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