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

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On Second Thought...

I had previously made a post a while back about what I thought was the needlessness people often exhibited in distinguishing the difference between melodic metalcore and melodic death metal. I thought about this again recently and came up with completely different conclusions that I previously had.

I have of late become annoyed with what exactly is being referred to as "melodic death metal". There are really three types of melodic death metal, one is the melodic metalcore variant that as the name obviously suggests borrows heavily from metalcore/hardcore. The second type is basically power metal or folk metal that uses harsh vocals. And the third is proper melodic Death Metal. Now this is Death Metal with an emphasis on melody, but is still Death Metal unlike the other forms of melodeath that are thrown in the genre.

Its not news to anyone that the genre has strayed heavily from what it originally was. In fact it only took a couple of years before old school melodic death metal had transformed into the pure Iron Maiden worship that the Gothenburg scene became famous for.

But for those who are confused here is a little help for you.

Not melodeath:

Real melodeath:

Not melodeath:

Real melodeath:

Not melodeath:

Real melodeath:

Got it? Power/Folk/Heavy metal + harsh vocals does not = melodic death metal. I really enjoy Evocation, they sound like someone mixed SotS era At the Gates with old school Swedish death metal. Bolt Thrower's 2005 album Those Once Loyal could probably count as melodic death metal in the purest sense, along with:

Carcass - Heartwork
The Black Dahlia Murder - Anything
Advent of Bedlam - Behold the Chaos
Desultory - Counting Our Scars
Chronicle of Tyrants - Nemesis MMIV
Arghoslent - Any
Edge of Sanity - Purgatory Afterglow/Crimson/Crimson II/The Spectral Sorrows
Evocation - Apocalyptic
God Dethroned - Passiondale/Under the Sign of the Iron Cross
Impaled - Death After Life

Some of these bands are considered just regular death metal others are actually put in the proper MDM genre but they are all closer to what most people think of when you say melodic death metal than most of what is lumped into that category these days.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Review: Decapitated - Carnival Is Forever

Band: Decapitated
Album: Carnival Is Forever
Country: Poland
Year: 2011
Genre: Technical Death Metal

I can finally say I checked out this album and my feelings? Eh I'm not quite sure what all the hype is (was?) about. Decapitated for those who don't know are a tech death band from Poland. This is their first album I've listened to and I cant say I'm all that impressed.

Now I came into my listening to this album expecting technical death metal. But it seems the band recently changed all but one of its members out for various reasons and perhaps it was that which caused the shift in sound but this isn't proper tech death. In fact the band that comes to mind is a more technically inclined Gojira. I just don't get the feeling that there is enough death metal in this album to be considered technical death metal. Its like some bastardized version with elements of groove metal or something.

Another thing that throws me off is Rafal Piotrowski and his style of vocals. He strays further into hardcore like shouts than anything resembling death growls. He sounds at times a lot like Phil Anselmo from Pantera/Down maybe just a little more extreme. I mean it doesn't sound too bad but when you expect one thing and get something that is completely different it kind of leaves you scratching your head.

The guitar work is still impressive, tracks like 404 and The Knife come to mind though they are all still pretty technical and show skill. But its actually the stranger songs like Carnival Is Forever and Silence which caught my ear. These two are less by the book as opposed to the rest of the album and seem to be more about atmosphere and experimenting which makes them interesting listens. Carnival Is Forever is the longest track at almost 9 minutes and goes from soft, quiet, and atmospheric to heavy guitar driven and generally pissed off sounding. Silence is an instrumental track and is far more experimental and almost melancholy almost as if it were written as a piece for a movie. Funnily enough its pretty calming, the polar opposite of the rest of Carnival Is Forever. I'd also have to throw A View From A Hole in with these two as well though it is a little more in line with the technical death/groove of the other tracks.

Along with the impressive and at times catchy noodling is the nice drumming. Karem Lechner is fun to listen to on this album and probably one of the strongest members of the band. I mean yeah some of the guitar parts and riffs are interesting but as a whole the drumming stands out more so than the vocal delivery, and bass/guitar playing.

Carnival Is Forever isn't a bad album, but its not good either. It seems to be caught in that purgatory in between good and bad, the kind of albums that are seldom remembered for being famous or infamous. It is far easier to listen to than most technical death metal though and could be a gate way album for those who may be inclined to get into tech death but are frightened off by the complexity.

Score: 5/10
Standout Tracks: Silence, Carnival Is Forever