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