Monday, April 15, 2013

Revenge Of The Mayans! (April 15th, 2013)


Morian - Ashen Empire (2012) - Though the first track "Dawn Brigade 4:05" might be a little misleading, Morian is not a metal band by any means. They're more or less a hard rock band that I would compare vocally to acts like Three Days Grace or Flaw but utilize slight metal influence and more complex song structures than you'll normally find in hard rock. "The World Ends With You 3:41" and "The Boy Who Cried Wolf 5:47" are good examples of their best work, as thrashing drums back up melodic vocals in the former and power rock structures back up another great vocal performance in the latter. In Flames/Soilwork style riff melodies are somewhat toyed around with on the disc, and even though this is nothing new for metal - it's not a common occurrence in rock music and seems welcome. "Nemesis Rising 2:49" is a great example of this style used proficiently. However, the album's closer "Ashen Empire 7:40" is it's strongest moment seeing good use of the orchestration (that thankfully only accompanies this track and differs from the "let's have an orchestra on every fucking track" style that a great deal of bands seem to use these days) backing up an incredibly powerful ballad.

Morian's Ashen Empire is a great bridge album for those looking for a slightly heavier dose of hard rock than they're used to and I consider it a solid hard rock disc that's well worth checking out.

Highlights: The World Ends With You, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Nemesis Rising, Ashen Empire (9 Tracks, 41:00)



Reverence - The Asthenic Ascension (2012) - Just in case you might have missed it, this new album from experimental black metallers Reverance is worth more than just a listen. I was completely floored with the majority of the album, proving to be quite more than bells and whistles. From just the beginning of "Earth 4:32" with it's black thrash, symphonic and avant-garde leanings that remind me of Arcturus in all respects. Unconventional riffing mixes in with uncomfortable atmospheres and frantic drumming for the most part with constant structural changes and grueling scowls. To fully describe this album, I would say that it's a less majestic and more foreboding take on the avant-garde black metal that they pioneered and is a natural evolution. Songs like "The Descent 7:01" even feature rock guitar solos further confusing the mix of pure misanthropic putridity that flows from this disc. Despite that this album is enveloped by atmosphere and experimentation, it is also unforgivingly heavy. Those of you who would have rather pissed all over the new Shining album than would've listened to it, will find you were looking for in this one. It's almost as if these two were playing in the same studio and accidentally walked out with the opposite masters, not noticing until it was too late and already finalized.

Interestingly, you'll also hear the sound a woman crying before committing suicide in the background of "Psalm IV 7:05" which is not something I've heard on a metal album before. At least, not to my recognition. If the grimness of the album doesn't assure you that this is quite morose, the sounds of misery will. This is an album made with nihilism in mind, it elicits the feel of life being totally and utterly worthless until "Cold Room 4:51" kicks up the groove right before things get too damned depressing. And say what you want about that clean vocal part, but it's fucking beautiful. There's a slight atmosphere in "Genesis Of Everything 1:59" which follows up with the sullen dirge of "Those Who Believed 5:18" which at the end kicks up into a frenzy which brings us into the title track "The Asthenic Ascension 8:51" which begins with nearly three minutes of atmosphere and builds up to a more bombastic event that culminates in experimentation and sorrow.

Reverance's The Asthenic Ascension is well described by it's album cover. It's a work of sorrow and misery that goes well with the symbol of the illuminated ones that adorns it. Whether this be a marketing strategy or the band is literally awaiting the hell that will befall us should this all not be a marketing strategy as I have previously mentioned; the results here are extremely sickening and overflowing with despair and hopelessness. It's literally the soundtrack of a world that's about to be flushed down the shitter. I'd quite think it to be one of the many grievances that will play in one's head upon entering the "re-education camps." But that's a topic for later.

Highlights: Darwin's Black Hall, The Descent, Psalm IV, Ghost Of Dust, Cold Room, The Asthenic Ascension (9 Tracks, 52:00)



Dark Empire - From Refuge To Ruin (2012) - Picking up where Mercenary left off with Everblack and 11 Dreams, power/death thrashers Dark Empire have made an album bursting with near-limitless potential. A power metal tinged clean vocal, dirty scowl and gravelly growl make up the majority of what you'll hear as far as singing, but the drum work is right where it should be and the guitars scream into battle with a vengeance. Most certainly you can hear the influences here ranging from a bevy of power thrashers (Nevermore, Mercenary) and Swedish melodeath (Scar Symmetry, Mercenary, Soilwork) acts paint just one of the many wonderful tracks here like "Dreaming In Vengeance 7:13" and "Black Heart's Demise 4:13." Nevermore fans will especially notice the influence in "The Crimson Portrait 4:58" a song that would've made The Obsidian Conspiracy worth listening to.

Once again, let me note the playing on this album. Some of these solos are just breathtaking, not wasting their two or three minute play time when they've got it; and making good use of their time on the shorter tracks. Even lighter ballads like "From Refuge To Ruin 9:38" sound fantastic, even though nothing on this album stays too light for long and this track also contains one of the best guitar displays I've heard in years invoking a great sense of neoclassical melody that's both beautiful and mesmerizing. To be truly honest folks, this is what I was looking for in terms of good power/thrash. The fact that it was mixed in with death is a bonus as far as I'm concerned and I'd pick up this album in a heartbeat. Every track offers something different like "Lest Ye Be Judged 5:48" which really powers on a like a Testament track and leads into the Nevermore influenced technicality of "What Men Call Hatred 4:43." You guys can go on and rip off Nevermore as much as you'd like, because you're good at it and few other bands are. When you hear songs inspired by a band that you think should have been done by that band, said act is doing something right.

This album also ends it off right with a massive epic called "The Cleansing Fires 13:55." It follows the common style of light acoustic track into much heavier track, but features a nice atmospheric portion that rolls right back into the bludgeoning. After some guitar wizardry, the final chorus hits and ends the disc out with some bells.

Dark Empire have taken the best of progressive thrash and progressive power metal (definitely playing up the Mercenary and Nevermore influence) and have rolled it all into one big heap of metal mastery. These guys were signed by Nightmare and it only seems fitting that a label would pick them up, as this stuff is gold. A bunch of guys from New York really came into their own here and let's hope that this won't be the only bit of noise that we hear out of them. Potential isn't the word, folks.

I definitely recommend this one to fans of progressive power, power thrash and death metal as it's got all of these and more. Discs like this one really don't come along that often.

Highlights: All (9 Tracks, 60:00)



Antestor - Omen (2012) - Well, now it's time for some black metal. Black metal done the way that only Jesus Christ knows how!

What? Something wrong with that statement?

Yeah, hold on. Let me review that... "Black metal done that way that only Jesus..."

Hmm... something certainly seems funny with that statement, but don't tell Christian black metallers Antestor, that. Just in case you weren't aware, this isn't Antestor's debut release and they've been making Jesus-laden black metal that sometimes even rivals their satanic peers for a good number of years now. If the fact that Jesus is the subject of this material offends you, then please do me a favor and grow the fuck up; because everything that Antestor do on this album is well worth hearing like the opener "Treacherous Domain 5:32" and "In Solitude 4:33" which borrows a handful of riffs from Emperor, but those riffs have been borrowed for years now, so it's irrelevant. As far as I'm concerned, Antestor have the formula for great black metal down as far as the riff structures, the pummeling drums and the bloodthirsty (with the blood of Christ?) scowls go. Of course there is an occasional element of death metal and some dirtier clean approaches are also featured on the disc.

The resemblance to the demonic counterpart is so unmistakable that I could probably trick someone by throwing a track from this on a disc that features many other black metal bands of the more "evil" variety. Great solos are also featured on this disc, making the experience even more worthwhile. From a musical standpoint, this disc is ferocious. Almost every track on the album is primed and ready to smash your face in (for Jesus Christ of course.) Sometimes, acoustics are used on the record and the occasional violins "Tiflukt 3:42" but no matter what Antestor attempt, they're definitely making music that should please both God and the devil. "All Towers Must Fall 6:48" is a good example of this, being a little bit of an epic that utilizes more acoustic and lets loose a sort of tribal feel, almost in the sort of fashion as Primordial; but is filled to the brim with different ideas that all seem to enhance the track in the best way possible.

We could very well call this God's version of Emperor, and I really do think that bands of that sort of classy black metal would accept this disc and say, "Well Jesus sucks, but these guys are good." But that's the same thing people are saying about the new Extol album via the youtube comments. I personally don't care and never have cared what in the fuck that any of you believe, if you choose to believe in anything at all.

Music shouldn't have boundaries based on what it's about. After listening to some of the new Stryper album (Second Coming) I'm convinced that I'd certainly much rather listen to it, than to some of the more popular acts - Butcher Babies, Motionless In White, Black Veil Brides and whoever the fuck they're going to parade around as metal on this year's upcoming Golden Gods (streaming live on FB and on AXS TV May 4th) awards.

But as far as Antestor go, I would definitely recommend buying it. Just to show all of your friends and the naysayer's that even if Jesus is the subject of black metal which is an ultimate irony - the band can still kick serious amounts of ass. There's not a song that I wouldn't recommend on this one, each and everyone of them is filled with the very best that black metal has to offer. Regardless of the twist, of course.

One of the best black metal releases of the year, making even Christian black metal better than the new Shining record.

Highlights: All (10 Tracks, 51:00)



Blutmond - The Revolution Is Dead (2012) - The French band who concocted one of the most interesting (black metal?) albums I've heard in a while is back and with an even more eclectic release of songs that last years Thirteen Urban Ways For Groovy Bohemian Days (and "Martini Midnight Madness" which is a track I've wanted to put vocals on for quite some time, so perhaps I should ask them about that. I did find a good spot for a chorus on that track, after all.) The new album has a much shorter title that houses twelve genre-defying tracks but sees the band going in a much different and questionable direction

"Putting Hearts Together 5:13" had Swedish influence, saxophone and female vocals, only making it black metal in the vocal sense (so then is it really black metal at all?) That continues with "Regret 4:26" which sounds like a Swedish melodeath or even a symphonic goth metal track. "Pas De Deux 4:01" also follows the melody, turning the scowls into an odd sort of hollering that comes across with the same intention. The structure is artsy as one would expect from French black metal. "Stop The Rain, Neuzeit Jesus 5:56" mixes a ballad in with some heavier notions and still in some areas sounds quite Swedish, but I've never heard sax utilized in such a way before, either. "Absolution Lies In Evolution 4:05" starts out like Ulver having a seizure, but then picks things up a bit until piano's are introduced and ends with terrific solo work. I don't remember these guys singing so much, but they seem to be hitting the notes here and I can't fault that. About halfway through, I'm perfectly comfortable removing the black metal tag from this band, because this is now obviously not black metal in even the remotest sense and differs from Thirteen greatly.

"Moonlit Chair (TM) 5:06" is an odd song that includes some black metal influence almost making me put my foot in my mouth. But one or two black metal influenced songs won't make me reinsert the tag and who gives a shit whether they are black metal or not? The music here is profoundly intriguing with powerful melodies that seem to reach out like a comfortable chair and grab you. I almost expected "Breakdown 2012 6:17" to be a song with nothing more than a whole bunch of breakdowns as a sort of joke, but instead it's a much slower and drearier number that eventually adds some electronic Ulver influence and goes back into the bag of melodies that this band has. These guys are like Felix the cat when it comes to melodies, I almost expect them to just pull one out of a million out of that little magical fucking bag that they've got and blow my mind with each one.

"Birds Of Prey 5:01" actually fucking sounds like black metal, but with some Sonic The Hedgehog guitars thrown in there making an odd, but thrashy fucking mix. There's also some odd male and female vocal elements (through voice changers) added to another great melody (and some more sax of course) which I really want to hear without the vocals because it's just that fucking great that it can stand alone. It's good enough to hum. Even though all the songs are intriguing, this one's my favorite. Would you believe me that they also use a keyboard to highlight that same melody? This whole goddamned song is built on one great melody. Been a while since I've heard that.

Ah, here's another great melody. "One World - One Feature 5:00" just comes right in with amazement and then the sax starts up but the vocals aren't so great at this point. When the chorus finally hits, it matches stuff I've heard in current era metalcore (we can't deny that's where the influence came from) but despite the fact that the clean approach here is awful, the instrumentation at the end saves the song from sounding a bit bare. "Attention Whore 4:36" is next, stealing from Ulver but doing it right before it adds the female vocals that come off a little Paramore (I'll have to admit it) and might kill some listeners right off the bat. A couples scowls might not be able to save this one, but I will admit that the melodies are just as good as always. "If I Could Reach The Stars... 6:50" is decent enough, but despite it's length it offers little new and the acoustics aren't that amazing. That track goes right into the electronic metal influenced which plays from their grab bag of wonderful melodies (both electronic and guitar) but I don't know how much the yelling does for the music. Some of you might even feel that the entire album is ruined by the vocal approach. But I strongly believe that this is due to being influenced by the metalcore scene. This album is truly marketable black-like metal for the core scene even though it does have it's definite moments.

Blutmond's The Revolution Is Dead might very well make some of you think that your interest in this band is also dead. The interesting sense of black metal from their earlier album seems to have been replaced with a much more marketable sense of metalcore, despite the fact that this album is loaded with amazing melodies and more ideas than could fit in a bath tub. But maybe this approach will help them to pick up the wider variety of core fans out there and help them to profit as an major act, rather than just a whisper in an alley.

Highlights: Putting Hearts Together, Regret, Stop The Rain Neuzeit Jesus, Moonlit Chair (TM), Breakdown 2012, Birds Of Prey, If I Could Reach The Stars... (12 Tracks, 61:00)



Light Bringer - Genesis (2012) - Finally. I can get one of my Japanese guilty pleasures out there. I've got more of these and happen to be an avid fan of Jap bands (as you should all know by now) so I'll get them up here when I can. The cover of Light Bringer's new album (unless they've already released another as is common practice in Japan) features the vocalist with one eye hidden behind her hair and a lightning symbol to the left, which are major symbols of the Illuminated ones. Despite that, the band is as I would guess; quite popular in the land of the rising sun as the production quality sounds as such.

"Sousei 2:08" opens the disc of exponentially short radio-ready tracks with a light electronic piece that flies into the electro rock of "Ark 4:59" which is not out place for an anime theme. The female vocals are also not out of place for rock-laden anime themes. Most of you non-anime folks (I hadn't watched anime for a long time until I broke my absence by watching Berserk Golden Arc I: Egg Of The King last night and would HIGHLY recommend it, even to metal fans who have never seen anime in their lives. Plenty of gore in that one, as well as a captivating storyline that ends on a cliffhanger) would probably wonder what in the heck this was, but like I said - guilty pleasure. "Ark" does feature some metal elements and incorporates a good solo as well as some interesting structure, but keep in mind that all the lyrics are in Japanese.

"Noah 4:43" derives into expectable neoclassical territory (as the Japanese know best) which makes it sound a little medieval in nature and in some places like Symphony X. Damn, I love these solos. You know this stuff is considered pop in Japan? We get the crappy dance shit and they get to keep their solos. "Merrymaker 4:43" has an electronic approach at thrash and sees the vocalist picking up a little mature tone (she's really got the pipes) in tune with some Egyptian influence and other oddities (kind of wish I knew Japanese, some of these songs seem like they might have to do with occult mysteries - especially with the names and effects I'm hearing - but what can I expect from the country that made Bible Black and Discipline? (The hentai and the games btw. Yes, I have them and have finished them both - Disgusting!) It makes me wonder just what in the hell they're studying in Japan.

Now we're onto "Babel 4:48" which has a lighter approach and sounds like a rocky j-pop song. Yet there is more experimentation here than you'll even find an inkling of in American pop music. Solos remind me of something you would hear in the Persona/SMT openings. The experimentation on this track is fucking fantastic btw. It's prog but even farther out there than we do prog... whoa. Then it goes back to pop? Shit. I would listen to the radio if there was that much experimentation.

Now the next song sounds a little Demon Castle Dracula at the beginning and this one I think I've heard from a game or an anime. But it says 2012. Although I could've sworn I heard this before in an anime. Definitely j-pop with rock influence, but I'll accept it. This one's more of a ballad than the others though. But she's certainly got a great vocal tone. This is what separates our pop from j-pop and k pop. I've heard other cultures try to do this, but when you get a native Japanese singer, there's just no contest.

The next track "Just Kidding! 3:51" should hit well, but it just doesn't for me. Despite the drums, synths and guitars being in sync - her vocals aren't my thing here. And what the hell happened to the solo? The next track "Hikari No Oujo 4:12" is too damned poppy for me. Next. "Espoir 4:31" has a slightly more gothic approach and she uses the deeper vocal octaves for this one - at least the guitars and drums have returned in fury, but despite that the band is thrashing, the vocals aren't so great here. The solos have more influence on this track though thankfully. "Kaze 4:28" is next, starting out with piano and I can't figure out why I've four starred this one. Perhaps it's a good ballad? Maybe I messed up and was supposed to give four stars to the more metallic "Espoir." However, I do like the end leads on the track, another thing you won't hear in American dance pop. The album ends with "Love You 4:02" which is one of the heaviest pop songs I've ever heard. Is that a bad thing or a good thing? It's certainly not my favorite track. Oddly, there's a really great solo used on the track but it fades out in lieu of piano.

Yes, this band was classified to me as power metal. Japanese power metal. I'll admit, it's there. Listen to the band without vocals and you'll hear it. But it's definitely not what you're expecting. This is the j-pop equivalent to power metal and it's getting quite popular in Japan. Light Bringer does have some worthwhile shit here, but if you just can't do J pop, I promise that I'll have some heavier bands to showcase later on. Trust me, I've heard them myself and can prove that there's still some formidable acts out there.

Highlights: Ark, Noah, Merrymaker, Babel, Karnstein No Keifu (11 Tracks, 47:00)



Cyntia - Endless World (2012) - Cyntia is an all girl power metal band, also from Japan. They're quite young, but definitely have some talent. Also, if you're any red-blooded American male, you probably wouldn't mind having all four of these talented young ladies in the sack. As long as they're overage, of course. The production here isn't as high as Light Bringer but it follows many of the same tenets of Japanese power metal. What's different, is that this band has more of a metal sense than Light Bringer and is willing to write longer songs to show their potential.

"Midnight Roulette 5:55" comes off quite slow and doesn't achieve much with it's long playing time. "Shikisaou Waon 4:16" offers a bit more piano but lets it nature as a heavy ballad show through despite a couple of heavy thumps from the guitar and some bashing drums in the background. "The Endless World 4:25" sounds like something you might hear in an anime, but then again it also mimics 80's hair metal girl groups like Girlschool but with a Japanese flair. They've got the riffs down, I'll give them that. "Run To The Future 4:11" is heard here as an album version, so I'm guessing there was a single first. The chorus is just about sung as much as can be without directly yelling and has a slight punk nature.

"Through The Fire And Desire 5:10" is in all actuality, my favorite cut off the disc. It shows that these four girls can in all actuality; play metal and has some definite thunder as well as a catchy chorus. This isn't the first time I've listened to this one. "Reimei 5:37" comes next and despite the fact that in the background it's heavy and most certainly metal in sections, it sounds a bit watered down due to the "happier" sense of the song. "Beyond The World 4:25" is a great ballad, it definitely sounds like the best of classic j-pop and hits a little bit of a hair metal sense that doesn't come off too cheesy. There's also an intriguing instrumental session used in the track that's pretty unexpected and shows me that these girls do have potential for greater things in the future.

"Meteor Calling 5:56" is next and I really love the chorus on this one. The vocal acrobatics are simply killer. A little more than halfway through the song, some interesting guitar effects are utilized that go into the solo. Um... she can really play. Give her a chance to show off, will ya? "Shaman Dance 4:45" is next and it's really inventive in the fact that it really utilizes the keyboards in a fascinating way right from the beginning. The guitar really starts to show off again on the latter part of the song (again, this girl can really play) and then you'll hear the fucking awesomeness at the end. Listen to those riffs. Wow. That shit's pretty cool, folks. Never expected that from four Japanese girls. (But I also never expected Flagitious Idiosyncrasy In The Dilapidation either to be fair.)

"Voice 6:48" is a ballad, but I've given it five stars for some reason. (Bare with me, it's been months since I've heard this disc) I will say that I like the chorus and the melodies work well enough and the solos played during the ballad are pretty damned interesting too. Again, to all you dudes who think that a man is the only one capable of really killing the guitar - this is an all female band. She might not look like much, but Christ, she can play! This must be what happens when you give your daughter a guitar in Japan. Seriously, go check out the solo on this track via youtube. (Note: This is the album version of "Voice.")

"Genkaku no Taiyou 8:54" is the longest track on the album, already starting with some wonderful guitar riffs and some electronics as well. The track does certainly thrash along with the keyboard effects and does so for almost six minutes and that's when the band's guitar goddess lets loose with even more fury, eventually dueting with the keyboards and letting the drummer get a solo in before returning to the vocals. By the way, I just noticed that the guitarist is the only member of the band to display an instrument, not only the album cover; but also in the band photo included here. She's very proud of her work and very well should be.

"Bittersweet Nightshade 3:30" is the album's closer but it a little more jumpier than the rest of them, despite some great guitar work, of course. It's a little more geared at kids in a way, but hell - I'd rather my kids listen to solos like this than whatever in the hell our media's feeding them.

Cyntia have tons of potential. While not as experimental as Light Bringer, they've got serious skills and the music is definitely in the vein of metal, even if you cannot possibly force yourself to believe it. Kill yourself if you want to and feel that this is it, the straw that broke the camel's back so to speak - how can things get any worse - but as far as I'm concerned, I'd certainly like to hear more from these girls and they did deliver with a new disc this year (Lady Made (2013) which I have yet to listen to and may update on the 2013 releases, if I have time. Of course, I cannot forget about the band's wonderful fretter and hope that she offers even more great guitar work on the band's new album.

Sometimes, it takes a bunch of guys to get together and play some great metal. But in certain rare cases... it only takes four Japanese girls. You know what? I've learned a new insult.

"I've heard metal played by four Japanese girls that sounds better than your whole fucking band!"

Try using that one and see what happens to you.

Highlights: Through The Fire And Desire, Beyond The World, Meteor Calling, Shaman Dance, Voice, Genkaku No Taiyou (12 Tracks, 63:00)



Liv Moon - The End Of The Beginning (2012) - As we come to the end of our journey of female fronted metal from the land of the rising sun, I'll return us to an act that I called "the Japanese incarnation of Nightwish" and with this new album, the Japanese goddess who not only radiates sexual prowess and beauty; but also otherworldly vocal talent further confirms her divinity with the most bombastic and powerful album of her entire career. The cover of the album looks awfully odd for a Japanese album, it looks like a stone with runes carved on what appears to be a snake that surrounds the face of a Valkyrie. Not something you see everyday from this country.

The disc opens up with a sense of majesty, as I sense that this is a concept album. Concept album? How in the fuck do you write another hour of music and get it all ready in one year's time? The band just released a wonderful disc last year. Where in the heck do these people get their work ethic? It's astounding!

The real music begins with the first couple thumps of the guitar backed by a choir and we see that this is "Free Your Soul 6:37" and is completely laden with orchestra. On this one, she chooses to stick with traditional Japanese, but she is truly capable of the same skills in English. The solo on this one screams forth, backed by the choirs and orchestra when she then switches to English as seamlessly as she goes back to Japanese for the chorus. Just wait until you hear her do straight opera.

"Fountain Of Pleasure 4:29" continues in the greatness of the last album, offering heavy riffs to back Liv's excellent vocal work with no fear of throwing a couple solos in. This song apparently seems to be about having sex with her in the woods. But then there's the folk instrumentation that comes in - you catch that drumwork? - listen to the guitar riffs now backing that vocal, if your ears aren't keen, you'll miss it.

"And Forever More 4:31" sees Liv singing in English. A male vocalist joins in and they together duet on a powerful ballad. Some down-tuned thunder here but after the chorus refrain a short solo comes up... what? Where did it go? I could've sworn I heard a solo. Oh, there it goes. That's more like it. The last refrain really kicks this up a notch, I'd certainly recommend the whole track. Pretty catchy.

What's Japanese metal without neoclassical influence? And that's where "Black Fairy 4:34" comes in, backed with orchestras and some heavy riffs as we should expect. There's a solo, but it's nothing spectacular. Horns blare as the next track "The End Of The Beginning 5:16" thunders in, and I do mean thunders - the orchestras are laid on as thick as Wagner and there's a little girl singing at the beginning that later goes into full-blown opera. While I question some of the vocal effects, the chorus returns Liv to what's she's really good at. This is that Nightwish influence you wanted to hear. Closer to the end, things get really odd (hint of a solo?) little girl sings and then the chorus returns. "Valhalla 3:08" starts off with the same orchestral influence before the drums kick up and add some really great riff melodies to back it up. There are no vocals here, but it certainly shows that the band is talented with or without the frontwoman. Definitely a great show in neoclassical metal.

"Midsummer Eve 4:49" is a track that's about the hook, but features some great keyboard and guitar work that is quite easy to take notice of. "Hell 4:29" is next thrashing a bit alongside keyboards but seems to also be about the hook, yet she always seems to deliver. There's a keyboard/guitar solo utilized but it's more about the thrash riffs that back the chorus. "Kiri No Requiem 6:17" starts off with the orchestra and it takes a while to really warm up, but she kills it with the chorus again. "Land Of Spirit 1:13" doesn't do all that much as it's just a lifeless instrumentation with slight vocal harmonizing. "Immortals 4:26" comes right after with some heavy riffs that break up the acoustics. It also starts out in English vocals. Damn, that's some really powerful singing. This woman can nail it in both languages and I'd love to see her incorporate even more tongues into her work. The vocal work here is nothing short of brilliant. A solo comes in which seems slightly folk influenced (all of these solos are awful short though) as the chorus finishes it up.

"Oogon No Namida 4:24" is a little lighter but features a handful of rock riffs that mostly shows off the vocal approach, but there are a few good guitar melodies here and an unexpected solo as well as an expected one that continues into some strong leads which play off this track rather well. Really well, as a matter of fact. It's an essential ballad. "Voyage 5:11" is the technical last track of this album as the last track is an outro. It starts off as sailing music, sort of like the majestic orchestral stuff you'd hear in Pirates Of The Caribbean. Liv of course, kills it again with this great vocal approach showing that she's definitely got it where it counts. Damn, there's a violin solo. Works for me. Now things go very metal/filmscore - Now do you see where I get the Nightwish influence? The disc should have ended there, but a slight outro plays to end the album out. It's not really worth mentioning, just like the prologue.

Liv Moon has really upped the ante by hiring a full orchestra to back her and the band up. This is an unexpected move that could've had major consequences on the band had she screwed up. But she delivered some of her best vocal work to date on this work and it's definitely one of the most bombastic metal albums that you'll probably ever hear out of Japan. Unlike the other two acts, Liv has quite a few years of work on her and has plenty of notoriety in the country. I would certainly recommend this to fans of operatic metal or female laden metal of the symphonic/gothic variety. It excels in more ways than one and is certainly worth a purchase. Now, if they'll ever bring it overseas so we don't have to wind up paying ridiculous import costs...

Highlights: Free Your Soul, Fountain Of My Pleasure, And Forever More, The End Of The Beginning, Valhalla, Hell, Immortals, Oogon No Namida, Voyage (15 Tracks, 62:15)




Aerosmith - Music From Another Dimension (2012) - Well, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry... this seems to be where I no longer give one fuck about Aerosmith. Obviously, the act is now well past it's prime and considered legendary hence Tyler's appearance on American Idol last season. While I'll admit that "Luv XXX 5:16" has it's potential with the jazzy grooves that we'd expect of tracks like "Love In An Elevator" this track sounds too much like it wants to be "Love In An Elevator." The next two tracks "Oh Yeah 3:40" and "Beautiful 3:04" are alright, but that's about it. "Tell Me 3:45" is too much of a weak acoustic ballad for me.

But this disc does have a peak. "Out Go The Lights 6:55" returns us to the Aerosmith I did give a fuck about. Joe Perry also lights the song up and the harmonica influence works well enough, but the female vocal line is too corny "Do you wanna take a lookie, cookie?" Nope. That's fucking lame. Thank god that Perry comes in and saves this fucker. Can't say too much is wrong with this one, musically it's what we want from these guys. "Legendary Child 4:13" is next and as you know, that's the first single that made me curious about this disc (and I'll admit that it's not a complete failure.) This is the kind of song that made Aerosmith and it's got the whole cowbell and jazz riffs intact. Perry of course kills this one too. If only they all could've been like this...

Shit. "What Could Have Been Love 3:44" brings us to the ballads that may have helped to commercialize the band, (even though I like "Hole In My Soul" so don't fucking diss that one) but it isn't that bad from a song standpoint. This one will help them to sell singles, but I don't know about the record. "Street Jesus 6:43" is the last good song on the album before the hiccup. It sounds like Aerosmith at their earliest, Toys In The Attic days. This sounds like a really great fucking fluke that no one was expecting. Awesome? You bet. Joe Perry also lights this fucker up and Steven Tyler deserves proper recognition for this one, it's actually worth a fucking damn.

Hiccup. The next track is the "sounded good on paper, but will be a commercial success, or maybe not" duet with Carrie Underwood called "Can't Stop Loving You 4:04" Obviously, I fucking hate Carrie Underwood and pop music; even though I'll admit there's something in the trippy riffs. "Lover Alot 3:35" sounds like it's got riffs ripped from the theme to Top Gun but there's a good middle portion. Pretty damned catchy. I really like the guitar or whatever the fuck that is... is taht guitar? Give Perry plus one for confusing me. Next we have "We All Fall Down 5:14" and I notice that this is by Dave Warren, not Joe Perry. Someone fire Dave Warren. But somewhere, some woman and some man are getting married to this. "Freedom Fighter 3:19" is Aerosmith, but who in the hell is that singing? It's not Steven Tyler. Not a bad track, just odd hearing Aerosmith fronted by someone else. This track seems to be anti-war, which I didn't know was something that Aerosmith supported. But I guess these guys are lovers, not fighters. You know, I think with repeated listens I could accept this one. "Closer 4:04" is an alright ballad, nothing special. "Something 4:37" I gave four starts too, so it's got to be worth something. Again, it's the other vocalist on this one - not sure who he is. Hell, it might be Joe Perry. Vocally, it doesn't offer much, but the prog-jazz fusion that I hear musically is worth the score.

The disc ends on a ballad called "Another Last Goodbye 5:46" There's a female vocalist backing him (Tyler) up in areas and a violin influence. It's a soft ballad that mainly shows off Steven Tyler's vocal range. Now the album returns me to my normal perception of reality, until next time.

In all honesty, it ain't half bad. I've never had a problem with Aerosmith despite their big operatic ballads. "Dream On" showed off just as great guitar work as it did vocally, that's one of their most known songs of course; but "Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" became way too goddamned popular. I think it became even more popular than the damn movie it was used for (Armageddon.) There was a point where I was ready for an asteroid to take that fucking song out of rotation. But seeing the band returning to their old stuff is a welcome relief. There's a couple of good songs here, not all of them sung by Steven Tyler - but it's not garbage and offers some great classic rock. Just be ready to skip the crap. I suggest taking the good songs and burning them onto a shorter 40:00 CD, personally.

Highlights: Out Go The Lights, Legendary Child, Street Jesus, Lover Alot, Freedom Fighter, Something (15 Tracks, 67:00)



Prozak - Nocturnal (EP 2012) - Prozak, what the fuck happened to you? I remember hearing a disc in 2007 that saw metal playing around with horrorcore rap music and doing a decent job of it and now I see this stripped down little cover with your name in an artistic font that looks like you're trying to make it as a mainstream hip-hop artist. To tell you the truth, you look like an old fucking man there. Maybe you found Jesus.

From the sounds of the album, you did. Does Jesus = mature for some reason? It's like every time some finds Jesus, they all of a sudden get mature or something. Like Jesus is what separates the boy from the man - like it's some kind of right of passage or something. You're still a child until you find Christ. What does that say for science?

At any rate, this EP is less than thirty minutes and just a little over twenty. It's basically him saying "Yeah, this is the new me. Found God." Is that like a Where's Waldo book? Instead it'll say, "Where's God?" Spiritual beliefs aside, this is a decent record. It ain't great, but it's passable. There's a short intro that sounds like it would horrific stuff, but it's not. "Molotov 3:43" starts us off with some riffs that go into beats and rhymes with a little bit of d-tune in the background. The guitars and drums kick up a bit during the chorus. It's more like the album I heard in 2007, but not as good.

"Shadow Of Death 3:15" is next and it brings some great horrorcore with it. It's a song about the reaper with a creepy atmosphere and some great demonic vocal effects. Definitely want to hear more shit like this and the rhyme delivery is quite sharp. "Giving Up 3:45" is next and it's got a female vocal that I don't like so much, but I do like vocal delivery and the beats. "Vigilante 3:36" throws Twiztid into the mix and they made one of the best horrorcore albums in years, so I expected good things from this song and I got them. A little bit of guitars decorate this tale about a serial killer who believes he's doing God's work. All three of these guys deliver great vocal work as well. This is what horrorcore should be.

"Knuckle Up 3:26" features two other guys I haven't heard of (R.O.C. and Dirtball) which has a good vocal delivery from Prozak, but I don't like the other two guys. One raps like a regular old black guy and the other just tries to rap as fast as he can. The last track on this thing is "No More 3:58" and starts with a female harmonizing. The rhymes come off well, but he talks about career resurrection which is exactly what this is, like a demo for Prozak II: After Jesus. Then all of a sudden, I hear something familiar... "STRANGE music."

Yep. Tech N9ne brought him back. But he had to have a cleaner image and that's what he's eliciting here. There's no doubt that Tech N9ne sold out, even though his earliest material is not horrorcore at all. Even though Klusterfuck and Boiling Point were both decent, they were light compared to the lyrics that Prozac uses here. But I expect that to change as horrorcore music is even beginning to go corporate. I really didn't want this underground murder rap genre to go popular, but with Brotha Lynch Hung doing quite well and with some revolting shit that can be likened to death metal in it's ferocity (Coathanga Strangla) the genre is becoming mainstream as stuff like ICP now gets marketed to people who get lumped into this "white trash redneck" category and now gang music, as peculiar.

Oh well. Nothing lasts forever.

Highlights: Shadow Of Death, Vigilante (7 Tracks, 22:00)


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