Friday, June 8, 2012

Week 45 (Backtracking)


Abigail Williams - Becoming (2012) - Abigail Williams is slowly but surely becoming a name in American black metal. What started out as some sort of newfangled black "core" has actually become something noteworthy in the black metal scene. Of course, albums like their last, "In The Absence Of Light" show that they were ready to throw all of their core fiddling away like a bad idea into a rubbish bin.

So what has now become of them? Well, I think someone got them drunk in Emperor's liquor cabinet, because I'm seeing massive song lengths, with names like "Elestial" and "Infinite Fields Of Mind." What's next? A cover of "Cosmic Keys To My Creations & Time?"

Still, a part of me is ready to dive into this disc, knowing that they've been experimenting and I even expect to hear some goody-goody prog and atmospheres this time around. Let's just see what Abigail Williams is "Becoming", shall we?

The disc starts out with "Ascension Sickness 11:11" which already starts out with that atmospheric nature that I thought it would. There's all sorts of bells and whistles from the get-go. Hey, this might be pretty good. On second thought, let's add the fact that whoever got them drunk in Emperor's liquor cabinet also took them to see old man Varg. This disc is raw, melodic, and has a barely audible vocal tone that most black metal fans will find authentic. Gone is the high production value, but the atmospheres are simply wonderful. There's also a growl/growler in miniscule parts of this song, who doesn't need to be there. But I can excuse a mistake. The violin playing here also adds well to the melody.

Quite simply, the music speaks for itself. This one's going to be a buy before I'm even finished this review.

"Radiance 5:33" starts out very slow, with almost growl vocals. However, I can see that they are intended to be part of black metal and I consider this song still very much black metal, especially towards the latter part of it. The melodies are strong and the vocal work is top-notch for the genre. This is once again, a respectable black metal album.

"Elestial 8:12" starts off with a very soft nature and escalates into standard black metal fare. Yes, I said "standard black metal fare." They can be called poseurs no more! This is honest fucking black metal just the way that grandma used to make it. The song then takes a turn about 2:30 and goes back into a slow, depressive nature. But the melodies are so good, I wish I had better speakers to fully absorb them. The bit-rate is 320, but my speakers can't really do this album justice.

Next is "Infinite Fields Of Mind 10:11" which starts out with a very light and beautiful melody amidst sounds of the waves crashing back and forth. It's very relaxing. Then a sort of portal type effect comes into play, that opens the way for black metal blasting and melody. The song of course slows down and allows for some more melody, and then speeds back up again in standard black metal fare. There's still a bit of a whirlwind effect here, like the band is playing in some sort of ethereal dimension. At about 5:04, the song begins to slow once again, and enters into some drum play. The drummer here is a pretty skilled guy, I'll say that. Some nice riffing comes into play definitely building a nice musical atmosphere, and then some classic (80's) black metal riffing comes in. Damn, this is a good one folks. I never thought I'd say that about this band. Can they do no wrong on this disc? Damn... at about the 7:00 mark, you've got some definite good riffs going on, and then you've got some great drum work shortly thereafter. I'm convinced now. These guys matter, and if you've got enough brain cells in your head, you'll understand that point. I'm speechless, folks. Certainly speechless.

"Three Days Of Darkness 2:27" comes in next, obviously a reference to the three days of darkness in 2012. I don't know much about that subject, but so far I haven't seen three days of darkness. However, I don't know if we'll have a winter this year, at least around these parts. The instrumental is short, but it's very good and not just thrown together. It is in the style of Burzum in places, but also has some uniqueness of it's own.

The instrumental goes right into "Beyond The Veil 17:31" which is the album's damn near twenty minute closer. The instrumental actually continues into this track, which is now just a violin. Drums come in at the 39 second mark, and a guitar can be heard adding atmosphere. Eventually the songs gets a little fuller per se, and the intro to this epic starts out rather well. Yes, it is quite epic.

The track eventually adds vocals and gets much heavier, but still retains an epic notion. There's a lot to this one, folks. Alright, we've got a drop at about 6:40 now, which brings in violin and drums that threaten to ignite, but don't. At 8:00, the tempo changes and the violin as well, making a sort of world music sort of sound. This eventually goes into a heavier but still violin fuelled section that also brings back the vocals, which come out nicely.

This track is much more folky than the rest of the tracks here, but it's a welcome difference. It's just damn near perfection. Abigail needs to tour this one, and then quit. This cannot be topped.

Now we're almost into the 14:00 mark, where only violins are heard and some cymbal taps. Then the spatial effects come in, and it feels like I'm going into a portal or some sort of alien space craft. But the drums and violins are still going throughout. Then the vocals come in, but only to let out a word? Or is that a sound effect and not a vocal at all? I think i hear a woman's voice harmonizing now, but that might also be a vocal. Perhaps that's the violin... I don't know!

The song finally starts to cool down at about the 17:00 mark, but there' s all kinds of weird space effects to end out the disc. Yep, that's it. It's over.

Well, to be honest, haven't heard black metal like this in a while. This disc is truly memorable, and I think it would make any fan of the genre pleased. If you bought this disc and don't like it, then just mail it to me. I don't see how not liking this one would even be possible, but it is for some, I suppose. I think it's definitely one of the best damned black metal discs I've heard in quite a while. If you were looking for an American black metal band to give a shit about, you can add this to your pile of Absu, Nachtmystium, Agalloch, Goatwhore, and the thousands of other good black metal bands out there in the US. But these guys are definitely going to make a name for themselves with this one.

This is what black metal is supposed to be, and it's good to see that they've taken the torch from the ancients like Burzum and Emperor, and made something truly fucking, and I'll say it one more time... memorable. This might be the year's best black metal disc, and it's only the end of January. Yes, I know Nachtmystium is releasing a new one this year, but they'll have to work hard to top this. Pure excellence.

Highlights: The Entire Album (6 tracks, 55:00)

666 (One of the best black metal albums of the year.)


Lamb Of God - Resolution (Real Thing 2012) - Now some of you might even be wondering why in the hell I'm doing this. Well, the answer is quite fucking simple. The old version of this disc was an unfinished mix, and now I've got the real thing. But to be honest, I would have been happier with the unfinished mix. The rawness made it sound much more fierce.

I'm going to point this out right now. I fucking hate Blythe's vocals on this disc. They just don't good. It sounds like he's worn the fuck out, too. I can barely hear the rhythm guitars and even though there's more focus on percussion this time, (and it sounds pretty good) the disc to me sounds like a band who's just plumb worn the hell out.

If this was supposed to be our new Pantera, they sure as hell didn't last long. Fuck, they should've quit after Wrath. I just can't be happy with this disc. Blythe ruins the whole goddamned package for me. I'd have taken this disc and thrown it at him. I'm really disappointed. Blythe's vocals should've been in the goddamned background, and the guitars and drums should've been up front. We only needed a little bit of Blythe, not all of him. I honestly can't believe this is the final mix. Who mixed this shit? I'll have his fucking balls!

Even when I turn the volume up, the drums and guitars don't get any louder. But Blythe's vocals still resonate like an air horn. His style always was raspy, but it didn't need to be up front. The raw quality is what makes the music. To make this shit well produced kills the whole fucking thing.

This isn't the same Lamb Of God that made Wrath and Sacrament. Those guys were abducted by aliens and replaced with soulless robots. Where's the goddamned riffs? Seriously, this is a full album? No fucking way this comes after Wrath. What the hell? Listen to "The Undertow 4:46" and point out how many riffs you remember from their other albums.

The only thing good on this disc is the fucking percussion. Damn it. Goddamn it. Fuck me with a steel bar. This is copy and fucking paste bullshit if I've ever heard it. WHAT! That's not a fucking solo!

I expect them to go for mainstream radio play next. I'm really fucking disappointed with these guys. It's corporate metal in the disguise of thrash! Damn it, I'm losing oxygen! Give me some fucking real metal, stat!

Alright, so the album still has some strong tracks on it. They're just towards the end of the disc. A weak start, but a powerful finish. But it's not enough to save them from being less than mediocre. If "King Me" is killing you, then perhaps you should stop being the king.

Highlights: The Number Six, Invictus, Insurrection, Visitation, King Me (Due to it's uniqueness)

(14 Tracks, 56:00)



Biohazard - Reborn In Defiance (2012) - Don't be alarmed, but this is the first full length Biohazard album that I've ever heard. Of course, I have heard their early stuff and remember that old video for "Punishment" but I haven't actually heard a full length disc from the band. But I'm pretty sure that I know what to expect here. Hardcore.

But what makes this album so good, is that it seems to capture the nature of the band in a very memorable fashion. The songs vary in tempo and style, and they all seem to turn out pretty damned good for the most part. The opener "Vengeance Is Mine 3:24" comes in thrashing with wild guitar solos strewn about, and the second track on the disc, "Decay 4:24" seems to feature more of a sing-along clean vocal chorus. "Reborn 4:52" seems to go back to the style of the opener track, and is followed by the much slower and melodic track, "Killing Me 4:49." One can start to sense a pattern forming here, but for the most part, all of the songs on the disc seem to be solid enough to enjoy.

For instance, I thought "Killing Me" was a little weak at the beginning, but the chorus really started to stick after a while, and then the solos came in pretty well, so it was balanced out and I rated that track about a star higher than I normally would have. (It's a 4 now, instead of a solid 3.) So despite that this album could have been a bunch of throwaway material, it's actually balanced out by the musicality that includes a classic hardcore, punk, and thrash nature.

"Countdown Doom 4:56" sounds more hardcore than any of the other tracks, reminding me quite a bit of "Punishment" actually. I pointed it out, because it's classic rap lyrics make it different from any of the other tracks thus far. I'll also throw the acoustic bass and rapping track, "Vows Of Redemption 4:57" in there. That track also had a light melodic chorus and has a few heavier points. Clearly, the band has evolved their style on this disc. I'm really impressed with some of these.

Surprisingly, there's a ballad on this disc, "You Were Wrong 6:05" where the clean vocals are done by the vocalist who usually does the gruffer vocals. His singing voice isn't that great, but he sort of reminds me of Chad Gray a little. There is a mediocre ballad solo on this song as well. This one's radio worthy, and sounds like a hard rock track that got mixed in. If not for the shredding, I might have hated it. But that guy can fucking shred.

Thank god that "Skullcrusher 4:14" comes in and brings back the heavy. The disc's final song is the anthemic "Never Give In" which sounds like it has one of those simplistic bass riffs that you'd hear in Quake 2. The song itself is solid and good way to finish the album. But the closer track, "Season The Sky 4:07" is actually an instrumental (which I don't necessarily classify as one of the main songs, because it sounds like the credits to a good horror film and carries a great solo with it) that seems to end the disc in a very different sort of way. Some might say that it wasn't really needed on a hardcore album, but this isn't truly a complete hardcore album. The band is experimenting, because they're tired of the same old shit, apparently.

It's a good disc with some hits and some misses, but should certainly appeal to fans of the band. Of course, it might not resonate well with them either. It just depends on how open they are. I personally thought it was good, a swell offering from a hardcore legend.

Highlights: Vengeance Is Mine, Decay, Reborn, Countdown Doom, Come Alive, Voice Of Redemption, Skullcrusher, Never Give In, Season The Sky

(13 Tracks, 54:00)



Savage Messiah - Plague Of Conscience (2012 Free From Earache) - Yes, you read that right. The new album from these power thrashers is free from Earache Records. I can't remember how to get it, so go there and get it yourself if the promotion is still open. It comes with a picture file that includes everything you'd need to make the cd yourself. If you want to put it on a disc, that is. But who does that anymore?

Anyway, this album is so fucking good, that I can't believe it's free. It's definitely a must for fans of Iced Earth, Brainstorm, Chinchilla, and other power/thrashers that I currently can't remember. The disc is definitely most in the vein of Brainstorm though, utilizing the groove/thrash style that they have used on such numbers as "Firewalking" , "Temple Of Stone" and "Shiva's Tears." But there are also faster songs on the disc, like the opener, "Plague Of Conscience 5:31" easily my favorite on the disc.

I also need to point your attention to the album art, as it is very blatant and might even offend some masons. (No, not brick layers.) Nevertheless, I do believe that even though there are good people who are in freemasonry and do things to benefit the community; the inner sanctum and most sacred orders of the society are indeed connected to, if not are; the illuminati. There's too much information out there about this, and too many people that have a great deal of media influence or power (Simon Cowell and the music industry, for example.) who are in high orders of freemasonry.

Crowley himself studied well upon it, and even though they are utilizing the same sorts of energies one might in any other ritual, their means seem to be diabolical and the media is as one of the pictures in the album artwork puts it, "a puppet on the strings." Most of the modern music industry, from Lady Gaga to Evanescence are all part of this media fad, which is driven by shows like Pop/American Idol, The Voice, and Cowell's X-Factor. Of course, Cowell is a handler for many puppets. But you could further research this stuff.

(By the way, I don't consider Crowley a diabolical figure. I think he was very wise, but was tarnished by rumors and lies spread about in the early media)

The album offers everything that you could want in a power thrash album, which includes but is not limited to: impressive drum work, powerful solos that make even weaker numbers worth listening to, and spot on vocals that deliver well with each note. There's even some prog in sections.

The disc ends with the closer "The Mask Of Anarchy 8:37" and while it starts out a little softer than the rest, it's certainly got it's heavy sections and is a well end to a terrific album. I don't have one complaint about this disc. It's just very good power/thrash with no bullshit ballads, and a worthy message that you'd better soak into your ears because it's coming....

Er... It's already here. Did you not get the memo? People keep saying, the new world order/illuminati ARE coming, but the trick with that is that it's a ruse. They're not coming, they're already here. Any noble sacred society keeps themselves well hidden and the curtain is our media. I could write about seven more paragraphs on the details here, but this should suffice. Shit, folks. It's right in front of our faces if you'd look. The television is the biggest eye into it.

This might just be one of the best power/thrash albums I've heard in a while. I definitely consider that you get it, and since it should still be free via Earache promotion, you need to hurry your ass over there and download yourself a copy. It's certainly worth hearing. Free metal with a good message. That's a beat that we can all thrash to.

Metal Storm gave it a 7.1/10, and I'll admit that some of the songs are weak on this disc, but they make up for it with the great musicianship and killer solos. If they didn't, this album would be ranked significantly lower, I don't care if it's free or not.

Highlights: Most of the songs on the disc, but certainly the title track. I think it's the best one on the album.

(10 Tracks, 53:00)



Coldworker - The Doomsayer's Call (PR 2012) - According to PR, Sweden's Coldworker is a grindcore based death metal band that has been making discs since 2006. Released on Listenable Records, this disc was mixed and mastered by the legendary Dan Swano. The idea of the disc was to "create strong individual songs that combined to make a really strong Swedish death metal album." It is also supposed to be the best example of the band's sound to date, where blastbeats meet heaviness and grooves with eerie melodies and overall catchy songs.

The disc actually does sound rather core, but features just as much of a death metal influence as you would expect. The songs are still kind of catchy, but sound much different from each other, with the first song, "A New Era 3:55" being more of a traditional Swedish death metal song with core influence, but the second song, "The Reprobate 3:16" starts off much faster and has an almost punk nature. there's also a screaming solo.

The third track, "The Glass Envelope 3:17" almost sounds like a complete second half to the track that came before it. If you hadn't looked, you'd have thought it was the same song.

"Flesh World 4:45" follows right after, starting out much slower, but enveloping into standard death metal fare. I'm really not crazy about the core vocals on this disc, they throw me off. But the band does have structure and I'll give them that. There's some technicality in the music for sure. This track is certainly one of the better tracks, with the vocals showing some power and there's a nice little solo.

"Murderous 3:15" starts out very technical, but doesn't derive from the formula very much. I haven't reached half of the disc yet, but there's little a derivation in the band's formula. However, they usually throw a solo into every song. They also seem to want to bash your brains in with a sledgehammer. Definitely not relaxation music.

"Pessimist 2:55" is short, but it starts out with a good groove. Certainly not a ballad or instrumental track. This band is also interested in ripping your head off and putting on a wall. I guess they'll then throw darts at your eyeballs.

The drummer is a beast, and really seems to fuel the band's sound. The band incorporates a lot of technicality and structure to even the shortest songs, but still provides an unbridled rage throughout every minute of this disc.

"Monochrome Existence, 5:01" is the longest song on the disc, and that's because it starts out with a very worthy intro. The drums don't start to blast until about 1:15 seconds in. While not much different than the other songs, this track is still pretty good. These guys are certainly talented with making worthwhile death metal.

"Vacuum Fields 3:18" does differ from the formula for a few seconds when it first starts, but then it goes right back into bashing you in the head with a nail spiked bat. "Living Is Suffering 3:07" is next, but I barely even noticed it. Sounded like all the others, really.

"The Walls Of Eryx 4:26" comes in next, starting out very different, and following a different tempo. The whole song actually seems to have much more going for it than most of this disc. It's a good thing that they showed here that they can do more than blastbeats. But that's alright, because the next three songs are short and I'll bet they follow the same formula.

Yep. "Violent Society 3:11" comes in with the blast beats and fierce vocals. It's certainly more brutal than the rest of the tracks though. Definitely worth a listen.

Oddly enough, "Beyond The Stench 2:47" starts out very proggy, but that goes into a very fast drumming (not blasting) and gives it a definite death metal feel. Nothing I haven't heard before, but plenty of technicality here.

The disc wraps up with "The Phantom Carriage 3:23", which isn't a ballad of any sort. It's another dead-on brutalizer, and it will show you no mercy, just like the rest of this ferocious beast of a disc. There's something special about this one that makes it appeal to me, but I can't put my finger on it. But the track's too short to give a damn. Hence, the grind influence as most grind tracks were short and sweet... I mean, brutal. Short and brutal.

Overall, this is a definite must for fans of both grindcore and death metal. People looking for melody should go somewhere else, because this disc is more about technicality and brutality than anything else. It's a little more than half an hour of music that you'll probably play again and again. But I don't think it's the best thing I've ever heard. It's just not really my cup of tea.

Regardless, go and support the band by buying their album if you like it, when it drops on February 13th. You can also go to the band's bandcamp page, where you might be able to snag a copy early, or just preview the tracks.

Highlights: Fleshworld, Monochrome Existence, Vacuum Fields, The Walls Of Eryx, The Phantom Carriage (For those of you who like the same tempo and brutality, you'll like everything but most of these tracks I've selected.)

(13 Tracks, 46:00)

3/5 (Of course, I've no doubt in my mind that some people might see this as needing to be much higher. Again, not my personal cup of tea.)


Pharaoh - Bury The Light (PR 2012) - According to PR, this American "brilliant rousing heavy metal band" has changed it's sound drastically. I suppose it's become much darker than 03's "After The Fire" or 06's "The Longest Night." Instead, the new album has ties to the much darker, but fan favorite "Be Gone" which was released in 2008. In that album, the bandmates were experimenting with different forms. Apparently, the lyrics on the disc are a contribution from all four band members, and they seem to live a good while from each other, so there was a lot of different collaborations and such.

Apparently, the disc still retains the core of the band's sound but features "unexpected pathways." For me, this is a good sign. Especially when there are plenty of heavy metal bands in the genre that don't prefer to experiment. Then there's a whole lot of yada yada about the disc being a call to action to seek salvation in the darkness to receive the new light and bonding against false goodness. Yeah, yeah. Whatever.

The disc starts out with "Leave Me Here To Dream 5:02" which doesn't sound too dark. The vocals remind me mightily of Manowar, and that's a good thing. The disc sounds old school in terms of production, but certainly has structure and great guitar work. There's some prog in places, (as is with most power metal these days) but it is phenomenal. Shit, listen to that riff. That's sounds really spatial. Love that kind of stuff. Wow. That was impressive.

The disc continues in this epic fashion, greatly reminding me of Manowar, but in my opinion, this is the best Manowar album that Manowar didn't put out. Tim sounds every bit just like the lead vocalist of Manowar, and I was curious at first if he was also the vocalist for Manowar (because I can't remember who sings for them now, but I'm sure it's not Ross "The Boss", unless it is.) because the resemblance is that damned uncanny.

But unlike Manowar, this band plays a very epic (with a capital "E") style of progressive power metal that is absolutely mind-blowing in some sections, thanks to their amazing guitarist, Matt Johnsen. That guy's a fucking beast, who writes amazing riffs and melodies that definitely made me poke my head up from the game I was currently playing. (This time it's Titan Quest, btw.)

This isn't just a disc that you should check out, it's one you should own. This is probably the best classic power metal band I've heard in years, and their sound is absolutely fucking incredible. The band seems to be capable of no wrong on this disc that features such powerful vocals, impressive guitar work and great storytelling. It's everything one could want in a power metal album, and I highly, highly, highly recommend that you get this disc.

This is a band from America that has the power to really go out there and be the next Manowar. Call it blasphemy now, but listen to the album and tell me I'm wrong. I'm speechless, blown away and cannot believe what I've just been given the pleasure to preview. I certainly hope that true power metal fans and "defenders of the heavy metal faith" so to speak; will go and buy this one, because you want it in your fucking collection. I'm telling you, this is what fucking power metal is.

There are some absolutely amazing riffs on this disc, and wonderful solos too. There's not one thing wrong with this disc at all. I'm telling you, I've heard a lot of power metal, and this is some the best I've ever fucking heard. No ass kissing, just the truth. These are ten songs of greatness, and even the short 1:37 second closer ends out the album with just as much magnificence as it began.

You'd be a fucking idiot not to get this one if you're into power metal, especially Manowar. This is a blast from the past in the best of ways. I'm more than impressed. Go check this one out, and support these guys by buying the disc when it hits the shelves on February 24th. They deserve it!

Highlights: The entire epic disc. (10 Tracks, 49:51)

666 (The best Manowar disc I've never heard. Literally.)


Swallow The Sun - Emerald Forest And The Blackbird (2012) - Say what you will, but Swallow The Sun has definitely decreased in heaviness since their debut, "The Mourning Never Came." It's one of my favorite doom discs of all time, and the band has since been able to top it, although I rather enjoyed their third disc "Hope" and haven't cared for much of anything since that one.

However, I find myself actually enjoying a few of the tracks on this 66 minute monster of an album, with most of the tracks being over the 5 minute mark. The longest track on the disc is the title track, which is close to ten minutes (9:57) and is about as boring and uninspired as anything I've heard from them yet. The screamer's vocals don't even go with certain riffs and it sounds like a sort of hodgepodge of things being throw together. What an awful way to start the album.

Tracks like "This Cut Is The Deepest 5:20" certainly show a more gothic vocal (ala current Paradise Lost) from the band, with a croon and sounds almost light enough to be played on mainstream radio. "Cathedral Walls 6:47" which features a Liv Kristine sound-alike who goes by the name of Anette Olzon is certainly a strong doom track about heartbreak with some worthwhile melodies, but Anette's vocals should be featured a bit more I feel. She was used in two verses, I believe.

The band has really taken to a lighter style of playing with brief outbursts of heaviness. I had no idea that they'd turn into something like this. It's almost a caricature of the band's sound, I think. After "Hearts Wide Shut 5:55" and "Silent Towers 4:01" I'm not even sure if this is still Swallow The Sun.

It's not all bad though, "Labyrinth Of London: Horror Part IV 8:29" actually brings back the heaviness that the band is known for and shows you that they are still capable of TMNC/Hope style death metal. But I'll be damned if they fuck it off again with another crooner called "Of Death and Corruption 5:00."

Oddly enough, the band goes does a sort of "Vikings and the harsh winter" deal with "April 14th 8:28" which has some good narration by the vocalist. His singing may have gotten on my nerves, but he can narrate. Also, I'll state that this song reminds me of the sort of doom that My Dying Bride championed in their early years. (Apparently, they're still capable of it.)

"Night Will Forgive Us 6:40" ends the disc on a monstrously strong note with incredible melody and the death/doom power that the band is known for. This is the right way that the album should've ended, even thought it began a little recklessly and had a bunch of slow crooners in the middle. There's still some death metal in here folks, but just a handful of it.

Good for doom metal fans, I'm sure you'll enjoy it. But I heard someone talking about how the album put him to sleep. The guy said, "Thanks, Swallow The Sun for the nap." Of course this is one individual so you shouldn't base your opinions on his. The disc is certainly different, but it's not awful either. I'll say it's a solid disc, but it doesn't hold a candle to Insomnium's death/doom masterpiece of last year.

On a further note, the title is a little odd. Shouldn't it be, "The Emerald Forest and The Black Bird?" Who taught them grammar?

Highlights: This Cut Is The Deepest, Cathedral Walls, Labyrinth Of London, April 14th, Night Will Forgive Us

(10 Tracks, 66:00)



Eluveitie - Helvetios (2012) - Well, whether we wanted one or not; there's a new Eluveitie album. It's 17 tracks spread across 59 minutes, so you can expect plenty of little intermission pieces, I'm sure. The disc opens rather epically, with one of my favorite intro pieces for an album in a long time. I don't want to spoil the epic intro for you, but from a writer's perspective I thought it was written and read beautifully. It's too bad that the album won't hold the same sort of epicness.

The first actual song on the disc is the title track, which doesn't sound all that good really. It sounds like rushed melo-death that wants to mix In Flames and bag pipes together, still! This was good for a while, but I'm not sure if I can make it through a disc that's as uninspired as this one has been, thus far.

Alright, so maybe I miss-stepped a little. the songs "Home 5:16" and it's following track, "Santonian Shores 3:18" show that the band is playing with a little more structure and are using some melodies that seem to be effective. One of the guys is even trying to attempt a sort of solo with the bagpipes or bagpipe synth effects they're using (my guess is it's sythns.)

"Scorched Earth 4:18" starts out with a long chant amidst what's supposed to be desert sands. Haven't heard that before in their music, so kudos for taking it out of familiar territory. Apparently, I've tripped on my tongue again. This track doesn't start out with a chant in the desert, it is a chant in the desert. The entire 4:18 is a chant amidst some bagpipes. It's quite nice, actually.

"Meet The Enemy 3:46" is a pretty decent song too, has some good parts in it, but still standard fare for melo-death. I also heard some core breakdowns, but I sort of expected them. "Neverland 3:42" features a female on backup vocals during the chorus, and in some other parts of the song, but it's not that much of a song if you take the whole Celtic feel out of it. It'll sound like an absolute generic melo-death thrasher.

"A Rose For Epona 4:26" makes me wonder if this song might be about Link's horse. Why the hell not, right? I'm sure these guys have played the Legend Of Zelda before. This one's different because it features primarily a female vocal (ala Battlelore) and Lacuna Coil style riffs. We knew it was coming. You can skip it if you want, but I think her vocals are pretty good, albeit a little too loud. She seems to be pushing too hard. Bagpipes come in around the third quarter and pull of a solo. I still think her vocals are too loud.

"Havoc 4:04" starts out with a nice violin piece and incorporates a meaningless scream. Yes, this one sounds like death thrash, but with bagpipes. "The Uprising 3:41" sounds pretty much like "Havoc" in it's death thrash nature, but features the narration which sounds good. I'm already starting to notice a patter here, and it's simple. This band seems to like to make the same song over and over again in some instances.

"Hope 2:27" starts out with a good flute piece, then adds acoustics and some light percussion. Good for even people who don't like metal, because there's none in it. "The Siege 2:27" starts out heavy and has a very harsh scream. That other screamer is awesome. He sounds a little black metal and it works. This is a different style for the band and it works. There's actually a little bit of technicality and groove here... um, and a rousing violin piece. Then female vocals come in? Huh? Why? People who don't normally like this band might find this more modern metal influenced song to be more up their alley.

"Alesia 3:58" reminds me of Evanescence in the beginning, female vocals and a piano. The riffs definitely sound as basic as well, but there's some death metal vocals in this song too. The chorus is strong here, but the riffs are so goddamned basic. They run out of ideas? However, the song does have some good structure toward the end, and finishes with a choir.

"Tullianum 0:24" is so short, that it's not even worth mentioning. "Uxellodunon 3:51" is probably the last actual song on the disc and it's got a very powerful chorus that seems to drive the song. A good way to end the metal portion of the disc. "Epilogue 3:14" ends the disc with the same badass narration that it began with, and then goes into a symph-laden folk piece with the flute as a main instrument. Then a choir joins in amidst a synth that sounds like it ended Lord Of The Rings.

(*Some of the parts I labeled as bagpipes were flutes, so I need to clear that up. There are bagpipes on the disc, but more of this album is flute.)

Helvetios is a good album from Eluveitie, amidst some simplicities that don't help to make the band stand out. Yes, they use folk instruments; but the playing is still rather basic and I think they get by with far too much. Despite the large following that this band has among the Neo-Pagan crowd, (which I was once a part of) metal listeners can definitely find better folk metal out there than this one. It's far too mainstream in a sense, despite some improvements in structure.

Still, with songs like "A Rose For Epona" and "Alesia" we seem to know where the band is heading. Not the best folk disc of the year, but worth listening to if you like a modern style of metal and folk mix with some old school melo-death that lacks tempo change. Still, it's catchy and heavier than you'd think. Folk metal fans should check it out and will, regardless.

Highlights: Prologue, Santonian Shores, Scorched Earth, Meet The Enemy, Neverland, A Rose For Epona, Havoc, Hope, The Siege, Alesia, Uxellodunon, Epilogue



Eisbrecher - Die Holle Muss Warten (2012) - German industrial metallers Eisbrecher are back at it again, already. After releasing their best of album, "Eiskalt" in December, the band are already unveiling their new and highly awaited fifth album.

So far, the disk isn't a disappointment. They haven't pulled any weird shit yet, it sounds very comparable to other industrial metal bands, including Rammstein of course. There are still heavy ballads on the disc like "Augen Unter Null 4:00" with a female vocal choral duet, but this is definitely the Eisbrecher we know and love.

Believe it or not, the title track is also a ballad and it also features a female vocal duet. But I'm telling you, it's definitely a good, catchy song. Definitely German radio friendly though, not so sure if they'd play it over here in the states, but it would certainly work over here too.

So far this disc not the heaviest thing I've ever heard, but I'm happy with it. As for the track length, they're all quite small and the longest track is "Atem 4:22" which tells you that these were pretty much geared for easy radio play in their native country. If you want to play the sold out card, you're already too late; because the band has sounded this way since it's inception. They've always had a sort of "melodic heaviness." But don't worry, because there's still some heavy stuff here and there, and even a solo "Herz Aus Eis 3:56" but if you turn your head for a second, you'll miss it.

"Abgrund 4:18" sounds a little different than the rest of the tracks, adding a little more of a heavy edge. But it's sandwiched in between two very light hearted ballads, "Ein Leben Lang Unsterblich 3:42" and "In Meinem Raum 3:12" which the latter of which is very strong.

Again, this disc has about the same amount of heaviness as would be in a hard rock album. It is very centered on the choruses, and if you are one of those people who likes a good sing-along chorus, then this disc might be for you. There's even the club friendly, "Keine Liebe 3:57" with it's dance beats and female backing vocals.

Even the heaviest track on the album, "Exzess Express 3:25" has a melodic chorus that goes into a shout of "Exzess! Express!" However, if you're looking for heavy German industrial, that's all I've heard of it from this disc. I'm serious.

"Rette Mich 3:56" is the kind of whiny crap I don't care for. Some people might like it, but I'm not digging this one. Then finally, there's the closer "Atem 4:22" which is the longest track on the album by a whopping four seconds. It's no surprise that the track is also a lighthearted ballad, like many of the others you'll hear in this disc's 48 minute playing time. Surprisingly it's heavy in the latter portion, but has a weak chorus.

This disc is probably good in the right setting. Maybe it's good music for slow lovemaking. Maybe it's a good disc for some intimate Valentine's Day time for a couple. But I honestly couldn't see myself head banging to the majority of songs on this disc, and if I did, most metalheads would probably look at me funny.

With a disc that has so many "probably's" and "maybe's" and ballads, it's clear that the disc isn't the best that the band's ever made. But it's certainly not their worst. It's simply another drop in the bucket with hits and misses, and is definitely geared towards the mainstream.

If you like heavy industrial or German metal, you might want to skip this one. But if you like light industrial with bits of heaviness and strong melodic choruses left and right, then this is going to make your love day even more special. I just don't want to know what you're doing while you're playing this one.

Highlights: Tanz Mit Mir, Augen Unter Null, Die Holle Muss Warten, Herz Aus Eis, In Meinem Raum, Keine Liebe, Exzess Express (13 Tracks, 48:00)



Megaherz - Gotterdammerung (2012) - If you thought that Eisbrecher was the extent of German industrial released last month, you were wrong. Megaherz has been making albums for quite a while now, and this is their latest. You see, Megaherz has Eisbrecher actually beaten by quite a few years and they've been out as long as Rammstein.

Let's see how they've matured.

The first track, "Jagdzeit 4:15" actually has a driving beat and a much longer solo than Eisbrecher has ever thought about. Maybe this is the heavy one you want to get. But this is only the first song, and these are much longer than Eisbrecher's little ditties, with the second track close to the 6 minute mark. That second track by the way, is called "Heute Nacht 5:41" and has a much stronger chorus than most of the last Eisbrecher album.

And in comes the thrash with "Keine Zeit 3:49" Yeah, so far I'm definitely saying that Megaherz is the better of the two. At least I can actually bang my head with this one. Also, the band has definitely one-upped their last effort, 2008's "Huechler." This is just the kind of structure, heaviness and overall replayability that the last album needed. It also has the chops to compare against Rammstein's latest, 2009's "Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da."

Songs like "Rabenvater 3:57" remind me that there is still hope in the German industrial genre. It's heavy sense and use of organs work well to the band's advantage. "Herz Aus Gold 5:27" also seems to work well in the band's favor, with a strong chorus, good synths and some experimenting on the vocals in places.

Of course, there's also a few so/so tracks like "Prellbock 4:10", and "Feindbild 4:41" with it's German rap nature. "Abendstern 3:42" can also be thrown into filler category, but some people might like it's melodic nature. The guitars are at least more pronounced than on that Eisbrecher disc.

The closer to the disc is "Kopf Oder Zahl 4:07" and it's a bit different in style than the rest of the tracks. However, it has a very heavy latter portion that ends the disc out with a force.

There are two extra tracks here and they're both remixes of the opener, "Jagdzeit."

The first one was remixed by Grendel, the man who made black metal scowls and electronic music work years ago. (But he doesn't scowl anymore.) I've always loved Grendel's work, and I definitely love this remix and would give it five stars. But if you're not a fan of Grendel or electronics, you'll hate this. But for me, I think it sounds better than the original! Remember that Varg himself liked to go to electronic clubs and rather enjoyed the music.

The next track is a version by Blitzkid Gunnar, who I've never heard of. This remix utilizes more guitar, but it ain't touching Grendel's mix IMHO. Oh shit, it's that dub-step shit. Nope, Not digging this. As a society, how did we ever make music that sounds even more robotic than it already was? Maybe if I had circuits and wires in my brain, I'd enjoy this one. But I'm going to go with the former remix. This one gets one fucking star.

With two major German industrial releases out this year, I'm curious if any of this music was actually used in the soundtrack for the space Nazi flick, "Iron Sky." Apparently the film was debuted in Germany, which I find odd; since you can't even buy the original Wolfenstein PC game there, due to it revolving around the Nazi party. People are really frightened about a fourth reich over there, just in case you didn't know.

Regardless, this album is the much heavier of the two, even though it has more filler. But for some people, the heavier filler might be better than the light-hearted pop style of Eisbrecher. Or you can wait for the new Rammstein album, which should be out this year. Of course, "Mein Land" didn't sound too promising, so I don't expect much from that one.

Highlights: Jagdzeit, Heute Nacht, Keine Zeit, Rabenvater, Mann Im Mond, Kopf Oder Zahl, Jadgzeit (Grendel Remix) (13 Tracks, 58:00)

3/5 (But it's much heavier.)


Lacuna Coil - Dark Adrenaline (2012) - Alright, folks. This "darker, heavier" album might be more metal than anything they've released in a while, and it even contains two solos, (a band first) but that's just not going to save these guys this time.

I'm halfway into the disc right now, currently listening to "End Of Time 3:52" and for the most part, the disc isn't that great. The band seems to have lost it's luster and there's not much more here than a retread of a retread of a retread. As far as I'm concerned, "Unleashed Memories" was the band's best offering, and this new stuff just doesn't seem to cut it. Marcos and Scabbia still duet on most of these tracks, and somebody must've told Marcos that he was a good singer, because his vocals are over this thing.

To tell you the truth, this "End Of Time" is a pretty decent pop song, but it's not really metal or even rock. I guess I can expect this sort of thing from this much "heavier, darker" album. (Insert sarcasm.)

The whole thing just has a gloss over it that I just don't care for. It's all about simplicity as far as musicality, and the vocals are very high in the mix. Please god, I hope there isn't someone who thinks this is metal, because it's not. It's hard rock with slight, and I mean slight metal influence.

There's only five songs left now on this 45 minute disc, and I'm honestly just waiting for track 10, their cover of REM's classic "Losing My Religion." If they fuck this one up, I'm done with them. They did Depeche Mode justice, but I have my doubts here.

I used to think that Lacuna Coil was heavier and darker than Evanescence, but those days are now over. They sound roundabout the same, except with a male vocalist. God, this shit is so corporate and devoid of the artistic talent they once had.

Finally, the moment has come. The REM cover is decent, but it's not great. They did a sort of electronic thing with it, and Marcos's vocals ruin the performance for me. Damn, I prefer the original. The tempo is too light-hearted for the darker tone of this song. Whose idea was this?

The closer however, has a glimmer of hope. "My Spirit 5:49" actually reminds me a little of the band's first EP and has sort of a nostalgia flavor to it. It's actually a great song that doesn't belong on such a bad album. The solo on the track is actually quite respectable as well. This track is well worth a listen.

I'll be honest, this Lacuna's nail in the coffin. There's nothing here I haven't already heard, and everything has been done better before. Even the cover song faltered. The closer is the only real thing of merit.

Don't buy this album. I mean it. Go listen to "My Spirit", and if you like it, then purchase it from their I-Tunes store. The rest of the album is just wrapping paper for the real gift that is the closer here. It actually seems like somebody in the band actually knows how to play the damned guitar. Who'd have thunk it?

Highlights: Kill The Light, Intoxicated, My Spirit (45:00, 12 Tracks)



Aeon Of Horus - Exile EP (2011) - This short EP from technical death metal band Aeon Of Horus is worth listening to, but not worth buying. Of course, I'm against many EP's, because they're short and usually have little to offer. Here though, the fan of technical death metal will find great bits of melody amidst the technical death structure with bits of core and a solo or two.

The disc offers re-imaginings of "Light" and "Symbiosis" but also features some new material, "Shatters I and II." The disc finishes off with "Icon (Metre Rule Remix)" and has no metal to offer in it whatsoever.

There's not much here, but it's not bad. Still, it's more of a teaser than anything else. Just wait on this one, I'm sure the new album will be out in a few months.

Highlights: Light, Symbiosis, Shatters Pt.1 (6 Tracks, 23:00)



Hearse - Single Ticket To Paradise (2009) - After doing some research, I was able to find out just what happened to the ex-lead vocalist of Arch Enemy after he'd done such an amazing album with the band Non-Exist. That album itself is probably upwards of a lost relic, definitely worth having if you can still find it.

But now it seems that he's been fronting a death metal band by the name of Hearse. I've haven't heard any of their older releases, but decided to get the newest one just to see how it was. The result was certainly noteworthy. From the intro alone, I'm reminded of the same great riffs that comprised the Non-Exist album, and the whole "rock and roll" sensibility that the album followed. Make no mistake folks, this is death and roll the way that it should be done.

The very minute the first song comes blaring at you in the face, you're already left with a sense of greatness. It's already formed in your mind that "this is going to be a kickass album." It's definitely one of those kind of listens. Not focusing much on technicality, or brutality, but rather death flavored rockability; the band hits you hard and fast with great melodies and soaring riffs. Just like one would expect as an evolutionary step from the Non-Exist experimentation.

Sadly, the disc can't keep up with the splendor of the opener "Misanthropic Charades 5:25." Most of the other tracks just seem to lack substance, and even though "Single Ticket To Paradise 4:55" is a good instrumental, it's got some odd talking in it that takes away from the song. Most of the experimenting that comes in later, destroys the whole flow of the album. Eventually, it just starts to sound rather droll by the end of the disc.

Damn, what a shame. The band sounds like they were half-assing this disc, really. It's just not that good, even though it hooks you in from the intro and opener. It's like biting into piece of pie and later realizing that there's excrement inside of it. It tasted good until you reached the excrement. But it's already by then too late to come to realization that you've been eating shit!

Yep, this one's a real stinker. Sorry guys, but maybe that's why you haven't made another album in three years. Perhaps 2012 will be a better year? I have heard that some of the band's older albums are better, so go check those out instead. This is a single ticket to boring retread-ville that we've heard so many times before. But it all started out so damned good.

Highlights: Intro, Misanthropic Charades, Single Ticket To Paradise

(9 Tracks, 47:00)




Diabolical Masquerade - Death's Design (2001) - Digging up ancient history, this 2001 album from the now defunct black metal band Diabolical Masquerade, is much better than 99's "Nightwork" disc, which was certainly different from the norm. Especially during the time it was released as black metal bands were still making standard-fare black metal and without all the bells, whistles, prog, and structure of today. With the exception of some of course, some like these guys.

This disc is odd in the fact that it's got sixty-one tracks. No, that's not a typo. This thing literally has sixty one fucking tracks. At the top it says, "Original Motion Picture Soundtrack." But there is no film that goes to this soundtrack. Essentially, it's a soundtrack to a movie that never existed in the first place.

Thankfully, lyrics come with the this folder, (What? You think I actually bought an obscure album from an obscure black metal band that released over ten years ago? Yes, I'm sure it's possible, I could probably Ebay the thing for 3.00, if some snobby guy isn't charging 30.00 for it now.) so I'm able to decipher what this disc is about.

To tell you the truth, it's interesting black metal and each part of this 43 minute track seems to go right into each other. Every track is just another part of the song. (For example, one part might be verse and another might be some orchestral effect or atmosphere.)

The disc is split up into several different "movements" but each of them seem to work well with the other and create a very varied black metal experience that I would recommend for only the most experimental black metal listener. I personally think it's quite interesting, but could turn off some people. Things get more hectic as vocal effects come into play, odd atmospheres and everything else you can imagine from this experimental prog black metal band. Clean vocals even come in on track 18, "Spinning Back The Clocks 1:42." The track that follows this one is the longest track on the album at 2:18, "Soaring Over Dead Rooms."

Again, I can easily decipher that tracks 20-25 are pretty much one song that totals about 2 minutes. Many of the songs here seem to follow this fashion. 26-29 cover the 9th movement, which you could just as well call track 9, despite the fact that this style is getting frankly annoying.

Alright, the band had originally recorded 19 songs. They were about 2 minutes a piece or so, and instead of releasing them as they were; someone must've come up with this whole "movie soundtrack" idea. But turning 19 solid tracks into 61 pieces is probably why this flopped and became the band's swansong. But they all seem to work together as a whole.

Through the magic of adobe audition, I've been able to successfully merge all of these tracks into one single 43:00 piece. After listening to all of this material in succession, I've discovered that this is a really good black metal disc. There are so many good experiments and out of the box experiments used on this disc, that I'd consider it a must for the experimental metal fan who thinks he has everything.

Even though it's a much older disc, that doesn't mean it's worth forgetting. Bands do die, but that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the music they once made. This is an example of clearly brilliant black metal album, one which can be enjoyed time and time again. Even in our world of Nachtmystium's kitchen sink metal, no band has done a thing like this. Quite simply, this is a must have. Despite my earlier bitching, this is an unreal formula that manages to stay together throughout it's many different incarnations. It's truly legendary. This swansong from Diabolical Masquerade is probably the best way for any band to go out - with a fucking bang.

Highlights: All 61 tracks work together to create a black metal masterpiece.

EDIT: This band is a two piece, consisting of Blakkheim and Dan Swano. Even more reason to get it.

(61 Tracks, 43:00)

777 (You see that? That means you'd better get this one.)

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