Monday, October 22, 2012

Week 65 (October 22nd, 2012)



It's that time again, when there's only a few releases at the end of last month and we haven't yet reached that October torrent of albums that usually release right before the holidays. The latter part of this month is brimming with new discs from major bands, but November looks to be a dry month, with very few major releases. Of course, we all know how December is. That's when I'm going to do my short list - yes, it's coming back - where I review every fucking thing that I wasn't able to get to before with just one paragraph per disc!

I'm also going to be taking a break after I get all the big October releases finished. I hoped to begin the editing process of my third novel in November, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen, which means that it will probably not be releasing until next year. Even so, the novella will also release - and I'll be writing much shorter books after that. 



Incantation - Vanquish In Vengeance (PR2012) - There's really not much I can say in the way of recommending this to fans of people other than those who like brutal and brooding death metal, so I won't even try to. The band puts on a furious display of bravado throughout most of the disc, with drums on constant blast, foreboding melodies and the vocal gravel that you'd expect. While it's fast and unrelenting in some portions, it also encapsulates the greatness of bands like Father Befouled, as a sense of dread lurks throughout the recording. "Transcend Into Absolute Dissolution 6:51" is one of these such songs that completely strips the ferocity of the band, making it sound like the sort of music one might hear in some dank fortress of the damned. "Profound Loathing 8:13" also continues this trend, but adds some melodies which are well warranted. The band really tried to make both a death metal disc with all sorts of little guitar tweaks, as well as brooding death album with the same types of guitar tweaks. The disc is almost and hour long, and between the two extremes, you'll hear the same amount of brutal death metal as you will hear "brooding death metal." Which really should be a sub-genre of death metal, since brooding and brutal as essentially different sides of the same coin. Getting back to the album, I'll definitely need to mention the closer, "Legion Of Dis 11:34" in which some interesting takes are brought into the brooding death metal sense of the track. At about the five minute mark, we're hearing very little riffs, some definite amp fizz, (which helps to carry the atmosphere somehow? It's almost like a death-drone) which might be tough to get into, especially for people who don't like drone - but at least they're fucking trying to innovate. Later on in the track, you'll hear some chanting and what not as the drums do a little tribal number to keep atmosphere, and who the fuck knows what was being summoned. But more or less, probably nothing.

At first listen, I was going to give this disc a low score. But as I went back through it and gave these tracks some time to congeal, I noticed that the band really worked hard to create two extremes on one disc and has succeeded in doing so. I might even recommend this one more than the new Father Befouled disc, as it contains more than just a sense of dread and follows along with battering storms of carnage. The production quality on the album is good, but I don't particularly care for the album art. The colors are right, but I think it would be better if there was a scene of a dank crypt where living skeletons threaten to break free from their shackles. In the center would be warlord with blood-splattered armor and he'd be sitting on a throne, staring at you from the cover. Not only that, there would also be a large mace at his feet. Maybe even the decapitated head of a young wizard on the floor, separated just a few feet from his body. In the warlord's hand, would be an ancient grimiore of some sort, and it would be engraved with some sort of long dead, archaic language. That's what the cover should have looked like, because that's what listening to this album made me think of while listening to it. It's essentially putting you in the position of one of those reanimated skeletons, still struggling to break free of their imprisonment, damned to their fate by an arcane spell. Or one could say... Incantation.

(Interview coming soon)

Highlights: Invoked Infinity, Haruspex, Profound Loathing, Legion of Dis (10 Tracks, 53:00)



Execration - The Acceptance Of Zero Existence (PR2012) - One of many bands of the same title, Execration is an American death metal band with very little left to prove. They clearly know what they're doing and most of the members have played in everything from Trivum to Dismemberment. Being that these are all seasoned musicians, it's safe to say that there's a worthy exercise in death metal to expect here. But is it enough? In spurts, perhaps. I think that the "portal" tracks, while adding to the mystique of the album are a bit nonsensical, especially the waste of time they called, "Falling Through The Portal 1:59." This track literally sounds like what an MP3 would, if it could skip. I literally thought that I had a bad copy of the track or something, but it appears that it was just the track itself. While opener "Awake The Darkened 2:23" has little to like that we haven't already heard from the death metal genre, the title track comes in right after it with a full assault of might. "The Acceptance Of Zero Existence 6:06" has all the trimmings of a modern death metal track complete with technicality, brutality and what-not, but there's also some changes in tempo that help to really breathe the foreboding sense of dread into the music. Which is really what makes death metal, death metal. "Serpentine Changeling 3:43" also borrows from the slower Morbid Angel style, making it different from much of the over-the-top technicality that most of this disc is. It literally is a "big, dark mess of riffs, drums and growls" but there are some people that like that and I think it's done much better than other bands who've done this sort of thing in the genre. Of course, there are far better bands and I've certainly reviewed them - but these guys definitely make a mark with this disc. However, despite the 38 minutes of music on this one, I'm still left a little unsatisfied. It's heavy enough, but I've certainly heard better. Nonetheless, these guys DO have promise and you ought to check them out.

Let's see... dark, brutal, brooding, technical, chaotic... and sometimes sounds like you're going through a portal - That's pretty much the gist of it. If they removed that one track that sounds like an utter shitstorm of failure, I might have given this a slightly higher score.

Highlights: Serpentine Changeling, The Stars Will Make Known My Rage, The Great Fall (11 Tracks, 38:00)



Maelstrom - It Was Predestined (PR2012) - The praise just keeps coming in for Maelstrom. According to my press sheet, I'm seeing numerous metal sites, metal blogs and metal zines praising the living hell out of this thing. Terrorizer magazine even considered them 2009 Demo Of The Year. But what makes these pagan/Viking thrash metallers from Long Island, New York so breathtaking? Unfortunately, I'm still trying to figure that out. There's something here, that's for sure. But I'm torn between the vocals. Gary Vosganian's vocal sounds like it would if Ezio from Assassin's Creed was on vocals, but of course I'd be a fool to deny the power of axeman, Joey Lodes. So named because he's literally got "lodes" of riffs and melodies on this disc, his guitar playing prowess will literally shake you out of your seat. This guy can play so well that it will make your head spin. As this is a demo, there are only three tracks on it, but the production is good and the band has more than definite promise. I would certainly like this album more if Gary hadn't been under the impression that he can sing, because he can't. In all honesty, I want to say that there's a bit of a early Skyclad/Sabbat approach on the vocal style that Gary attempts and I can certainly hear it, but Martin Walkieyer's work is unparalleled and not just anyone can copy it. But he can scream, growl and everything in between. I'm sure if the guy takes a "don't sing at all" approach on the next album and just sticks to harsh vocals, combined with Joey's riffs and Daniel Kleffmann's drums; this band could really make an unprecedented dent in next year's metal flood. Because you know it's coming, and you've got to be good to ride the wave. Despite all the praise that this release got, I'm a bit skeptical and not so sure if the band can "ride the wave" of next year's metal onslaught. But as is the title of Therion's very first LP, Time Will Tell...

(3 Tracks 18:00)



Sicadis - Blood Of A Thousand Hearts (PR2012) - At first glimpse, Sicadis might sound like your standard era deathcore band with groove elements similar to As I Lay Dying or Lamb Of God. But its upon further examination of the material that I'm hearing something with a little more structure. Not that Lamb Of God ever lacked structure, as I've always respected their work - but this album sounds like just the same sort of material that really takes the death and adds it to core. Take "Voice Of A Martytr 5:00" and one might even be reminded a little of At the Gates. But it's not the groove or chug, it's the melodies that really bring out the uniqueness in this passion. Let me also say that these guys aren't afraid of structure, drum theatrics and some solo work that really comes out of nowhere in most places. Yes, there are still breakdowns - but the playing really makes up for that fact and is really stellar. Trust me folks, when I say that something is stellar, that means that it's worth hearing. The axeman here can really shred and what would have been formulaic deathcore is given form and shape, made into something of a modern melodic deathcore. One thing that seperates these guys from Between The Buried And Me, is the fact that the deathcore portions of this album are actually backed up with riffs that sound more than bland, (instead of chugga chugga chugga chugga) and this band isn't afraid to even break completely into death metal "Soldiers Of Damnation 4:16" shedding the core behind completely. Though there are some metalcore moments, "My Redemption 4:52", "Through These Eyes 3:31" there's definitely more spite in these harsh vocals than on anything I've ever heard from As I Lay Dying.

The bottom line is that these guys definitely show potential, and enough to revolutionize what's become a rather stale metalcore scene. I'm glad that I'm hearing some real guitar playing, wonderful solos and definite moments of death metal. Definitely chalk this up for the future of core.

Highlights: Voice Of A Martyr, Soldiers Of Damnation, No Sympathy, A Fading Light, My Redemption, Through These Eyes, Beneath The Swarm, Slaying The Masses (10 Tracks, 34:00)



Skeletal Remains - Beyond The Flesh (PR2012) - If you like early Death, specifically the debut, "Scream Bloody Gore" and were hoping for more material like it, then you're definitely in luck. These guys have the sound, the energy and the vocal style that made that album so unique. This really does sound like death metal in it's inception, and it does so effortlessly. The drums beat furiously through the songs, the riffs crunch and thrash with the sounds of early death metal, and the guitar solos come out fierce and vibrant. As I said, the vocals certainly remind me of Chuck's earlier years, before Death even touched a bit of prog. But you still might hear a technical thing here and there. The production quality is also as you would expect, just as raw as fits this kind of music. With the front man's manic screams, the blood-drenched guitars and the well structured assault of the drums, backed with awesome solo work - yes, I'll mention it again - you can't go wrong. It doesn't matter what track you pick on this one, as they're all fantastically brutal in the vein of death metal, even back before I remember it!

Definitely, Definitely, DEFINITELY, make sure that you check out Skeletal Remains. You old heads really need to give this a spin particularly, so that you can get a feel of the gooey primordial ooze that later became death metal. And these guys do that ooze justice, with each and every fucking riff.

By the way, the disc also features a cover for Gorguts' "Disincarnated 4:15." So make sure to check that out. If there's anyone that could do the majesty of Gorguts justice, it's these guys.

Highlights: All (37:00)



Enslaved - RIITIIR (2012) - From one journey to another, we're certainly the kind of blog that focuses on taking trips when it comes to music; and that's always been something that I've likened listening to music to, so this new album from Enslaved is just the ticket you need to visit ancient Nordic lands, or even the palaces of the Gods themselves. The word "ritual" is literally built into the album's title, and it most certainly sounds ritualistic. But for the most part, the new Enslaved album seems to definitely feature of more the band's black metal roots than past releases have. Yet you'll still have your prog, so don't complain there. As a matter of fact, it's awfully interesting that many people have completely skipped over this one. I have quite a lot of friends into black and prog metal, but I haven't heard many of them praise this one - which is odd, since it managed to pop a 9.0/10 on the Metal Storm website, and I'll say it myself; those guys are cruel. With this kind of album, I'm gonna have to break format and do a song by song. I knew it was coming, but there's really no other way to do this; especially when it consists of many songs within songs.

"Thoughts Like Hammers 9:30" is a great opener, just as good as the opener for the band's last album, Axioma Ethica Odini" which was "Ethica Odini." The disc features plenty harsh black metal vocals over top of melancholy riffs, definite prog injections and some great clean vocal lines / choruses. There is also an excellent solo portion and other bits of structure that help to make this song an absolute epic. The harsh vocal chorus is also great towards the end, where the rums blast as drone fills the air in a ritualistic fashion. I'm not crazy about the ending, it sounds like it could have gone out with a choral reiteration, not some odd drone piece tacked onto the end. Although some of you may feel different.

"Death In The Eyes Of Dawn 8:16" starts out with gurgling vocals overtop of prog riffs, (It's not even close to black metal) and it's not until the clean vocals come in that I start giving a shit. Then the scowls come back into play and work well with the melodies. But what that shit was before, I don't even know. Another thing I'm noticing about this one, is that there are multiple choruses on these songs. What kills this track for me, is this deep gurgling portion where I'm being read a story. But if you're going to read me a story, don't gurgle it to me. Great, saved by the solo. But why is it even here? They just threw one in for the heck of it? Then we're thrown into a portion that embraces more heaviness and black metal scowls, until the damn gurgling comes back in. Who's idea was that? Clean chorus comes in. I have a feeling I might like this song more if I could read the lyrics, because it sounds like a story with different character parts, but I can't really understand all the gurgles on here, so they need to make a video for it, so that I can grasp this concept.

"Veilburner 6:45" starts with heavier riffing, but has brief pause in the riff structure that some may find interesting, other pretentious. I also like the drum play here, and the song really hasn't even warmed up yet. But when it does the riffs do resemble black metal, complete with scowls - but the clean chorus vocals are done during a bit faster set of riffs then you would expect. Yet it works out. But is this the chorus or pre-chorus? because shortly after that I'm hearing something that sounds like a full chorus, a duet between clean and harsh and yes, it works. Slowdown time comes in, complete with a few cymbal taps and then what I thought was a pre-chorus comes in during the faster part of the track. Apparently it's not any sort of chorus, but the duet section is the chorus. See, the music of Enslaved is so complex that you really do have to map it out. Then the song throws the riffs that started it, back into the mix and decides to throw the opening harsh vocal riffs back near the end of the track and for some reason, ends it there with the sound of a fan spinning. This leads right into -

"Roots Of The Mountain 9:16" which is the one I'm going to recommend to the fans looking for both a metal onslaught and some really killer clean vocals overtop of some beautiful leads. Throw in weird atmosphere... okay, back to riffs that actually sound harsh accompanied by almost death metal vocals. Throw back into light melody/chorus. Works seamless, no problems there. Throw in guitar solo, works great where it's at - a little odd to throw one in there, but it's performed beautifully. A little short for my tastes though. Have to make way for the heavy riffs and harsh (almost death metal vocals) again. Another solo now begins (wipes forehead) clean comes back, melody changes, clean works with melody - harsh vocals come back in overtop same melody. No qualms so far, this is in many ways an epic. A short set of different riffs leads back into the black metal nature of the beginning (with no harsh vocals for at least 30 seconds) and then the harsh comes in once again, to bring in what would be an ending riff, but the song isn't over yet. It even sounds like it's about to end... but that's when the acoustic shredding begins. Oh yeah, this is fucking beautiful folks, just fucking beautiful. The heaviness comes back and that melody continues throughout with a duet chorus on the last part of the song. Melody comes back in, but there's some sort of guitar lead in the back that I can barely hear, it should have come out more in the recording (have to listen closely.)

RIITIIR (5:26) then begins, sounding like a heavy prog track. But then the band says, "Hey, did you like that heavy stuff? Well, we're going to do some soft vocals over a melody now." It doesn't continue forever and the harsh vocals do come back as we "sail the cosmic seas" with the band through a heavier blackened portion. Then we have the clean part (don't forget about that end riff which screams black metal influence) again. Harsh vocals come back over the same riffs. Riffs finally chance 75% through the song, harsh vocals overtop of clean creating an extreme vocal harmony very common in choral music. Somebody wanted to play some heavier melodies now, so that happens. Holy shit, that riff sounds like it was deathcore influenced! Then the prog black style continues with harsh vocals again (drums begin to blast) and that's all there is to it.

"Materal 7:48" comes in with some odd electronics and some drums that beat in a basic fashion. The riffs start up and the clean vocals come in overtop of a lighter harsh vocal that sounds like it's buried in the background. Black metal riffs come in - insert harsh vocals here - now we're back to the same structure. I like this lead almost halfway into the song, harsh vocal chorus is very strong. A new set of riffs come in backed by harsh vocals and it works well too. Great track at this point. Clean vocals come in, who's this nasally guy? Sounds a little nasally here. Here's your classic rock guitar solo. You can't tell me that that isn't a classic rock solo, because it is, and it works with this weird hodgepodge of metal. Further listening to this track, I'm wondering if Enslaved is really trying to be the black metal Opeth, because that's what it's starting to sound like. If that's the case, then this one might as well be their "Blackwater Park."

"Storm Of Memories 8:58" starts out with prog and electronics, which is different already from anything the band has done prior, even in the Mardraum/Monumension era. It's an atmospheric piece with a bunch of weird effects and it's probably out of place on such an album, but the band doesn't seem to care. At the three minute mark, the black metal finally comes in, fast and furious. And it really sounds like black metal this time. No really, I'm serious. They should have just cut the soundscape shit out and stopped trying to be so damned pretentious. Eventually we get the light vocal portions and these are very strong as well. This song would've been great if there was no electronic portions. I'll bet you ten bucks, that when theta song is played live, they won't even play the song with all that electronic shit in the beginning, or it'll be an intermission song where the band comes out later into it (which it's a 3 minute atmospheric portion, enough time to get some water, go piss, or get something to eat before they go back on stage) then it'll begin with the black metal portion. If you take this song and put it into mastering software, you could literally trim the electronics off of it, due to the fact that the opening riff at around 3:00 or so sounds like it's part of a completely different song. The pieces aren't in no way connected. Try it. Trust me, it's true. Again, pretentious crap. At any rate, the last portion of this song is more death metal inspired and features the gurgle rather than the scowl. The clean vocals come back into play one more time and then black metal comes back, finally. Wow. They didn't forget how to play black metal!

"Forsaken 11:14" begins with a piano that lasts for about a minute. Then death metal vocals come in over prog riffs. Then the band wants to thrash while death metal vocals continue. If you don't hear the gravel in those vocals, you're death. These guys are definitely not just experimental black metal anymore, they decided to tack on some death metal. The thrash continues, and then the gurgling begins. Wow, electronics. Didn't see that coming at all. Is that some old orchestra piece in the background? What in the hell are they even doing here? Finally marching drums and proggy keyboards join the mix and when the full band comes back, a "cosmic" sounding atmosphere comes into place, which makes the vocals sound like they're coming from space. But they might be. These guys might even record their next album in space or something, as far as they've gone here. The music slows and melancholy riffs come into play, as the song becomes depressing. Then a low croon comes into play, not unlike My Dying Bride. I am not joking here. Piano comes back into play, also not unlike My Dying Bride. This is still a very doom-laden structure. Is this how they're going to end it? There, now we've done all genres of metal? Piano and dreary riffs are still going. You're kidding me, right? This is how it fucking ends? It's kind of like saying, "Oh, well Odin's great." for like ten albums, and then deciding, "Well, you know... maybe he doesn't exist. Maybe we've all been forsaken."

Damn, what a bad note to leave us on, guys. This bit epic "pagan" sort of ritual album, and then - "Hey, this shit might be all made up. Maybe we're all just lost in fucking space!" It's like a man who's having the best day of his life, until he gets unexpectedly shot. Good way to get existential. At any rate, I have no idea what to give this disc. There's just too much material here. It's better than decent, which is a 7, but I didn't like all the songs enough for a 9. I guess I could give it a solid 8, but that's because things are done well, even if some of their ideas just don't match and come out odd. It's not unwise to say that things were thrown around in places, I'm not hearing much song structure as I am everything else. Aren't riffs supposed to flow? Well, they don't always do that here, and when you use an electronic atmosphere, you'd better have a damned good reason for it. But I don't blame the band for this, I blame the label. I can clearly hear someone on the phone saying, "Storm Of Memories" is a good black metal track, but we don't think that people want to hear you do black metal anymore." Then one of the band members says, "Well, why not? That's our roots, it's what we do best!" Then the label guy says, "Well, if you put this electronic piece that we made for this electronic death metal band in there (they weren't going to use it) then we'll let you put this black metal track in. People don't want to hear you do black metal anymore, they want you to be the extreme metal Pink Floyd."

"By the way... the new My Dying Bride is coming out soon. We'd like you to put some gothic doom elements into the band. It would make it easier to market... erm... for you to compete - with bands like Swallow The Sun and Daylight Dies."

"My Dying Who?" another member of the band replies. "I don't even don't even know what gothic metal is. I wasn't into that."

"Well, you are now. By the way, this electronic dubstep is getting really popular. We might have you put some elements of that into your next disc."

And that's what happened. That's why this disc has a nonsensical electronic piece and a doom portion that nobody wanted. I don't believe I've ever run across a fan of the band who said, "I'd like it if they did some doom metal stuff." That's like me asking Cannibal Corpse to play power metal. Ain't gonna happen. Complete creative control, my ass.

Long story short, I'm giving this disc an 8. Why? I can't think of anything else to give it. It's solid, but all over the place. Hits and misses across the board. Powerful choruses, good riffs, great melodies... but there's all that other shit thrown in that makes this one big jumble.

Highlights: Thoughts Like Hammers, Roots Of The Mountain, Materal, Storm Of Memories without the electronic intro (8 Tracks, 67:00)



Therion - Le Fleurs De Mal (2012) - This isn't the Therion comeback album you were hoping for after the blandness of "Sitra Ahra." Not that the album was bad, it was just not quite as good as the albums that followed it, and only Lilith knows whethere or not they'll be able to top their 2007 masterpiece, "Gothic Kabbalah." I believe I gave Sitra Ahra good marks back then, but listening to it now doesn't necessarily make me feel quite as much as I did with Vovin, Secret Of The Runes, Lemuria/Sirius B or Gothic Kabbalah.

Now onto his album. Le Fleurs De Mal (named after a dastardly French poem that translates to "The Flowers Of Evil") is not technically a new Therion album. Rather, it's an anniversary record for the band; one that encapsulates their many years of majesty. Not surprisingly, the whole thing is in French and the tracks are all covers of traditional classics, just made much heavier. For the gist of this record, it is a certain French opera. A French "metal" opera, but it's an opera nonetheless. However, it is still Therion. It features many singers, many of whom you might remember, plenty of guitar solos and great melodies - and the same "spirit" that really makes a Therion album, a Therion album. I definitely think that fans of the band's classical era material will like the disc, but not everyone will go for the "all French" concept. Nonetheless, all of the songs are exponentially different from the other, you're not going to hear the same thing over and over and over again. The 16 tracks definitely feature guitar, but not all of them are blazing rock anthems, or rock-operas.

This really does encapsulate the spirit of the band, and while at first listen you might be dissuaded, the music will remind you of a more respected time in the band's era. As for the true follow up to Sitra Ahra, the band is planning on putting on a massive (and expensive) stage show, and it's been said that the process will take many years. So if we're all still around by then, and I'm still reviewing discs or mp3's or whatever the fuck else emerges - I'll have it for review.

But for now, enjoy this "interesting reminiscence."

(16 Tracks, 47:00)



Absvrdist - Illusory (2012) - Twenty six minutes of complete and utter "fuck you" grindcore combined with black metal moments combines well enough to form a soup that I certainly wouldn't eat; let alone touch. Not that it's a bad soup, but it's a very poisonous one, the sort of thing where one would expect to see acid bubbles popping from the top of the surface. Perhaps, that's not appetizing, but it best explains this unruly mixture. The disc is 15 tracks spread among 26 minutes of total playtime, but in all that time you'll hear frantic and furious drumming, groove crunches, time signatures, and vocal styles that range through the entire gamut of extremity. There's no happy clean vocals on this one, folks - and it's a definite contender for Annal Nathrakh's "Veritas."

But not all of the time do the drums pound relentless. You will also hear several moments of atmosphere in the disc, and most certainly close to it's endpoint. It's not only a inhumane beating, but a reflection of that beating. To compare this album to any life experience, I could liken it to being whipped by burly face painted punks in the frozen woods of Norway. Then after you've received said beating; the next couple minutes of your life would be spent reflecting on just how bad it hurt. Then you woke up and realized that you hadn't ever been beaten at all, and that it was all just one hell of a nightmare that you'd rather not have again. No more junk food before bed.

In all honesty, this is grind with substance. Grind has a tendency these days to be overly brutal and pretentious in that brutality, but bands like Absvrdist, Anaal Nathrakh and a few others (forgive me, grind is not my strong suit) are certainly changing our approach on the genre and that's certainly not a bad thing.

(15 Tracks, 26:00)



Steve Harris - British Lion (2012) - Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) finally decided to do a solo project apart from Iron Maiden, made up riffs that he couldn't use in Maiden. The first track is altogether different, being that it reminds me much of The Cult in the melodies, and opens up for a rock disc, not a metal one. Things don't get much heavier, but keep reading because this is a good disc regardless. Even if you don't like the poppy nature of the opener, "This Is My God 4:57" (I personally love it) I'm sure that you'll like the follow-up, "Lost Worlds 4:58" and "Karma Killer 5:29" which comes right after that. Those who want to actually hear some Maiden influence however, might wonder why the riffs in "Us Against The World 4:12" couldn't have been used in Maiden. Personally, Bruce's vocals would've complimented this song much better than the teddy bear approach of the band's frontman, Richard Taylor. His soft spoken vocals sound quite odd coming from a man of his stature, who reminds me of a UFC fighter in the band's photo shoot. Most of this album really sounds like it comes from the early 70's prog music, and it's very happy and catchy, mellow kind of stuff. However, one of the songs in here stuck out to me in particular. It's "Eyes Of The Young 5:25" which sounds to me like a theme for my next novel, a young adult fiction title entitled "Kloudian Kingdom" which I plan to throw a good sum of money into production and promotion. If a movie was made of the novel, I'd expect this song to play on the end credits.

But for the most part, I really don't think that this album is going to be everyone's cup of tea. It is very mellow as I've previously stated and hasn't gotten exactly rave reviews. I also think that Richard Taylor's vocals aren't going to appeal to people who would rather hear much heavier stuff. I'm sure that worse has been said about this album, but I will leave it at that. The disc is very mediocre with a few bells and whistles. Radio friendly stuff for sure, but not for metalheads. Especially the closer, "The Lesson 4:15." This piano driven ballad might be a little too much for most people. Me included.

This lion doesn't have much of a roar, that's for sure.

(10 Tracks, 52:00)



August Burns Red - Sleddin' Hill, A Holiday Album (2012) - Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, had a very shiny no... This isn't right, is it? And why am I reviewing a holiday album from Christian metal stalwarts, August Burns Red? Well, that's because it's actually good. The guys decided to do a mostly instrumental holiday themed release, taking many traditional carols and injecting them with the heaviness of metal. Though this idea is nothing new, here it works well. I must also mention that the songs aren't all just heavy renditions, as the band uses some other ideas to mix things up. But for the most part, you could probably hear this disc playing on repeat at your local metal shop near the holidays.

(13 Tracks, 42:00)



Snakeskin Angels - Witchchapel (2012) - I know about as much as you about this band. I just found them on a site and it sounded interesting, so I thought I'd check it out. But in truth, the act was worth promotion on this site. The thing might as well be a demo, (It only runs 21:00) but it sounds like The Misfits in all honesty, with Danzig-esque vocals. It was marked "black and roll" but it's about as black metal as Kiss, in all honesty. But you know what? This disc has some potential, and if you're missing some Misfits in your life; then check these guys out. But I'm not going to stop there. The playing on the disc is definitely worth listening to, the guitarist isn't afraid to mix strong leads, acoustics and eerie melodies (with definite punk influence) together with some great solos.

Though not an entirely massive disc, I recommend this one to fans of the more popular band, Ghost. While not as close to the prowess of Ghost, Snakeskin Angels certainly have their best days ahead of them... I hope.

(5 Tracks, 21:00)



Menace Ruine - Alight In Ashes (2012) - To be clear, this isn't really a metal album, even though metal musicians created it. It's more or less a sort of "dark atmospheric" piece with a female vocalist who sings throughout it. Though scratchy riffs are heard throughout the album's six tracks, creating various centers of melody, the album itself seems like some sort of great ritual. But to what, I have no earthly idea. Though the first track is darker in nature, "Salamandra 5:54" reminds me of ritual music, that I'm sure might be used in any sort of Pagan gathering. If this is supposed to be the music of Satanism or something, I'm sorry to tell these guys and hurt their feelings, but the ritual impact will be the same as it matches the same exact imprint of any tribal chants that have gone on since time immemorial. There's nothing different from this and Dead Can Dance. All they're doing is putting a name to the unknown, which I suppose makes it easier for a human to grasp an infinite consciousness by using a manifested thoughtform energy and pouring their own energy into a such being with the mantric nature of such a release.

I can be one hundred percent sure in the notion that whoever bought this disc was not buying it just to listen to or to jam out to, because it's not that kind of disc. It's very soothing, very spiritual, and other than the long and irritating drone portions which are "Burnt Offerings 8:07", and most of the closer, "Cup Of Oblivion 10:46" the female vocalist really puts the magic touch on these tracks. Sometimes there's a male vocal, but not often. As I am not a fan of drone, I was bored by the drone tracks. But fortunately, there are some very nice tracks on here with odd guitar tinkerings. The darkwaver in me wishes that the musical structure of the disc was much better, and that one guitar had been more than the basis for "Disease Of Fear 12:13" Yes, there are no drums in that track.

To be honest, I have no idea who they're praising with this effort, but it's certainly some deity or another. At any rate, I hope that that particular thoughtform manifestation is happy with the release; although I could play "Salamandra" twenty times over and be happy with just that one. I don't recommend this album to anyone other than lovers of deep, ritualistic music and drone. Because that is what it is. I also felt that the album could've used more structure - there's too much drone and not enough music. To tell you the truth, the female vocalist is so good, that she doesn't even need music to back her up. These chants work just fine the way that they always have, in the night sky with nothing more than the sound of crickets and the wind to back them up.

(6 Tracks, 62:00)



Oomph - Des Wahnsinns Fette Buette (2012) - I've been dying to review this fucker for a while now, and I'm glad that I finally got the chance to do so. Oomph put out a disc called "Delikatessen" back in 2006 and while I liked that disc a great deal, I haven't liked anything prior. The reason for this however is simple, and it's due to the fact that Oomph just isn't that great of a German band. I've heard further releases afterward, and still haven't cared for them. The band just seems to be getting worse and blander with every album. This disc however, does have it's share of good moments, but they're not all heavy moments. One of my personal favorite moments is actually the dance-ready "Such Mich Find Mich 3:30" or the ballad that follows it, "Bis Der Speigel Zerbicht 3:35." But what really stands out from the rest of electronic or watered down Rammstein tracks on this disc, is the traditional German acoustic "Seemannsrose 3:08." When the band does incorporate riffs into the track, the sing-along vocals mixed with the accordions really make it sound like some really awesome pirate sailing anthem. And that's the only track that I think is worth checking out on this entire album, really. If you're looking for German rock with slight metal tinges and dance beats in some of the tracks, then you might like this one. But don't forget that there are definitely some light ballads on this one (it's like the dichotomy of Foreigner's rock anthem "Jukebox Hero" compared to their shitty track, "I Want To Know What Love Is.")

You know what you're getting here, so don't expect some heavy as fuck German metal. Because Oomph isn't that kind of band. The music is quite contemporary, and I would assume they've got a fair amount of popularity in Germany. As far as I'm concerned, that should say it all.

Highlights: Such Mich Find Mich, Seemansrose (14 Tracks, 52:00)



Neurotech - Decipher Vol. 2 (2012 Bandcamp Name Your Own Price) - Alright, Wulf. I've liked your material for quite sometime now, but this makes me want to drill out my eardrums. I love electronic music (no dubstep please) and electronic metal especially; but this female vocal pop approach is NOT IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, NOR FORM, what I was looking forward to. I'm glad that I could have put 0.00 dollars in the bandcamp account, because I just couldn't handle the fact that I would've spent actual money on something as horrible as this. I understand that you're trying to get out there, but from a great EP like Decipher Vol.1 and moving onto a horrible thing like this... I'm still trying to "Decipher" you. Not that all of it's horrendous, but for the most part; only saint-like patience kept me listening to the disc. I'm honestly trying to be as nice and professional as possible about this, but the words that flew from my mouth during the listening session are best not repeated here. Wulf is apparently fond of this female vocalist Tanja Ravjen, but the lack of real metal here leaves me with female fronted Europop. Thank goodness that it's only 25 minutes of music, because I'm not sure if my ears could stand anymore. It's not that I mind her vocals, it's that I would like it if they were mixed in with the electronic metal style of the project, complete with the harsh vocals.

I honestly cannot even bear myself to listen to this again to get another glimpse of the material before I review. I am left with the bad memories of the material and that is enough. Hopefully this will be a one time mistake, and I'm sure that the metal community will also be horribly disgusted. Granted, it's not that we're not open minded, it's just that we think you might have went a little too far this time.

(7 Tracks, 25:00)



Kiss - Monster (2012) - I'm not going to lie. I'm very surprised, even enthralled by this new Kiss release, especially when "Sonic Boom" literally made me sick to my stomach (and I'm not making that up.) But "Monster" comes back with full force, and shows how damn good of a band that Kiss can be, after all these fucking years. This is a comeback and a half, infused with thundering riffs, monstrous leads and some incredible guitar solos. Yes, they're really on their game here, and Gene sounds great on the fucking vocals. I have no idea how that happened, (maybe through the greatness of the best mastering software that money could buy) but it fucking did. It really fucking did. Take opener, "Hell Or Hallelujah 4:07" for example. This is just the kind of anthem that hearkens back to the band's most classic era, but it has the increased heaviness that I think that today's kids will eat up and enjoy. There's definitely the same feeling that I get from ACDC anthems here, and that's certainly not a bad thing. "Freak 3:35", "The Devil is Me 3:41", and "All For The Love Of Rock And Roll 3:21" are the songs that we've been expecting to hear out of Gene and the boys for years now. It just took a couple years for them to get it out. But here's my bottom line. Kiss is really going to have to work hard to follow up this one, and I don't think it's going to fucking happen; to be honest. If this is one last hurrah from the aging members of this band, then it's a hurrah well received and much appreciated. I'm telling you folks, you can't go wrong with this one. It's one of my favorite rock albums of the year. Long live rock and roll!

Highlights: Hell or Hallelujah, Wall Of Sound, Freak, Back To The Stone Age, The Devil Is Me, Outta This World, All For The Love Of Rock And Roll
(12 Tracks, 43:00)



Steve Vai - The Story Of Light (2012) - I'm not sure what Steve Vai's idea was for this album. Personally, I think it might be a misstep, but it's not brutally awful either. It's just a disc that's too fucking packed for it's own good. I don't care for the foreign female spoken vocals on "The Story Of Light 6:15" as they ruin what should be a good instrumental, and of course the guitar playing is great here. "Velorum " is the sort of thing we'd expect from Vai, with heavy guitar parts playing in and out of tune with some light keyboard/piano backing, and "John The Revelator 3:40" is probably the gospel song that you never expected to hear from the guy, complete with full gospel choir and guitars. And this odd attempt mixes two professional choirs along with heavy guitar playing in the second part of this track, "Book Of The Seven Seals 3:56" If you ever wanted to get holy and metal at the same time, then I recommend this one. Damn, this is some real gospel metal stuff if I've ever heard it. It's pretty damned epic, let me tell you. The heavier guitars take a break for a bit when "Creamsicle Sunset 3:30" comes into play, which makes you think of a sunset, for sure. It also works good in an elevator. "Gravity Storm 5:33" comes into play next, with it's metal and atmosphere mixture - just the song you wanted to hear from the man. "The Moon And I 7:18" features some vocals, but sticks to a lighter soundscape, while the guitar gets a major work-out. It literally sounds like an midnight orgasm with the woman screaming out the solo that comes from this guitar. "Weeping China Doll 6:11" is another great one that shows us that Steve Vai can play the fucking guitar. Oddly enough, there's a sound of dread closer to the end of this track, reminding me of some of Devin Townsend's stuff. "Racing The World" sounds like it might be in a Sonic The Hedgehog game, it just has that soundfont to it - maybe in an opening cutscene. "No More Amsterdam 4:15" sounds like a prog rock song from the 70's, and it has both a male and female vocal that duet. The disc ends with a track called "Sunshine Electric Raindrops 4:15" and to be honest, this also sounds like it might be in a Sonic game. Just something about it that matches the soundfont that Sonic Team used in their rock themes. Also, "Creamsicle Sunset" sounds suspiciously like the name of one the game's famous zones... perhaps Steve Vai was a fan of the old games?

So yeah, there's a bit of everything on here and I really don't know what to recommend. Each person is going to have their own highlights, but it's got a lot of material for your buck, I will say that. Hard work was spent and it's a good disc that's worth checking out for guitar aficionados.

My Highlights: Velorum, Book Of The Seven Seals, Creamsicle Sunset, Gravity Storm, The Moon And I, Weeping China Doll, Racing The World, Sunshine Electric Raindrops (12 Tracks, 58:00)


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