Sunday, June 3, 2012
THE GRIM LORD'S METAL REVIEWS: WEEK 54
Kreator - Phantom Antichrist (2012) - I figured that a review of this impressive thrash album from legendary thrash vets Kreator, would be the best way to start of week 54. I couldn't have been anymore right.
Now I'll be honest, I haven't heard much Kreator. This disc is the first disc from them that I've heard in it's entirety. But I'm hearing nothing but 100% stoneclad fucking thrash metal at it's finest. The band doesn't sound like they're slowing down or losing steam. The vocalist always shunned me away from this band, but this time around, I decided to give him a chance, and they gave me a hell of an album. The amount of structure on this disc is staggering. Just about very song on this disc sounds like a thrash epic, and the melodies and epic solos are just as fucking beautiful as they need to be, for a thrash album.
Even though you're going to hear some clean licks here, you're still going to hear some angry drums, some fierce vocals, and some definitely pissed off guitars. The band definitely went the sing-along route for this disc, with most of the songs being full of catchy choruses. The riffs on this thing aren't quite what you'd expect from a thrash band and tend to verge on folk-inspired melo-death, oddly enough. I can't say that every song is a surefire winner, but you can't go wrong with opener, "Phantom Antichrist 4:31", and the thrasher that follows it, "Death To The World 4:53"
Now with "From Flood Into Fire 5:25" the band certainly tried something with more melody and some choir vocal, but it seems to work for me. There are also a couple of songs that contain some acoustics, like "United In Hate 4:30", and the partial ballad, "Until Our Paths Cross Again 5:48."
I'm not going to lie, this is thrash mixed with portions of folk-inspired melodic death metal and traditional power metal. It's not a full on thrash album, and perhaps that's what I liked so much about it. For those of you who feel that Kreator should have just made another fucking thrash album, you just need to think out of the box for a while. There are about ten million thrash bands out there, and I'm glad to hear that these guys kept the thrash; but added some new elements that evolved their sound. I would recommend this disc as one of this year's unsuspected metal surprises. There's something here that will appeal to more than just fans of thrash metal, and it's got enough staying power to last for many days, weeks, months, or even years to come.
Highlights: Phantom Antichrist, Death To The World, From Flood Into Fire, Civilization Collapse, United In Hate, Your Heaven, My Hell, Victory Will Come, Until Our Paths Cross Again (10 Tracks, 45:00)
Carach Angren - Where The Corpses Sink Forever (2012) - This band is the exact reason why Dimmu Borgir won't matter anymore. Carach Angren also plays symphonic black metal, but they succeeded in making their epic black metal work. The band manages to utilize many different riffs and ideas that surmount to one hell of a great storytelling experience.
Yes, you heard that right. This is storytelling. So sit down children, and listen to your black metal. The scowls are audible enough that they can be well understood, and if you pay well enough attention, you'll be treated to a rather gruesome or frightening tale. The vocalist literally narrates the story, while the band adds atmosphere wherever they can. This is done with effects, drum hits, and the riffs, which seem to illustrate the tales.
This is a disc that you'll want to listen to over and over again. But not because the music is done so well, but because the storytelling and the music work so well together. I'm an author, so I know what good storytelling is. These tales really seem to be told with pure emotion. I can really feel the pain and anguish of the characters, as well as the vocal attention to detail. When words are scowled on this disc, certain portions are highlighted. There are even backup vocals here that add to the package.
It really feels like Carach Angren is actually there, watching the events of these stories unfold as the band narrates them beautifully. I cannot even tell you how much of a necessity this disc is. It might not be on Metal Storm's top 10 of 2012, but it damn sure should be. This is the very definition of epic storytelling black metal, the way that Cradle pioneered it, and the way that Dimmu tried to refine it. But Carach Angren does it so well, that it almost puts even Cradle's storytelling efforts to shame.
If you like black metal with a great musical atmosphere that mixes classical instruments, (piano and violin exc.) great riffs that combine black metal with prog, and some really killer drumming, as well as some of the best black metal vocals that I've ever heard on a disc; especially when it comes to these stories - and some wonderful uses of synth and effects, then this is your album.
This is definitely right up there with Ne Obliviscaris. Already, it's a great year for black metal. Ihsahn's new disc is just about to release and A Forest Of Stars and Nachtmystium are only just a few months away... What other surprises will await us in black metal this year? Well, you'll just have to stay tuned to find out.
Highlights: Every track on this masterpiece is worth hearing. One of them even favors death metal vocals. (Sir John 4:27) (9 Tracks, 43:00)
Firewind - Few Against Many (2012 Special Edition) - Well, I'm going to start this review by shitting myself. So just give me a minute while I do that.
There, that's better. Now I'm gonna need a shower. But before you ask me why I just shit myself and then told you about it, it's very simple. I never expected Firewind to make anything worth a damn after Gus G started playing with Ozzy. As much as I like the Ozzman, I still believe that the Ozzman cameth, and the Ozzman lefteth. As soon as I saw that he was playing on "Scream" I knew that Firewind was fucked. Then they put out their last album, which I don't even recall. That's probably because it was so fucking bad.
But this, well... This is fucking great. I don't know how they pulled it off, but I'm really impressed by the sheer amount of work put into this disc. I guess the band thought that their last disc was shit too, so they thought they'd step it up a bit this time. Now the band is still power metal, but don't think that they don't still thrash, because they still do.
The riffs are strong, the melodies play with power and prog, and there's some great vocal harmonies. These songs are quite fucking catchy, if I do say so myself. Gus G plays with a lot of styles really, like the Zakk Wylde touches on "Losing My Mind 6:28" which goes into a good thrasher from there. If Gus G is the main component of Firewind, he really decided to differentiate the style that we've been used to. As for solos, well... you know what to expect here. The guy shreds his ass off. Whether it's soft acoustics in the background, or full-blown metal, he fucking shreds.
The drum work on this disc isn't that great though, the drummer might as well be non-existent. This is the Gus G and the vocalist's baby, and they lead you right to power metal paradise. Believe the hype, this is a worthy power metal record. If anything, the vocalist seems to really be on his game this time around. With Gus G shredding and really having a good fucking time playing the music that he loves, rather than Ozzy's radio friendly crap; (I remember when the Ozzman actually brought it) it's almost an assurance that the disc is going to come out well.
Again, this disc is a result of good chemistry between the Gus G and the vocalist. That's fucking it. So be proud of it, and fucking buy it. It's the best disc the band's put out in a good number of years, and I know this well; as I've heard every disc in the band's discography. I know what they sounded like in the early days, and this has that same feel, surprisingly. There's thrash here, there's actual power metal here, and there's some great fucking riffing and vocal harmonies on this disc. I really don't know what else I need to say.
Oh, I need to mention the only shitty track on here. Personally, track 7 "Edge Of A Dream (feat Apocalyptica) 4:09" should have been thrown in the fucking trash. It's a real shitty ballad with very little to offer. That must have been a cast off from the band's last album. Whatever the case, it had NO PURPOSE ON THIS ALBUM and ruins the formula for 4 minutes too long. Think of it as an intermission break. But then "Destiny 4:08" comes on, and that'll kick your ass and you'll be happy again.
As a whole, this is definitely one of the best power metal discs of the year. I never, ever, ever fucking expected that one, folks. This is the very definition of the band and could have been self-titled as a statement to how Firewind actually sounds. (Accept no substitutes.) But what's really great, is that the Ozzy stuff probably helped the band to get out there and now they've got a certainly killer disc that screams FIREWIND instead of the crap they have been releasing. It's a great way to keep the fans you've got and gain some new ones. Pick this one up with the new Dragonforce, even though I think that this disc is far superior. But what do I know? I've been listening to power metal for quite a few years now, and it's one of my personal favorite metal genres to this day.
"Battleborn 5:10" - This is kind of a dick move, but this is actually a really killer track. I wouldn't really call it a B-Side, it should have replaced the shitty Apocalyptica track. It's got a killer chorus and a great solo. For some reason it wasn't included on the disc, and I'd be kicking somebody's ass in corporate for that. This song about a badass Viking warrior should have been on the retail disc.
"No Heroes, No Sinners (Acoustic) 2:59" - This is a great acoustic rendition of the closer. If you liked the original metal version, this acoustic rendition is every bit as good. It wouldn't have killed them to also put it on the retail disc. I wish they would stop with this "special collector's edition" bullshit. If somebody wants a bonus track that bad enough, they'll get it offline.
Highlights: Everything except for "Edge Of A Dream." Fuck that song.
(12 Tracks, 53:00)
666 (9.0) (Would've gotten a 7 if that stupid Apocalyptica wasn't album canon. I'm slowly losing my respect for those guys.)
Nightmare - The Burden Of God (2012) - While on my quest for good power metal, I came across this band. The album cover looked sweet, so I decided to check it out. I usually don't judge a book by it's cover, but sometimes...
Nightmare really impressed me with this album, even though the band's been around since the 80's. It's hard to believe that a band who's been around for so long still has some steam left in them, (and has been practically unheard by me) but it would seem that they still do. There are several great tracks here, like the opener "Sunrise In Hell 5:03","Crimson Empire 5:04","Children Of The Nation 4:39" and more.
Fans of other power metal bands like Firewind, Brainstorm and later Helloween should definitely enjoy this, as it's got the same thrashy riffs, great melodies and powerful vocals that their latest disc has. This is in many ways, just a straight up power metal disc with it's hits and misses. But when it hits, it certainly hits hard.
There are some unique riffs on the album, worthwhile drumming that seems to really seems to provide great a great backbone to the songs, and a vocalist who sounds a little old; but on tracks like "Crimson Empire 5:04" you can hear that he's still got some tricks up his sleeve and still can carry quite a bit of range. The vocalist is actually joined by two others on the epic, "The Dominion Gate (Part III) 7:32" which is probably the best song on the disc. It's definitely worth checking out, just by itself.
Let me talk to you about solos too. This disc certainly has it's good ones, and it should certainly impress those of you looking for a good (but short) classic metal solo. I wish they would've been longer, but I guess the vocalist really want to show his skills more instead.
Nightmare aren't doing anything new with this album, but that's going to be just fine with their fans. Power metal these days is almost a dead genre, and it's good to see that there are still bands out there who embody the spirit of it. I grabbed this on a whim and didn't even expect to enjoy it as much as I did.
Those looking for power metal that actually thunders and doesn't stay stuck in the realms of synth and keyboards will be happy here. The choruses and vocal melodies are catchy and the band has some definite structure among what might seem cookie-cutter at times. But let's face it, power metal has to be catchy in some aspects. Maybe that's why I wind up getting these songs stuck in my head quicker than death or black metal tracks.
Sure you've heard it before, but face it - you'd want to hear it all over again in a second.
Highlights: Sunrise In Hell, Crimson Empire, Children Of The Nation, The Doomsday Prediction, The Dominion Gate (Part III), Final Outcome, Afterlife (11 Tracks, 52:00)
Be'lakor - Of Breath and Bone (2012) - Be'lakor has little to prove in the realms of melodic death/doom. That's because they have so little to offer, that we haven't already heard before. To be blunt, the band has at least on this album; ripped off Insomnium quite heavily. This is almost a blatant rip-off, except for some trippier riffs in portions.
But the band does a great job of it, with impressive melodies, grim bass licks, and gravel vocals as well as you've heard them from Swallow The Sun, Insomnium, and several other bands in this genre. Sure, it's the same crap. But it's good crap. Fans of the genre can get hooked easily into the band's majestic soundscapes, and give them something else to play besides the new Swallow The Sun. It wasn't that great, people! At least, I didn't think so.
I didn't really hear anything that really came out to me anymore than the other tracks on this disc. That's not a bad thing, it just doesn't offer a great deal of variety in terms of melodic death/doom. That's really all that they play here. That's it, there's nothing else.
They could have also scrapped "To Stir The Sea 1:29" which I thought was useless. It should have just been part of a song. I'm sick of these little intermission tracks.
This bickering being said, "Of Breath and Bone" is a solid album, some might even say it's great or awesome. I certainly can agree with them there, but even moreso if I hadn't heard the discographies of Insomnium and Swallow The Sun. Among others, I mean they aren't really treading any new ground. So I'm not going to give high marks for something that isn't really going anywhere. A bait-less bobber out in the middle of the ocean isn't going to catch any fish, and the same can be said for this album. Yeah, I bet the Finnish fish are even getting tired of the stuff by now.
Yeah, yeah, it's cold and dark - we get it. But too much of the same thing becomes tasteless. Is life really that depressing in Northlands?
Highlights: Take your pick, they all sound roundabout the same. But good tracks nonetheless though. (8 tracks, 56:00)
4/5 (7.0) (To some this will be a really great disc, I can hear it in the riffs and in the structure, but as for originality, there really isn't any.)
Spawn Of Possession - Incurso (2012) - If they weren't already known for it before, Spawn Of Possession will certainly be known for their talent now. You'd have to braindead to not consider this mix of progressive death metal, technicality and sometimes even classical elements like a piano; to be an hour long showcase of talent. Some of the material on this disc even outshines legends like Decapitated, or our current champions, Obscura.
Let's start with the riffs. This disc certainly has some, and they're going all over the fucking place. You'd lose your head trying to keep up with some of the riffs on this one. But even then, they still manage to have a good bit of melody. The disc certainly thrashes, when the drummer isn't hitting every part of his kit with each second that passes by. He's really got some skill, and does a great job keeping the whole thing together, while playing just as erratically as everyone else. Yes, this whole disc is going fifty miles an hour, in eighty different directions. There are about four albums worth of riffs and tempos here, that's for certain.
This is what you call real art, folks. This is what real musical talent is. There are no substitutes, and you won't find two or three of the same riffs here, no d-tuned bullshit, no core influences, and nothing too trendy. This disc is in a class of it's own.
Speaking of vocals, these vocals are the kind that you would expect for death metal. They sound gravelly and demonic, making you really accept this as death metal and not some kind of deathcore that manages to pass for the real thing.
Once again, I have to mention the guitars here. The solos are ridiculous, if you can even catch up. The precision is uncanny, and the delivery is top-fucking-notch. Apparently this album didn't do that well in February, but I guess because nobody really checked it out. Well, if you haven't and you're waiting for that new tech-death from Gojira, give this shit a chance, for the love of God, please!
This is the very sound of chaos, they very sound of abstract art in the form of death metal. I highly recommend that you expose your ears at least once, if not twice to this musical masterpiece of brutality and ridiculous musicianship. You'll only wish that you could play this good. I also need to mention the sheer uniqueness of the closer, "Apparition 8:24" in which orchestrations and tech death work together to form one of the most interesting compositions that I've heard all year. If nothing else, listen to this track just for it's uniqueness. I've never heard death metal and piano go so well together.
Seems Beethoven was right about that classical music thing after all. It definitely goes well with death metal.
Of course, the only people who wouldn't like this disc, are the people who don't like technicality. There are some out there, so I will reiterate again that this disc is nothing but extreme technicality and prog from beginning to end. But some might even say that this band might be taking the torch for great death metal acts like Morbid Angel who helped to revolutionize the genre. You know, before they started to suck. I am faintly reminded of what Morbid Angel did in their heyday here, and that gives me a good feeling about the state of extreme metal.
Fans of Obscura, Athiest, old school Cynic, Decapitated and others, will devour this shit and then ask for another helping. Bow to your new death metal gods.
Highlights: Every single track, if you can keep up with them. (9 Tracks 52:00)
Loss - Despond (2012) - If you listen to this album and kill yourself, then I'm sorry. But I sure didn't. However, I think that the band is treading on the same old ground that numerous funeral doom bands have already traversed and boredom soon sets in. Yes, the songs are very long; some of them even encroach upon 10:00. But there are some great melodies and impressive acoustics that stand out on the disc. This could have been an hour of brooding riffs and death metal vocals, but it wasn't and I'm thankful for that.
However, the vocalist does rely too much on the death metal growls, as I've even heard Funeral do it much better without them. On "Silent And Completely Overcome 10:34" the guy actually proves that he's got some pipes. They aren't the best pipes in the world, but I fucking loved them. Plus, it's good to break up the monotony of the death metal vocal approach on 90% of the album with some clean vocals that actually carry emotion in them. I'm not saying that you can't carry emotion in growls, screams and scowls, but this gentleman is not showing me that he can.
As for the rest of the band, the drums are very lethargic. There might as well not even be a drummer at all. I imagine that he had to definitely get some quick energy shots during the recording of this stuff, because he really does just tap around here and there. But there is the occasional blast. Don't hold your breath waiting for it.
Yes, the melodies are the biggest part of this disc, but we've heard most of them before. They are overused melodies that I've heard time and time again, even since the early days of My Dying Bride. This stuff is nothing new, but there are fans who will enjoy this just as much as any other funeral doom that releases. I don't hate funeral doom. On the contrary, I love it when it's interesting and done right. This is far too boring on the vocals and that's a big part of the formula. he could have sang this whole album, and I probably would've liked it even more. There's more emotion in the man's voice when you can hear it in the vocal patterns; instead of him sounding like a depressed demon.
Musically, the band plays a very Sabbathy style of doom but with far more of a depressing edge. You can hear some blues riffs here and there as well, and that's going to appeal to some of the folks down south, I'm sure. It really does have some nice licks here and there, and you'd have to be deaf not to notice them. I can't say it's awful, because it isn't.
There's a few bs tracks here too. "Weathering The Blight 1:01","Deprived Of The Void 3:08", and "Despond 2:06" are all useless instrumentals where effects or some other nonsense is used. Keep it simple, you're no Sigh or Meads of Asphodel. Leave the experimentation to the experts, and play funeral doom the way that you know how. However, "The Irreparable Act 7:19" is a great instrumental closer to the disc, showing the band's musical skill and talent.
It's brooding stuff that funeral doom fans will surely enjoy, and there are some sullen melodies here that will even make giants weep. But as for me, I think it could have been much better. I've heard far better funeral doom than this, and wasn't too impressed with the package as a whole. it's solid, but not great. I bet in a few months, something will come out that tops it easily. If it hasn't come out already. But who cares what I say? If you like the music, go and support it!
Highlights: Silent and Completely Overcome, The Irreparable Act (10 Tracks, 66:00)
Dol Ammad - Cosmic Gods Episode I Hyperspeed (2012) - Fans of traditional Therion might embrace this odd pairing of electronics, opera and melodic metal stylings, but I can say with full certainty that it's not for everyone. To tell you the truth, many people made fun of the disc and think the band as nothing more than a big joke to the metal scene. But that's also very normal.
First of all, the disc does thrash even if there is a choir chanting during that thrashing and whatever type of sound effect the mastermind behind all of this is using. Some of you might not even like the idea that electronics are used in combination with guitars, but that's how it is, folks.
There is a lot of synth and electronics on this disc. Some people hate both of these things, and if you're one of those people; then don't even think about checking this out because you'll probably think it's god awful. But the electronics are done well, and there are some great effects used on this album that help to give the atmosphere to songs like "Stargate Pyramid 4:56" and "Seeds Of Life 4:35"
I personally really like some of these renditions, everyone of them offering something a little different, but staying within the boundaries of the genre. The choir does a great job here; it's just as good as any choir that Therion ever worked with, and since Therion doesn't want to use choirs anymore, this might be the next best thing. Of course, we haven't got a badass guitar player like Therion had. But the guitarist here does pull a handful of good melodies. Yes, I said a handful, as in I wish that he played less backing riffs and more melodies. The great solo at the end of "Seeds of Life" might end the disc, but it leaves us wanting something better.
The truth is, not enough effort was put into the metal aspect of the band. The atmospheres, electronics and choir all sound great. But the guitar does very little and the drums are quite predictable. While I might have thought that this might be a good replacement for Therion, I am starkly reminded that I do not get paid to think. With better production value and more effort put into the metal music itself; this album might have been worth a damn. But sadly, it fails to deliver.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go listen to Vovin. Accept no substitutes.
Highlights: None of the tracks really stood out anymore than the others. It seemed like a very basic album, despite that some tempo changes exist. (10 Tracks, 43:00)
Weregoat - Unholy Exaltation Of Fullmoon Perversity (PR2012) - I've been holding back on reviewing this one, because I didn't expect it to be all that special, really. But this death metal band that you would assume is a black metal band, actually has some form and function, despite it's rawness.
The band plays a sort of death and traditional doom mix. But this isn't considered totally death/doom. Some songs are more alongside traditional raw death metal, while others are more morose and brood for a while. It's the kind of raw shit where you can hear the amp noise, but still really feel the whole process. It's about as organic as you can get; but you can still discern the instruments and hear the vocals. Even though they might sound like a sort of black wind.
The drums blast left and right, the riffs actually offer some decent shades at times, but the whole thing is uncompromisingly dark and brutal. But that's just what you want. There's really not much music here to go on, as it's only a 25:00 piece, but even then, fans of raw death metal (and perhaps this is part black metal as well) might really be able to get into it. Like I said, there actually are some good things going on in the album and Weregoat has some promise.
Just because an album is not well produced, does not mean that it isn't good. Definitely a solid death metal album with promise, but nothing more than that. Check them out if you're interested though, because raw shit like this doesn't come around often, unless you're listening to demo tapes all day long.
Nevertheless, there's definitely old school influence on this disc, and fans of the old school should enjoy it, regardless of age.
Highlights: Abysmal Whore, Invoke The Black Oblivion, Nocturnal Hunt
(8 Tracks, 25:00)
Kraanium - Post Mortal Coital Fixation (PR2012) - Let me go on ahead and get this one out of the way. First of all, I've really never been a fan of grindcore. I went to see Dying Fetus and really enjoyed the show, (it was my first live show) shook the vocalist's hand and had a hell of a time. But they played death metal. Not this crap. Whew, this is really bad folks. Don't think that I won't give a grindcore disc a chance, because I've done it many times beforehand. It's a genre, so I respect it. But I can't respect this.
First of all, there is absolutely nothing going on here. Absolutely, positively fucking nothing. The riffs, drums and vocals all fail to impress me. The boredom sets in so hard that I literally feel like I'm going to throw up. The only thing that even half-way interested me was the voice clips, and the grindcore band KillWhitneyDead does a better job of those.
I'm serious folks, these guys gave me fucking nausea. I could've sworn that they played the same fucking song over and over and over and over again. I really want to say that they're talented musicians, and I respect anyone who's out there busting their ass to make it in the metal scene, but these guys just can't cut it. I've never heard such revolting, repetitive, and unoriginal shit in my entire life. They might have come from Norway to tour the US in June; but that doesn't mean that I'm gonna see them. You'd have to be a complete meathead metalhead to enjoy this.
Look, I hate talking shit. That's not the kind of guy I am, and I feel bad about it because I respect people's craft. But this isn't craft, it's garbage. The vocals do little to impress me with the pig squeal all of the time, and the drums go the same tempo throughout the cardboard riffs. I know you guys can do better than this. At least throw a few more fucking riffs in, please. I will say that the drumming is good, but that's about all that this band has going for them.
You know damn well what I'm going to have to give this one.
Highlights: (laughs) (12 Tracks, 35:00)
1/5 (4.0) (Hey, I gave them a 1 for effort.)