Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Week 56 (6-20-2012)




Candlemass - Psalms Of The Dead (2012) - Candlemass is back, but for their last time. Oh sure, we'll get a b-sides, best of, live album, about a million remasters and a dvd, but this will be their last studio album. So how does it fare for a final offering?

Just as good as you would imagine. Anyone who liked "Death, Magic, Doom (2009)" should have no problem with this material, as it's cut off the same block as that album was. There's not really anything new here, but that's the good thing. We didn't need to fool around with electronics or breakdowns or anything of that matter. Yes, there are some more synth sections then were on their last album, but the synths help to give it more of an atmosphere. For the most part, they do their job quite well on songs like "The Lights Of Thebe 5:49" and the closer, "Black As Time 6:47."

This album is a one-hundred percent doom metal shred-fest. The guitars do nothing but shred left and right, but that's what you want to hear from these guys. Every lick is killer, even on the weird 3:38 track, "Dancing In The Temple (Of The Mad Queen Bee" which honestly sounds like they threw it in there. You and I both know that this song, with it's very... let's just say "different" style of lyrics, make Candlemass sound like a joke. But that's until that solo kicks in. Though I'm going to have to say, if the guitar hadn't saved that track, I'd consider it a throwaway for sure. I still don't think it has any place on the disc.

But you've got your thrashers, like "Prophet 6:06" which opens the disc on a heavier note, but still retains the band's signature sound. Lyrically, there isn't much good here. The vocals are good, but the words sound like they're coming from a band who is running fresh out of ideas. It's a good thing they split. True, the lyric nature and performance of "The Lights Of Thebes" is great, but "Waterwitch 7:03", "The Sound Of Dying Demons 5:30" and "Siren Song 5:57" aren't that special. If not for the fact that this album excelled musically, I'd have to consider this a bad swansong.

But again, this album kills musically. In the end, you won't much care what is being sun about; the vocals are as powerful as ever, the drums thunder with a precision, and the guitars come screaming right at you. If this is their last, they've really gone out with a bang.

"Black As Time 6:47" The album closer might be worth mentioning, as it has a very eerie, if not different lyrical matter for the band (the idea that time is the ultimate evil) and features as I've stated before; a hell of a lot of synth. It's almost as if they had a little bit of a 60's prog moment here. But there's still plenty of doom to be had on this monolith end to a wonderful career, which spawned plenty of music that will be heard for many years to come.

(9 Tracks, 50:00)



The Foreshadowing - Second World (2012) - This third album from Gothic/Doom band The Foreshadowing is nothing, if not monumental. For months it sat in the top spot of 2012's best on Metalstorm. Seeing as how it was higher ranked than say, Paradise Lost's recent masterpiece, I knew that I had to give a test drive for myself.

But it's definitely not difficult to say that I found the disc truly impressive. Not only does the band do (what sounds more like funeral doom then gothic metal) correctly, with one of the most remarkable vocal performances that I've heard in a while; they also have a well-rounded structure that keeps things from getting boring. One could compare them to Katatonia, but I think that I like their vocalist a bit more than Katatonia's current frontman.

As this is funeral doom / gothic metal for the most part, you can expect a somber atmosphere, quite like most of the band's material. Nothing has really changed in that aspect; and you really aren't getting something exactly new. To tell you the truth, this album didn't stick with me all of the way through and began to grow uninspired after awhile. Despite the vocal performance in "The Forsaken Son 4:34" and the title track, "Second World 5:37"; there is little here to really appease the listener except for maybe "Aftermaths 6:28", "Outcast 4:51" and opener, "Havoc 7:13."

That's about five songs, and 28:00 of truly great material to be found here. But I wouldn't say that it's uncanny for a band to put their best few tracks on first. A couple of the softer, less metal tracks fail to keep my attention. "Colonies 6:21" is a certainly well-rounded ballad of sorts, but it doesn't leave the mark on me that something of the same nature done by Paradise Lost, for example; would have. Also, the closer "Friends Of Pain 4:01" isn't the greatest way to end the disc, on the note of an atmosphere that I just really didn't get.

Word has it that Katatonia is releasing a new disc this year, and while I didn't like their last one (yes, go ahead and stone me) I have a feeling that this new disc might be able to trump this one for sure. There was metal here, there was some good riffs and a few memorable solos, the drums did a few nice things - the vocal performance was splendid; but it didn't grow on me. The only two songs that I personally wound up really enjoying from this one was the single, "The Forsaken Son" and the title track. That's really about it.

For an impressive vocal performance, gloomy synths, some definite structure and Katatonia worship; check this one out. But it won't hold your attention for long.

Certainly not terrible, but not the best metal album of 2012 either. I personally think that the new Paradise Lost trumped it.

Highlights: Havoc, Outcast, The Forsaken Son, Second World, Aftermaths
(10 Tracks, 54:00)



Marduk - Serpent Sermon (2012) - Okay, it's time for a confession. This is my first ever Marduk disc. I was told that they weren't very special, so I never checked them out. But their new disc was available, so I decided to give it a shot. According to an interview, the content is supposed be more satanic this time, not so much based on death. Oh well. I could give a fuck less, really.

For the most part, the disc is blistering. The drums blast left and right and the scowls mix well in the formula. It's very thrashy in most aspects, and seems to hit very hard. There's some good riffs here and there and it's got some definite promise. But for a band that's been out as long as Marduk have, I'm sure they have better and worse material respectively.

The band is trying to experiment a little on this disc. There's some odd effects, odd vocal styles and even some doom metal influence on "Souls for Belial 4:45." Not all of the songs stay fast either. "Temple Of Decay 5:25" is slow and menacing, also bringing with a little bit of doom and atmospherics. "World Of Blades 7:11" and closer, "Coram Satanae 8:02" are also worth mentioning, because they clearly have a great bit of atmosphere to them, and this diverts them from most of the thrashier tracks.

So yes, you've got your black metal thrashers, your black metal doomers, your melodic black metal tracks, and your atmospheric black metal tracks with great melody and feeling. What in the hell else do you want from these guys? Plus they put their own experimental touches on most of the material so that it doesn't sound boring or re-treaded quite as badly. The thrashers are short and the epics are long.

There are definitely plenty of good licks on the disc, some great drum skills and some worthwhile vocals. Marduk didn't just throw this shit together, but it might not be cohesive enough for some people. I'm just glad that all the tracks don't sound the fucking same as is the case with a great deal of black metal these days. These guys are one of black metal's old farts and they're still going strong.

Maybe some other gentlemen up there in Norway might be able to follow their example... You know very well who I'm talking about.

Highlights: Temple Of Decay, Damnation's Gold, World Of Blades, Coram Satanae (11 Tracks, 54:00)



Devilish Impressions - Simulacra (2012) - Having never heard of this band before, I opted to check them out. I guess the genre tag really helped, since it's Avant/Black and I do like my avant-garde as much as I like my black metal. But that's not to say that this isn't for the most part, a "stay in the lines" sort of album, that feels very safe. I would liken it to the high produced black metal of Dimmu Borgir, with hints of experimentation, rather than the bombastic stuff I was expecting.

As you might expect, there's orchestral synths sprawled throughout this disc in order to make it sound more epic. The vocals are grim scowls as you would also expect, and the clean vocals try as much to sound like Vortex as humanly fucking possible. But the accent is obviously different. As for riffs, whew... somebody's been listening to current era Dimmu far too much. This album might be good if it came out a few years ago. Still, fans of Dimmu might dig it. Much better than the last Dimmu disc, that's for fucking sure.

Either way, it's not too bad. If there's one song that really caught my eye; it'd have to be "Icaros 4:12." The song has a decent clean vocal chorus and hits the mark a few times. The band also knows how to play some really nice light melodies like on "Lilith 5:02" which has more of that gothic nature they were going for. But unlike Dimmu, some of the songs (like this one) feature more clean vocals than scowls. Yeah, like Borknagar...

Honestly, I shouldn't bash these guys too much. This is a decent effort. There are some really interesting synth portions that help to give the disc some form. The drummer also does a good job behind the kit. The thing stays in melody well enough and it's not totally forgettable. Of course, we've got so many bands that sound like this already.

The thrashier songs emulate Dimmu's heavy stuff as much as humanly possible. Of course, we could also liken them to the heavy portions of Old Man's Child and every other fucking bm band that was doing this sort of thing back then (and some that still do it now.)

There's a nice little instrumental at the end though, that's worth checking out if you like. It's called "Solitude 4:16" and it's not a bad track. Definitely showcases more of the guitar melodies then we get to hear on the non-instrumental tracks.

This disc isn't bad, it's just nothing really special. It does a few good things, but most of them we've already heard before. Kudos to these guys for trying, as it's definitely a solid album - just not really memorable. But there's much worse out there.

Highlights: Icaros, Lilith, Fear No Gods!, The Scream Of The Lambs, Vi Veri Vniversum Vivus Vivi, Solitude (9 Tracks, 39:00)



Shining - Lots Of Girls Gonna Get Hurt EP (2012) - Shining are supposed to be a suicidal black metal band. At least this one is, apparently. I know of two other Shining's out there - one that plays black/prog now, and the other that just experiments around with everything. They put out a little disc called, "Black Jazz." then they made a live CD of it. Worth tracking down. The other Shining is good too.

As for this band, this is about the furthest thing from black metal that can be. Some people thought this was a joke. I can't blame them. This 20 minute EP of covers has the band covering Katatonia, Poets Of The Fall, Kent, and Imperiet. I'm only familiar with one of those bands, but the others sound like they might have been popular groups back in the eighties or something.

The cover of Katatonia's "For My Demons 6:03" is decent enough, the vocals aren't so great - but they're a decent clean style. The chorus hits hard and heavy and I kind of enjoyed it. But this guy's not the best vocalist I've ever heard.

The Kent cover of "Utan Dina Andetag 4:30" is definitely going to piss fans of the band off, because it sounds like some alt-rock or pop song with very whimpy vocals. Yes, skip this one.

The Imperiet cover of "Kung Av Jidder 4:53" sounds like industrial goth rock. The vocals also mirror that style It's a good song, but nothing really that great. Much better than the last one. Trust me, if you want black metal... SKIP THIS DISC.

Poets Of The Fall's "Carnival Of Rust 4:41" ends out the disc on a gloomy rock track that sounds pretty decent for the most part. It's as good as the opener, and has some good acoustics. The clean vocals aren't too bad either.

Again, stay away from this if you wanted black metal. Definitely not bad, but I wouldn't recommend it. Don't buy this. If you're going to get it, preview the tracks first and get the covers yourself. Why did they even do something like this? It boggles the mind.

(4 Tracks, 20:00)

1/5 (4.0)


Neurotech - Decipher Vol.1 (2012 EP) - Wow. What the hell happened to Neurotech? Last year's "Antagonist" album had a full band, yet this release only sees one fucking dude behind everything. According to the booklet, everything was done by "Wulf." Well, was he any good?

First of all, he should have waited. 18 minutes of music these days is like a free sample. Was this even free? Does anyway know? Is this a "name your price" on bandcamp? Regardless of all that, the music here isn't that bad actually. I guess one man can run Neurotech all by himself. Sure, the opener "The Cyber Waltz 4:04" is kind of bland electronic black metal with little to be desired and "Damage is Done 4:13" only rises a little higher, but it's softer numbers like "Home 4:14" and "Below These Scars 5:43" that really hit me.

Perhaps it's his good programming of keys and synths that really make this one worth checking out, maybe it's that strong black metal chorus, maybe it's just that "Home" sounds fucking beautiful and the guy scowls all over it, which adds some extra emotion (albeit extreme) to the song.

Same thing with the closer, "Below The Scars 5:43" that works well with the sorrowful, yet beautiful electronics that remind me of great goth; but the scowls work just as well as any song of this nature done by a group of the same merit. I can compare these two sorrowful tracks to many others that I've heard and been left with the same feeling - so that really works well in attracting certain listeners. I can already tell you that I know certain people that will be all up in arms for just these two end tracks and they'd buy the recording just for them.

But if you're not one of those people, you might not want to get this. Another EP (Part 2) is supposed to release later this year, and it would've been better if he just combined them both and released it all as one album, unless the other part is like country or dub-step or something. But I hope not.

Honestly, I really like some of this disc and I think that fans of Deathstars lighter material, The Sin:Decay, The Kovenant's electronic stuff, (and everything else you can think of that sounds like electronic goth/black) will like this material quite a bit. It's full of promise. Now I'm curious as to what that second album is going to sound like.

Highlights: Home, Below These Scars (4 Tracks, 18:00)



Deathronation - Exorchrism (PR2012) - Deathronation is an old school death metal band with some definite promise. Their latest disc Exorchrism, showcases some new tracks from the band as well as a five track release, called "A Soil Forsaken."

The band definitely plays with a bit of structure, not flowing too much into the stereotype of pure speed and no showmanship. There are plenty of death metal bands out there that can be fast and be brutal, but few actually add the right sort of structure that makes things interesting.

Well, how do they do that, you ask? How does one do that, you ask?

Well, you start with the riffs. A song should be built on more than just a handful of riffs. Sure, the drums blast on this album - but that's not all they do. The riffs definitely have the death groove that you'd expect, but there's more than just the same cacophony of riffs being used over and over again. The vocals are a mix of gravel and scowl, which also makes things interesting. To have another gravel mouth would have made this package boring.

The drummer's definitely got some skills and the guitarists, especially - the fact that the guitars can do much more than just a few of the same old riffs really make this stand out to me. Some of the earlier songs don't seem to offer much, but in between the time of the EP and now, the band has definitely learned how to make things interesting. The vocalist does a mindless scowl a few times more than he really needs to, it doesn't help his case.

At it's root, this is old school death metal. There's no synths, and only a little use of effects. But that's what you want. The solos come flying out at you and the drums will blast your fucking ears off. This is death metal as it's sounded for several years. Yes, it has more structure than other bands, but it's still death metal. There is no genre-dropping uncanny amazement to be found on this album.

But if you like old school death metal, you could certainly be listening to worse. Definitely check these guys out and see if you like them. They're not too shabby.

Highlights: One Once Forsaken, Scorn Domination, Curse From The Grave (11 Tracks, 48:00)



My Dynamite - My Dynamite (PR2012) - Sometimes I just scratch my head when I get sent certain bands, and these southern rockers are just one of them. The vocalist sounds like a little like Kid Rock, and the music sounds a lot like alternative/southern rock music. It's not bad, it's just not something I'd expect to have to review. But it keeps me on my toes and ready to review anything.

(Linkin Park - Living Things to be reviewed in Week 57, along with Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania; which actually impressed the hell out of me.)

Anyway, these guys have southern rock down quite a bit. I'm pretty sure that young beer swilling rednecks might blast this out of their truck stereos. But that's fine with me. The band has some CCR in them, they've got some Lynyrd Skynyrd, they've got some Kid Rock, they've got the whole nine yards. It's bluesy, it's got a ton of catchy choruses and could catch on with the right people.

The playing's pretty good on the disc. I found myself enjoying the thing while I was at work unpacking clothes. It's definitely got a certain "soul" to it, and it's uplifting, lighthearted "feel-good" music. Songs like "If We're Livin' 3:21", "Watch Yourself Grow 4:42", and "Raise You're Glasses 4:45" are good enough southern anthems for any proud country folk, and I'm sure that those songs will be well received. Others, like the opener "Take It, Or Leave It 4:14", "Dirty Game 3:23", "Singing Stormy Weather 4:27" and "Big Attraction 5:13" are just as good, but don't hit quite as hard.

For the most part, the fans of this type of music won't care too much about half of the things that I'm saying. It'll sound good with a smoke or good with a beer, it's good at a barbecue, it's good music to clean to - it's good music for a lot of things, really. If you like southern rock, I would definitely recommend these guys to you. I definitely think they're on the right track to commercial success. The guitar playing is pretty damned good too. Make sure to check out the solos.

Highlights: If We're Livin', Watch Yourself Grow, Raise Your Glasses, Take It Or Leave It, Dirty Game, Signing Story Weather, Big Attraction (10 Tracks, 42:00)



Grave Desecrator - Deathspells Rising (PR2012) - Grave Desecrator is an alright black/death band at best. Their latest album took many cues from Slayer, but it was certainly solid and not the worst thing that I've ever heard.

This however, is a collection of the band's demos. Why they released it, I'll never really know, as there wasn't really anything in these 16 tracks to satiate me. Worse yet, the production quality gets worse and worse as the album drones on, and the vocals which start out as rasps, continue on the same path. The disc starts to fizz a little with the grain of demo production, but it's to be expected.

The only thing that I can figure, is that Grave Desecrator really liked black metal and decided to go deathier as time went on.

My main problem with the album is quite simple. These songs sound decent enough, but there's little a break in the monotony. The same tempos are used over and over and over again. Even Impiety's gotten out of this habit, so learn your lessons now, gentlemen.

"Apocalypse 5:29" actually had a change in tempo and sounded decent to me. They should re-record that one, perhaps. "Revelations Of The Dead 4:21" was actually death metal and had the gravel, not to mention a bit of structure that made it worthwhile. "Carnal Obsession 6:50" is another well rounded track, which has some interesting guitar tinkering. I'll also have to give proper recognition to "Cursed Mass 5:17" and "Midnight Sinner 5:56." Whenever these tracks were recorded, the band was definitely on their game.

There's a Bathory cover on here, it's "Sacrifice 4:12" from their first album, of course. Death metal vocals as opposed to Quorthon's pre-black metal scowl is a bit of a change for me, but the song is done well enough. The quality however, I could care less for.

Then we run into the band's very first song, "Stared To Hell 2:48." But this could be live. I have no earthly idea. It's a mess to hear and sounds like a band's first ever anything.

While it is nice to get both a tradition black metal album and a traditional death metal album, each with raw production; I wish I could've heard stronger material. But some of this is honestly not bad for the demo days.

Highlights: Apocalypse, Revelations Of The Dead, Carnal Obsession, Cursed Mass, Midnight Sinner (16 Tracks, 72:00)



Laster - Wijsgeer & Narreman (PR2012 FREE ALBUM) - Laster is a two man melodic black metal group from God knows where. All I got was the album and an odd band photo where I can make out two human-like images. I don't even think I got the cover image, unless it's just a black background with the band's name.

This melodic black metal band is really nothing special, and for the most part, this sounds like some kind of demo. I can make out the instruments well enough, and I do like the guitar melodies that overwhelm the album, but the first two tracks are very much of the same variation. They could just as well be one song and you'd never notice the difference.

It's the third and final track "Wijsgeer & Narreman 8:34" that actually does something for me. First of all, the tempo is much slower, almost in the vein of suicidal black. I cannot make heads or tails of the scowls, but the melodies are good enough that it really doesn't matter. It almost makes me wonder if bands really care if anyone can actually hear their lyrics, or if it's just an emotional release for the vocalist.

Surprisingly, the drums are pretty decent on this disc. They don't sound like they're programmed, but if they are; then these two would have to be some great programmers. It does sound like there's a kit back there, but I can't be certain.

If you like raw melodic black metal with more than enough moments of gloom (and some acoustics too) then check out this short disc. It's 21:00 long, but does show some promise on the namesake track. They could've just released the one track and I'd have been happy, honestly.

Not too bad.

Highlights: Wijsgeer & Narreman (3 Tracks, 21:00)


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