost and War
Thine Eyes Bleed - Separation (I think that was it, maybe it was their other album)
The Crown - Crowned In Terror

I'm excited for some Skeletonwitch since I've recently become interested in Blackened Thrash and I've heard good things about the band. With The Crown, well its got Tomas Lindberg on vocals what else can I say?! Thine Eyes Bleed is supposed to be in the same vein as The Crown as thrashy Melodeath and its got Tom Araya's brother on bass. Hail of Bullets seems to be the spiritual successor to Bolt Thrower in some ways so I just had to check it out! Can't wait for them to get here so I can get some listens in!