Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Review: Undergang - Til Døden os Skiller

Band: Undergang
Album: Til Døden os Skiller
Year: 2012
Country: Denmark
Genre: Death Metal

I'm a pretty big fan of simple groovy straight forward death metal, my love for Bolt Thrower and Hail of Bullets should make this obvious. But still there are some bands that seem to even screw up what should be a relatively simple sell for someone with musical tastes like me. Undergang seems to have done exactly that with Til Døden os Skiller and it was really difficult to listen to this over a few times for a review.

There are actually some decent riffs presented throughout the album but it seems limited to about one a song and they are rather short and switch to something else quickly. I can hear a lot of doom as well but it is done in a boring slow chugging kind of way that just isn't pleasing to the ear. Undergang seems to have followed no apparent path in composing the songs and it feels like they were just kind of winging it. It's like the band will get lost around the middle of a song before finding itself again and repeating a riff then its over. What this album needed was a little more structure. There are a few bands who can go off the beaten path and just jam and it sounds great but this is just a mess.

David Torturdød the vocalist/guitarist isn't exactly my cup of tea either. Most of the time he uses an ultra low death growl that sounds like he is possibly puking his guts out. Some people may like this and that's totally fine but for me...when you go from vocalists with powerful death growls who can actually be understood to a dull vomiting sound it kind of spoils it.

Honestly I had trouble giving this a full listen. It is really dissonant, and not in The Dillinger Escape Plan kind of way which is pulled off. No, this is a blundering mess. If brutality is what is most important to you this album is probably something you would enjoy. But it lacks a lot of direction and most times a sense of melody that is usually standard for even death metal. Til Døden os Skiller sounds more like someone flipped the on switch to a garbage disposal.

Score: 1/10
Standout Tracks: None

Review: Alcest - Les Voyages De L'Âme

Band: Alcest
Album: Les Voyages De L'Âme
Year: 2012
Country: France
Genre: Black Metal/Shoegaze

I have been sitting on this Alcest album for quite some time. I wasn't even sure it was metal when I first got it, having only heard of the band and never their actual music. So Les Voyages De L'Âme does have metal elements to it, but there is also so much more. Alcest seem to actually create a world of their own with this album and it's both beautiful and dark at once.

It would be remiss to not mention that this is a two man project with Neige contributing the majority of the material by covering the guitars, vocals, keyboards, and bass. With Neige is drummer Winterhalter. Now, Neige is obviously the creative force behind the band and he is quite talented. A lot of the riffs fit into the post rock/shoegaze genres yet at certain times metal creeps in. The riffing is quite uplifting if not a tad bit gloomy. This feeling permeates the album and they get across the ideas of these emotions of wonder and amazement very well.

The drumming by Winterhalter is nothing to write home about, mostly being rock like for the most part. But I won't say I didn't enjoy the hell out of the blasting done throughout Beings of Light, and Faiseurs De Mondes, which happens to also be my favorite song. Overall the drums were meant more to add atmosphere than to be technically difficult and in that respect they succeed. It is unfortunately that I don't remember much if any of the bass play.

I especially love the vocal performance by Neige and it's second only to his guitar parts. All the lyrics are sung in French and the manner in which he sings they do not come out sounding jumbled as some languages can. His voice echos the melancholy/joyful strange mix of the music. He often sings in a soft voice which is almost like translucent, there but not and like many post rock bands it seems to play no bigger part than the instruments. The cherry on top of it all were the black metal shrieks included on Faiseurs De Mondes and Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles. They were executed perfectly, never showing up the music and like the cleans meant more so for the atmosphere and bigger picture than to steal the show.

Honestly there are so many great moments on Les Voyages De L'Âme. There is the triumphant explosion that builds up around the middle of Summer's Glory, aggressive beauty of Faiseurs De Mondes, and melancholic rocking of Autre Temps. Neige shows he has mountains of talent when it comes to creating atmosphere and composing interesting, emotional music and I am always kind of sad when the album is over, like the end of a journey. With Les Voyages De L'Âme I have been turned into an instant fan and will be looking up their previous releases in hopes of finding what I found here.

Score: 9/10
Standout Tracks: Faiseurs De Mondes, Beings of Light, Summer's Glory

Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: Parkway Drive - Atlas

Band: Parkway Drive
Album: Atlas
Year: 2012
Country: Australia
Genre: Metalcore

I have to say Atlas is one album I was really excited before. Parkway Drive stand out to me as one of the better bands in this tired genre and both Horizons and Deep Blue continue to get repeated listens on my iPod to this day. On Atlas the band seem to created a hybrid taking the melody of Horizons and the brute force of Deep Blue and it satisfies my ever expectation.

Firstly there are riffs here, yes actual riffs! They are all catchy, some more so than others and some more martial than others. The band also shows a little of their experimental side as they try writing newer and more interesting guitar parts into songs like in Wild Eyes. Sure there is some chugging going on but where other bands use it as the forefront of their guitar attack Parkway Drive give them a smaller role. I especially enjoy how from one song to the next the atmosphere evoked from the guitars both in tone and heaviness can change yet they can both exist on the same album without feeling out of place. In fact it feels more so like musically the album is telling a story with ups and downs.

Winston McCall tears it up again on Atlas. It seems his harsh vocals became even more punishing on Deep Blue, if not more angry. He has maintained that angry shout but this time it also seems to have a little sadness to it as well. One of my favorite things about his and his vocal parts is that clean vocals are used VERY sparingly. Where as so many bands are prone to the good cop bad cop deal where they scream the verse and sing a chorus, McCall screams both and will occasionally have little spoken parts here and there.

If I have one complaint or constructive criticism its this: give Jia O'Connor a larger role in the bigger picture. I honestly can't really make out whether or not he is contributing to their sound or not. It's that unfortunate bassists curse, forever cast into the background by most bands! I actually prefer to hear what they have to offer though. Ben Gordon's drumming is very active on Atlas and I have always enjoyed it. He seems to take a more metal approach to drumming with his blasts and fast paced snare hits like you would hear on a lot of melodic death albums. Yet at times there is a simplicity in his drumming where he doesn't do anything fancy and it works perfectly.

I would put Atlas somewhere in between Deep Blue and Horizons as far as how I gauge its quality. Putting aside the bass issues the album for me really stands out as one of the better releases of the year. McCall's lyrics are meaningful and even emotional without being whiny which is something I have admired about his style. The music mostly eschews the trappings and failings of most metalcore. In fact the violins in the title track and the added vocals in The River show that the band is willing to experiment on some level and progress. I know Atlas will definitely be among my top 10 of 2012.

Score: 9.5/10
Standout Tracks: The River, Atlas, Dark Days

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: MyChildren MyBride - MyChildren MyBride

Band: MyChildren MyBride
Album: MyChildren MyBride
Year: 2012
Country: USA
Genre: Metalcore

The metalcore movement has become so tired and overrun with so many bands ripping each other off it has become quite off putting. Sure there are still a few bands doing it the right way but they are few and far in between. MyChildren MyBride (from here on out MCMB) are not one of these bands. In fact they epitomize everything that is wrong with the genre. But at least they have there moment.

One of the only times the band seem to do anything interesting and "good" is when they speed things up. For example there are parts on Anathema, Samcro, and Hell or High Water where they produce some decent "fast" paced stuff. But these are unfortunately not numerous enough to change the fact that the album is mired in slow paced start stop riffing and plagued with breakdown after breakdown. I mean sure throw a breakdown in a song but MCMB consistently over do it and frankly it just becomes aggravating. No I'm not even kidding, I literally became annoyed in the process of listening to this album over a few times because the breakdowns bog everything down and sound like garbage.

Vocalist Matt Hastings has an average run of the mill metalcore scream. He is for sure nothing to write home about. There are parts on God of Nothing and Dreamcatchers where he does spoken parts and actually sounds strangely similar to Jonathan Davis from Korn. I thought they may have gotten his to guest on these parts and had to check out the liner notes. Practically all of the lyrics are also done by Hastings and they are truly at an elementary level. Most of the lyrical content is painfully simple and sometimes written and performed in ways which do not flow well with the music. And I'm still confused, is No One Listens, No One Cares supposed to be anti-industry or anti-fan? Listening to the words its difficult to tell which group he is showing disdain for, maybe both?

Mathis Arnell seems to be the only real talented one in the band. His drumming is actually pretty good considering the type of music the band has chosen to play, and I can't help but feel his skills are being underutilized. He throws in nice blasts here and there and generally is a solid drummer. For whatever reason his performance clicked with me most out of the rest of the band. I couldn't hear any of the bass so no comment.

So here you have it, 40 minutes of whiny, simplistic, breakdown rape. I couldn't enjoy this album if you paid me to but surely MCMB has their fans right? They must if they are still making music. Even by metalcore standards this is really sub par stuff. The riffs are cheap and mostly replaced with start stop chugging, the vocalist sounds like any novice metalcore screamer you've heard a thousand times, and the lyrics sound like they were written by an amateur. Don't touch this with a 10 foot pole.

Score: 1.5/10
Standout Tracks: None

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review: Asphyx - Deathhammer

Band: Asphyx
Album: Deathhammer
Year: 2012
Country: Netherlands
Genre: Death/Doom Metal

After Pestilence, Asphyx were one of the other bigger death metal bands to come out of the Netherlands in the early 90s. Their place in the halls of extreme metal were cemented with The Rack and Last One On Earth, both of which Martin van Drunen did vocals for. He is really my main draw to this band. I'm a huge fan of Hail of Bullets and loved the first few Pestilence albums. But I also enjoy the doomy death metal that Asphyx plays and Deathhammer is what its all about.

And Paul Baayens really does lay on the doom pretty thick on this album. I mean some of these riffs just smother you in how slow and grinding they are. Der Landser is another track where doom reigns supreme. Oh but its not all slow mo death metal, both Into the Timewaste, and Reign of the Brute, and The Flood have very groovey mid paced riffs and these parts are sprinkled throughout the album to remind us that these guys know how to speed things up.

Of course Martin van Drunen is still shredding his throat as he is want to do. Frankly he sounds just as good here as he did on any of the bands first releases. That trademark half growl half shriek is a staple of this band and one of the most noticeable things.

Alwin Zuur's bass is a little buried under the guitars which are mixed a bit higher than the drums/bass and it seems even the vocals. But it can luckily still be heard and aids in maintaining the low end. On the drums Bob Bagchus plays pretty standard death/doom stuff. I'm glad he keeps a little more away from the double bass unlike some of his peers. I love double bass myself but its very circumstantial when it comes to doomier music in my opinion.

Deathhammer is good but it suffers a little bit from being a tad too long. You can tell what songs hold the stronger doom moments because they are the longer tracks and I feel like if they had cut a few of these the album would have been just the right length. One of the more painful things to me is an album that overstays its welcome. This is still good crushing death metal but I miss how bands knew how to put a lot of quality in the 8 or 9 songs which used to be standard on most death albums. Putting that aside the production is mostly excellent, this sounds heavy as hell and Dan Swano at Unisound did a pretty good job mixing/mastering besides maybe turning the guitars down a little.

Score: 8/10
Standout Tracks: The Flood, We Doom You to Death, Vespa Crabro

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review: Revocation - Teratogenesis

Band: Revocation
Album: Teratogenesis
Year: 2012
Country: USA
Genre: Technical Death/Thrash Metal

When I found out Revocation were doing an EP for Scion A/V I had to email them to get a physical copy for review. I had previously given their last album Chaos of Forms a few listens and maybe it was just the state of mind I was in at the time but nothing grabbed me and I never went back to it again. That usually says a lot to me, I don't especially like there being some difficulty in getting through albums, it just doesn't speak well of the music within. But here is a shorter 5 song EP that I figured would be a bit easier for me to consume and it actually was.

Firstly I don't know how to classify the band. Metal Archives does have them as Technical Death/Thrash Metal which I can sort of see. There are definitely a lot of fast paced thrash riffs throughout the album. What sticks out most to me is that the material here has a strong progressive touch to it. Some of the riffing like in the bridge of Spurn the Outstretched Hand or the second half of the last track Bound By Desire showcases this perfectly. As a fan of progressive extreme metal the fact that this album has interesting elements like this made my ears perk up and grabbed my attention. Not only that but they don't get too pretentious or too big for their britches and it is all very melodic and pleasing to the ear.

The drumming is right up my alley and something I liked quite a bit. Phil Dubois-Coyne throws blasts throughout all the songs but most heavily in Bound By Desire specifically. He also plays long strings of double bass but when necessary breaks away from that and does some less standard patterns. Brett Bamberger's bass seems to be just under the guitars in the mix but sometimes it gets the chance to shine like on Spurn the Outstretched Hand and the awesome bass break on Bound By Desire. I have to say David Davidson's vocals are passable and he is better as a guitar player than a vocalist. He has what borders on a metalcore shout/growl and Dan Gargiulo's death growls are really the superior of the two.

I also enjoyed the production on Teratogenesis as well. It does have that modern clean production but sometimes there is a little fuzziness given to the guitar tone that gives it some more life. I have been playing this cd since I received it a few weeks ago and it is probably one of my favorites of the year. Every song is catchy as hell and the progressive passages kind of blew me away and are specifically what drew me in. Since this is free by download or having a physical copy mailed to you I wouldn't miss it!

Score: 9/10
Standout Tracks: Bound By Desire, Spurn the Outstretched Hand

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: Origin - Entity

Band: Origin
Album: Entity
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Genre: Technical Brutal Death Metal

So technical death metal for the most part isn't really my thing. Very few bands tend to catch my interest, something about the processed, robotic like execution rubs me the wrong way. Yet every once in a while a band or release strikes my fancy. I can happily say Entity is one such album in this sub-genre that does all the right things for me.

Origin produces blazing fast tech death like so many other bands. And still they create memorable riffs and melodies where so many other bands seem to have difficulty doing so. Many of the riffs have a very strong tinge of middle eastern influence to them. Tracks like Saliga and Consequence of Solution especially so. There is also of course noodling like the beginning of Expulsion of Fury, or throughout Committed. Guitarist Paul Ryan masterfully strings together some really creative stuff and his ideas make for a very interesting listen.

The drumming of John Longstreth is pretty out of this world. Listening to this album leads me to believe he may possibly have 4 arms with how all over the place he is. He's blasting, double bassing like a madman, and making great use of hit drum kit. And while the bass doesn't play a giant part in the music of Origin, but it is always there. It comes into the foreground in a few places even, like near the end of Consequence of Solution.

Both Paul Ryan and Mike Flores (bass) share vocal duties. One of them has a higher pitched scream while the other has your normal low death growl. I actually much prefer the highs to the lows and luckily they are what is used more often than not. The production on Entity is sleek and clean. But the guitars maintain their heaviness and the mixing is about perfect. Maybe I would have turned the bass up just a little bit higher.

Entity is easily one of my favorites in the technical death metal sub-genre. Origin have done a tremendous job melding melody, technicality, and aggression into one memorable package. Not only that but the album comes in at 36 minutes making this a very concisely executed release. I give Origin props for successfully bypassing the trappings that most tech death bands so often get caught up in.

Standout Tracks: Saliga, Expulsion of Fury, Evolution of Extinction

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: Evocation - Illusions of Grandeur

Band: Evocation
Album: Illusions of Grandeur
Year: 2012
Country Sweden
Genre: Death Metal

In the lead up to Illusions being released I was very excited to consume new material from these Swedes. Their last album, Apocalypse, is one of my favorite death metal albums because of its expert blend of old school Swedish death metal and Gothenburg melodic death metal. They played a style that kept both feet on the side of death metal while embracing more melody and guitar harmonies. This is why Illusions of Grandeur is unfortunately a let down for me.

When I hear IoG the bands that come to mind are first and foremost, Amon Amarth, and secondly a touch of At the Gates. Of course their previous work already had that AtG styling to it. But the Amon Amarth influence takes the front seat here. The riffs especially wreak of that band, and it saddens me that while Evocation were not necessarily unique in their past releases, they were still one of a handful of bands doing the melodic death metal sub-genre justice. Even the buzzsaw guitar tone is gone, and its loss is oh so felt!

Thomas Josefsson still gives a pretty good performance on the album. His throaty growls border on the standard black metal rasps. But even vocally the album doesn't seem to escape the Amon Amarth touch with Johan Hegg doing guest vocals on Into Submission.

Josefsson also takes over bass guitar duties on this album as well. The bass plays a much smaller role in the music here than on Apocalyptic. Where before it was a buzzing heavy bottom end now its buried behind the guitars. Even Janne Boden's drumming is slower and less frenzied.

Illusions of Grandeur is a step down in quality by Evocation. They have pretty much abandoned their Swedish death metal roots and instead here are more of a Amon Amarth clone. Still I will admit they do Amon Amarth better than Amon Amarth do but still, it is pretty disappointing. This time around they even opted for the clean modern sounding production. These songs are still decent but I seriously hope on their next release Evocation decides to move back towards their older sound which was far more enjoyable.

Score: 7/10
Standout Tracks: Perception of Reality, Well of Despair

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: World Under Blood - Tactical

Band: World Under Blood
Album: Tactical
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

World Under Blood is the brainchild of CKY front man Deron Miller. While I do enjoy a few songs by that band, I wouldn't say I'm overall a fan of theirs. Still, when I heard Miller had begun a metal project I have to admit I was intrigued. It seems you rarely hear of mainstream musicians jumping into the metal genre. What did he come up with?

WUB play what I guess you could call melodic death metal. The strange thing about it is that their music is both more technical and aggressive than your average run of the mill melodeath band. The guitars are played fast, sometimes at breakneck speeds for this sub-genre. I mean just check out A God Among the Waste or Into the Arms of Cruelty and the shredding that goes on there. The soloing is also intricate and pretty much integral to each song. There is even a nice little acoustic intro to Revere's Tears that slows things down a little.

The Drumming by Tim Yeung is really top notch stuff. The guy has got serious skills. There is a lot of blasting on the album and it stays just this side of being excessive. And the drumming is just as important as the guitar work on Tactical. I can't really speak for the bass as I don't especially remember hearing it. I'm guessing between the focus of the guitars and drum work it was kind of drowned out.

Miller turns out to have a really great voice whether it be for his cleans or or growls. Clean singing is pretty prominent and usually done during the chorus of a song. Though many times it is also layered over or under death growls. His growling ranges from a proper guttural death metal growl which is peppered throughout the album to his higher pitched more throaty scream which takes the forefront.

In my eyes Tactical is a success and something Derin Miller can be proud of. The band blends extreme metal and melody expertly and its a winning strategy. In fact I ended up listening to the album far more than I had to for the mere fact that I enjoyed it so much. It also helped that the band kept it to a respectable 33 minutes and 8 songs. I very much approve of their fewer songs but more quality.

Score: 8.5/10
Standout Tracks: A God Among  the Waste, Into the Arms of Cruelty, Pyro-Compulsive, Under the Autumn Low

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: As I Lay Dying - Awakened

Band: As I Lay Dying
Album: Awakened
Year: 2012
Country: USA
Genre: Metalcore

I have listened to Awakened 4 or 5 times through and this is a difficult review to write. Not because the album is complex and difficult to explain, no its much worse than that. As I Lay Dying's album Awakened just...isn't that good. As a big fan of this band it is just hard to admit, but there it is. Awakened isn't by any means a bad album but the band made what I would say are a few mistakes in the process of its creation and they stick out like a sore thumb.

On a review I read of the album on another site someone mentioned how AILD has created the first "retro metalcore" album. I think that description is apt, and I also believe that is what takes this from what could be a great album, to just ok. The riffing is a lot more choppy reminiscent of your generic metalcore band. It contains a lot of the stop start guitar parts which sap the riffs of their strength and just makes thing a tad boring. Still the fellas can still shred and Wasted Words is a thrashy tune for the most part. Another track that stands out and being good is A Greater Foundation which has probably the most memorable chorus of the album.

Vocally Tim Lambesis even sounds like he kind of phoned it in this time around. His performance on Awakened almost reminds me of the vocalist for another christian metalcore band, Mychildren Mybride. In fact the album holds more than that in common with said band. And you know, Josh Gilbert's clean vocals never really bothered me too much. But on Awakened they annoy the living hell out of me. I'm not sure if he sings more on this album than the previous two or what. But it seems to rub me the wrong way, like how when he sings it just pops out above everything else.

One of the highlights of the album has to be listening to Jordan Mancino's drumming. It's always a treat to hear him behind the kit. The album seems to even be pretty much driven by the drumming, perhaps a little higher in the mix than the other instruments. Mr. Gilbert's Bass is of course back in the mix, its there but barely discernible. The production is well done at least. Its clear and clean without any noticeable sonic blemishes.

On Awakened AILD have seemed to of mixed their style on An Ocean Between Us and the Powerless Rise with their older more generic metalcore style. This hurts the album. As soon as I heard the breakdown on Cauterize I knew something strange was up. Like I said before, Awakened is not bad by any means but it is not up to par with the last two albums. There is too much whiny singing, and the riffing at times can be a pain. Musically this album may have more melodies, but it is somehow less memorable overall. If you are a diehard AILD fan you may be on the fence about this album like me, otherwise if you are new to the band just pick up The Powerless Rise or the seminal An Ocean Between Us. Hopefully Awakened is a grower.

Score: 7/10
Standout Tracks: A Greater Foundation

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: Dying Fetus - Reign Supreme

Band: Dying Fetus
Album: Reign Supereme
Year: 2012
Genre Death Metal
Country: USA

Never really listened to a Dying Fetus album before. I'll be honest for a while I found the name to be quite disgusting and that alone quashed any interest in the band I had. But of course we should never judge a book by its cover now, should we? Reign Supreme is actually a pretty decent album, although for me it does have a few noticeable flaws.

I really like the guitar play on this album. It is mostly mid paced groovy death metal, that infectious kind that is just fun as hell to listen to. There are also some noodly moments here and there but it doesn't go into the tech death wankery thank god. At times the speed does pick up, even if briefly, which can be a welcomed change of pace. But overall its the groove that really owns this album and makes it something that kept me from being bored of listening to it.

One of the flaws with Reign Supreme is the drumming. To be more specific the sound of the snare drum. The drumming itself is actually really good and I enjoyed it. But the snare sounds so processed and fake like. And with the amount of blast beating that goes on it just kind of sucks the life from what could be a really great part of the album. And the Bass seems to be quite lost in the mix.

I do like the vocals. Its a deep death growl that almost borders on pig squeals at times. Though it is usually quite difficult to understand a word Sean Beasley is saying! Oh well I enjoyed his performance anyways, its a very primal and brutal growl that definitely gets the job done. The production is pretty solid for the album. Besides the bass being almost non-existent. Its clean and crisp and the guitars have just the right bite to them.

So Dying Fetus have produced a pretty brutal album with heaps of groove. Its the riffs that are the key to the success here I believe. I mean sure the vocals are extreme and the production is strong but the riffing elevates RS to being more than just another run of the mill death metal album. Still, while Reign Supreme is a good listen it also doesn't do a whole lot more than any other band does. Its not progressive in any way, but they seem to have embraced their niche and are making the best of it. As long as the quality holds up the way it has on RS, I'm fine with that.

Score: 7.5/10
Standout Tracks: Invert the Idols, In the Trenches

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Free Revocation EP from Scion A/V

It seems Scion A/V is still releasing metal EPs for free. This time its Revocation's Teratogenesis. You can get to the page to download here. You will have to enter your email address and a link to download will be sent by email. I hope they will continue to give their EPs away in a physical format like they did with the Immolation/Enslaved/Wormrot cds they were mailing to those who wanted them.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: Cannibal Corpse - Torture

Band: Cannibal Corpse
Album: Torture
Year: 2012
Country: USA
Genre: Death Metal

Here it is, my first venture into modern Cannibal Corpse. I'll be honest in saying that Eaten Back To Life is my only exposure to CC. That was a long time ago and I have heard a lot about CC from both their fans and detractors over the years but never really paid much attention. So it's with Torture that I take my first leap into the band's modern era.

Torture is unfortunately fraught with issues. One of them stands out above the others, and in fact might be the only unforgettable problem with this album. This is completely forgettable. Everything is just so bland and none of it really sticks in your mind. In listening to this album I have not once said, "Hey I'm going to give this song another listen!". As background music it does nicely. It is something to headbang to while you do some monotonous task. But I could not sit down and just listen to Torture with it in the forefront of my mind.

I cannot say the musicianship is bad either. I mean the fellas are obviously proficient at playing their instruments. But it is probably more so the fact that none of the music is interesting. I had a hard enough time paying attention to the music and many times I was unsure whether the same song was playing or if the next one was on. They just all sound the same and when they aren't very creative it makes listening to the whole album a real challenge.

Torture is extremely mediocre. It's like the band didn't care to create anything beyond what was expected which is a shame because this is rather stagnant. Even vocally it is the same unchanging death growl throughout the entire album. Some vocalists can actually pull this off but it just doesn't work here. This review was difficult to even write because Torture is just so bland. I'm not sure whats worse, writing a bad album, or writing something that is uninspired and forgettable.

Score: 3/10
Standout Tracks: None, if you really must listen to this album throw it on for background noise.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Eluveitie - Helvetios

Band: Eluveitie
Album: Helvetios
Year: 2012
Country: Switzerland
Genre: Melodic Death/Folk Metal

Helvetios is my first trip into the discography of Eluveitie and it has left me with very a very mixed opinion. Unfortunately most of that opinion is negative but there are definitely some positives and some tracks on the album that make for an interesting listen. The Swiss band plays an amalgam of folk and melodic death metal. I personally have never delved into the folk genre myself so I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

These days I'm not sure but some bands really try to push too much music onto one album. This can really hurt the overall feel. Helvetios suffers heavily from this with 17 tracks coming in at 59 minutes. This makes Helvetios a meandering long winded affair. In fact I've listened to the album 4 or 5 times and it is still difficult to pick out many songs from one another. That's not to say all the songs are bad or anything, but you could have easily cut the album in half and left the best tracks and had a really great album. Instead there are so many tracks that could have been trimmed that make this a hard listen to completely get through.

The only thing that makes it worth while are the good catchy tracks like Luxtos, Meet the Enemy, Havoc, and Uxellodunon peppered through out the album. These have the strongest riffs. Like I said before that doesn't mean the other songs are bad but they are painfully mediocre. A Rose for Epona stands out from the others probably because it starts off softly and gets heavier as it goes on and is entirely sung using female vocals. Otherwise most songs fail to differentiate themselves from one another, and they are rather "meh".

Vocally Chrigel Glanzmann has a rather "normal" harsh vocal style. They are rather standard when you look at the genre and the prevailing trends vocally. It's the clean vocals that are a bit more interesting. The female vocals appear here and there and are well done, especially on A Rose for Epona. The male singing done on Scorched Earth is especially good and sounds as if it was recorded by some bard from ancient times.

Helvetios is a pretty mediocre melodic death metal album. In fact if it weren't for the fact that the band heavily uses folk elements it would be your standard boring melodeath album without much to make it unique from others. But still even the folk metal fusion cannot save this album and bring it above the challenge that it is to get through. For every good song here there are one or two boring ones to follow it. Though there are still good songs here and that does count for something. Perhaps next time Eluveitie will try not to shove too many songs and too much material onto one cd.

Score: 4.5/10
Standout Tracks: Luxtos, Meet the Enemy, Havoc, Uzellodunon, A Rose for Epona

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Carcass - Heartwork

Band: Carcass
Album: Heartwork
Year: 1993
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

Carcass started out as more of a grind band, and in fact are considered the founders of the goregrind genre. After their first two releases they moved on to what would be considered straight up death metal. Heartwork continues that progression further into a more melodic, simplified form of music. In fact this album itself is generally thought of as one of the first melodic death metal releases, and a classic of both death metal and melodic death metal.

Before I get to the band members themselves special mention needs to be made of the production. Firstly Heartwork has a very clean modern sound to it. So much so that even nearly 20 years later it sounds just as good as anything that is being released today. Having watched the documentary on the making of the album by the band you could tell much attention was paid to the guitar sound. It is one of the heaviest guitar tones I have heard and their hard work really paid off.

So it is mentioned in interviews that while writing the music for Heartwork the band had been listening to a lot of Iron Maiden. And it shows with their more prominent use of harmonized leads. Not to mention the solos seem to be even more influenced by that style than in their early days, probably due to Michael Amott's writing style. The songs run the gamut here, you have the more death'n'roll No Love Lost, the fast paced Heartwork, and everything in between.

I know people often like to claim that Ken Owen was a sloppy drummer, especially on Carcass' earlier efforts but he really pulls it together for a top notch performance here. I mean this is some of the tightest most on the spot drumming jobs in the business. While the blasts take a back seat they are still present just in places where they are more beneficial to the music rather than each song being chock full of them.

Jeff Walker does as good a job as ever with his vocals on Heartwork. The band may have spawned hundreds of clones and the same can be said for those who try to emulate Walker's high pitched rasp. Its interesting that while Bill Steer's deeper growls are non-existent on Heartwork I think it works to the albums advantage. It's kind of hard to imagine that style of vocals being used here and with this music, it just doesn't seem to fit. As for Walker's bass playing, well it's there and follows the guitars to a tee. Nothing real interesting but his vocals will always overshadow his bass skills.

Heartwork is easily one of my favorite Carcass/death metal/melodeath albums. Every song is strong and contains equal amounts of sweet melody and crushing aggression. Whether you like Heartwork or not, it's hard to deny the impact it has had one the genre. I for one believe that this is one of the defining albums of both death metal and melodic death metal.

Score: 9.5
Standout Tracks: No Love Lost, Heartwork, This Mortal Coil, Buried Dreams

Friday, August 10, 2012

Review: Vomitory - Opus Mortis VIII

Band: Vomitory
Album: Opus Mortis VIII
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Genre: Death Metal

Vomitory seems to be very much like Bolt Thrower. And by that I don't mean they sound like Bolt Thrower, but they have that same consistency. This can lead people to both be happy and upset it seems. People will cry over the fact that a band isn't progressing, while others will be upset if the band moves from its sound.

Many bands are playing the old school style of Swedish death metal but few of them were actually there. Vomitory was though, and they have retained that Swedeath sound and have it down to a science. I personally enjoy this. The riffing here is both groovy and crushing with just the right amount of melody so as to not be too wussified. While there is a bit of chugging to be honest that doesn't really offend me the way it does some people. There is even a nice acoustic intro to Hate in Time of War.

 I have to say Erik Rundqvist's death growls are downright filthy sounding. These are among the best growls in death metal in my opinion. They are very deep yet you can make out what he is saying which is always a treat! Though his bass is just barely audible. It may just be my sound system but it seems it seems the guitars are what is giving most of the low end. The drumming of Tobias Gustafsson is also pretty decent. Very standard death metal drumming but I appreciate how he doesn't just fill every track with blasts and instead uses them sparingly and where needed.

Opus VIII is a good Swedeath album at just the right length. At 36 minutes the band gets across their point. Far too many bands just go on way too long for their own good turning what could be a decent album into a borefest. The riffs are so groovy it's hard not to bang your head to them. While some may say Vomitory isn't doing anything new, what they are doing is damn good.

Score: 8.5/10
Standout Tracks: Regorge in the Morgue, The Dead Awaken, Hate in Time of War

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: Sentenced - Amok

Band: Sentenced
Album: Amok
Year: 1995
Country: Sweden
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

This is my first foray into post Shadows of Past Sentenced material. I saw on Metal Archives that the band was playing melodic death metal so I figured I'd give one of the albums a shot to see whether I liked what the band had put out or not. After the first few seconds it became very clear that the band played something that bordered on melodeath but more so took what people accuse In Flames of doing, playing Iron Maiden but with harsh vocals, to the next level.

This is almost like listening to early Iron Maiden but with a bit more of a classic rock and even 80s rock influence thrown in for good measure. And its pulled off very successfully I have to say. The music itself is extremely melodic and at times has a pretty epic feel to it. I love the bits with the harmonized guitars which along with some of the riffing is probably what in large part calls to mind Iron Maiden.

Taneli Jarva's vocals are on a high register like a lot of the Gothenburg bands, which is neither good nor bad, it just is. He does here and there do something that is like a half growl/half scream to change things up. Simplicity is the key on Amok. Whether it be the riffs, drumming, song structures, ect ect, it is all simplistic. But this is one of those cases where it was probably for the best and in the end run helped the album become more enjoyable. It of course probably doesn't hurt that the style that the band chose to emulate is far more easily consumed than their earlier output.

I thoroughly enjoy Amok, both as someone who enjoys early Iron Maiden, and melodic death metal. I don't think its a stretch that both of those camps would enjoy what Sentenced produced with this album. Its got great production too and holds up quite well going on 17 years later. Amok is an album that I can see myself jamming to years from now due to its re-playability.

Score: 9/10
Standout Tracks: Nepenthe, Forever Lost, Phenix

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Shadows Fall - Fire From the Sky

Band: Shadows Fall
Album: Fire From the Sky
Year: 2012
Genre: Melodic Death/Thrash Metal
Country: USA

I have followed the career of Shadows Fall since I first heard The Art of Balance. I then went back and listened to their first two albums which were far more in the realm of melodic death metal and went forwards into the more melodic death and thrash/groove albums. While I wasn't too impressed with The War Within and hardly even touched Threads of Life, Retribution had everything I loved about the band in it. I am happy to say that SF continue in the direction of Retribution with Fire From the Sky.

One of the first big things I noticed was the improvement in use of clean vocals. The majority of the time Matthew Bachand and Jonathan Danais provide the cleans and do a fantastic job. In fact they seem to be given the main focus when it comes to actual singing which I am perfectly ok with. Listen to the strong choruses offered by The Unknown or Save Your Soul. Brian Fair provides his one of a kind hardcore like shouts with the same ferocity that he did on Retribution. Some people seem to not like Brian's style but I quite enjoy it. Its like a brand, as soon as you hear his screams you know exactly who you are listening to.

The guitar duo of Bachand and Donais is just as strong ever. FFtS contains really strong riffing like most of the band's back catalog. Its kind of hard to place the style the band plays based on the guitar riffs played. There are the groovy thrash riffs that are almost always present but the killer guitar harmonies used by most melodic death bands is also heavily used. Its safe to say the guitar parts straddle the line between melodic death and mid paced thrash which makes for a very melody driven sound. The solos are pretty great too. They carry a very 80s type of style to them, they are pretty showy at times though I wouldn't say they go into wank territory.

I love the drumming of Jason Bittner. Listen to the first 20 seconds of Fire From the Sky, or the blasts on Weight of the World. The guy knows what he is doing and the drumming is just as fun to listen to as the riffing. Unfortunately I cannot hear the bass of Paul Romanko. It seems like the bass has sort of been buried somewhere in the mix. As always it would be so much better if it played a stronger part in the music than it usually does.

Fire From the Sky successfully replicates the heaviness of Retribution while including a little more melody than that album. Any fan of the band should be happy with what FFtS offers. There are strong melodies, great soloing, and the cleans sound even better than they have in the past. I've easily given this album more listens than I usually do for a review and its simply because its all around just a really great release.

Score: 9/10
Standout Tracks: Save Your Soul, The Unknown, Fire From the Sky, The Wasteland

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: Desultory - Counting Our Scars

Band: Desultory
Album: Counting Our Scars
Year: 2010
Genre: Death Metal
Country: Sweden

Desultory actually got their start in the early 90s. The band, hailing from Stockholm, disbanded after 3 albums in the mid 90s but reformed in the later part of the last decade. Counting Our Scars is a lot like Evocation's newer stuff. And by that I mean its death metal with very melodic underpinnings. To say this is pleasing to the ears is an understatement.

So the album is sort of on the short side as far as how many tracks it has, only 9. But the length of the songs makes up for it.  Most are above 4 minutes but below 6. My big only complaint would probably be this too. The songs, while good, at times just feel a little too long for their own good. Still, they are all good. Each song contains strong riffing. That seems to be what the band went for, heavily riff driven death metal. Every song can stand alone and be great, but when you put them together the album as a whole knocks it out of the park. While the songs have a sort of samey kind of sound you won't really be mistaking one for another.

I really like the vocals of Klas Morberg. He has a harsh throaty growl that registers somewhere in the mid range. its not too high but not really low either. It does get a little monotonous I will admit but its not a serious mark against the band or album. Unless I suppose you don't enjoy the sound he goes with, in which case this isn't for you.

The drumming is pretty good as well. There are blast beats used sparingly, but just enough that you know Thomas Johnson means business. But when they are used they are put to good use. And another cool thing? You can hear Johan Bohlin's bass through the whole album! So happy about this. It would be cool if he were given a little more leeway and didn't just follow the guitars but these days with this kind of music the bass almost seems to be an afterthought so I'm just glad I can hear it.

Counting Our Scars offers solid death metal chock full of melody. You can put this up there with other releases in this growing phenomena in the world of death metal like Those Once Loyal (Bolt Thrower), Apocalypse (Evocation) and even last years On Divine Winds by Hail of Bullets. You get the punchy meaty riffs of death metal with the sweetness of catchy riffing. I really like the style the band uses on COS and it is something I see myself listening to a lot in the future. It could easily be a gateway album for those who find other stuff just a little too harsh for their ears. I'll be waiting impatiently to see what Desultory comes up with next.

Score: 8.5/10
Standout Tracks: Leeching Life, Counting Our Scars, In A Cage

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review: Black Breath - Sentenced To Life

Band: Black Breath
Album: Sentenced To Life
Year: 2012
Genre: Death Metal/Hardcore Punk
Country: USA

In 2010 Black Breath released Heavy Breathing, and album that to this day is still kicking my ass. I heard a track on a best of 2010 podcast by the Requiem Metal Podcast fellas and sought out this band. Once I got my hands on that album it quickly became my favorite release of the year. Well the guys (who happen to be from my neck of the woods) are back with their new release, Sentenced To Life.

What do we get with Sentenced To Life? BB follows the the same template laid down by Heavy Breathing, with a tweak or two that come off as positives. The band still plays a genre bending form of death metal and hardcore punk. Make no mistake, this is NOT deathcore as you know it. This is old school swedish death with a punky/hardcore edge to it and a bit of thrash for good measure.

The guitars have that warm fuzzy chainsaw guitar tone so well known as a staple of the Stockholm bands. This continues to be one of the best imitations of the Sunlight Studios guitar tone I have heard. The production works in synergy to create a very heavy sound that compliments the death metal style the band plays in. Its crunchy, fuzzy, and just plain nasty sounding.

One of the tweaks I mentioned before was an improvement in the drumming. Check out Of Flesh for some sweet blast beats, which I don't believe were very present in the last album. Even still a further improvement would be to add more blast beats. But definitely keep it in moderation, too many bands these days abuse the hell out of blasts. I have no complaints about the drumming overall, the snare has a nice bite to it and the double bass thumps along perfectly. And as for vocals? Neil McAdams kills it again with his hardcore screams. These aren't your wussy hardcore vocals you would expect these days, these are throat shredding screams.

What I love most is the length of the songs. BB seems to have found the perfect general length for songs. Over half of the songs on the album don't make it past the 3 minute mark. These are short bursts of aggression that are headbangable to the max. I mean they are so catchy its almost sickening. Another note would be the placement of a couple songs. Endless Corpse is a much slower song than most on the album and for much of the track it stays in the realm of doom. Following that as almost a brutal contrast is the blistering Mother Abyss that just rockets away with its incredible riffs.

I'm so pleased with Sentenced To Life and Black Breath should give themselves a pat on the back for another job well done. Two incredible albums in a row, no sophomore slump for them. STL has aggression, the catchy factor, the heavy production, and is actually fun to listen to. If this band didn't catch your attention with Heavy Breathing then Sentenced To Life should be front and center for any fans of old school death metal. They have found their niche and continue to perfect their sound.

Score: 9/10
Standout Tracks: Feast of the Damned, Home of the Grave, Mother Abyss

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Ghoul - Transmission Zero

Band: Ghoul
Album: Transmission Zero
Year: 2011
Genre: Death/Thrash Metal
Country: USA

I became a fan of Ghoul after first being introduced to Impaled. My first taste of these chums from Creepsylvania was through their third album Splatterthrash. What really caught my attention was how the band was obviously having fun both lyrically and musically. I mean dressing up as monsters and writing songs that could easily made into campy horror films, whats not fun about that? Another thing was this sort of surfer sounding type of music they liked to add to their songs. It was refreshing for me at the time. Transmission Zero tries to play at the same gimmicks Ghoul are known for, but this time it just doesn't seem to work, at least not fully.

The core elements of what makes Ghoul an enjoyable band to listen to are still there. You have the fun gang shouts in Off With Their Heads and Brain Jerk, the thrashy goodness of Bloodfeast, and the surfer themes of Death In the Swamp. But they feel kind of tired. Perhaps the gimmick is all used up, but it no longer has the same effect that it first did. In fact it might be that they have stuck so closely to the formula they laid out previously that TZ lacks anything real interesting or exciting.

Outside of that the production just bugs the hell out of me. The guitars sound very thin and have no bite to them. The solos are actually pretty vibrant (listen to The Mask of Voodoo), so there are no complaints there. But there is no heavy feeling in the guitars. In fact for the most part I want to say it sounds as if the band recorded the album in a cardboard box. It just sounds muddy and this emasculated of any strength.

I am still a fan of the vocals. There are two styles used the majority of the time. One is a higher pitched gravely snarl that is very reminiscent of Jeff Walker from Carcass. The other is a lower death growl that is around the norm for the genre. The gang shouts are sort of a highlight, they are fun and really compliment the bouncy melody driven style the band seems to have been going for. Then there are the vocals that seem to be driven through effects programs to give them an even further garbled deeper tone that pepper the album throughout.

Like I said before most of the material is melody driven. The album is great if you want short catchy bursts of music you can play in the background and bob your head to. In fact I've used it for background music while playing video games a few times and it seems that's when its at its best. Well the songs are short with the exception of Morning of the Mezmetron. This one comes in out of left field at a bit over 8 minutes long and has a much slower doomy pace to it. Its kind of different and seems to be more about telling a story lyrically then being very musically interesting.

I was looking forwards to the next release by Ghoul but have to say Transmission Zero didnt quite live up to my expectations. The band offers short mid-paced death/thrash with heaps of melody. But it comes of as tired and gives me the "been there done that" mentality while giving it a listen. Still it is a half decent album and if you enjoy what Ghoul has had to offer in the past its likely you might enjoy TZ. But I think I will stick to Splatterthrash, and would suggest that to anyone who is looking for fun catchy death/thrash.

Score: 6/10
Standout Tracks: Off With Their Heads, Blood Feast

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: The Empire Shall Fall - Volume One: Solar Plexus

Band: The Empire Shall Fall
Album: Volume One: Solar Plexus
Year: 2011
Genre: Progressive Metal/Core
Country: USA

As some may know I am a big fan of Alive or Just Breathing era Killswitch Engage. While the music is great my interest in KsE waned after Jesse Leach left the band. It waned even further as the band became what I can only describe as a satire of itself with its last few releases. But I continued to follow Mr. Leach into his new metal project The Empire Shall Fall. Their first album, Awaken, is easily one of my favorite metal/core albums. So I was pleased to find out the band was going to release 3 EPs to create a concept piece of sorts. Well the first of these EPs is here, Volume One: Solar Plexus easily rivals Awake.

Let me stop gushing over the vocalist to say how much I LOVE the guitar duo of Jake Davenport and Marcus de Lisle. You can tell they incorporate elements that range from bluesy to progressive metal to hardcore. It's almost like a less schizoid version of Between the Buried and Me in some ways, though I will admit a bit less technical. But still there are a lot of interesting song structures that aren't exactly the norm. I especially enjoy the solos, they aren't wanky or go into noodling territory but are very soulful. And the riffs are monstrous. The amount of melody in some of the riffs is incredible while still allowing for a heavy headbanging experience.

The drumming of Jeff Pitts fits the progressive and aggressive nature of the music. I don't know how they got that heavy thumping bassy sound for the bass drums in Awaken but its back and its one of my favorite features. Outside of that the other parts of the drumming are not your average boring metalcore drumming style and its a treat to listen to. To be honest I cant really hear the bass guitar through some of the EP. Dubrise specifically has a sort of reggae feeling which lends to the bass being more audible. It might be because I'm listening mostly from my computer speakers but the bass drum adds more bottom end it seems.

Jesse Leach continues with his good streak of good performances over the last few years. His harsh vox consistently stays at a higher pitch than what we had heard on AoJB. Its both very emotionally charged but not whiny and you can tell he is passionate about what he writes about. There is still a lot of clean singing as well. Usually too much clean singing can ruin an album for me but, and I hate to use the word again here, a very soulful voice. While Howard is (was) singing about how bad his relationship is Jesse is discussing the problems of society and how we could/should fix them. The message is very positive and something I enjoy.

There are 4 proper songs on Solar Plexus and each can stand on its own as a great song. But As the City Sleeps takes the cake for me. There is a great saxophone piece thrown into the bridge which is a standout on the album. I also enjoy the what is I guess you could call gang shouts during the chorus of the song. Every song here is good though, even the 3 tracks in between the full length ones that act as interludes are aurally pleasing. The Martyr's Song is short but I like the Post-Rock sound it conveys.

If you haven't listened to Awaken you HAVE to listen to Volume One. Especially those people inclined to listening to progressive metal, though I can see how hardcore fans would enjoy it just as much. While I liked Awaken this is a step more into the experimental side the band had explored a little on that album. Its safe to say TESF know exactly what they are doing and want to accomplish. For thought provoking, melodic ridden heavy music I can't think of anything better to listen to.

Score: 9/10
Standout Tracks: As the City Sleeps, The First Redemption, The Genesis of These Scars, Narrow, The Path I Walk Part II

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review: Arch Enemy - Khaos Legions

Band: Arch Enemy
Album: Khaos Legions
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

The music Arch Enemy released has become so tired its almost painful. I really wish it weren't this way because the Swedish melodeath band actually started off really strong and consists aside from the vocalist, of very talented individuals. I have reviewed one of their Angela Gossow fronted albums in the past and while I felt the major reason I didn't enjoy it was her vocal performance on Khaos Legions there are a slew of different reasons I just wasn't feeling it.

This time around there are a couple of major issues that prevent this from being a good album. The new issue I noticed (and keep in mind I say "new" because this is only the second post-Liiva record I've given a listen) is that the riffs are mind numbingly similar sounding to what I had heard on Doomsday Machine. I mean they were just different enough that I could tell I wasn't listening to that album. But my god if I had a dollar for every time while listening to Khaos Legions I thought to myself, "hey this sounds like Doomsday Machine!", I would be a rich man.

It's not just the riffs either, there seems to really be no way to differentiate the solos from each other. They all sound about the same! I don't know what is going on with Michael Amott but it seems like someone sucked all the creativity out of his brain because if this were another band it would be getting a call from Arch Enemy's lawyers over how they stole riffs from the band. It's really difficult to get over as well. It makes listening to this album tedious and boring and you impatiently wait for the few unique moments before the creativity drought ensues.

The fact that there is actually a good song or two is what saves this album from being a drink coaster. But trust me they are few and far in between. The bass intro to Under Black Flags We March and the verse riffs of the song are actually pretty song. I especially what the Amott brothers made up for the chorus. Is it flashy or technical? Not at all but it makes for a good song and that's what matters. I also enjoy the guitar harmonies during the chorus for City of the Dead. It brings to mind the old school In Flames style of guitar harmonies Jesper Stromblad is so good at.

Another thing that really rubs me wrong is that Mike and Christopher Amott have so much talent yet they write music that sounds so similar to what they did in the past. That really polarizes the listener. And even if you like AE there is a chance that you might grow tired of what they are doing and probably won't like this either. Hell Daniel Erlandsson has played with Carcass, In Flames and Eucharist. We all know the guy has got chops but unfortunately he just isn't allowed to showcase them.

Angela Gossow once again proves she is a one trick pony. She continues to have her vocals screwed with giving them a fake robotic feel that just sounds terrible. You can easily tell this isn't really what she sounds like...in fact no one sounds like that because its messed with so much using layering and different things. Her lyrics are still atrocious as well. It has the angst and rebellion we have all experienced before...as teenagers. This topic is getting old and she really needs to expand her horizons to include different subjects instead of this lame stuff.

Arch Enemy continue their fall from grace with Khaos Legions. The material written for this album is so samey and similar to their previous work and not at all in a good way. The musicians all seem to be going through the motions and I can't help but think the song writers are going through a creative drought of sorts. Angela as usual is awful, nothing new there. If you were a diehard fan of something like Doomsday Machine then this album was made for you. If you are looking for something new or interesting I would move along.

Score: 3.5/10
Standout Tracks: Under Black Flags We March