Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Week 74.5 (March 12th, 2013)
Voodoo Circle - More Than One Way Home (PR2013) - Voodoo circle are a classic/hard rock band from Germany with definite potential. In their native, they are considered to be the very "epitome of quality in the Classic Hard Rock Genre." The album booms at the very beginning with the opener "Graveyard City" with it's extremely catchy melodies and vocal hooks that might end up getting stuck in your head for days. Influences abound in this band, citing everyone from Foreigner to The Scorpions and Blue Oyster Cult among progressive groups like Pink Floyd and Yes. Many of these influences came slightly before my time, so it's hard to place them exactly; but I can certainly hear the amalgamation of these influences in Alex Beyrodt's (Silent Force, Sinner, Primal Fear) rich guitar soundscapes replete with magnificent solos, David Readman's impressive vocal work and Jimmy Kresic's keyboard antics that have the potential to make this band even larger of an act than they already are. The band has a video for the strong ballad "Cry For Love" which is available on their official Youtube account, so check that out. Though this is the only band I've ever heard write a song for a woman named "Alissa 4:40" they pronounce it as "Alisa" and I'll have nothing to do with it; citing a bad personal breakup as the response. But I can't take that out on Voodoo Circle and I will certainly give them the benefit of the doubt here, because this is great classic/hard rock that is not to be missed on any level. The special edition release features even more rock goodness in the form of extra bonus tracks that I wasn't given the privilege to hear, so grab that version on the 26th of March and tell me how they are!
(12 Tracks, 54:00)
Botanist - IV Mandragora (2013) - It is uncertain to me what exactly Botanist mastermind Otrebor was up to this time, but Mandragora is a huge leap from the territory of his last album which was more of a melodic drone/doom combo with black metal vocals. That album I thought was passable; but certainly not my thing - hence I decided to give the man another chance and decided to check out this final chapter of the plant people saga which would be far better material for a novel than a musical album quite frankly; I can certainly say that I would rather read about this than listen to it. The plant human idea is quite intriguing and definitely original.
However, I could not absorb even one of these tracks into my body through the act of photosynthesis. Otrebor was simply tapping into the electronic black metal side, which is a complete turn around from what I heard just one year ago. Though it wasn't my cup of tea, I could at least make it through that album; while this one sounds rushed and incomprehensible. While the disc has the same erratic feel of the last album, I have no idea why in the hell Otrebor decided to release this album with an electronic filter used on his vocals in some instances which just rubs me 900 different ways of wrong.
The album is filled with uncommon riff ideas, odd melodies and a sort of trance-vibe, but the speed of the drums and the vocal approach make this just seem a little weird for my taste. Perhaps too weird, and I usually like weird shit. I just don't like the use of programmed drums here and the riffs stay in the same style for so long that it becomes annoying, almost robotic. It's quite comparable to the music of a far-distant future - the very thing that generations to come will enjoy, long after I'm dead. Maybe this is what black metal will sound like in the year 4052, but I don't think it will catch on well for the year 2013.
Mandragora is not a long release, but it was a pain to listen to. I just don't think that I was ready for it, like it was a level above me; from a conscious plane that I have not had the honor of ascending to yet. But I will say that the final track on the album, "Rhyncholaelia Glauca 9:40" might be worth checking out and provides a great sense of closure to the saga.
If you like your black metal weird and robotic, this one's for you.
Highlights: To Amass An Army, Rhyncholaelia Glauca (7 Tracks, 32:00)
Helloween - Straight Out Of Hell (Limited Edition 2013) - Helloween is back and if you think I'd actually forget them this time, then you're wrong. Coming on the heels of an already fantastic release in the form of Seven Sinners, I don't think that the band has sounded better in years and cite this new release as further proof for that claim. The album opens with the soon to be classic "Nabataea 7:03" and introduces us to "Far From The Stars 4:44" which sounds just in parts just like the most classic era of power metal with slight modern influence. The band personally seems to highlight "Burning Sun 5:35" as they feature a special "Hammond Version 5:34" on this special edition that I have. But as for the song, it's got quite a bit of structure mixing orchestral elements that remind of Blind Guardian and neoclassical guitar antics that go duet with proggy keyboards and introduce us to a fantastic solo all in the same song, reminding me why it is that I love power metal in the first place.
We also get the ballad "Hold Me In Your Arms 5:12" which at first I thought was going to be a snoozefest, but I guess I'm getting older and found myself really captivated by the chorus portion. The only problem I have with the track, is that a small solo should have accentuated the final repetition of the chorus before the final verse of the song. Yes, there was orchestration; but guitar crept up a little during the track and would have really hammered this. In many Japanese power metal ballads or even J-rock songs, you will hear the guitar solos accentuating that final chorus and it really does the song well.
I'm also rather upset with "Wanna Be God 2:02." It has a sort of sports anthem feel to it, like with Queen's "We Will Rock You" but comes off as nothing more than an intro. Even at that length, it seems like an intro to the album's title track; but that never happens. As a matter of fact, the album's title track "Straight Of Hell 4:35" sounds like it came off another album entirely. I'm really confused as to the layout of the album, since some of these songs sound like they were recorded at varying production values and it makes the whole trip a bit awkward. Nevertheless, "Straight Out Of Hell" is a powerful title track that shows the band's resilience after all these years.
I'll also have to point out probably one of the band's most vulgar tunes in their history, "Asshole 4:11." I'm a little curious as to why this electronic power thrasher got included but the fact that the band actually uses enough foul words on this one to warrant the "Parental Advisory" here in the states, using the words "asshole" "motherfucker" and "shit" in the chorus. Nevertheless, it's one of my favorite Helloween tracks in the band's history as it's catchy and useful in describing certain people in one's life.
The last track I'll discuss here will be another one of my favorites, and they seemed to have gone all out on this one with the use of gothic organs and church bells. That envelops into power metal and brings us a great argument against modern religion in the form of "Church Breaks Down 6:09." It deals with religion suppressing knowledge, which is in reality a terrible disservice to the whole of mankind. Not getting too deep into the subject, I believe that the story of the garden of Eden was written down by the wealthy who thought that the attainment of knowledge was not something that the rest of should have. Ill-educated people are easy to manipulate and by equating the attainment of knowledge with the "enemy of mankind" in the form of a serpent, (which in ancient cultures is actually a symbol of wisdom) it makes them fear the unknown which is exactly what these men in power would like. None of these men want to see a slave rebel from the false comforts of media and combat their forces of control, so these religious standards are put into place to keep individuals silent and obedient. In a word... "asleep." However, I have nothing against the entirety of the Bible, nor any other religious text; citing that there are moral and philosophical values to be found.
All in all, Helloween's newest opus shows that they are still capable of making great power metal. But I scratch my head at some of these tracks, wondering if something went wrong somewhere along the recording, because some of this should have been scrapped. The album offers 14 songs in it's retail version and seems awful cluttered with varying production values and different ideas just sprinkled all over the damned place. Maybe they want to make this their final opus and just give us everything that they had, but I really don't think we needed it all. Still a solid release with plenty to offer for even the most adamant of power metal fans.
Highlights: Nabataea, Far From The Stars, Burning Sun, Hold Me In Your Arms, Straight Out Of Hell, Asshole, Church Breaks Down, Another Shot Of Life
(15 Tracks, 71:00)
The Fall Of Every Season - Amends (2013) - I never got the chance to review the last album from TFOAS, From Below; but would consider it mandatory listening for fans of death/doom that is not only sorrowful, but beautiful in many regards. This formula is continued with the band's new release, Amends which offers us the greatness of "Sole Passenger 11:44" which not only gives us the very best of depression laden riffs and vocal gravel that echo the lyrics (much in the vein of Rapture and Swallow The Sun) with extreme emotional prowess; but also tickles the ears with soft melodies backed with calming clean vocals. Soft acoustic passages pop up in "The Mammoth 13:26" as well in the instrumental, "The Portrayal 2:22" and also start up the ethereal melodies of "Aurelia 11:37" so nothing has really changed in regards to the band's style. There are no keyboards, as they only utilize the riffs and fantastic drum work to illustrate the atmospheres that they seem to excel so well at. A good way to describe this album is to look at the album's Asian inspired cover art, in all honesty. Not only is it some of the more interesting of cover art pieces that I've seen, but the colors and sense of waves illustrate the album's nature as being both a massive tsunami and calming stream where may dance the sprites and fairies of another realm.
There's nothing really new here and it's very much in the vein of From Below. These gentlemen opted not to reinvent the wheel and have crated an overwhelming bipolarity of soundscapes that not only highlight the dreariest of death metal, but also the most beautiful elements of post or even shoegaze in some respects. It is not a disc that constantly bashes, nor do the drums thunder with great revelry. Rather, the disc relies on it's slow soundscapes and succeeds with each one of these five tracks. Yes, even the instrumental piece "The Portrayal" is worth hearing as it is simply one part of the journey that well encompasses it's playing time of just a few minutes shy of an hour. A time that will be well remembered.
(5 Tracks, 53:00)
The Phantom Carriage - Falls (2013) - The new album from Black/Hardcore experimentalists The Phantom Carriage is finally upon us and this is no short release like 2011's New Thing. A full forty minutes of playing time with several long experiments in sporadity are displayed here, but it still will not be enough to convert the kvlt black metal hordes to hardcore. Though I like the progressive melodies on "Today We Stand 5:30" the clean vocals don't seem to work for me and the approach is slightly more one of hardcore than black metal. Yet again, there are moments of sludge that also pepper the disc in addition to the blast beats that the band does utilize in their mission to mix fully these two unlikely genres. But these hardcore shouts might have sealed their fate, it would certainly depend on the metal fan who's willing to ignore these light-toned vocal shouts that could "buzz-kill" and "bree" the album for them.
"Dreamers Will Never Stop Dreaming 7:35" adds a little bit of atmosphere to the disc, amidst the sporadity and use of the odd vocal approach that sounds like a :black metal growl" instead of a "black metal scowl." Lights begin to illuminate the track however, as melodic guitar soundscapes make us believe that all is well until a hardcore assault begins.
But it's not until the closer, "Gods, Devils, Us 7:25" that I start hearing something more than the formula of black metal infused hardcore with frantic screams and slight does of melody and drone. Even if it's just an amp reverb with a few acoustic licks - it's still more than the band has brought in 16 minutes of playtime. I'm not quite sure what the band was thinking here, but it's just too much of the same sporadity for me - like if someone threw the same black and grey paint splatters on every piece of canvas. Sure, it's an experiment; but it all just sounds bland. I expected much more from this one.
Maybe this could get hardcore fans into black metal, but I don't think it can get black metal fans into hardcore. I want to like this one, especially after how much promise New Thing brought to the table.
Alas, I fear that I've expected too much.
(8 Tracks, 40:00)
The Project Hate MCMXCIX - The Cadaverous Retaliation Agenda (2012) - Because a legendary interview still sits up in the air, (it's done, I'm just waiting on clearance and will release it here if New Noise decides not to use it) I had also held off reviewing this album. Some of you bought it. I did and got the instrumentals which I would also recommend in addition to the original album and they're worth the 15 Euros that the band is charging for the release. However, Judas Iscariot apparently leaked it, having gotten up out of his grave just to get onto a computer to buy the disc so that he could put it online as he walked back into his grave and fell lifeless, back to death. So whether or not you got the original version of the disc, or the one that was leaked by a man who became reanimated, (would that make him a zombie?) I'm sure that most of you already have this disc by now.
Paid for by the fans and not the fiends, TPH's new disc is monumental. I won't even lie and I know that Lord K himself will be reading this, but I thought the band's last album was absolutely awful and filled to the brim with too much female vocal. I also felt that the band's last female vocalist was taking over the band, turning them into some kind of death metal version of Nightwish. Introduced to this act by a friend years ago and having loved When We Are Done Your Flesh Will Be Ours, Hate Dominate Congregate Eliminate and Armageddon March Eternal; I have continued to check out the band's releases hoping for the same greatness to return. There were glimpses in In Hora Morits Nostrae and The Lustrate Process; but things were becoming far too much of the same and I wasn't the only one who noticed. The same friend I ran into a few days before buying the release sent me a text saying "they really need to change their style." And he'd be right, because things were getting stale and that's what I equate the failure of that album on, not just the act of piracy; as they have claimed. I think that fact that someone like me, who used to listen to these guys religiously would have anything bad to say about them in a review should be a sign to change things up a little...
And that's just what they did. I've given this album a perfect score as well; and that's out of no sort of ass kissing - I would have definitely let you know if this was a piece of shit, regardless if any of the band members were reading it or not. Perhaps I've lightened up in later years; but anything that's a six or lower is nothing worth checking out in my opinion and if it's lower than four, it's absolute garbage; taking a cue from Metal Storm.
Thankfully, The Cadaverous Retaliation Agenda is the band's best work in years. Perhaps after all that repetition, Lord K decided that it was time to do something different and that's exactly what he's done here along with many special guests. This was an album that was recorded in many different areas with the band never actually physically being in the same studio - but I think the fact that everyone had their ability to breathe helped things. First of all, the band's new female vocalist Ruby Roque recorded all of her vocals in Libson Portugal, and Jorgen Sandstrom recorded his growls in Stockholm, while Lord K recorded his guitars in Ostansjo and the band's drummer Dirk Verbeuren recorded his drums in a separate studio as well as Peter Dolving and Tobben Gustafsson recorded vocals and acoustic guitars respectively. Lars Johansson, Magnus Soderman and Danny Tunker and Petter S. Freed also recorded their solo/s in separate areas, making this whole thing a real testament to the power of technology and the way that we make music as human beings. I would personally love to record vocals in this fashion for any acts that'll have my venom.
TCRA consists of six main tracks, with the very shortest being the finale "Welcome To The Judas Agenda" at just one second over nine minutes. The other The other six tracks are short instrumental interludes that tie the songs together.
The first track "DCLXI 0:42" is a short orchestral instrumental that opens "I Feed You The Flesh of Your Poisonous Christ 14:58" which at first might sound like the same sort of bass lines we've heard a bazillion times now, but that's when it transforms. First of all, I'm glad to hear that the electronics are back in the mix and at full force. That is what made me really separate the band from other death metal bands that were out there at the time. Obviously The Monolith Deathcult and The Amenta might have found influences here as well as acts like The Berserker; but it's good to see Lord K utilizing what made the band so great in the first place. But not only that - huge solos like this one encompass the record along with transformative structural changes that help it to sound monumental. There's a middle eastern section towards the end of the track that really surprised me and showed me that the band does have much more to offer, despite their long tenure.
The next instrumental I will discuss, "DCLXII 1:13" because it's in reality a great electronic piece mixing some nice effects along with foreboding piano work that goes into "We Watch In Silence As The Earth Turns To Blood 10:36." It begins with a female vocal and envelops into furious death metal, featuring Ruby's vocal much more than the other track so far, but not being afraid to include some more electronic influence and atmosphere (notice the guitar work in the background around the 2:30 mark) and that's when the guitar solo kicks in, just as breathtaking as the last one. Electronic laden metal backed with Ruby's vocals takes over after another death metal onslaught and then is followed up with another guitar solo. Yes, another guitar solo. If one great solo wasn't enough already. I really like the guitar riffs at this point in the song where a chorus is repeated by Ruby (the first time it's a little rough in the mix but the second time it comes out better) as a death metal portion comes back in and the chorus is once again repeated.
An electronic piece "DCLXII 1:05" that sounds like it might be used in a futurist racing game comes next, but it feels good here - I like it. I think I'd actually like to hear a disc that fully mixes the electronics and the death metal together in a way that we've never heard from the band; but it's uncertain whether or not that will happen. "Conquering The Throne Of The Cadaverous 13:55" comes in with both a female vocal and death growl as we're beaten senseless with bass riffs that will later encapsulate Ruby's vocals and Jorgen's growls. A slight mid-era Ulver-esque soundscape then plays for a while (but I wish longer) when the guitars come screaming back into the mix. There's some great guitar work in the background during Jorgen's vocals here A duet ensues for a while as the electronic fuzz opens for Jorgen's vocals and crushing bass lines. A solo eventually comes into the mix and slaughters when it does - these are tremendous folks - then Dirk's drumming comes in and blasts away all further expectations - look how it flows with the guitar work! Song slows as bass lines creep and the death growls come back as a light symphonic piece plays (again almost like Ulver) a little further on, an acoustic plays for a while as the bass lines pummel again (in the back there's an electronic piece) that opens up for some mind-blowing solo work later in the album. There's an interesting duet piece short after with some interesting vocal techniques by Ruby that get chopped up in line with the electronic sense of the band. A new riff structure opens up Jorgen's growl fest and then blasting drums continue while Ruby belts out some strong vocal lines as the song cools down to make way for some electronics and riffery that leads into some unique melodies and some oddities that I can't explain in words. It sounds like a submarine in the background!
The next track "DCLXIV 1:08" features an electrified sound clip mixed in with some great electronic work that would do well on a disc by itself. If Lord K ever gets tired of metal, I'll definitely buy an electronic album from him! When the metal resumes, "The Great Retaliation Is Upon Them 11:57" opens up with a solo and features some oozy electronics that sound like Ruby and some sort of slime monster are fighting for vocal time. Jorgen comes back into the mix as aliens abduct Ruby (you can hear the beeping from the ship's controls) and then Jorgen jumps in as the song winds down and the bass sounds like the buzzes of a damaged computer terminal that one of the band members accidentally fried while trying to save Ruby from the aliens. Jorgen comes in and belts out rough gravel as the riffs decorate Dirk's awesome drumming while Ruby belts out another verse and returns to Jorgen and a new riff structure that leans into another great solo. Eletronics and horns (was that a belch?) open up the next portion of the song as I hear some other odd effects. There's a nice riff melody here about 5:10 into the song and Ruby comes back in as she jumps through a portal. Jorgen comes back in with even more gravel as another awesome riff melody at 6:40 comes in along with another at 6:50 that opens up for another phenomenal solo and Jorgen's demonic growl as Dirk blasts the drums and Ruby manages to belt through it, even though things get unbearable at points. It sounds like the whole track is about ready to explode at this point, but things slow down with bass riffs Things warm up as Jorgen comes back in and another fucking solo plays after that. Wow. Electronics come in and you can still hear Ruby on the other side of the portal, calling out from an alternate dimension. Bass riffs continue as Jorgen belts out more death metal and I'm sure the more that I say this, the happier that most of you will be. Ruby sticks her head out of the portal and is able to belt out another line as Jorgen lets loose a powerful growl that goes into a solo. Yeah, another solo that goes into a fierce drum workout and ends with a furious vocal line.
The next instrumental "DCLXV 1:12" sounds like a murmur with some blasphemy and the background orchestration for an apocalyptic film. This goes into the catchy riff melodies of "Carving Out The Tongues Which Speak Of Salvation 11:15" which has Jorgen's vocals at the forefront until Ruby comes in, but she may be overzealous with this one. Orchestration is also used here as well as what sounds like the opening of the portal that Ruby was trapped in, as it comes out and encapsulates the entire band. You can hear the sound of the portal as they find themselves in some sort of future world where the sounds of damaged robots beg for salvation but cannot find it. Ruby's vocals continue as Jorgen comes in and I like the effect she uses on this duet. A light acoustic plays for a while with a little bit of electronic influence that almost sounds a little flamenco. This is when the horns are heard and the guitar riffs warm up the rest of the track as a solo comes in as drums highlight Ruby's vocals, bringing the guitar back into the mix shortly afterwards. Jorgen comes back in to do what he does best as the song quiets, save for a few bass riffs that escalate into a new portion where death metal is the standpoint. Orchestration can now be heard as violins accompany Ruby's vocals. Guitars come back into the mix as ruby vocalizes once again, leading into something that sounds like it's about to thrash like Slayer. Well, it does just this with a guitar solo portion that certainly wakes up the track a bit and Dirk's drumming emphasizes that of course. Things slow down a bit as bass riffs and some light drumming finish what is bound to be the last part of the song. When it finally comes, a choir accentuates Jorgen's vocals and then Ruby comes back in, but just a little overzealous.
"DCLXVI 1:30" comes in so damn fast that you don't even know the last song has ended. It literally sounds like part of that track and if this is all taken to be one piece; then it is. Nevertheless, it is the last instrumental backed with orchestration and more distorted sound clips that sound like they're floating in space as they repeat endlessly into the final track, "Welcome To The Judas Agenda 9:10." this track features no vocals of any kind, but features seven solos - at least one from every guest. Tour-De-Force is the word here, folks. It starts out light, just as the last Tour-De-Force I explored (see Oceans Of Slumber review) and features some light electronics as Lars comes in with the first solo piece that just sounds breathtaking. Drums blast heavily as Danny's solo comes in and then Petter's only contribution to the album. A march is heard as the solo continues and explodes again making this definitely one of the best metal tracks in the history of all mankind. A spacecraft comes down as the drums thunder in a black metal sense as Lars's next solo comes in. Orchestration builds as Magnus's solo is heard next. On odd sort of riff structure comes next (I'm not sure if this is a solo, but if it is, we'll give it to Danny Tunker) and then there would be one solo portion left, which would have to be Lars' last solo which thunders for a few seconds and then fades out with the end of the disc.
...And there you have it! TCRA in a nutshell.
When you order TCRA directly from the band, you have the option of getting the disc in whatever format you could possibly want (even FLAC and .ISO) as well as the option to download and print out your own booklet or poster in several various formats. Yes, the instrumental cut of the album is also available and is definitely worth listening to. Some might even think it's better.
Nevertheless, TCRA is a monster of a release that shouldn't be missed. Since the band will never tour again for the entirety of the history of mankind and then some; the only place you'll be able to hear these songs is from this album. It also means that in 2013 they plan to start work on another album, which they hope will be even better than this. I see ways that that could be possible, but I also see ways that might make that really fucking hard. As I said, I'd personally like to hear a greater mix of electronics and death metal, something in the death metal vein of bands like Velvet Acid Christ and KMFDM. Some of you might not feel the same way though, and we all have our dream of what "the perfect album" from "band x" might sound like. Nevertheless, the band knocked it out of the park with this latest opus and I'm sure if they eventually decide to make it a physical form (the labels have certainly been talking to these guys, but Lord K is still reluctant) it will sell a great deal of copies.
As far as production value on the thing goes, it's top notch - the best that modern technology can offer. Not everything is mixed perfectly, but from experience I can tell you that nothing ever is mixed perfectly. I would rather pull out each hair on my head individually than have to mix. It's never good enough for me. Never! Even the shit I've mixed is not mixed good enough.
Psychotics aside, definitely grab TCRA and support the band. I guess if you're hardcore religious you may not like the album, but chances are that you're not going to be here at the Tower to begin with. You'll be in the Church.
TCRA is a monument for 2012 that might have skipped your radars. Go get it!
Highlights: All (12 Tracks, 78:00)