Been a long time coming. But here it is. Hope this will help you on your purchases. High On Fire fans should rejoice however, as the band's new album might just be one of their best.
Oh, I have to correct an error. Desultor isn't on Deathgasm. Sorry about that. Hard to keep track of the labels really, so if you like a band, just google them. I'm sure that the label will be listed in the search.
High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis (2012) - I'm just going to tell you now. I'm not that big a fan of High On Fire. At least I wasn't, until I heard this album. The band's last album received high acclaim, and I enjoyed it. But not near as much as this one. On this album, we hear the band at their peak of performance; really going in there and getting it done. I didn't think for one second that this album would kill quite as much as it did.
"Serums Of Liao 6:01" starts the disc on off on a heavy note, but it has a very catchy chorus that is sung, rather than in the vocalist's whiskey soaked growls. But it still sounds like he's drunk a little. From the very beginning, you'll immediately get the point straight-on. This band isn't about ballads and happy crap. This song pummels your face in, and will continue to as many times as you choose to make it repeat. The song also contains a face-melting solo. Expect more where that came from. If you don't like this song, I'm curious as to what's wrong with your brain.
"Bloody Knuckle 4:16" comes in with a bit of a twang and some great drumwork. Then the vocals come in and things get really fucking metal. Those vocal lines just beat your face in with every word. Of course, this also contains one hell of a fucking guitar solo. Damn. These guys are really on their game. Definitely a highlight. But so was the last one.
"Fertile Green 4:45" starts out with some great drum theatrics that make it sound quite epic. But then when the guitar revs up, it might as well be thrash. This is yet another song made to pummel and you can tell that from the speed and ferocity of the riffs and the fierceness of the vocals. Another crushing guitar solo comes in, just as fierce and unrelenting as the rest of them have been. This must've been a real workout for the band, and is a definite sucker punch that I'm still reeling from. There's nothing happy about this fertile green.
"Madness Of An Architect 6:57" starts out with some amp fuzz, and some definite stoner style; but then it builds up into a much slower, thumping doom metal track. The vocals flow perfectly with these riffs and it definitely will make southern doom/sludge fans grin from ear to ear. This is everything you'd expect in a southern fried doom/sludge track and I've no fucking qualms here. It'll bash your head and it's good to play while you're doing some drinking or smoking some grass. That's all it is. That an another good solo. This guy seems to be pulling them out of his ass, really. I mean, these are some truly killer, fucking all out goddamned solos folks. These are the kind of solos, you'll want to listen to over and over again.
"Samsara 3:42" might come as a shock to you, but fuck off. I like it. It's an instrumental track, and it's done well. There's some prog influence and it mixes that with some absolutely stellar guitar playing. What the hell more could you want from an instrumental? This guy shreds his ass off, and you're left in wonder by the sheer awe of the guitar. We get some drum play for a bit, building a mood and the guitar comes back in, and what does it do? Well, what do you fucking think it does? It goddamned comes in there and shreds some more. Because that's how you do a fucking instrumental, folks. You shred your fucking ass off. Of course it's a fucking highlight. Hell, you might buy the album just for this one.
"Spiritual Rites 5:07" comes in pummeling on the drums, building up mood for the attack. This album is a bit of a coiled snake. Every track builds up and then strikes. This one also delivers on it's strike, definitely mixing that doom, thrash and southern influence together in ways we're all familiar with. About 1:40, the drums start thrashing and your head will start banging. That's sludge metal, as far as I'm concerned. If it's not, then I guess I don't know what it is.
"King Of Days 7:09" comes in next, starting off with a powerful melody that sounds epic. This song sounds really different than most of the others. It's slower-paced and the vocals are in a sort of deep croon. It's also the longest song on the disc. There's some vocalizing on this song also, it's got sort of a bluesy feel to it, but still sounds like the kind of music you'd expect it to. The melodies really drive this one, as I said; there's something of a mystical quality to it, the damned riff sounds like a guitar interpretation of fantasy music. Something like on the theme of Game Of Thrones. Not everyone's gonna love the vocals here, but you can't say that the guitar playing on this one won't save it, because it fucking does. You even have a guitar solo that sounds just as good as the others. Because every song on this disc has a solo and I'm glad that it does. There's even some fantasy riffs mixed in with this solo, but you got to have a keen ear for them. Definitely something different, and not too bad either. Call it what you want, it's as good as the others.
"De Vermis Mysteriis 3:50" is an ominous and slow-paced but thundering track, that really describes the book that this album is written about (the most evil book in the world supposedly... (laughs) Anyway, this track has a certain groove about it that helps to give it it's own nature. There's also a guitar solo in this one, but it's rather short. There's also one after this, but while it's good; you can still tell that is song is made to fit along the lines of "short album single." Expect to hear it on the metal radio stations soon.
"Romulus and Remus 5:04" is next, starting out slow and sludgy, but it has a really interesting riff structure. It's not honestly their best, but I think that the riffs on which it is built aren't so great. I just can't get into it for some reason. However, the chorus portion thrashes nice and slow, and the vocal lines work well with it. It's also got a solo that seems to work well with it, but again - there's very little that this guy can do wrong on the guitar. Let's just thank God (Or Whatever) that he's got a guitar in his hands and not a fucking xylophone. The song ends with some amp fuzz, which seems to drone a bit. I didn't care for that either, but you might.
"Warhorn" is the closer, and if there's any bonus tracks... well, I ain't got them. Go buy the disc and maybe it's got some on there. The song starts out slow and ominous, very doom-laden. Hell, then it gets a bit slow. Damn, this sounds like blues, not metal It ain't bad though, I think you guys will dig it. It's got some thrashy portions and seems to show a different side of this band. On the second vocal line, the guitar does some trippy stuff before getting into the thrash portion. Then we've got the last solo on the disc. Oh, yeah. It's terrible. What? Are you crazy? Of course it's good. I just said this guy seems to be able to do little wrong on guitar. But to sum this one up, it's a blues meets metal track that really just fucking works for me.
Let's go ahead and put a cap on this review. This disc shows the band experimenting, but not veering too far away from their style. It certainly seems to take the band in a new direction of sludge metal, but again - it stays there. Even though Warhorn seems to touch on southern blues, damn near most of doom does, and it's good that they're showing their roots. This probably one of the most unique and killer sludge albums that I've heard in a long time. I've heard a great bit of sludge, I like it - but I know people that don't get it. It's not something you fucking get, it's something you fucking feel. This disc does that for you. You're going to buy this and feel every riff, every melody, the thunder from the drums, the power of the vocals, the whole fucking package. I was really surprised by this fucking disc and have listened to some of these songs several times. This is probably going to top my list as best sludge album of the year.
This is one book worth reading. Go get yourself a copy of the album and go read the book, if you can actually get it. Listen to the album and summon all that shit out of here, get high as a kite and enjoy yourself. This is how you fucking make a sludge disc, folks.
Highlights: Serums of Liao, Bloody Knuckle, Fertile Green, Madness Of An Architect, Samsara, Spiritual Rites (Everything else was 4 stars) (10 Tracks, 52:00)
5/5 (Just because I didn't give every track five stars doesn't mean that it's not an amazing disc. Even the songs I didn't like as much are still good. The band is at their peak here, and it shows. But I don't know how this compares to the older disc, other than the fact that it offers MUCH more experimentation.)
Ram-Zet - Freaks In Wonderland (2012) - People still can't believe that this band has been around for ten years. Yet with this album, the band shows that they can still experiment more than any other band except maybe Sigh.
"Story Without A Happy Ending 8:03" features some weird bass riffs and all around unconventional compositions, Zet's vocals are still as black metal influenced as you would expect, and thrash mixes in with beautiful female vocal harmonies in a way that American crap like Evanescence would've never thought of. About 2:29 the track changes into something that sounds like Arabian music but quite different then you'd expect. The bass starts back up and Zet's vocals continue but I've no idea what the hell kind of tone that is. The song definitely has some thrashy portions and gets a little death metal for sure. But then comes the beautiful melodies and female vocals again. A bunch of effects come in afterwards and then the riffs start mixing in with them. I really can't discern everything, it would be a headache. It's all at once! The song finally calms down and gives way to female vocal lines and pianos. Then some organ starts playing in the background and she starts using some odd vocal tones in line with the organ, which fades out the song.
"I Am 5:48" is next, being much more of a progressive nature in the beginning but adding a calm nature and a soft vocal. This leads directly into the harsh vocal lines and a good melody. The female vocal lines come back, and the there's some odd noises in the background amidst the vocal lines and the melody. The music thrashes again, and then the female comes in and sings the chorus while Zet is in the background. Then there's some weird vocalist speaking in a very thick accent. But you can still hear Zet whispering. There's just an odd sensibility about this music. Female vocals come back and the cymbals are tapped a bit before the chorus comes in. Now the song starts to slow and there's a piano. Some harmonizing is done while the drums do their thing, and there's some other sort of metal clanging in addition to the soft riffs, which then become heavy, but the metal still clangs. Then the riffs get heavy and proggy as the chorus comes back, but I hear wind chimes in the background this time, or something that sounds like them.
"Mojo 6:22" Starts out proggy and still features the same bass riffs the band is known for. A female vocal line starts the song, but then the it gets thrashier when Zet's scowl comes into play. Her vocal line now comes back in, leading back into Zet's thrash vocal line. The female vocalist sings the chorus while Zet screams the chorus in the background, it doesn't work so well, but the second part of the song really touches on prog and works quite well, especially her vocal acrobatics. Piano comes in, and so does her vocals. Guitars and light drums come in a little after that. Then Zet's line comes back in, but it's a little different, yet still thrashy. Then comes the chorus. Now we have something completely different for the band... that's right! A guitar solo. But not just any guitar solo, a fucking great one as you could only expect. Then after the solo, the vocal acrobatics from the female come back and lead back into the chorus. Bass thumps and some weird vocals end out the song as the amp fuzz closes it out into some sort of sound effect.
"Land Of Fury 6:53" comes in next, sounding altogether different like something you'd expect an over the top instrumental to sound. The guitar riffs sound extremely different, and the song definitely ties into prog. Zet's vocals start as a scowl, but he sings a little and the rest of the band seems to scream, except when the female vocalist comes in with a chorus. Now Zet sings amidst piano. He's not so bad, but the song gets heavy again and the scowls come back. Female vocals come back in amidst operatic and slightly psychotic guitar riffs. Then the piano comes back again and seems to let loose it's own solo. It's quite good. Definitely a lot of traditional prog on this album. I think they've made another unique masterpiece. Another one? How many can you make? The female vocals are coming back in with a harmony, and then the thrash comes back with the scowls and a little bit of vocal that still seems scowly. The female chorus comes in, despite all the stuff behind it. When things calm down back into prog, her vocals come back, then things get heavy and Zet growls, then things get light again, then things get heavy again. You get the idea. Now the prog stuff comes in. Sounds like another solo is coming in. Yep, I'm right. But listen to the drum play there. Certainly as interesting as the guitar are the drums in some instances. Might sound like old school rock and roll, but it works. The solo plays us out.
"Madre 5:53" begins with an electronic effect and goes into Neoclassical (Castlevania) music. All these things still continue when the guitar comes in. There are so many different sounds here. Now some sort of Arabian riff comes in during the female vocal line. This song seems to be mostly dedicated to the female vocals and she sounds just as good as one Escape. I'm serious. This reminds me of Escape, and that's a good thing. Despite the piano, there's a breakdown amidst the vocals. When Zet finally comes in, it's during some really fucked riffs. This is weird shit you wouldn't even think of doing. Is that even a guitar? Maybe it's an effect. The acoustics come in, along with an effect and the chorus comes back in, all Escape like. I never thought this band could sound just as good now as they did eight fucking years ago. The breakdown comes in now, but I really like it. Plus the sound effects give it form. then we have some old-timey showtune that plays and the band starts singing along like an old broadway show. No shit. Then the drums start firing up, even though the showtune stuff continues. Damn, listen to the pipes on that gal, she's gonna bust them doing that. Damn, this song definitely shows some skill. I have a feeling this is just a taste of the weirdness that we might get in their next offering, or perhaps even later in the album...
"Circle 5:48" Definitely has a weird intro with the piano and a short vocal line that goes into an awesome Escape like chorus. Escape is definitely an influence from this one. The music is heavy and both vocal lines continue (the scowl and female sung vocal) at the same time. This goes into another beautiful chorus. Then out of fucking nowhere the shit becomes something I could describe as close to black thrash. Then the groove comes back, and a guitar melody leads the way for the piano and some weird fucking picking. This goes right into a solo (the piano still continues) Then we have some odd riff stuff and a female vocal during only it (no drums just guitar) then the drums finally come in. Damn that's some weird riffing. Now the vocals overlap and the drums do their proggy thing. Damn, can she sing. That's just a fucking priceless chorus. Now I hear windchimes and a sound effect, and some weird child singing like something out of Tim Burton film. Is this some kind of a story based album? I have to say, I'm curious to the lyrics.
"The Sign 6:30" goes right into thrash, but there's still proggy parts. Oh, and an atmosphere. The stuff calms down when the female vocals come in. The thrash comes back in when Zet's vocals come in. Then her vocals come back in, but the chorus seems distant this time, perhaps drowned out. Then we have some really odd riffs coming in with the vocal line, which then goes back to being heavy. I can hear chorus a little better this time, but it's not so great. Now they both sing another chorus together. It's okay, but not so great. There's not much harmony in the vocals there. The riffs are doing what they can. The drums come in, lightly tapping on the cymbals while a vocal technique is heard and some kind of keyboard solo starts up. It does drown out in the middle. The vocals come back and they hit very hard. Now we've got an effect that seems to go right until the song slows, and the chorus comes in. This one isn't my favorite, honestly.
"As The Carpet Silent Falls 10:00" is next. The song starts out on the heavy side of things, but there's a definite atmosphere there. Then the acoustics come in and the whole thing slows down. Zet's using a clean vocal here. Almost sounds like a different band. Then the guitars come in for a second. The clean vocals come back. Now the guitars are back accompanying a scowl. The female vocals now come in on the acoustic. Such an angelic voice, that one. It really continues on for a while with her vocals. The guitars come in, yet she still sings and then goes into a holler sing sort of deal. I think this next part is a chorus but I'm not sure. If Zet is clean singing, you can barely fucking hear him. Now I hear a "thank you" and the song goes straight into piano with her vocals continuing. There's now two female vocals. The harmony is done well amidst the thrashing. Then we have some effects and piano if you'll listen. But there's still thrashing during this. Now the chorus comes back in. Zet's vocals came in a little better this second time. Another "thank you." Then I hear some very light symphonic and female vocals. Sounds like a funeral procession. Now the acoustics come in with a sort of an odd percussion effect in the background that gives it sort of an extra kick. Now the drums comes back into place, the cymbals being bashed slowly. Female vocals come back in, and the holler sing returns, very operatic like. The guitars are in full force during this. Well heck... that's it, isn't it?
Ram Zet's fifth album is just as monumental as the others have been. It definitely continues along the lines of 2009's "Neutralized" and adds some well needed "Escape" portions into it. It also adds more metal and more weirdness, which is always good. I recommend this to fans of Sigh's latest disc, whether you like Gothic metal or not. This shit is all over the fucking place and I'm sure you'll like it just as much. There's harmony, chaos, and things that just crawl up from out of nowhere. Choruses change the second time through in some instances, this album is full of little bells and whistles. In fact there's so much of them here, that you could fill a whole closet with them. I didn't even know that this album had released, and chances are that you didn't either.
Well, if you haven't hear Zet and crew before, go check this one out. Even though Miss Sareeta and her violin are nowhere to be found, the band proves that they can do fine without her, even better in some instances. While I didn't care for the last two songs, there are six on here that are well worth checking out. And who knows, you might even like what I didn't.
Highlights: Story Without A Happy End, I Am, Mojo, Land Of Fury, Madre, Circle (8 Tracks, 55:00)
666 (Again, just because I didn't like some of the songs personally, does not mean that this is not a 100% mindblower that will give fans of avant, prog, goth and even black, death, and thrash metal something to smile about. Go get it with the new Sigh disc!)
Sear Bliss - Eternal Recurrence (2012) - I haven't heard anything from these guys since 2009's "Glory and Perdition" and I'm glad that they finally came out with another one. But this is only six minutes over an EP, and that's something I certainly hadn't expected from the band. There's not much you can do in half an hour, but the band manages to showcase some of their better styles on this one. It's nothing fantastic, and we've heard most of it before; but it's still not a bad release from these black metal vets.
"The Eternal Quest 5:39" starts out a little slow paced, but has some sweeps. The horns are still in the band, and so is that saxophone player. I have no idea what kind of breakdown that is here, but I love it. This band always plays so abstract that it's almost necessary for the black metal fan to hear all of their material.
"Ballad Of The Shipwrecked 5:15" opens with the crashing of waves and ominous riffing. Once the guitars come in, it's certainly avant-garde/black metal. But there's some clean vocals on this disc which I hadn't expected. They remind me a little of Garm. The acoustics come in shortly after, and then some horns. Certainly an interesting one, it shows that the band hasn't lost their touch just yet. A minimal guitar solo follows near the end of the song. It is interesting because it isn't overblown like most bands solos, and quite short.
"Great Cosmic Disorder 5:50" has the sort of spatial effects one would expect from the title. When the music starts up, it sounds like a very slow paced, almost stripped down sort of black metal. Things increase in ferocity a little, and then it starts along a sort of technicality with certain thrash portions in which the vocal lines are further highlighted. Then we have our synths in the background. They try to make it sound as spatial as possible, but I'm not buying it. Now I hear trumpets, or someone's forgotten to take their anti-gas meds. Now I hear the trumpets and the metal melding together in a very epic and awesome sort of way. This lasts for two seconds and the space stuff creeps back in. This I buy, because it sounds like more effort was put in to this atmosphere. The song in itself though, is a bit of a goulash and nothing really seems to gel well with anything else. There's not much form to it, and good ideas are used, but harbor no effect.
"A Lost Cause 4:32" goes right into the metal. There's no effects or atmospheres. But the vocals start out clean go into a scowl as via the vocal formula for this track. Not bad actually. There's some interesting cymbal play about a quarter way through, that goes into an interesting guitar riff that starts the drummer blasting on the kit while the vocalist scowls the next line. Things calm down again, and even though there's an atmospheric; it's too low in the mix. Now we've got some rather nice clean vocal lines. This might save the song. A horn plays and then the scowls come back into play. It's not really a bad song, but I think it could've been better. But some might feel that I'm just nitpicking.
"The New Era Of Darkness 4:26" starts out a little slow but definitely sounds unique. A piano comes in and then the scowls. Then heavier riffs begin and the progressive nature seems to continue throughout the track. If anything, this song is different for black metal. Especially some of these vocal techniques. It almsot sounds like if Primus did black metal. But the blasting and black metal vocals come in for a second just to show you that it is still black metal, I guess. It's still very Primus meets black metal though. But that doesn't end the song. A few light plucks start out an acoustic that overlaps another guitar atmosphere which is designed to sound sort of spatial.
"There Is No Shadow Without Light 4:27" starts out slow and heavy, with both vocalists doing clean vocals this time. An interesting melody continues for a while, and then the scowls come back. There's a syth effect that they use at this point. A couple female vocal atmospheres after, the clean vocals come back, then there's a pause and the scowls return. The other vocalist sounds more death metal in his harsh tone, so that does add some uniqueness. An interesting synth effect follows and continues playing right through a very minimalistic but very beautiful solo. What a perfect way to end the song.
Now I am not sure if track 7 is a bonus or what, because earlier versions of this disc (promos) did not have it, and this is what I am assuming to be the retail version of the album, which does. Anyway, track 7 is the longest on the disc (6:33) which takes the length from thirty minutes and gets it just a little over halfway to forty.
"Entering The Seventh Gate 6:33" starts out with some rehearsal noises and then seems to go into a sort of atmospheric effect. There's some voice clips and it's all rather trippy. The guitars come in, and everything begins to sound rather epic. I'm expecting to hear some horns with this one! The riffs continue loudly, and there's some awful vocals used on this one. Who is they guy? Somebody tell him to shut up, as he's ruining a good song. About 2:40 the guy who can actually sing starts to. Then that awful vocal comes back and while I understand what's going on here, that vocalist can't sing his way out of a paper bag. After some scowls, the song slows leading way into some proggy atmospheres. Then the atmosphere continues on, sounding like some sort of portal, or in this case, a gate. Now all I hear is one small percussion like sound effect repeating over and over and then fading out.
Well, while I enjoyed pieces of this album, I'm curious as to what in the hell the band was trying to accomplish here. Yes, it's avantgarde, but it doesn't even flow much towards that nature. The disc is too short and doesn't offer enough to really warrant a buy. While there are plenty of interesting things on the disc, so have there been with the new Sigh and Ram-Zet. I like avant-garde, as you can tell; but this wasn't really the kind of avant/black album I was looking for. While there was some definite interest in "A Lost Cause" that last track didn't seem to do anything for me, and the vocals were incorrigible. I'm hoping that was a bonus track, because I would've hated to have heard it on the original.
The bottom line is this: If you're going to support the band, you'll buy this anyway. But if you're new to the band, go back a few and start out with their older material. Yes, they do some things here that I've never before heard in black metal, and I'm giving this album a relatively high score for that; but it isn't really the best black metal album of all time either. I really had expected more from this one. See you guys in another two years, I guess.
Highlights: The Eternal Quest, Ballad Of The Shipwrecked, A Lost Cause, There Is No Shadow Without Light (7 Tracks, 36:00)
Jeff Loomis - Planes To Oblivion (2012) - You guys know how much I like guitar jizz, and this disc is young, dumb, and full of... well, you get the idea. But Nevermore skinsman Jeff Loomis isn't by himself this time around, no sir. This time he's invited Marty Friedman (Tokyo Jukebox I & II), Tony Macalpine of whom I'm not familiar with (at least by name), Christine Rhoades (who I've never heard of), Atilla Voros (?) Chris Poland (who I've probably heard but not sure what band he's in) and the one and only Ihsahn. Yes, Ihsahn and Loomis on a disc together. It's a wet dream for some people. The problem is, it's not Ihsahn's guitar skills we get, it's his vocals. So hang that up and put your dick back in your pants.
Now that I've got the guests out of the way, let's talk about the album. This is in many ways, a guitar disc. It is definitely a metal disc, but there's one non-metal song on it. The opener, "Mercurial 5:29" starts out heavy and it's got Marty Friedman throwing a few good riffs down on it as well. Though it's the only song Friedman is featured on, the two seem to do the song justice and it should be well received. "The Ultimatum 4:40" is shred-fest, where Macalpine and Loomis exchange blows with each other throughout. There are also some great melodies and some technicality; but it's more about the shredding.
"Escape Velocity 4:29" is a track by Loomis alone, and it sounds more in the vein of his earlier disc. The song is of a fast pace, and features some blasting in just one section. As with most of the songs here, there are short lines of melody. I suppose you could say that the drumming is a major factor to this one, but there are also some synth effects and acoustics towards the end that bridge back into the shredding. Dozens of riffs were used here, but I think some of them should have been in Nevermore, and Loomis was clearly holding back for some reason on that last album. If the new Nevermore had sounded like this in the background, it might have been better received. "Tragedy and Harmony 5:00" features Christine Rhoades, who is a female vocalist. This means that yes, she will be singing over Loomis's riffs, so get over it. The vocals are very expectant of female vocals and the song is of a heavy pace, so it could be worse. I'm quite pleased with it, actually. It sounds like a female fronted Nevermore.
"Requiem For The Living 4:52" features Atilla Voros, and as you would expect; they both shred the song. Most of this album is really just one big guitar solo, so be prepared for that when you buy it. There's some great melodies in this one though, I'll say that. "Continuum Drift 5:37" features Chris Poland, and is a little bit slower, yet more melodic and not so much focused on simply shredding. But there is definitely still some shredding done in portions of this song. It's almost an instrumental ballad, which is a good thing in my book. It's the longest song on the disc also, by just a couple of minutes.
The next track is the one we've all been waiting for. It's "Surrender 5:29" featuring Ihsahn of the legendary black metal outfit, Emperor. But I'm quite sure you already knew that. Ihsahn begins the song with his trademark scowl, so we automatically know he's in it. It actually sounds like a type of technical black metal. He uses his clean vocals on this one too, and they seem to sound much better than his scowls on this one. Now there's also a very tiny voice on this track. I want to say it's a female vocal, because I don't think Ihsahn can go that low, can he? Also, there are synth effects used on this one to make it sound more ominous in areas. Now I'm hearing industrial effects. They really pulled out all the stops on this one. Now I'm not sure if Ihsahn is playing on this track, but he might be doing the acoustic part. The high point of this song is right near the end, and that's where it fucking ends. All this does is make me salivate for the new Ihsahn album that just can't arrive soon enough.
"Chosen Time 4:32" is a ballad with Christine Rhoades. I don't like it. It sounds like something you'd hear on the radio, a major sell-out track. Also listen to the way he's playing. It sounds like a hair metal ballad. This is pop, folks. Yep, most certainly. They can fucking keep this one. Some of you might like it, but I damned sure don't.
"Rapture 2:43" is some solo acoustic fiddling that goes into a straight acoustic ballad. There's some crap at the end that doesn't need to be there. The disc closes with "Sibylline Origin 4:33" which is also Loomis by himself, and it ends the disc on a shreddingly heavy note. But that's not to say there's not a light acoustic passage in the track as well.
Now to sum it all up. For Loomis fans who expected nothing but his solo work, you're going to be disappointed. This is mainly due to the fact that only "Escape Velocity" and "Sibylline Origin" were composed by him. I'm not even counting "Rapture" as that's just a waste of space that he probably composed in ten minutes, and recorded in two.
But I will say that 80% of the collaborations on this disc are worth hearing. That's a reasonably high percentage, as this will appeal to guitar aficionados everywhere. Henceforth, I still stand by the notion that the disc really needed no vocals. There are three vocal songs on the disc, and despite Ihsahn's great clean vocals on "Surrender" he proves that black metal and Loomis's kind of technicality at least; have no place even being in the same room. The vocals pale during the riffs, and it just doesn't hit hard. As for Christine, the first song was fine, and I rather enjoyed it. But that ballad was some crap that should've been cast off. It will only appeal to fans of contemporary and hard rock groups like Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, and others.
While I'd like to give this a 4 out of 5, I just can't, because there are songs on here that I just thought had no purpose being on the disc other than for flash and flair. It should have remained strictly a guitar disc, as the first one - which was well received. Not awful, but don't buy the whole thing. Just listen to it first and then buy the tracks you want.
Highlights: Mercurial, The Ultimatum, Escape Velocity, Tragedy and Harmony, Requiem For The Living, Continuum Drift, Sibylline Origin. (10 Tracks 47:00)
Impiety - Ravage and Conquer (2012) - Impiety is no stranger to the blackened thrash table. They've put out tons of albums, each one just about as good as the other. They've had yet to disappoint me, and can make long tracks remain interesting, and not fill you with boredom. Their thrash and Satanic mentality has produced plenty of unrelenting, fierce, and uncontrollable black metal madness that I'm sure will continue on for years more. Because the Mayans didn't have leap year.
This disc spans almost about fifty minutes in length, and there are eight separate tracks this time, rather than just one. The tracks all sound roundabout the same, in all honesty; but the disc has a much better production value, and the occasional bells and whistles. The drummer blasts his way through most of the album, and the guitars actually seem to do some interesting things from time to time. There are no synth effects or atmospheres to be found here, just uncompromising black thrash that matches the artwork on the album cover.
Fans of black thrash ought to like this album a great deal, because it delivers in every aspect. But if you're looking for something with a little more variety, you will not find it here, because even though the riffs change, the tempo rarely does. The band speeds through even 8:04 numbers like "Weaponized" and even when you think the band might be slowing down, they don't change pace.
This album is an absolute must for all fans of blackened thrash, and until something comes to take it's place, it's going to be quite a contender. While the band has made several albums just like this one, there are just a few new tricks here and there that keep it from getting boring. But once again, this is blackened thrash metal and do not expect anything more from it, as you'll be disappointed. Some might even call it the evolution of thrash like Slayer, but that might be pushing it a little; because even they have slower numbers, whereas these guys have none.
(8 Tracks, 48:00)
Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction (2012) - Now here's some classic doom metal that I thought was pretty fucking good. It's definitely got that crunch and twang that you'd sort of expect from this sort of doom, and the vocals just go right along with it in the best way possible. Track after track is all killer, no filler. I can't even tell you how much I actually enjoyed this disc and highly recommend it. But it's not enough, or even a legitimate review to just leave it at this paragraph, so I'll highlight some more great things about this disc.
First of all, the melodies on the disc are really good and follow well with the vocals which seem to hit well every time. You might not like his tone, but I do however. There's a lot of power and emotion in these words and if you can't see that, you're deaf. The performance of the vocalist is so good, that it really seems to make the band stand out.
Yes, the band doesn't really seem to do anything noteworthy or different, but they play their instruments as well as their peers and there's a lot of crunch on this disc that I'm sure doom metal fans will love. The solos on this one are also as rock and roll as you would expect and they most certainly deliver. But not always are they rock and roll, like the oddity on "Offering And Grief 8:33."
A couple more things about the band, they have one and only one tempo: slow. If you don't like it, check out someone else. But it's a shame because these guys really do have some great melodies and as I said, very powerful and emotional vocals. You can really feel the sorrow in his voice and that should be saying something. If you don't feel this, I honestly don't know what to say.
But some may not like the fact that this doom is sorrowful and the vocals won't seem to help in that aspect. Some doom is more bluesy, but this is not. It's definitely a depressing sort of crunch, but damn it's good. There's also some slight acoustic bits, also sorrowful.
The last track "Given To The Grave 10:56" is special because it doesn't start out as a cruncher, it's actually more of an atmospheric/doom metal track with again, good melody. Where this band excels musically. The track really doesn't get heavy until about 5:00 in, but it shows that the band is capable of more than melodic doom metal. Of course it also contains a solo (but the effects sort of fool with it) and the song ends with an atmosphere.
If you can handle this sort of melodic depressing doom, Pallbearer is right up your alley. They failed to disappoint me, and I've never even heard of them until I decided to pick them up a whim. That's how I discover many new bands, and in turn I share with you that information. If this sounds like something you're into, (and if it is, it's quite good) definitely check them out.
Highlights: The Entire Disc (5 Tracks, 49:00)
Ancestors - In Dreams And Time (2012) - If you're looking for probably one of the best 70's prog and metal mashups of this generation, Ancestors come pretty damned close. Especially on this electrifying record, which has two of the best guitar solos that I've ever heard in my entire life. Now that's quite a bold statement, but you'll find that the ears don't lie.
Regrettably, the disc doesn't start very promising. "Whispers 9:10" is a decent enough track, but I don't feel that it's the kind of material that I would've expected from them. There's a synth effect in the background, simplistic drumming, a bass that manages to keep the base of the song, and some Neurosis rip-off vocals. But trust me, it gets much better than this. The song does it's best to build an atmosphere, but I can't say that I feel it. When the song gets heavier, the vocals really start to resemble Mastodon, as does the overall vibe of this song. These guys are far more talented than this, and it's not a good representation of what this band can offer. Some of you might really like this track though, but when I listen to it, I think of all the other bands who sound this way and remember how Ancestors should not sound like the rest of these. They seem to remember too, but later on in the album.
"The Last Return 6:15" is altogether different, in the fact that it is mainly piano driven and only features a female vocalist. The piano starts out most of the song, but towards the end of it, the band does start to play and offer a little bit of metal to it. It is okay, but not the best song in the band's repertoire. However, the disc as I have said; does get better.
"Corryvreckan 12:08" is where things start getting interesting. The songs starts out with a great riff and adds some 70's keyboards to the mix. It already reminds me of Pink Floyd. Also, there is actual singing here. Not the crap I heard on the first song. There's some actual melody in the vocals and some great progressive styled drumming to boot. Alright, so there's a bit of heavy vocal influence here, but they are a metal act, so let's expect that. Some spatial effects come into the mix for a bit, and then some soft acoustic riffs (with that keyboard still in the background.) Now things are starting to heat up a little on the prog. Now there's a slow down... vocal line's clean, it sounds good. Now the melodies are starting up, making way for a solo. Or maybe not. The song now slows, with only the 70's keyboard organ and the drums tapping along. Now I can hear just the organ. The band starts back up, and then the guitar starts to do a sort of solo that manages to be simple and keep up the pace. That solo increases in strength and now things are really getting interesting.
"On The Wind 9:31" is the song where I heard that impressive solo. But it doesn't start out that way. The song starts out with piano and light guitar. The band was really trying to go for an atmosphere here, (if you can't tell that, look at the album cover.) and every track seems to add more to that atmosphere. Now things seem to be getting a little heavier, almost drowning out the pianos. Now things are really starting to sound like Pink Floyd to the point where they're ripping them off. But I also think it reminds me of one of Ozzy's ballads. Odd, huh? I think it's that second vocalist that sounds more like Ozzy. Here come the heavy vocals (while piano and guitar are still playing.) Here comes a slight interlude that may lead up into that awesome solo. Yep, here it comes. I'd say about the 5:00 mark, but it doesn't really start to get good till later. Yeah, here it is 5:41 - ultimate badassness. Definitely one of the best solos I've ever heard, it clocks in at a little over four minutes. Definitely a highlight among highlights. If you only get one song from this album, this one should be it.
"Running In Circles 9:44" is next, following the same formula of prog rock synths and light guitar riffs. But this one actually starts out with the drums. The song follows the normal prog rock affair, but seems to feature some good percussion towards it's middle point, along with some good guitar atmospheres (and still those keyboards.) This song seems to feature more heaviness and Neurosis/Mastodon influence.
The disc closes with "First Light 19:19" which starts out as a soft paced prog rock track with post metal vocals. The atmosphere certainly builds and spatial effects are used to form a trippy sensation. The majority of this song is just that; a big trip that you might need "medicine" for. Alright, now for the second awesome guitar solo on this disc. It starts at about 10:40 and goes all the way up to 14:00. Then the vocals come back, and the song has a much heavier sense. The violins come in right near the end of the track, and they close out the album. (18:00)
Ultimately, this experimental effort has it's hits and misses. The band covered heavier territory on the first track, and this might throw listeners off, because the entire rest of the album doesn't feature anywhere near as much heaviness as was found in the opener. The second track is just a little odd, especially with only female vocals and so much piano influence. The main three tracks here are "Corryvreckan", "On The Wind", and "First Light." These are the tracks that really seem to highlight the album. So 40:00 of this 66:00 disc are actually worth hearing, but the other 26:00 isn't so great. But I will say that the band certainly gave it their all on this disc, and some of these songs really recall the greats of 70's prog rock.
If you're interested in revisting 70's prog one more time; then check this one out. But you might want to listen to it in full, and then buy the tracks you like. Because there are some fillers here, IMHO.
Highlights: Corryvreckan, On The Wind, First Light (6 Tracks, 66:00)
3/5 (Half of it was good, half of it was decent.)
Demon Hunter - True Defiance (2012 Ltd. Edition) - Demon Hunter's last disc, "The World Is A Thorn" definitely surprised most of us, with it's stunning musicianship and great guest cameos. But this disc is also surprisingly different, in the fact that it's a little bit removed from the heaviness and seems to touch on lighter, hard rock epithets.
The album comes in blazing with "Crucifix 3:43" sounding like it came right off the boot heels of the band's last album. There's even a worthy solo at the end. But after that, comes a more melodic track called "God Forsaken 5:39." There is obvious Soilwork influence in this band now, and you can hear it. The song does have a very powerful chorus and is a strong track. There's also a nice acoustic part and a guitar solo, but the main power of this song lies in it's structural changes and chorus. Things even seem to get a little Meshuggah towards the end.
"My Destiny 4:15" is yet another heavy song, very much influenced by death metal than core, but there are still some core moments and Soilwork worship. There's also a guitar solo here. It's all about the chorus on this one, too. "Wake 4:12" touches on technicality, but then the vocal lines come in the same way I'd expect from current generation Five Finger Death Punch. There seems to be a bit of a groove portion in the drum work I like, but it's not a very long portion. There's a solo here too? Alright, that I didn't expect. This song does touch more on hard rock. You should know what to expect here. But it's not my favorite.
Alright, here comes the shit that's going on the radio. There's nothing metal about this, and everything rock. That's not to say that it's a bad song, but people who don't even like metal music will be listening to this one and putting it on their i-devices along with the latest Maroon 5 and LMFAO. It has a style that shares more in common with bands like 3 Doors Down. You might like it, but don't tell anybody that you do. "Someone To Hate 5:24" comes in very heavy though, and drowns out the ballad that preceded it. There's a very ominous riff here and it's generally a very heavy song. By the way, there's some legitimate death metal vocals on this one and it's got some crushing grooves. Not to mention the deep Ansemo croons that they stole and put on this album. There's a good chorus here, but it was stolen from Soilwork. Of course, there's also a solo here. But this one is definitely a highlight for the disc.
"This I Know 4:04" starts out with electronics, and goes into bass riffs. The structure of this one sounds like most of their earlier material. The chorus is a big part of it, and there's some piano effects. I don't care for it, I think it's a little bland despite some decent riffs in a few areas. Yes, there's a solo here. But most of them have been good. Except most of them have also been very short. "Means To An End 2:50" is a sorrowful acoustic that incorporates a few other elements. It's alright for an instrumental, but I'd rather have heard another actual song. You might like it though, so give it a shot. I mean, it's not bad - I just really wasn't expecting it.
"We Don't Care 3:37" comes next, with it's djent riffs and Soilwork chorus. There's some electronic fooling around on this one, and it also features another solo, but this one is a little longer than some of the others. Focus is still on the chorus. This album is meant to be catchy. "Resistance 4:24" comes in very Gothenburg, as they've been ripping it off for most of this album, but the vocals start out clean for once. It's not a bad song actually, with most of it being focused on the singing, with the harsh vocal in the background. It's a style we've all heard before, but it's not bad. Of course, there's a big harsh vocal portion before the speedy solo comes in with a different tempo than the rest of the song.
"Dead Flowers 5:23" is the technical closer, but I've got the bonus tracks too. Anyway, this song starts with some SID type effects (yes, like Machinae Supremacy) but the song gets a little heavier. But be warned, because this is the same sort of 3 Doors Down stuff I talked about earlier. I think it's a good song certainly, and people who don't like metal will like this song as well. There seems to be hymn influence in this one. Of course it contains your ballad solo, like you'd expect. This is going to be on the top of the rock charts in days. It's too infectious for people. But I will say that the electronics on this one are a welcome experimentation that most of these pop-rock songs don't use in the way that they have on this closer.
What Is Left 4:28 - This is actually a decent track, I'm not sure if it's about a relationship or what, but the vocal lines and chorus seem to work well with it, and I think it was good enough to have been on the album and replace that instrumental. It also contains a solo and a great chorus which is the frontispiece of the track.
I Am A Stone 5:45 - Now this one I'm indifferent about. I could take it or leave it, honestly. It's like a depressing ballad about being an unflinching stone. Oddly, the only music on this one is a series of violins, so I wouldn't have expected that. It also seems to be hymn influenced as well. It's good, because it's different and it works, but it's nowhere near metal.
Highlights: Crucifix, God Forsaken, My Destiny, Wake, Someone To Hate, Resistance, What is Left, I Am A Stone (13 Tracks, 58:00 LTD, 11 Tracks 48:00 ORG.)
3.5/5 ORG, 4/5 LTD. (Adds some extra flavor to the disc not found in the original that makes it slightly better. Grab the bonus tracks if you're getting this one.)