Opeth - Heritage (2011) - First of all, don't be too surprised that this isn't really a metal album. It's more along the terms of progressive rock, and I mean the 70's trippy, grab a joint and take a hit of LSD, kind of prog rock. Fans of King Crimson, Camel, Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush and others will probably enjoy this, and it's safe to say that the band has expanded their horizons, but has "sold-out" in the eyes of it's death metal fans.
Unfortunately for them, I'm a listener of many types of music. I especially like music with a good atmosphere like this album features. Sure, the first couple songs actual songs after the intro actually have some metal motives, with the most metal being "The Devil's Orchard." The rest of the songs feature metal tid-bits, but for the most part, there is an awful lot of acoustics and plenty of weird effects throughout the album. Opeth was going for that 70's style prog rock in full force here, and they come very very very damned close to reaching it on this release.
Let me tell you this. This is going to be that Opeth album that people who liked Damnation and none of the heavy stuff, might really like. This is the kind of album that people who don't like metal music, will actually like. This is, without any shadow of a doubt, Opeth gone pop. The music is much more accessible now, but that doesn't mean that it's bad. Hell no. I think I want to get high as a fucking kite and really play this one. In fact, I've got a friend who'll probably enjoy the hell out of this, as he enjoyed Watershed.
People that don't like screaming and growling and all the sort of heaviness that we on the board crave, will probably really enjoy this album. But is it worth it for the metalhead as well? If his/her mind is opened enough to let in the feel of such an experience as this, with all of it's atmospheres, acoustics and some extremely prog with a capital "p" as in a very experimental musicianship, then I'm sure that the metal fan might also like this one.
Songs like "I Feel The Dark", "Slither","Nepenthe","The Lines In My Hand" and "Folklore" each have bits of heaviness, and are all great songs - but I do believe that total trippy atmospheres like on "Famine" will also work out quite well. Especially if you'd like to get stoned. "Hax Process" will also do quite well for that. Fuck, the whole album might as well sit with your Pink Floyd and Camel discs. Is it metal? Well... Not really. But is it good? Hell yes. It makes me want to get fucked up right now...and is that a bad thing?
Of course not. It's simply a way to sit back and enjoy life...and Opeth.
I may also mention that the booklet of the disc is actually quite like the booklet I'd find in a mainstream musician's album. It's just black and white photos of the band playing in the studio, and two pages of lyrics. In the back there is a simple explanation of musicians, and the last page merely deals with paragraph of thanks. Everything seems very professional, very classy. Your boss might be checking this one out, folks. It's the way of the world. (57:00)
5/5 (No complaints here, but not a metal album.)
Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011) - Opeth and Dream Theater in the same month! Roadrunner's broke! Nickelback's gotta come up with something great to save them. I guess that's why "Here and Now" comes out soon. I guess the World Economy really is in trouble. Maybe people will go out and burn their money in the streets, like I've always wanted to see.
Anyway, enough of all that. This is Dream Theater we're talking about here, and even though Portnoy isn't behind the drums because he's been replacing the Rev(RIP); that doesn't mean that the prog metal powerhouse hasn't given us another gigantic helping of the cake that began with "When Dream and Day Unite" way back when... Feel that? We're getting older.
Anyhoo, this 77 minute monster (which is labeled as Alt / Rock oddly enough) starts out with one hell of an opener called "On The Backs Of Angels (8:42)." It's very good, much like I something I would hear from "Awake." The keyboard playing that one is fantastic. The whole fucking song is brilliant from beginning to end, even though they've seemed to left that heavier thump behind for this album. It sounds like DT really going back to basics, and creating a new masterpiece, perhaps a new "Awake." I know I can be burned for such blasphemies, so I'll let this whole thing play out. But so far, I'm quite impressed with this single. Really quite impressed.
Alright. Here I am, putting my foot in my mouth. The second song, "Build Me Up, Break Me Down (6:59)" sounds quite like a poppy ballad mixed with something from current era Dream Theater with electronics and downtuned guitars. It also an awful backing vocal, but has a very strong chorus. I could get this stuck in my head. Even though the playing is definitely basic. I mean, this is hard rock style riffing except when Petrucci solos along with the pipe organ effect for about a minute, if he's lucky. Bet this'll be on the radio, edited for time.
The third track, "Lost Not Forgotten (10:11)" actually rekindles my hope really getting in there with the prog theatrics the fucking band is known for in the first place. Yes, Petrucci slays with the keyboard in that one. The drum tempo is also kept up quite well. But the bass is still not doing much. The song seems to be about a middle eastern dictator. Plenty of those, wonder which one got the honor. But as I said, much musicality in this one. I really loved it as well.
The next song is a simple ballad, called "This Is The Life (6:57)" about basically enjoying the gift of life, and being true to yourself. Petrucci belts out a nice solo here. After that, an epic called "Bridges In The Sky (11:01)" begins with all sorts of tribal atmosphere and a choir singing, which leads into some chug and a much darker mood. The chorus is of course, much lighter but there is some definitely some heavier presence in the song. The musicality in the song is just as good as the musicality of the other epics (the long songs) on the disc. The lyrics for this one are much different as well, since they seem to be very earth rooted, almost pagan and seem to deal with reincarnation as well. I always thought that Dream Theater was a very open minded Christian band, (Portnoy wrote the lyrics) but it seems that ideas might have expanded. Oh, Petrucci and the keyboards own this fucking song after about the 6:00 mark. Regardless, I like the song, and it will remain one of my favorites from the band for quite a while.
"Outcry (11:24)" is a quite heavier track with some electronic influence, but it also contains it's atmospheres. Since the vocals are much higher in the mix of this album, they really are meant to be the strong point. About 4:50 in, the song goes through a big prog showcase with some middle eastern influence, like on "Lost Not Forgotten." I hate to say it, but this seems to be the pattern with every epic on the disc. Even though the prog showcase portions are there, they're expectable. But yes, they're great to listen to. This is the stuff that really defined the band, at least for me anyway. The song is also much more of a prog explosion and less of Labrie and his vocals. Thank you. He was getting too much time on the disc as it was. The song should've been a straight instrumental to begin with. I'd have liked that.
"Far From Heaven" (3:56) is probably a ballad that I'm going to hate. It's got a piano thing going on and that's about it. They really could've taken this poppy ballad off and I'd have been fine with a 74:00 album. It's very depressing and kind of kills the mood that the two previous epics made. Couldn't it have been put at the end of the disc? Or even on one of James's solo albums? Give me something to work for guys! This one's rubbish! Dry your tears and give me some goddamned prog! Yep, worst song on the album. One star for that one.
The next song has the promising title of "Breaking All Illusions (12:25)" and I really do fucking think that this is that long prog instrumental I've been waiting for. Yeah, I really think this is it. Do I need to explain this one? It's long and it's got many layers. Nope, scratch that. Labrie started singing again. Regardless, the atmosphere here sounds in the vein their other older albums. Add the prog explosion parts when Labrie shuts up.
The last song on the disc is "Beneath The Surface (5:26)" which is basically a little more upbeat instrumental that could've been on Labrie's pop record. It sounds like Coldplay actually. I hate this shit on the radio, so why should I take it from metal bands? Sell out somewhere else.
All in all, I have mixed feelings about this album. The band is trying to remain heavy for it's metal fans, remain proggy for it's prog fans, and remain poppy for it's pop fans. There's no happy medium like on past releases. It is not a perfect release at all, and some songs could've been dropped entirely. The disc should've ended right there with, "Breaking All Illusions."
Basically, it's this simple. Even though you people may not be able to accept it, I have definitely agreed with other people that we might be reaching the bottom of the barrel in creativity with some bands, Dream Theater being one of them. It's time to throw in the towel, because as good as some of these songs were - I could've put in ANY of the band's older albums and heard things that would surpass them. I've heard every single studio release from the band, (and even some bootlegs and concerts) but I feel that I've heard enough. Portnoy has left the band, and even though business remained as usual, I just think it's time for them to quit. How old do you want to be still playing variations on the same shit? There's a cacophony of albums already in the catalog. Don't like the way they sound? Then remaster them, re-release them, do something! I bet there's a ton of kids who've never even heard "Scenes From A Memory."
This album is great, but it's nothing I haven't already heard before. I'd really like to hear something new.
4/5 (Yes, I just gave DT a 4/5 instead of a 5 or 666. It's just the same old thing, regardless of the bells and whistles. Get over it.)
Anthrax - Worship Music (2011) - Well, whether you like it or not; Anthrax is back. John Bush is gone, and Belladonna is back. The band who gave us "Among The Living" which was based on Stephen Kings DT III: The Wastelands, (Read it, if you haven't. You know, BEFORE the movie comes out and ruins the series.) has now given us the ambitious title of "Worship Music" which I'm sure has been used by religious artists and clergymen throughout the ages.
Enough blabber. Here's what I think of it. The disc starts out with a thrashy number, called "Earth On Hell" which I don't even understand. Shouldn't it be, Hell on Earth? That's like saying I want to put my ass up someone's foot. The song is basically not near as thrashy as anything from like, Destruction - and John Bush could've done the vocals for that song. It didn't even show Belladonna's ability. There was a lot of holding back.
The next song, which many of you heard well before the album's release; "The Devil You Know" actually sounds like it holds some merit, even though I still feel this album was musically more John Bush and less Joey Belladonna. It's like a modernized thrash in comparison to the older albums. The song still is very catchy, I could see myself playing it quite a bit. "Fight Em' Till You Can't" is of course, about zombies as Scott Ian has stated, because he is a firm believer in a zombie apocalypse. This one sounds more like classic Anthrax. It was another early release track which got people fired up for the album, and is a good contender for a single. But I'm pretty sure that it's already a single, probably with a video that I haven't watched yet.
The next song, "I'm Alive" definitely sounds good enough; but it's not thrash. It's akin to power metal whether you want to admit it or not. The chorus is very strong though, and I think it's a good track. "Hymn 1" is just a waste of time that opens up "In The End" quite well, even though that song chugs with hard rock. Of course, the chorus is very strong here. You know, I'm only hearing bits and pieces of thrash from a thrash band. I think the newest Overkill was way better than this. "The Giant" was good enough, but it had much more of that hard rock influence with just a little bit of thrash. Is Anthrax still playing thrash metal at all?
"Hymn 2" is just some drumming. It's alright, but nothing I haven't heard before. The next song is "Judas Priest" where Scott Ian tried to get as many Priest song titles as he could into this song about a molesting priest. It certainly sounds like heavy metal. This is one of the better tracks on the disc, by far. It's also one of the longer tracks at 6:24. "Crawl" sounds like it was done by a different vocalist. It almost sounds like Joey was emulating John in some areas. But I'm just not really crazy about this song. It just sounds like filler. It could've been x-ed and I'd have been okay with it. Maybe a bonus track. Why are there electronics at the end of this? They don't even have a point!
The next song, "The Constant" sounds like a song Brainstorm could've done. But there's actually some thrash action on the drums. That doesn't make it a thrash album. The last song on the disc, the 15:54 second monster "Revolution Calls" actually has some more thrash influence then the rest of the songs, and it's got some good drumming, even though the downtuned guitars of this disc are getting on my nerves. But, in all actuality, the song is split somewhere between 6 and 11 minutes, which means that there's a "hidden track." I wish bands would stop doing that.
The hidden track features a lot of chug and not much else. Is Joey trying to rap? Why are the band playing Nu-Metal riffs? What the fuck happened to Anthrax?
Alright, I'm done here. I can say this much, and it's that I'm not impressed. Joey came back and the band is playing heavy metal with modern influences, not thrash. It's alright, but it's nothing even compared to the classics, or even John Bush's work. I think "We've Come For You All" was way better than this, even though "My Safe Home" was on it, even though that was a better ballad than I've heard from other bands. This album didn't offer much, and they're not even playing fucking thrash anymore.
This is media-made hogwash. It's not Anthrax. It might sound 80's, but it's not 80's. It will never be 80's and I don't want it to be. But it's not going to help this band any. They clearly just don't want to work as hard as their peers. Anthrax came and WENT. Sure, there are good songs here and there, but it's just not that return to form we were looking for. It's just an alright album. (65:00)
Wolves In The Throne Room - Celestial Lineage (2011) - The last Wolves album really didn't do much for me. I merely downloaded it whenever it came out, and it's sat in the directory folder ever since. I just don't think it offered very much. But this one on the other hand, seems to be different. There's more melody and more precision. It opens with female vocals, and the band actually sounds just a little more practiced here than on their last disc, which just sounded like regular old black metal with bad production. Sure, the production is slightly lacking, but Wolves wants it that way. You can tell that these guys are purists in that respect.
The disc actually has a great deal of atmosphere, whether created by the guitars or just created by the effects. There is even a few songs in particular "Permanent Changes In Consciousness" and "Rainbow Illness" that only offer atmosphere to the disc. "Woodland Chapel" actually features something entirely new for the band. It's a 5:58 piece that showcases female choir-like vocals as a focal point, rather than just another effect. This will either drive away, or attract more fans.
Then there's the drone-line "Prayer Of Transformation" which appears to be much slower (doom-influenced) and more melodic as a rather lengthy piece to end out the disc. Wolves have certainly changed their approach, but they are known for that - so we shouldn't be too surprised. The disc still has plenty of black metal moments, like "Thuja Magus Imperium", "Subterranean Initiation", and "Astral Blood." However, the band does seem to be reaching out to new horizons with their music.
But perhaps they, unlike so many other goddamned retreads out there, have realized that they've pounded the pure black metal hammer for as long as they could. It's about time for a good change every once in a while. Don't worry, there will be PLENTY of old-style Wolves retreads for years to come. It's only the band that has wised up and realized "Hey, we don't really need to do that anymore. Let's give black metal fans something new to chew on."
While much different in some ways, it's still very much Wolves; and I'm sure that fans of their ever-changing style will embrace it just as much. I like this album quite a bit, myself. Change is good, and a universal constant. The music also heavily reflects the occult nature of the lyrics, almost as if the whole album's a bloody conjuration of some sort...
But to whom, or what... I'm afraid the band only knows. With all of the occult black metal I've played on this thing, I'm surprised that my PC isn't possessed. (52:00)
Textures - Dualism (2011) - Textures has had many well... textures, since their first release in 2004. (If I'm forgetting one, please let me know) This is just another shade of their varied style that seems to mix post metal and it's hardcore notions along with technical and progressive melodies. They also use in this album, quite a bit of clean vocals. But these are sadly hit and miss, and this is not the best Textures album I've ever heard, even though I was highly anticipating it.
This appears to be another simple case of the same, "we've run out of ideas" formula that many bands these days have run into. Yes, as with very album, there are good songs and in this case - some beautiful melodies and melodic effects that makes things sound spatial. There's plenty of djent here, so if you like that sort of thing, it's there for you. But the melodies and clean vocals are also there, and they can be quite frequent on songs like "Reaching Home" which sounds like a pop ballad. Of course, "Singularity", "Arms Of The Sea" , "Sanguine Draws The Oath", "Minor Earth, Major Skies", "Stoic Resignation" and the closer "Sketches From A Motionless Statue" definitely prove that the disc does have it's great moments.
There's even a decent instrumental called "Burning The Midnight Oil (5:39)" which has potential, but could've been much, much better. I just feel they could've done a much stronger instrumental. "Foreclosure (2:56)" is nothing more than an intro to the closer "Sketches From A Motionless Statue (5:21)" Which unlike most albums, is not an long winded ordeal.
The disc is what it is. I've heard far better harsh vocals in metal surely; the idiot doesn't even sound like he's trying. I can scream and growl much better than that guy. He sounds like an old man wheezing sometimes. Even the clean vocals sound rather off key at times. But then there are times when the whole thing works out. I just don't feel it was worth the wait, and hope to hear something with a little more pizzazz. Solstafir's new album is about to come out soon, so I'm hoping that that album will be what I'm looking forward to hearing this year, with transitive metal. (56:00)
Alice Cooper - Welcome 2 My Nightmare (Deluxe Edition 2011) - So this is the sequel to the original, which I haven't heard before. (I'm going to get to that, believe me.) It starts out with electronics sort of like Lil' Wayne would do. This ain't Alice, is it? Sure, it's a variation on the Exorcist theme, but this electronic voice thingy... is too much. However, the guitar comes in and saves it... partially.
I've also noticed that all the songs on this disc are less than 4:37. That's because that's the length of the longest song on the disc, so all of them are radio friendly, but this is Alice Cooper. The precursor to Manson, (who is also releasing an album this year, and yes I'll be reviewing it to - I'm a big Manson fan, even liked a few (alright, a handful) of songs on the last disc) who has recently embraced Christianity, but has still remained pretty dark; which I guess is cool. I mean, he's got kids now so - things have changed.
Now, about the rest of the album. It contains quite a lot of pretty generic rock songs, some of them party rock, like "The Congregation." and others blues, like the very Tom Waits-y style of "Last Man On Earth." Of course, Alice isn't without his hell and brimstone and songs like "The Congregation" which deals with the burning of lawyers, pimps, the guys on wall street, and mimes? Wow. There's also the "I'll Bite Your Face Off" which could be used in season five of True Blood. It's just a party rock song about a beautiful vampire woman. Also Rob Zombie-esque titles like "Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever" (with it's electronics) and "Ghouls Gone Wild" feature the same kind of party rock mentality. But they are fun songs with enjoyable rock solos. I also recommend everyone listen to "Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever." Alice Cooper has never sounded like this. Making fun of the current club hip-hop music scene is certainly hilarious. The song's a joke, but it's funny. I also think Alice attempts a growl on "Ghouls Gone Wild." Listen for it.
There are also some ballads. Yes, these ballads are quite boring. They didn't make the 80's, and they need to go back there. "Something To Remember Me By" was written for his wife, but I didn't care for it. I'm sure she thought it was quite sweet though. I dunno.
Anyway, the next song kind of deals with something I've been through all my life. "When Hell Comes Home" is pretty much the story of my childhood and teenage life and even carried just a few years into my adult-life, (24 years, and now I'm 26) but let's not get into that. It's water under the bridge. But it's actually tough for me to listen to this one. Kind of like PTSD, and that's no joke. Actually I might as well say I've got PTSD flashbacks, shit like that - but lets' not get into that. Back to the album, please.
Umm... Who's the chick on "What Baby Wants?" I think it's some pop singer, but at least the lyrics are a littler darker than what she would normally sing. It's a pop-rock song of course, with electronic influence. I guess this song might work for a strip-club.
"I Gotta Get Outta Here" actually has a country twang, and kind of sounds like something Alice might write more of when he gets much older and wants to write very contemporary music. It's like pop music with dark lyrics pretty much. The last song on the disc is called "The Underture" which actually is an instrumental with many different parts. It's actually a very good piece of music and it could stand alone from the rest of the disc. It's a perfect to way to end the album, and sounds better than anything else on the disc!
All in all, besides bringing up horrible memories of my past and getting real poppy, it's the not the worst thing I could've listened to. Well, maybe it is. But anyway, there are some redeeming qualities, like "The Underture" , "The Nightmare Returns" and some of the party rock is okay. (52:00 Normal, 64:00 Limited Edition)
We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (Bonus Track) - This song is just a party rock song about two people in a very common situation. Perhaps you or someone you know is going through it. Not much else to say about it.
No More Mr. Nice Guy (Live At Download Festival) - I liked the Megadeth version better. The quality here is good, though.
The Black Widow (Live At Download Festival) - This is a track from the last album, "Along Came A Spider." I may check it out later. Wow, this actually sounds pretty good. Better than anything else on this fucking disc. Fuck it, I'm going to get the older album. After hearing this track, and months before it, "Along Came A Spider" in that movie "Suck" I figured that now I need to get off my ass and get the whole album. Some of the riffs here actually remind me of a little bit of black n' roll. There's also more guitar. Think I reviewed the wrong album. Save your money and get the older one, if you don't have it already.
Staind - Staind (2011) - As I've said before, Staind has apparently gone back to the heaviness of albums like "Dysfunction" and "Tormented", which were pretty good albums back in the day. The opener "Eyes Wide Open" through me for a loop with it's harsh vocal and some actual heaviness being put into the music. There's also a decent solo. "Not Again" is a bit slower, but not near as heavy as the opener. "Failing" is a heavy ballad, with some respectable soloing, and some shredding. It's very comparable to "Just Go."
"Wannabe" brings back Nu-Metal memories for me, with all of it's rapping and the loud screams. Skip it, but there's interesting soling in it. The next song "Throw It All Away" makes me throw away all my ideas of this being as heavy as Tormented. It's also starting to drop below the heaviness of Dysfunction. "Take A Breath" re-introduces the screams, with a strong chorus and guitar solo.
"The Bottom" is just a heavy ballad like "Failing." I wouldn't be surprised if crazy guitar work comes in somewhere near the middle and up to the end like on the other song. While that doesn't happen, it does have a very heavy moment with some metal tendencies actually, but it's not long. "Now" has some interesting riffing at the beginning, but it is also filled with that soft vocal line we're all used to. Same old hard rock stuff, but I do like that riff.
"Paper Wings" tends to go towards the heaviness of "Tormented" and is the closest thing to it, but still has that damned soft chorus. It also shows some guitar power, but little. It's definitely being held back. The last song, "Something To Remind You" is nothing more than a very light ballad.
It's good to see the band attempting at the metal moments of their past, but they don't really approach it very well on this disc. It seems that the band still has a way to go to reach it's roots, and doesn't want to alienate fans of it's more popular, contemporary style too much. I could get a much heavier version of this doom influenced style by listening to actual doom, like November's Doom and Paradise Lost. (42:00)
A Hill To Die Upon - Omens (2011) - People had been joking around on the metal forum where I go to find out about new releases, that this band had somehow gotten a hold of the "lost" demo tapes from Morbid Angel's Ilud sessions, since the vocals really mirror David Vincent's. (Covenant Era)
As for this album, let's not even beat around the fucking bush. These guys are insane. Every song delivers with it plenty of structure, and a great deal of layers. The guitar playing is great, the drumming is great, the vocals are great, and even the bass riffs are great. Sometimes they can be compared to Behemoth, but yeah - Morbid Angel is probably the best band to compare these guys to. As a matter of fact, this album should have been "Illud Divinum Insanus" for sure. Never since Morbid Angel has a band sounded so much like Morbid Angel (or Behemoth if you like.) Your eyes will well up with excitement from each and every riff, as you'll not be able to stop spinning such an amazing album.
Hear that, Morbid Angel? We don't exactly NEED you anymore. If you give us shit, another band in your vein will give us what you should have. This will fill that spot in your metal hearts that Morbid Angel couldn't fill. It's just that goddamned spectacular. The band even covers a hymn, "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down." But they aren't Christians. It's just some sort of blasphemy, I guess.
There is one gripe though, but it's infinitesimal. At the very end of the album, a woman sings another hymn (which is clearly blasphemic, since the song prior is about the power of Luicfer) and it's beautiful alright, but kills the metal mood. When the last song "Ancient Enemy Of Death" actually ends, just stop the disc or mp3 or however you're listening to this one. I wish they wouldn't have put this on the disc. Should've ended when the damned guitars stopped playing.
I mean, I could say that the solos are fantastic as well, but haven't I said enough? I mean, if you're this far in the review and haven't checked this fucking band out yet, you might need to seek metal help...excuse me, I mean "mental" help. But either or is fine. Go check this shit out people, please for the love of all that's fucking metal... and it only takes up 34 minutes of your time. But that might increase to an hour, or more. (36:00 - hidden outro is that chick singing the hymn.)
Blood Red Throne - Brutalitarian Regime (2011) - This is my first full Blood Red Throne album, even though I'm aware that they've been out for a while. Just never had the desire to check them out, until recently.
The band offers all the bells and whistles of a normal black/death band, and they do what they do quite solid enough. Comparing this to a few tracks I've heard from their older stuff, I'd have to say that this is much more death metal than they've ever been. The gravelly vocals mix well with the screams, and the songs are quite well crafted and have enough structure to keep from getting boring.
I believe that fans of death metal in general will like this disc, as it showcases everything that the death metal fan should expect from a record. It's devoid of clean vocals, beautiful melodies, and is very grim and evil, as a death metal disc should be. The drumming is definitely on par with the rest of the music, and the guitar provides exactly what it should.
But I've heard many bands that sound just like this one, and there's nothing new or even interesting. It's just solid and well crafted death metal with some technicality and no bullshit. There's much better out there, but there's also a hell of alot worse. I will say that the Exhumed album that I reviewed last week had way more musicality, but the screamer here was much better, and it offered some black metal pieces, where as Exhumed was strictly death. However, Exhumed came on a great deal stronger. I would recommend their new album over this one. But that's just my opinion. (41:00)
Corrupted - Garten Der Unbewusstheit (2011) - This Japanese Doom/Sludge band is quite an odd one, as most Japanese bands are. There are only three songs on the disc, "Garten (28:45)", "Against The Darkest Days (4:34)", and Gekkou No Daichi (30: 22)."
Now, as you can see - these are extremely long songs, both of them the size of an EP. But we should know by well that Japan is the land of Boris, who in their older years, put out some incredible doom and sludge metal. So we can hope that perhaps we may see shades of Boris on this disc or even something new altogether. Being the nature of this disc only being three songs, I will have a separate set of paragraphs explaining each.
"Garten" starts out quite melancholy, and it's very quiet with few riffs being played at all and a few cymbal hits in the beginning. But it does create an atmosphere. Then at the 5:00 mark, we expect as the drummer begins to hit the drums a bit harder, that the song will explode. But guess what? It doesn't. Then at 6:10 another hit, and 6:20 another. One more at 6:40 follows another at 6:50. The pattern continues until about 8:00, where the first word is spoken in a very deep croon. A very deep, whiskey soaked croon. Even though one may expect the band to kick into full gear, they appear to continue creating a light atmosphere, while the deep vocals are being sung. Finally, at about the 10:00 mark, the guitars pick up, as the vocalist begins to growl. With the melody and the bits of heaviness worked into this, the growls actually work quite well here. It's different.
The song continues bringing much louder hints of melody, but the growls have subsided and the vocals are now almost a whisper. Thundering melody and growls return at the 18:00 mark, and some higher riffs almost of solo quality begin at the 20:00 mark and end abruptly with everything else screeching to a halt. The melody continues albeit much softer and barely audible creating an atmosphere, and the vocal growl turns so light that it's almost a hum, creating it's own atmosphere, which fades in and out throughout the rest of the track.
The next track, "Against The Darkest Days" is a very somber and depressive instrumental, which the band probably wrote in the wake of the Japanese Tsunami destruction. Just listening to this one can elicit the feelings of despair that so many felt in that horrible tragedy. It is short, but speaks volumes through the music, volumes of pain and despair that should resonate with all of us.
"Gekkou No Daichi" continues this despairing tune and hopefully not for an entire 30:00. It's already tough to listen to something, that's so awfully depressing. But guitars begin to pick up around the 4:00 mark, and then a thunder is heard at 4:24. Sludgy riffs are played as amps squeal. Then the growls come back as somber as possible at the 5:24 minute mark. Unlike the previous 28 minute song, this one is devoid of hope, and is a downright doom/death track of the slowest and most depressive notion possible.
Of course, the word "Daichi" should come right out to those who don't even know much Japanese. The Daichi plant was the plant that almost exploded, and the fallout from it is an awful thing for the people of Japan to have to experience. Remember that they cannot return to those lands contaminated for ten years, due to the radioactive half-life. This extremely depressing song with growls of pure dissent and very little melody (but the melodies themselves are quite depressing) really describes 100% the bullshit that the Japanese people are going through. I feel this song speaks volumes, as I've said before, and even when the guitars start really packing in the melody at about 11:40, you can tell that these are some extremely angry Japanese men. There's also quite a bit of guitar structure to the song, and some interesting riff atmospheres come into the end. The growls continue for a long while, and then only the riffs and static effects continue throughout, until the guitars themselves even begin to fizz out. A little bit of somber plucking ends out the disc. This track is incredibly sad.
Let me tell you something. I've experienced plenty of pain in my life, and I can hear this in the vocals and can tell how this song is a way for these men to get all of their sorrows and anger and frustrations out about the current situation. If you're looking for some real depressive doom/death that's straight from the heart and reflects pure sorrow, than this record will be for you, whether it's in Japanese or not. While very slow, the disc as I've said three times now; speaks volumes.
This is real doom, real sorrow, real pain. If you really like that sort of thing, or want to really hear for yourself how Japanese doomers feel about the tragedy, this disc with it's depressive melodies, depressive growls, and melancholy drumming as well as an overall somber feel, will do that for you. Possibly one of the most depressive things I've ever heard. If that's what you're looking for, pick this up. I only wish I knew what the lyrics were about.
But they would probably be too much for me to even read. The cover of this album looks like the Japanese sky did during the tragedy, a grey sky full of black clouds. I think that says it all. You can judge this book by it's cover, because what you see, is what you get. (63:00)
5/5 (The most depressing doom disc of the year.)
Entrails - The Tomb Awaits (2011) - Alright, enough of the true to life depressing death/doom, and let's go to some fun death and gore. The disc starts out as depressing as the disc I've just heard, but when "Unleashed Wrath" comes in, I know that I'm in for some killer Swedish death metal. It's definitely killer alright, with everything sounded as solid as you'd expect, but there's nothing that really makes the band stand out. It's quite just the same old thing that I've heard from other bands of this type. There are a few good riffs every now and then, and some creepy solos, but other than that; you've probably already heard something just like this before.
The quality of the disc is the same sort of raw but still somewhat sort of produced style that one would come to expect of the Swedish death metal genre. Not that this is not melodic death, even though there are brief moments of melody. But "Collection Of Cradled Heads" and closer "Unspeakable Obscenities" are worth checking out. I just wish that the solo on "Unspeakable Obscenities" was a little clearer. (43:00)
Ether's Edge - Return To Type (2011) - Ether's Edge is a new British prog metal/rock band, and they've got some potential. Sometimes it's just plain prog rock, other times it's gets a little more heavier and has plenty of layers. Sometimes they even play around with electronics. But there is also the occasional somber ballad, such like the one that ends this disc. Some of the songs are much longer, upwards into the range of 7,8, and 9 minutes long.
The band is definitely worth checking out, as even though the production isn't perfect, one can tell that they did the best they could with what they had. Some of the songs don't even sound like they should be on here at all, but you can tell that this band is still trying to find their sound, and perhaps a sophomore release (if there even will be one) might see them in a more focused and matured light. Still, definitely worth it for fans of Porcupine Tree, and others in that vein. (62:00)
Fall Of Rauros - The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood (2011) - These gentlemen certainly love the style of early Agalloch, because it is completely plagiarized on this disc, that sounds almost like, if not damn near the same as something I would've heard from early Agalloch. The melodies are as beautiful as can be expected, and the vocals are as much of a scowl as any for this kind of music. Of course, there's the folk influences, and a little bit of prog now and then. The first song on the album, "Earth's Old Timid Grace" however surprised me, since it tends to sound like a regular 70's jam session.
But this is a great album. I couldn't find one thing about it that I hated, and fans of atmospheric black metal should really enjoy this disc just as much as I have. The vocals are low production, but everything else on the disc actually sounds surprisingly well. It's an enjoyable disc from beginning to end. The guitar solos are pretty damned good too. Alright, so maybe it's not completely Agalloch. There's not one band out there who can be Agalloch, but these gentlemen are certainly in their early vein, even trouncing on some new ground in an earlier and much less experimental form.
Don't cast these guys off as another Agalloch clone, and if you think that's all that they are after listening to the disc... well, they're a damned good one. I wonder what the next album will bring? Definitely a band to check out. (43:00)
Fucked Up - David Comes To Life (2011) - An interesting mix of genres that I knew needed a review here, I happened up the video for this album's single, ""Queen Of Hearts" on MTV2's Subterranean, the only thing worth while on those two MTV channels besides Death Valley and True Life. Anyway, this band mixes hardcore with indie and atmospheric influences, so it's not something you hear everyday.
The band mixes a very roughnecked loud punk/hardcore sort of screaming with beautiful melodic rock moments and even acoustics, which might sound funny to some, because yes; this guy screams during the acoustic moments of the disc as well. Hell, he screams through the whole fucking thing up until the last song in some parts. This is also not a short album as you'd expect, and I think the band went a little overboard. 77 minutes of this might be too much.
Nevertheless, the band has some good instrumental portions on the songs, and when the main vocalist isn't screaming about everything there is - from bad relationships to hatred of god, the band actually proves that they have some pretty damned good melodic skill, and their experimentation sometimes proves to be successful as well. As this is much heavier than what you might expect, despite that the music itself is very light; you might be surprised. Of course, this formula can begin to get on one's nerves and the female vocalists that they use on some tracks really don't help all that much to lessen the tone of a guy screaming his lungs out during melodic/experimental rock.
Fans of extreme punk, hardcore, and experimental music might want to give this a try. While not metal in a sense, their front man is certainly as erratic as any metal front man might be these days. I suppose that metal fans might enjoy this one as well. Check out some samples first though. It's different. (77:00)
Marty Friedman - Tokyo Jukebox (2009) - While not the new disc, because it isn't out quite yet (as of the writing of this review set, anyway.) I figured that I would go back and review Marty's older disc. For those of you who don't know who he is, well... I mean come on... Megadeth ring any bells? Yeah, he used to play in Megadeth.
Alright, enough of the formalities, let's get to the music. For the most part, even though this is an American guitarist, the disc sounds VERY Japanese. Most of the playing in it reminds me of melodies that I've heard from J-Pop anime themes and the melodic rock/metal that they use in J-Games, particularly in battle sequences (like in a J-RPG for example.) There's a couple of ballads, and each one of them actually sounds quite good. Sometimes electronics are even employed on the disc, but I'm still reminded of Anime and J-Games. Which this disc was for the Japanese people originally, since they like that sort of stuff, I imagine. The guitar melodies are the greatest part of this disc, each and every one of them just as good as the other. The fact that this is the disc of a guitarist, I can't really say much about the drums or otherwise, because it's pretty much a very melodic instrumental guitar album with some solos and what-not, as you'd expect.
It's a really good album, and I enjoyed it myself. I'd give a 5/5 personally, because even the closer did a good job of mixing traditional Japanese folk music and guitar together in a great package. Plus, being a big fan of Anime and J-Games, (Have a lot of English translated ones both on PC and console) I really quite enjoyed these songs. But not everyone is into that sort of thing, so I'll give a 4. Some people might feel that the disc is too Japanese for their tastes, and I can understand that. But If you haven't heard it, check it out before you hear the new one. I should have a review for "Tokyo Jukebox 2" next week, hopefully. Sayonara! (58:00)
Meliah Rage - Dead To The World (2011) - Now here's an interesting act. This American Power/Thrash has more in common with Trivium and earlier Metallica than they do, say... Iced Earth. First of all, these guys definitely mix the speed and thrash together well enough, bringing us some kick ass solos and altogether feel good thrash that will remind one easily of the heyday of the genre.
The more melodic "Power?" parts of this disc actually seem to be pretty good towards the latter portion of the disc. Certain songs like "Valley Of The Shadowless Souls" had a very grating chorus that seemed very cardboard, but songs like "Never From Me" and "Time Won't Let Me Breathe" actually showcase that the front man can actually sing.
When you listen to the first couple tracks, they may not offer much. The first song on the disc, "Up In Flames" doesn't offer a hell of a lot, but it's a decent way to start the disc. "Skin and Bones (0:53)" and the short instrumental "Absolute Obedience" sound like they really shouldn't be on this disc at all. More like a waste of time. It's only as soon as one reaches "Nothing Ever Grows" that one starts to see potential in this band. Even the opening riffs on that track elicit a little bit of wonder.
For the next 27 minutes, the band really proves that they have something worthwhile to show the power/thrash genre. Sometimes it might sound a little like Trivium's thrash era and less like say... Slayer, Destruction, Testament... but there are bits where the front man wants to be Tom from Slayer. But the fact that the band not only utilizes a healthy dose of thrash, and also adds a clever dose of effects and guitar atmospheres into the music, gives the disc much more structure and replay value. Give it a shot, these guys are practically unheard of. Support underground metal from the USA! (42:00)
Nocturnal Fear - Excessive Cruelty (2011) - Nocturnal Fear shouldn't be unfamiliar to too many people on this board, and I've even heard a few of their older tracks before. But this is the first full album I've reviewed form the band. Much in the vein of Toxic Holocaust, they sound like very brutalized thrash metal with good backing melodies and harsh vocal styles in the vein of black or death metal. It sounds more like some sort of black metal scowl, even though the music does not sound a thing like black metal. This is definitely thrash.
I honestly don't care much for the vocals here, honestly. The band sounds in top form, but the vocals just don't add much to the package. To be brutally honest, they sound a little rushed. Just because the music is fast doesn't mean that you have to keep up with the exact same pace of the music. I keep waiting for the singer to run out of breath. As a matter of fact, it sounds like the guy is doing his best to keep up with the band. I can hear him several times try to catch his breath through this stuff, and that's pretty bad.
The band as I've said before, offers a tremendous helping of thrash, really laying it on as thick and as structured as they possibly can. There's no clean acoustics or happy melody kind of stuff, but it's certainly what thrash fans would expect to hear. The longest song "I Am War" is 7:09, and the shortest "Rolling Thunder" is "4:09."
For the most part, the disc sounds pretty solid. It's just good thrash. There's no extra bells and whistles to speak of, and it's definitely heavy and full of good solo moments. It's not absolutely mind blowing for the genre, and even though the vocals aren't quite as good as on Toxic Holocaust's new one; it's worth checking out for fans of blackened thrash or death / thrash metal. There's just more thrash here than anything else. But that's probably what you want, right? (46:00)
Orphaned To Hatred - Destroy The Cowardice (2011) - This is what happens when a Pantera cover band decides to start doing their own material. As you would expect, it sounds like a blatant rip-off of Pantera, right down to Dime's riff style, Anselmo's vocal tone, and Vinny's drumming.
Actually, the disc isn't half as bad as it sounds, with certain songs actually pulling off some worthwhile Dime worthy solos, and sometimes the band does stray off the course which can make things more interesting. The vein of the disc seems to fly somewhere in between their third (non-hair metal) disc and "The Great Southern Trendkill." You'll have to excuse me, as even though I've heard the disc several times, my mind's a blank on the title of it. (It's been a while, alright?) I can just remember it being one of the heaviest Pantera discs I've ever heard from the band, and I'd have to say that this disc captures that mood enough. (Edit: I'm thinking of "Far Beyond Driven."
The disc is only 36:00, and for some that might be too much plagiarism, but the band seems to not care that they're ripping off another band's style and trying to profit from it. Whether this is a tribute or a downright rip-off, is your call. There's not a whole lot more to say about this disc, and I sure as hell can't give it a 3, because even if it is good, I've heard it all before. I guess the band is trying to make sure that youth don't forget who Pantera was. But there's a whole internet for that, and a back catalog.
Save your money. But if you want to hear this knock off that badly, go and download it. I don't think these guys should be able to profit from music that sounds so plagiarized that it's ridiculous. It's like me trying to write Moby Dick and calling it; "That Damned White Whale." (36:00)
Red Seas Fire (2011 Free From The Band) - Well, this one you can feel good about; because it's free. Just google the band's name and click on the eye in the center of the page to start your download. Though the disc is only 27:00 long, (about demo or EP length) you're not being asked to a pay a penny for it.
Red Seas Fire actually considers themselves to be progressive metal, but that's an error on their part. Their music is clearly a mix between technical melodic death metal and industrial / electronic music. But there are occasional light prog moments, like on "The Recovery" and "Cipher."
The disc is quite heavy but also has nice clean vocals that work quite well for the band. The singer has a very pure clean vocal, and the growler has a very gravelly growl. The singer actually has damn near angelic vocals. The music is very djent, but there are those electronic influences that change things up a bit, and the quality of the disc is very high.
I always find this to be quite odd, that most of the bands I've heard that put out their albums for free have usually high-quality or exquisite production. Most bands that charge have low to mid quality production. I don't understand it. Do these guys do well off outside of the music world? Anyway, fans of Swedish melodic death metal and technical stuff might really like these guys as they seem to do both genres justice in this hodgepodge of ideas.
The guitars offer good riffs and sometimes some rather worthy solos. The vocals both sound good, and the whole package is just a really great introduction to a band we'll probably be caring about much more in the future. Of course, the drumming is really quite good too. You're basically getting a well structured disc with some great musicality and (yeah, some prog moments) for free. You'd be an idiot not to pick this one up, especially when all you have to do is to go right to a fucking website and click an eyeball. I hope to hear more from these guys, and you might be shitting yourself after hearing some of these songs.
Hell, you might even want to give them money for this stuff! I'd give them a five for it if I had one! (Damned economy.) They deserve it! Let me help you, in case you're too lazy to type a few words into a search engine or address bar:
Sinner - One Bullet Left (2011) - Truth be told, this Sinner isn't the same prog/death metal band I reviewed last year, even though the album title sounds like it would be in their vein. This Sinner is actually a classic heavy metal band, who I've never heard before in my life. Well, here goes nothing.
This album's actually not that bad. Sure, there's some songs in here that are just kind of filler, but the band is just a classic heavy metal band with some modern influence. The band does a good enough job playing their instruments as well as you'd expect, and the guitar solos are pretty wild, but standard-fare for classic metal. The songs range from ballads to arena rockers, and for the most part; there are some really good ones on here. Some standouts on the disc are, "The One You Left Behind", "One Bullet Left" , "Atomic Playboys" , and maybe "Mend To Be Broken."
Any fan of classic metal, or even hair-metal might actually enjoy this blast from the past, as it sounds just as crisp and invigorating as some of the bands who inspired it did, back in their day. Yeah, there's not much thrash as is there is melody, but occasionally the band gets heavy now and then. These are more or less just good songs to sing along to, and a worthwhile album to check out if you're willing to go back in time. I actually enjoyed some of these songs quite a bit, but there's a whole lot of empty filler here as well. Worth checking out, but I wouldn't buy it unless you're a hardcore fan of the band. (50:00)
The Amenta - V01D (2011) - Now, I'm not sure if this album was free from the band or not. I ask that because I've got like four wallpapers and the complete artist info with the folder for this album. If it is a free disc, I'll let you know. YES. It is free, so get it here:
As for this disc, it's their third, (or fourth, I might have skipped one since my last disc for them is 2008's "Non") and actually sounds a little more matured than the rest. Their second album I wasn't particularly crazy about, because it was much too bland and there wasn't nearly enough melody and structure for me. This disc seems to have more melody and a better use of electronic effects. The vocals range from hardcore screams and almost death metal growls at times. Sometimes, two vocalists produce harsh vocals at the same time, and they do compliment each other.
I can honestly say that while there is definite deathcore influence in this band, they really can mix the electronics and melodies together quite well. Everything sounds rather depressing in the vein of black metal, and I even hear some Behemoth style riffing in places. Songs like "V01D", Erebus", and "Junky" really seem to show the band's ability to mix extreme music and electronics together in a package not unlike The Berserker. (Who did the heaviest cover for Tatu's "All The Things She Said" that I've ever heard, and even made a video for it. Go check that one out if you haven't heard it. Supposedly they also covered Rebecca Black's "Friday" in death metal. But I've never cared for their studio albums.)
The band seems to offer a great package and atmosphere. There's also plenty of actual meat on these songs - they've never sounded better than they do here. (but some still have a soft spot for "Occasus") Even interludes like "Null" and the outro "None" offer a great use of effects and atmosphere, that sounds rather dreary for the most part. The whole disc sounds like this, btw. No happy moments here. But maybe that's what you want.
This is definitely a worthy release from the band and offers enough bells and whistles to finally balance off the blandness of "Non." If you're in the mood for music that sounds like it was made in a post apocalyptic future world, this might work for you. Just don't expect anything more than what you hear after the first couple tracks. It is what it is, music for the end of the world.
The disc also contains four remixes of "Junky", "Nihil", "Vermin", and "Erebus." As you would expect, these versions just offer more electronic influence and effects, as they have been remixed. (58:00)