The Amenta - Flesh Is Heir (PR2013) - Well, the new Amenta album is out. Despite how much I liked the band's Chokehold EP and it's signs of promise, I wasn't all that impressed with this one. It's not that it isn't a good album, because it's certainly solid. The band knows who they are by now and what they want to achieve and it's quite similar to the new Svart Crown album as I'm starting to notice the same patterns going on:
Grim, unfriendly atmospheres? Check.
death/black/core brutality with slight influences of prog and technicality? Check.
Not that any of this is bad, I mean it certainly sells the album - but when I listened to and just recently skimmed through the tracks I noticed very little differentiation on the band's part. Perhaps Chokehold spoiled me, there were some great electronic influences here and on this record I only get "Cell 4:54" which just isn't enough. I think that the album's opener "Flesh Is Heir 5:13" shows them at their strengths, but then they add groove with the next track "Ego Ergo Sum 4:54" and then the atmosphere comes in heavier when "Teeth 4:03" comes into the mix. After that, you'll get "A Womb Tone 2:51" which is a chilling atmospheric piece, followed by a couple of songs that showcase one good melody, but seem to stick to the same formula. In a way, it does sound like Gojira in places - a lot of current bands in this unclassifiable style seem to really; but it doesn't offer as much as those earlier Gojira albums did, particularly Terra Incognita and From Mars To Sirius.
I can say that fans of the band's earlier deathcore inspired notions will love this album, but I heard so much damned potential on the EP (and they seem to be much better live than in the studio) and I'm kind of scratching my head with this one, wondering where most of it went. It's certainly better than stuff like Nails and Converge though, but it's hard to consider the brutality in this - is it more along the lines of brutal death metal bands, because it doesn't resemble death metal. and it's certainly not black metal either. It sounds like thickly veiled atmospheric tech. deathcore with black and death elements and bits of electronics sprinkled within and that's just fine for some - they do a great job with this style and I've no doubt the record will sell. Is this a sign of maturation? Their most accomplished album to date perhaps? I'm not really sure.
My qualm with the band is that I wish they had done more. Some of you might look at this review after listening to the album and say "well, what?" and then I'll cite the last Outcast album. Perhaps even the new Persefone album, even though I hate the vocal approach on that disc to the very roots of my being. Songs like "Cell 4:54" are a one time thing, but this is when I hear The Amenta really getting out there and experimenting with those electronics. Other than that, the drums seem to be set to bash and I feel like I'm hearing different renditions of arguably, the same song.
It's a strong attempt, but what are they going to do next? To be honest, I think that if the band would focus more on atmospheres like "A Palimpeset 2:38" then they would the core elements, they might really offer something intriguing. The Amenta prove that they can do some fantastic atmospheres - stuff that would sound at home on current videogames even; but I feel like the core got in the way. In the end, it just sounds like a mix of everything that these guys do best and doesn't really seem to offer that much of a new sound to listeners. But perhaps I'm just expecting too much from these guys and should just accept this as a completely solid album in all regards.
If this sounds like something you'd be into, I definitely recommend that you grab it with Svart Crown's Profane because these albums sound quite a bit alike and they're still much better than that Nails release I blew through earlier.
Highlights: Flesh is Heir, A Womb Tone, Obliterate's Prayer, Cell, A Palimpeset (11 Tracks, 46:00)
Tormented - Death Awaits (PR2013) - This is my first time hearing Tormented and I can honestly say that it's a good time. Tormented is classic death metal in the vein of Revel In Flesh, Grave, Entombed, Unleashed, Revolting, Bloodbath and several others. The riffs are standard-fare for death metal, chances are that you've heard them many times over; but they're never truly boring - and the drums pound in the same fashion that you would expect for this music as well. They don't bludgeon as much as The Amenta and only reach full fury in "Blood Orgy 2:36" and "Black Sky 2:35" which owe much more to the demonic thrash of Slayer than the above mentioned acts. The subtle "tap-tap-tap-tap" on the kit seems much more interesting to me, than if the drummer decided to blast the whole time.
But that's how death metal used to be anyway, and that's what these guys are doing here. This disc is all about old school riffs, hooky choruses and vocals that might not have enough gravel for some people - but they're harsh enough to work with this music and damn it, they just sound classic. I can understand every word on this disc and that's what makes it more interesting to me. I don't have to go back and look at the lyrics, because I can actually discern them with my own two ears. I can actually tell you what each of these nine tracks are about, just in the same way that you can with Slayer or Unleashed. I still remember listening to "I Don't Want To Be Born" over and over and remember getting into that one, because I knew exactly what the vocals were and got into it immediately. For instance, I can still recall the vocal lines after all these years "a spawn of hell I am - the walking dead - and I - don't - want - to be born" which is how I feel with this record. Sure I still love the gravelly shit, but it better illustrates the theme when you can actually listen to the lyrics and even sing along.
But getting back on topic, the disc contains several different renditions of classic death metal, sometimes in the vein of more thrashy stuff like I've previously mentioned and at other times much groovier material like "I.O.T.D. 5:26" as well as melodic material like the opener "Death Awaits 5:45." If you like your death metal to bash, there's certainly plenty of that here too in the vein of "Funeral Fire 4:01" and "Insane With Dread 4:09." There's even some slower material on the disc like "Into the Crypts Of Death 4:15." The disc ends out with a strong closer called "In The Presence Of Death 6:13" and it's everything you'd expect for a finale.
Tormented aren't reinventing the wheel, but I certainly like what they've offered here. Some people might consider it too much like stuff they've already got and that's fine, but I like the old school sound of death metal and consider this band to be a great addition to bands of that genre.
Highlights: Death Awaits, Insane With Dread, To Spill Her Blood, In The Presence Of Death (9 Tracks, 41:00)
Cardinals Folly - Strange Conflicts Of The Past (PR2013) - Formerly known as The Coven, Finnish traditional doomers Cardinal's Folly offer up everything that's good about doom in this debut full length from the trio which should definitely resonate with fans of much of the Shadow Kingdom material that I've reviewed prior. Chances are that if it's coming from Shadow Kingdom it's going to be traditional - and that's always been just fine with me.
I don't really like how this album starts out though. It's not the intro piece, but the opening song "The Right Hand Of Doom 9:28." Sure, the parts of the track where the band thumps and goes into jam session mode are good, but why are the verses of this one backed by some awfully boring riffs? I mean, as the track goes on things get interesting; but those first couple of riffs might be all that some listeners with extremely short attention spans will hear, before they decide that it's boring. And Cardinal's Folly are most certainly not boring. They just seemed to have started out that way. I'll also say that the frontman's vocals don't help this process much. I understand completely where he's going with this in as deep throated a droll as possible, but this droll sometimes just sounds a tad off-key and might put people to sleep if not for the fact that these guys can really play their instruments. They're having a good time, you just might not think so from the album.
"Rasputin (The Mad Monk) 7:09" starts off with a very familiar Sabbath impersonation before the guitars begin to crank up and chug along, but in the end; nothing really happens. "Opening Ceremony 1:34" is a nice, ominous interlude that leads right into "Serpent Nights 5:53" which reminds me a little of Sabbath's namesake track, (it even contains some of the same melody structures) but it still comes off just as potent. Again, the frontman's approach isn't to my taste; but when it comes to doom, these guys know what they're doing. Right before the song ends, there's a nice little guitar solo and some end melodies that speed things up just a bit before the end. Not too shabby.
"Blood Axis Raiders 10:14" is next, with the vocals seeming a little in the back but the focus is more on the atmosphere until the guitars start to thump really getting the track going. The jam portion of this song really has it, when the guitar solo comes in the first time and then comes back in as the song slows, making it the highlight. Vocals come back in for a bit, but then the guitar soloing comes back into the mix. Now here's an unexpected treat: the track actually starts to thunder as the frontman lets loose with some harsh vocals and things do in fact seem to get a little death/doom for a while. "Cardinal's Folly 6:14" is the band's namesake song, so you'd expect it to be a good one (remember what I said about Iced Earth right?) but it doesn't really offer that much... at first. The track kicks up during the second part and lets into a solo while the frontman continues singing. A little odd, but nothing unheard of. I was always told not to sing during a solo though. My band got onto me hard about that - said I had too many words in my lyrics and whatnot. (laughs.)
I really like how "They Found Atlantis 10:43" starts out, with the waves crashing in the background and ominous riffs again. The frontman's approach here is actually decent here, but I wish there was more emotion in the vocals. He might be feeling it on the inside, but I really need to hear that he means it. Nevertheless, this is certainly one of my favorite tracks on the disc and a definite highlight. There's no real jam out session, but it just sticks as a sufficient doom track that really works. The subject matter, the riffs and even the vocal nature (sometimes) all seem to work for this one moreso than some of the others.
Now here's a dilemma. The last song is called "The Model 5:53" which I believe is an English translation of the Rammstein track "Das Model." "Das Model" is actually a B-Side, so it's not readily available on any of their retail discs but I'm sure that you've got the track by means of the internet pipeline. Now, you might ask me - Eric, how in the world did you notice that this was a doom metal cover of an industrial hard rock song?
Easy, the riffs sound like the electronics used in the original track. It's much slower granted, but I really like this one. It's a very interesting and unique cover that I'm glad they went the extra mile to do. Covering this rare b-side that's not even that familiar to most, and in a completely different style of music and making it work at the same time is almost unheard of. They'll get major bonus points for this.
There is one last track here, it's just a little longer than an interlude but it does feature some vocals in the vein of a whisper (which he should have used more - if you're the frontman and reading this, please take notes: the whisper vocal worked wonders for me) and a harsh vocal style (which should also be utilized more) but he's also got that sharp scream which is the icing on the cake. The song itself is not really much insofar as music, but it shows what he's capable of as a vocalist and should be observed.
This debut album from Cardinal's Folly is definitely worth checking out for all fans of traditional doom metal. Though I didn't like the vocal approach much, there are several neat ideas and a converted cover from a Rammstein B-Side which surprised the living shit out of me. It's got plenty of doom and gloom, but also the right kind of cheese that makes it all worth it in the end. Yes, there is a good kind of cheese.
Highlights: Blood Axis Raiders, They Found Atlantis, The Model, Transmission From The Mad Arab (10 Tracks, 60:00)
Magister Templi - Lucifer Leviathan Logos (PR2013) - This is for all you Ghost (BC) fans out there. It's time to hear where Papa II got his ideas from and these guys in Magister Templi would be more than glad to show you. These Norwegians are truly fucking great with their NWOBHM influenced heavy metal that has elements of doom in all the right places.
Ghost may have song a lot about Satan, but these guys take it a step further. The black metal meets doom riffing that goes into full on ritual of "Master Of The Temple 6:00" (Yes, that's an incantation in the song) was more than enough to sell me on these guys right then and there and I'm now a huge fan. Seriously, this is great stuff. Listen to "Lucifer 4:49" and tell me that it's not as catchy as some of the stuff you've heard from Ghost. I could play this one all fucking day, listen to those Priest riffs and Abraxas's fantastic vocal approach - now that's what you call heavy metal. Then they throw a solo right into it and things cannot possibly get any sweeter. They just can't.
Oh, maybe they can. If Lucifer wasn't good enough, they tackled H.P. Lovecraft with "The Innsmouth Look 5:56" which is about great old Dagon and I'm sure he's smiling as the Mercyful Fate riffs play hard in the background letting into a little bit of doom/prog as Abraxas declares "You've got the Innsmouth look!" and I certainly believe that I do after hearing this masterpiece. "Leviathan 5:30" is next, bringing in the thunder and some absolutely eerie riffs to boot. Damn, is this awesome. Then the track goes into thrash as "LEVIATHAN" is shouted and the eerie riffs come back into place. Let me tell you something, if I wanted a song about a giant, let's not even say giant - a massive serpent that can swallow up entire cities and consider it breakfast, I would certainly consider this one worthy of that beast. It's better than that entire Mastodon album by the same name.
Wow. This next one "Tiphareth 5:45" makes me think of Led Zepplin at the beginning, but it just doesn't seem to hit quite as hard as the others. However, there is a really nice solo portion and a return to the ritual - should I be playing this out of my computer speakers? Something might be listening. No, I don't see anything behind me. So there's a relief. "Logos 4:31" comes next sounding definitely in the vein of Priest and it certainly hits hard with a good chorus that would make the lips of Crowley's skeleton curl up into a smile. Or do you not know about The Golden Dawn? The disc closes with "VITRIOL 4:24" which is an acoustic track, but it still manages to work. Yes, this could've been done in metal but it works just as well in acoustic. Guitars and drums eventually join in and with the first thump the song some instrumentation ensues as the vocals come back in and you realize that this song makes a great statement, despite the cowbell drum approaches and the melodic prog riffs...hey? Where did the album go?
Yeah, it ends on those melodic prog riffs, right after the cowbells. I think I've got that right. Please correct me if I'm wrong. (That's what the comments section is for, after all.)
Regardless of the abrupt conclusion, Magister Templi is one of the best bands I've heard in years. Abraxas nails each and every single vocal line and chorus, and the other four demons offer amazing guitar work, drumming that makes the album stand out; and an overall atmosphere that makes this feel like an 80's throwback occult album. Ghost might be on a major with this material and perhaps they're trying to play to modern audiences with a less metal, more rock approach - but these do the same thing and they keep it metal. The disc is a little more than a half an hour, but it's an absolute must for all fans of the genre.
Did you hear me? I said that it's an ABSOLUTE MUST for all fans of the genre. These guys need all the support they can get right now, because this is an extremely worthy debut. Even though there were about one or two things I didn't like here, I'm still going to have to give this one the score I'd give it as a listener. Would I listen to this whole thing again and often?
Yes. I most certainly would. As a matter of fact, I've still got the chorus from "Lucifer" stuck in my head.
Highlights: All (7 Tracks, 36:00)
Sidious - Ascension To The Throne Of Self (PR2013) - First of all, you may want to go use the bathroom before you read this review. The reason for that is because Sidious actually does blackened deathcore right. Yes, I'm serious. This is blackened deathcore that actually mixes the elements of symphonic black metal like Dimmu Borgir with the beastly drums of Behemoth and still manages to carry the vibe of hardcore.
"Insurmountable Mass 4:44" is the first rendition of this, as it's got your first taste of symph-laden deathcore with some great melodies at times and a major basher towards the end. "Sentient Race 4:03" comes out bashing, yes you can hear shit like early Zyklon here in some of the riffs - this is really great shit, folks. I'm serious. I also like how this song changes directions and begins pounding, (the atmospheres are really fucking good here too) and they even utilize some scowls. This is about as blackened death metal as core can get. "Nihilistic Regeneration 4:18" almost sounds like death metal instead of deathcore (different vocal approach) and then when the song kicks up and starts an upheaval of fury, it almost sounds like brutal death metal. There's a slight atmospheric piece here that separates the song into a sort of melodic manner that features some deathly scowls as the deathcore vocals come back with the melodies returning to the mix. Then the scowls and deathcore vocals switch as the song really starts to blast and lets in the melodies. The disc ends with the title track "Ascension To Throne Of Self 5:07" which utilizes the piano work, bringing the scowls in (can they use those more?) and keeping the upkeep on the blasting drums and black metal riffs. It still keeps up the atmosphere though as things get downright ritualistic and are the furthest thing from you'd expect from deathcore. This is a band that made the genre truly their own.
Sidious definitely has promise with this EP. So much promise in fact, that I think you guys are going to be hearing more from them when they've got better makeup artists and whatnot and after they've made it very successful in the metal scene. These guys turn deathcore on it's heads by reinventing the genre and mixing it with black metal in the way that Dawn Of Ashes attempted, but failed at miserably. It's good to see that there's more being done with this odd offshoot of metalcore and death metal that was formed right here in the states.
I look forward to more from Sidious, as I do not think we'll be hearing the last of them anytime soon.
Highlights: Sentient Race, Nihilistic Regeneration, Ascension To The Throne Of Self (4 Tracks, 18:00)
Burial Vault - Incendium (PR2013) - This is the sophomore attempt by German progressive melodic death/thrash/black metallers Burial Vault, and having never heard them before in my life; I'll certainly have to say that I'm impressed with the display of musicianship offered here in these tracks. This is a concept album inspired by Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 that's loosely about "metamorphosis of a human in an inconvenient future." It's certainly nothing we haven't heard before, this also being the subject of some of my novels, (and my forthcoming The First Day Of The End Of The World Pt.1) but the way that these guys illustrate this concept is what really sells me.
"The Stench Of Burning Thoughts 6:12" chugs the album into place and plays with quite a bit of prog before going into some melancholy riffs that seem slightly in the vein of Insomnium/Swallow The Sun. Gravel begins the vocal portion of the album, but scowls come in later as the track shifts quite a bit between a prog-laden drum barrage that welcomes groove and eventually returns to the start where it reiterates and then ends. "A Blind Follower And A Watchful Hound 6:05" offers much the same formula with increased prog melody and scowls. There's a particularly interesting portion in the third quarter of the track where it really seems to shine, and then after that the drums begin to blast a bit. The melodies are enforced greater here and I consider this one a standout due to that fact. "Soil & Green 1:54" kind of chugs around like a bit of Iced Earth but seems like it got mixed in with Opeth somewhere along the way. A good instrumental that leads us into "Peculiar 5:38" which starts off much slower than the other tracks have been so far and takes a turn into sullen melodic death (Swallow The Sun/Insomnium again) for a while until the track kicks up in nature and welcomes a melodic black metal bash. For just a bit before a prog death portion comes in. The song slows as clean vocals come into the mix backed by acoustics. Then of course you've got your clean vocal backing heavy guitars and drums which goes into a strong melody. That, of course we've heard before. Then there's the return of the heaviness and the gravel. The scowl comes back into the mix as the black metal portion comes back into the mix. Some people might consider this one a standalone classic due to the amount of structure within.
"The Nightly Horror 4:03" opens with your fix of death metal. So far, it's the most brutal track here and doesn't seem to delve into prog as much. Melodies do creep up, but the vocal approach stays the same. The black metal scowls come back as the drums begin to blast again. That slows down to welcome melodies and prog backed by gravel. Now the scowls come back into the mix, and then some more growls as a melody ends us out. "Prelude To Peripety 1:37" is next, but it's just part of the story backed with synth and isn't required for the musical equivalent. "Fatal Accident 5:31" starts out in the opposite spectrum with melodic black metal that goes into death metal (that still retains it's melody.) Some drum groove comes in as the whole thing goes right back to black metal again. Acoustic comes in as melody backed with death metal vocals (ala Old Opeth) takes the reins and then finally ends out with black metal scowls still backed with the same melodies. Not my favorite track, but strong nonetheless. "Struggling Doubt 2:03" is acoustics backed with spoken vocal portions that seem to be part of the story. Again, not really necessary to review as part of the musical process alone since most people will probably skip it after the first time (No offense guys, just being honest!) "Moment Of Truth 5:01" then comes in with melodies to back it and gravel that comes in as the song slows. There's a certain feeling of dread here certainly; but the melodies lighten things up a bit as the scowls are tested to their merit. This guy's a hell of a vocalist, I think he does the album just as I would have done it - using the scowls and growls in the right place (and yes, I'm just as good as this guy - I'm doing some vocal work right now but it is not for the public's ears as of right now) and really killing it with that one scowl during the strong portion of melody - that's how you do it with highs and lows (high = scowl, low = growl - they're polar opposites, it's not rocket science) and it was extremely effective, so I'll consider it a highlight.
"Awareness 4:48" sounds pretty much in the same fashion as the rest of the record has been, lots of melody, semi-carnivorous drum play and a mix of scowl and growl. Definitely hearing the Insomnium worship. "Surveillance Web 2:20" is a set of guitar oriented melodies that welcome drums but seem to do well by themselves. It's a nice show of musicianship and it's absolutely necessary. "Catharsis 3:52" starts out with black metal riffs, but goes into chugging death metal with great vocal lines. The track makes you think it's about to thrash, but it goes back into a chug that becomes a slow bash with terrific scowl lines. The formula here worked to the band's advantage. Definitely a highlight. The disc closes with "Black Into White 5:49" which starts out with some terrific melodies that sound a bit neoclassical in nature. Gravel creeps up as things keep a slow pace and finally fade into acoustics. A lead creeps up as the band goes back into the realms of melancholy and at the same time shows their continued worship of Insomnium. Scowls come into the mix and they kill here as they switch between the gravel. Sounds of a war backed by acoustics end the disc out.
Burial Vault's Incendium is a disc that's definitely worth checking out for fans of Insomnium, Opeth, Dark Tranquility, Swallow The Sun, Omnium Gatherum, In Vein, Nightfall and others. They've crafted some great progressive melodic death metal with bits of black metal prowess that's sure to please fans of all of these bands and more. There's a few things that I didn't particularly consider useful to the listening process, like slight story interludes; but considering the fact that this is a story in musical form, I can see where it might need those interludes. I cannot base this one on the band's older works, because I have not heard those. But what I can say, is that they've made a solid disc with some great vocal work, and this is coming from a vocalist; so that should mean something.
Go get it from Apostasy Records, if you're interested.
Highlights: A Blind Follower And A Watchful Hound, Peculiar, The Nightly Horror, Moment Of Truth, Surveillance Web, Catharsis, Black Into White (13 Tracks, 54:00)
Persefone - Spiritual Migration (2013) - Since everyone is shitting their pants about this one right now, I figured that I should review it. Persefone has been around for a long while if you haven't heard of them before, but I highly recommend that every fan of metal hear their debut and sophomore release and pretend that their third disc never existed. This fourth album seems to be an attempt to recapture the progressive melodic death metal majesty that they were known for, but there's just one problem...
This is technical progressive deathcore. Now before I decide to throw my face into a glass mirror and decide that life is no longer worth living because one of my favorite acts of all time took the popular way out; I will judge this album as best as I can. But this band and the Persefone of old... well, they sound like two different fucking bands.
"Flying Sea Dragons 1:48" makes a nice intro to the album with some impressive guitar work. But when "Mind As Universe 4:41" creeps in with the synths and tech and prog melodies, it's not really what I was expecting. The gravel approach of old has been replaced with a raspy growl and clean vocals that are halfway decent. The solo chops are still strong here, but apparently they also wanted to have fun with keyboards so that's there too. "The Great Reality 6:27" comes in and again, not what I was expecting, but they've got their technical chops down, any sane metal fan will give them that. When the vocals come into play, I put my face in my hands. Oh, that's a nice clean approach though. There's a female vocalist also utiltized. Core comes back, (damn, won't it just go away?) then there's this core/clean portion that goes into pianos. That part's good. I can tell he's feeling these vocals, but it doesn't come off that way in the track. At any rate, here's where our guitars come in backed with prog. A light piece soon follows, breaking up the heaviness for a moment. Wow. I love the keyboards here. Clean comes back in with the keyboards and it works very well. I would consider this one a highlight. It's definitely a strong song even though I don't like the harsh vocals that much. "Zazen Meditation 3:53" is music that I believe one can actually sit and meditate to. The sounds of nature and flutes come along with it, which might be a first in heavy metal music? At least in this zen vein. You're damned right that's a highlight. Whoops, it's not all birds it seems. Some lighter music from the band does come into place along with some melodies. Now this is really more along the lines of the Persefone that I remember. The music gets a bit heavier, but it's still very good and makes a swell atmosphere. It's definitely beautiful and unexpected - but a pleasant surprise nevertheless.
"The Majestic Of Gaia 8:38" is next, and it begins with heavy technicality as the core vocals come back and go almost into black metal riffs (well, almost) and then the clean comes back in. All of the clean vocal portions on this album have been good so far - but then there's a core vocal that works well with the current riff structure, sounds a bit death metal and then is backed by keyboards. Next comes some wonderful spoken words that I can certainly agree with (yes all of you atheists, nihilists and whatever else, I'm a spiritual metalhead - not a religious one) and then they follow up with some great solo work and prog soundscapes in the vein of Dream Theater. This is again, certainly unexpected - but it's the shit I remember from their earlier releases and won't dare knock it. An organ sound helps the core vocals along as the track shifts to nature. Yes, birds and atmosphere. The clean comes back in and it's wonderfully expected as a guitar solo comes in and this is one of those real good ones. Yes, whoever the hell played on the old Persefone records must still be playing on this one... but this guy could play for days, why is this so short? At any rate, the clean come back and it's a wonderful; such a beautiful song - you don't expect metal to be so beautiful, but this is just that. "Consciousness Pt.1 : Sitting In Silence 3:22" is much in the same vein as the meditation earlier. It's got the sounds of chimes and light riffs that work together with an atmosphere that eventually kicks up with drums. Piano comes in as the song gets a little warmer and sets itself up as an intro to the much heavier second part as it slows and "Consciousness Pt.2 : A Path To Enlightenment 5:43" begins, but doesn't start out bashing. Instead it welcomes prog theatrics and that's just fine with me, it's been a while guys. You can tell they've been listening to their old Dream Theater albums. But in all honesty, this track is really just that good. Yes, it's all instrumental - but damn, it's amazing. For those of you who don't understand how or why I would say that this track is as good as a Dream Theater instrumental of the same type, you really need to keep in mind WHO this is. I am telling you, go hear those first two albums. If you don't come back with a smile on your face, then you're deaf. Absolutely fucking deaf. I even reviewed them here on the blog. It was way back, but type in the name and you'll read my praises and discontent for that third album. Which is now erased by this one. This track is still going, and now it's pure piano. Now that's fucking classy. Alright, so I'm starting to shit my pants over this one too. We can all stink together.
"Inner Fullness 7:32" ruins the mood though, sucking the almost released fecal matter back into my rectum. This American inspired hardcore opening is quite awful and ruined a wonderful mood. I'm not even sure if it's the same band anymore. There's clean here, but then the keyboard/core vocal stuff comes into place and that's nothing amazing. But what's that I hear? Like Hulk Hogan, I put my hand to my ear and I hear a wonderful guitar solo out in the distance. But then things seem to get chaotic. It's a good thing that things calm down as the light riffs come back into place accompanied by wonderful clean vocal lines. Couple of techy breakdowns ensue (could have really done without this one) and then keyboards come into place as a guitar screams forward ("holler if you hear me!") and it's just wonderful. it's really hard to judge this one, because I hate the core influence here, but love the solo work. "Metta Meditation 3:48" isn't as natural as the first meditation; but it is soft and slow, like good foreplay. Which I've never had. Pianos decorate the track as it slowly warms up but stays as an instrumental. It's decent, but not as great as the first Meditation. "Upward Explosion 2:55" comes next with some djent and chug and bleeps and bloops that go right into core vocals. Man, this track is so short; it doesn't even give the band time to show off much of anything. That's a stinker if there ever was one - just a bad idea, a b-side in all respects. Even the atmospheric seems kind of forced, couldn't they have found a way to merge this piece with something else to make a full song? This is just a thought, not a song in itself. Thankfully, "Spiritual Migration 8:47" comes into place and gives us just what we wanted. A long ass song that's hopefully full of greatness. So far I'm not hearing anything that great from this title track. Just a bunch more core. Little bit of structural change - more core. Structure change - more core. Goddamn it. Clean finally comes in, but nothing really good so far musically... you guys burned out already? Alright, some keyboard stuff going on right now... come on, please! Something! Sounds like an alien race communicating or something, but I still don't hear anything major. Just this keyboard effect that sounds cool, but is that it? That doesn't really make an atmosphere by itself. Alright, guitars get heavier with the same effect. The added bass does make it a little better, now the thumping - I guess that's kind of cool. Here comes the guitar solo, sounds a bit off here. Just doesn't work with everything else. But that doesn't stop the guy from playing and it's when the effect ends that things get worth a damn. Keyboards come back in, I like these keyboards more than the sound effect earlier. Guitar comes back in, they could have just done this and minimized the sound effect. Vocals come back in to reiterate.
"Returning To The Source 9:06" is the last track before the outro and it begins with Chinese native instruments and then creeps up into heaviness backed with one melody in particular. "Go!" then there's some core vocals that sound like they don't really go with the techy mess in the background. I believe in the concept for this album - I just don't like some of the ideas utilized. The band does have a way of picking things up though with some of the prog theatrics here and clean comes up right after that followed by a great solo that's definitely worth hearing. Keyboards come back into play, that's fine - they're welcome. Chinese instruments come back as the core vocals come back into place. They actually go with the music this time. band thrashes a bit now (orchestration in background) clean/core duet and then the guitar solo comes in right after (man, this all done so fast) core comes back in with some breakdowns (a little proggy, but still breakdowns) and I think this how they're trying to end out the track, in a pretentious Opeth "were trying to end it like Deliverance" sort of way. "Outro 3:55" is probably not even marked on the album's track list, but it's just the sound of a babbling brook and piano. Well, the synths get heavier and the orchestra gets more stereoscopic in nature. Kind of sounds like something from a J-RPG, like something saddening has just happened. Has that oriental feel to it. Yet it's also majestic in the way that credits are. I guess you could say that this is the album's "cast roll music" followed by, Thank You For Playing!
The fourth Persefone album has been a wild ride. There were some turns into core, but for the most part it's been refreshing. The first half of the album is better than the second half, it's almost like they are trying so hard to reach this core audience with that second half; but at the same time they want to bring back their old fans with some of the breathtaking work of the disc's first half. The middle of the disc is by far it's best offering, and not surprisingly; almost all of that is instrumental. I have no idea why "Upward Explosion" was put on the disc, it sounds like cannon fodder. At any rate, I'm confused by this album because it's like mixing something really good like sex, with something really awful - like having to shit, but finding that the bathroom is occupied. I'm really having a hard time finding out who this album is for, but I do think that fans of the recent Between The Buried And Me prog/deathcore material will definitely need to go out and buy this one.
Again, I really love what this album represents. As a spiritual freethinker, I like to keep my mind open and accept all possibilities. The notion of the eternal spirit is one I find profound. I've also studied quite a bit on this and I've still got a partly read copy of The Nature Of Personal Reality and an unread copy of the first book of The Ra Materials sitting in my room. The album is definitely as beautiful as the concept it represents, even though this concept has been tackled before and in the same fashion. Persefone vaguely resembles their former selves, but at least there is still some fragment there of what this band used to be. Yet I'd love to hear a band out there who can recapture that classic sound, maybe even make it better. I'll amend that statement with "good luck trying."
Still, I'll admit that it has it's merits.
Highlights: Flying Sea Dragons, The Great Reality, Zazen Meditation, The Majestic Of Gaia, Consciousness (Both Parts) (13 tracks, 70:00)
Amorphis - Circle (2013 W/Bonus Track) - Amorphis is back, but despite an impressive death metal-laden opener and a production at the hands of legendary Hypocrisy frontman Peter Tatgren; this album doesn't offer so much in the bashing department as it does in more melodic and clean affairs.
"Shades Of Gray 5:27" certainly balances the heavy and light nature of the band together, but the weakness of "Mission 4:33" doesn't hold up quite as well, despite an impressive solo. I'll also have to note that you have to go through about three minutes of boring song before you get to that solo. "The Wanderer 4:43" has a goth rock nature to it, but is based more in the clean melodies and excited riffs, then it is anything else. Of course, this song also features a rather swell solo. "Narrowpath 4:23" is downright folk metal with jaunty guitars and interesting leads that make it perk out of the mix, but everyone expecting more death metal will be sorely disappointed. However, another good solo lies in wait - albeit short and radio quality. It almost sounds like orchestral hardcore when "Hopeless Days 5:08" starts with what appears to be breakdowns right at the beginning. There's a little clean part where it goes into goth, but then another heavy thump. Clean vocal choruses are about all this has to offer. "Nightbird's Song 5:00" actually features some death metal influence, finally. Some people have said that it could have sounded like Hypocrisy without the much happier riffing style and that was more than likely Tatgren's idea. It even contains some flute, but maintains the death metal and that's what's important. "Into The Abyss 5:36" contains all of your piano and folk and atmosphere, but what really brings it out are the melodic folky leads and that impressive chorus. There's also a keyboard portion that's kind of fun and that'll go right into your solo, which is more forgivable this time in the fact that it's a real guitar solo, not a fake one. "Enchanted By The Moon 5:32" starts out a bit heavier and brings back the death metal elements, but retains it's melodic folk nature - they all do. But at least they're trying. "A New Day 6:00" is a little bit more grandiose in fare, but of course it's got lighter riffs during the vocal lines which pick up into epic atmospheres with the chorus. The whole thing goes into a folk-jam near the end, and then the chorus returns. Right at the end, you'll hear a saxophone.
Dead Man's Dream 4:03 - This track is actually worthy to be on the disc. It's one of the heaviest tracks I've heard from the band in a while and was clearly something Peter inspired. Amorphis thrashes and plays a couple of screaming solos in this one backed with death metal growls. Some clean is still here, but it's certainly unexpected. The track eventually lightens up, but it's the heaviest thing on circle. I'm extremely disappointed that this display of heaviness wasn't utilized on the original pressing, especially when there was plenty of room for it.
Now I know that there's a "Mailorder Edition" of this album with two more bonus tracks. I don't know how they sound, but they might be two other heavier cast-offs; so it might be worth it to check that version out and replace the crappy tracks with the heavy tracks. Again, this type of musical DLC is killing me - it makes people download albums, because it's usually so damned expensive to get what everyone wants to hear - the full album. When sites like GetMetal are constantly updating these releases to provide all of the bonus tracks for the fans, it's quite obvious that the labels are doing something wrong with these "Special/Limited Edition" albums. It's been done for years, but as long as it's done; more people who already bought the album will end up downloading these tracks because they're not wasting their money on another copy when there are more important things like bills and food and taking care of children's and spousal needs, as well as their own health or financial debts. Also, these "Limited Edition" releases are supposedly considered collector's items, but the joke is that the factories who produce these albums for the more popular bands don't actually just produce a few of these records and many people will already have them, nullifying the collector's status for the work. Even so, more popular bands will only be profitable in the hands of a collector if it is their earliest or most obscure and hard to find work. Whereas lesser known bands will be more sought after due to their obscurity. Remember that there are albums that have gone out of print, and if you have any early (non-reissue) Amorphis work that is no longer available in print, I would hold onto that before buying this. This is coming from a collector of many things like obscure video games, trading cards (I've got Magic The Gathering that go back to 1992) CD's DVD's and more. Yes, I collect a lot of things. I even hold on to all of my heavy metal magazines (no, the place doesn't look like an episode of Hoarders, I throw shit out and don't eat in my bedroom and know how to use a trashcan, believe in proper hygiene and whatnot - I just have a great deal of items (many of them survived a fire - it was arson) that I take value in and would like to preserve for future generations) and still have a couple old issues of Metal Maniacs! If you're looking for collector's items, anything on vinyl from Phlebotomized or the demos from Timeghoul would be recommended. Of course, that's just for starters - got any classic Manilla Road vinyl's?
But when a man goes to the store or goes online to order a physical copy of an album, he shouldn't be nickel and dimed for a couple of extra tracks. Especially when there's room on the physical disc. It's utterly Neanderthal. I do remember a world with no DLC, no bonus tracks and no extra crap that you have to pay for. I'm wondering what may have happened to that world and if there's a chance that it still may exist out there, somewhere...
Highlights: Shades Of Gray, The Wanderer, Narrowpath, Nightbird's Song, Into The Abyss, Enchanted By The Moon, A New Day, Dead Man's Dream (10 Tracks, 50:00)
See what I mean about room on the disc? There's 30:00 of space left. Those other two tracks would have taken up about 10 minutes at the most. It's bullshit, folks. Got to pay extra for a full hour of music.
Deathchain - Ritual Death Metal (2013) - Deathchain is back, and though you may not know it, members of this band are also in the occult rock group Jess And The Ancient Ones which is a definite turn of the leaf. Both bands are releasing new material, but I'll cover Deathchain first (especially because I don't quite think I'll be able to get through Jess And The Ancient Ones) as I've been waiting to hear it more, especially after 2011's Death Gods.
Well, Jess And The Chain Of Death; I mean Death And The Ancient Ones (that might sound cool actually, 70's occult rock and death thrash mixed together) first track is merely an intro called "Voice Of Sharur 1:31" which sounds something out of a horror film. I'd expect it for the credits to a rather revolting horror flick at that. Then "The Steele Ov The Vultures 5:11" comes in raging just as we expected. I mean there's definitely some core influence here, but I heard that in Death Gods and won't fault them for it. The drums are rabid, the guitars fierce and the vocals scathing. Nice little solo comes in here (But I don't care for the vocalizing during the solo. How rude! You don't talk during a solo.) and then it really begins to thunder near the end. A great way to bring in an album. "Assaku Seven Shadows 5:26" has a dual vocal approach, but I believe one of those men might be famous. Well, more famous than the current frontman. The reason for that, is because this other man could very well be L.G. Petrov of Entombed fame. But regardless if it is or not, (I know this guy's a guest, because the ad mentions it) the effort is remorseless. It has the same fury as the previous track, pulling no punches; but still sounding very ritualistic in nature. Jess And The Chain of Death definitely have a knack for making occult-laden death metal that actually sounds you know, "occult laden."
The effort is further reinforced on one of my personal favorites, "Our Lady Under The Earth 7:13" (Are they talking about Persephone?) which has a slow nature that recalls sludge in some instances, but sounds just as ritualistic in the female chants that adorn the background in some areas. Though you might wonder why this one is so long, the nature of the track really seems to merit it. Light (but menacing - these guys are truly masters of their craft) acoustics come into play, and are later approached by mountainous drum thunder. It really does sound like something of a thunderstorm and the occult incantations (in the most nefarious way possible) do sound utterly horrifying, which is great. "King Pazuzu 5:21" comes in next (he's got the head of a lion and wings - haven't you ever played an Megaten title?) and it thrashes like black metal but sounds vocally like The Crown. The song goes into groove (as there certainly seems to be bits of groove sprinkled on this as was Death Gods which was slightly groovier) and at some points reminds me of God Dethroned in the chorus, (but those melodies are too light, I can barely hear them) though I wish it could be a bit more focused.
"Like Worms Upon The Lands 7:13" has some of that 70's keyboard influence brought over from Jess as well as a Castlevania melody that I can't help but compare to one of the areas themes used in the DS titles. But that theme quickly changes to thunder as the vocals carry along with the slow rising fury that escalates into a raging volcano of black metal prowess. Again, I'm hearing the same problem guys - the lead melodies are too low in the mix. I can't hear them over the drums. When the drums silence, I can actually hear the leads again which is great. But as soon as everything starts cluttering, the leads are barely audible. I mean, they're there - but not where they should be. "Tiamat's Eyes Of Death 6:29" comes next, with a return to the sludge sound and some chants. Wow, I can actually hear the leads now. Love the vocal portion here during the first couple of melodies, then the thing goes right into death/thrash and the drums get a good workout as things get even heavier. Bang your head if you aren't already doing so. A chorus (similar to God Dethroned again) comes along and then goes into some more drum thunder as a guitar solo creeps it's way into the mix. Wha? Death And The Chained Ones? What's with this inkling of a guitar solo? Plenty of room for another couple of melody lines. I mean, all that happens after that last vocal line is amp fuzz that squeals in my ears and I fucking hate that. "Abzu Doom 7:29" is the finale and it's a hell of one. The groove just comes right in from the beginning and it keeps grooving as the gravel and scowls are belted forth. Still, what's with these leads in the background? Is the lead guitarist playing outside the studio or something? I mean, I can hear BASS and I emphasize that, because that's what I hear the most of on this record. BASS is great, especially with hip-hop music or so I've been told. But will it work with metal? These guys seem to think so. What the hell? This is really ridiculous. I hear like two muffled leads in the background somewhere and though the drum energy takes my mind off of it all, I still wonder what Ritual Death Metal would have been like if the leads could be heard better in the mix.
Whatever you want to call them, Deathchain's Ritual Death Metal is one heavy offering of occultic death that might top any other helping of occultic death that you'll get this year. Well, there is that new Atrocity - but this one is just about as good. I just feel that it's a little flat. You get drums and drums and more drums, enough bass to make the neighbors think you're listening to rap music and extremely carnivorous ancient ritual hymns of death that certainly stand out in their fury. It's certainly heavy, but I'm just not sure if it's as good as Death Gods was. Again, I think I'd really like to hear Jess And The Chain Of Death more. If they mixed those two different styles into one band, it might be one of the most unique mixtures ever concocted in the history of music. We're talking 70's inspired occult death/thrash/groove and prog rock all in one band. Get on it, guys!
The disc may have had some issues, but I don't think that's going to stop you from buying it. And it shouldn't, because the thing is heavier than nine hells to begin with. You already know what you're getting here.
Highlights: Our Lady Under The Earth, King Pazuzu, Like Worms Upon The Lands, Tiamat's Eyes Of Death, Abzu Doom (8 Tracks, 45:00)
Soilwork - The Living Infinite (2013 Double Album) - So the new Soilwork is two full discs of music. Could you have fit everything on one single disc by cutting off two small instrumentals in the vein of "Entering Aeons 2:34" and "Loyal Shadow 2:34"? Yes, it would've clocked in at just a little over 79:00 which is quite a bit for one disc, but it still fits.
However, the band might have considered this to be two parts to one story and that's why this two disc concept (yes, it's a concept album, but I can't really tell you what it's about) is spread out onto two albums. Could you have taken all of the good tracks from each album and made one disc of just highlights? Yes and I wish that they had done just that - if you want to create a story, write a book. Of course, I've written (not composed) several concept albums myself. I listen to metal for the music and the lyrics, I read books for the stories. Even the reviewers were kind of like "meh" by the whole ordeal, thinking it was a lot to ask out of a person. There aren't even any songs on here that are grandiose enough in length to warrant being put on a two disc recording like this. It's just a bunch of Soilwork songs that span the gamut of their career. If anything else, The Living Infinite is more of a celebratory album to the band's long legacy. And yes, there are some major hearkens back to the band's glory days. But let's skip all the fodder and get to it shall we? This is going to be a long review. (sighs)
"Spectrum Of Eternity 4:01" starts off this massive undertaking off right, sounding in the vein of classic death metal era Soilwork. The drums have never sounded more ferocious than they do here, even though the clean chorus lines still remain. This is the band more on fire than they've been in years and automatically made be very hopeful for the rest of this release. "Memories Confined 3:25" is next, it has a little bit of a progressive nature to it and is a bit of a departure - it actually sounds like they're fucking around with Dillinger Escape Plan in a few portions. It's got some nice clean vocal lines and a tasteful solo that goes into a just as tasteful backing melody. "This Momentary Bliss 3:46" certainly comes off sounding like classic Swedish melodeath, but it also seems like it would be at home on Soilwork's breakout album Natural Born Chaos with bits of Predator's Portrait mixed in for good nature. Yeah, it's classic. "Tongue 4:17" comes next with it's electronics and strong melodies definitely sounding like it would also be home on Figure Number Five if it had more drum blasts, because these drums are fucking ravenous. The chorus definitely has this one, I think it's definitely one of Bjorn's strongest. There's also a really nice, lighthearted sort of solo on this one that's majestic. Another classic. "The Living Infinite I 3:50" starts out with acoustic that gets slightly heavier and incorporates some ghostly keyboard work. When the heavy vocal parts come in, I'm reminded of Stabbing The Drama. It uses a harsh vocal chorus, but I don't care for the weak melodies during the vocal lines. it's a very basic track that is only slightly saved by the solo and keyboard effects. "Let The First Wave Rise 2:52" is a death-thrasher which continues the thrash throughout the clean lines. Why in the hell is this song so short? I don't like the chorus either, but I do like the dual solo. Still, this isn't so great and they've done better on previous albums. "Vesta 4:18" comes in with acoustics that get progressively heavy. This song's a bit more groovy than the others - little bit of prog and Zakk Wylde influence on the guitar - whammy ho! I like the chorus line, but everything else is really basic modern metal. "Realm Of The Wasted 4:29" is next, reminding me more of Natural/Figure era Soilwork but I don't care for the clean chorus here. There is a good breakdown portion in the song (not hardcore breakdown) but it goes into a weak solo and some stuff that afterwards doesn't work well for me. I see what he's going for, but it's not working - alright, maybe that second chorus refrain is nice. "The Windswept Mercy 4:14" is much different from the others in the fact that it starts out with clean vocal lines and really seems to let more of the prog guitar in. Obviously being a fan of The Night Flight Orchestra, I like Bjorn's actual singing voice just as much as his harsh vocals. The rest is pretty much basic Soilwork though. "Whispers And Lights 5:09" ends out this first disc, and it ends out with more clean singing. Even though he uses harsh, it kind of accentuates the clean here. The main portion of this is in the chorus but the breakdown of this song has some interesting drumwork while Bjorn goes into a spoken word portion and that leads to blazing drum fury that pounds down for a minute, slows and goes back into the chorus. Yeah, it's a highlight.
"Entering Aeons 2:34" beings the next disc with a rather djenty intro that in all actuality, wasn't needed. It's an intro and I don't know how many people will listen to it more than once. "Long Live The Misanthrope 5:26" is where the music begins with electronics and expected riffs at this point. At least it sounds a little different from the first disc (in the beginning at least.) I don't know how much I like this one though, in all honesty. "Drowning The Silence 4:28" has some great opening riff melodies, I'll give it that - but then it goes into the expectable prog (or is that technical?) thrash. This disc tries to be a bit more heavy and experimental, but it doesn't seem to hit hard on any levels thus far. "Antidotes In Passing 4:16" starts out kind of odd, maybe there's a slight 70's keyboard influence there for a second before melancholy acoustics come in. Bjorn's clean singing comes in, I'm wondering how long it'll be until it kicks up and he starts yelling again. There's screams in the background, but the main vocal approach is clean. It's definitely a bit different. "Leech 4:20" starts out thrashing, come on - you know you want to do it. Yep, same harsh vocal approach we've heard ten thousand million times. The drums do get heavier though and I like this pre-chorus. The chorus is actually quite strong here too. Maybe this one's a highlight. I also like the guitar work here, but it's cut so short when done so well. "The Living Infinite II 5:39" is now upon us, and hopefully it's better because the first part was a stinker. This second part starts out light and gets progressively heavier - here's some spoken word dialogue - then the riff melodies come in. So far, it's better. The chorus is much stronger, the clean lines are also very strong here. Yes, this one's definitely a highlight. "Loyal Shadow 2:34" actually begins right out of the last track, but then it gets heavier, if not a bit bland (some progression imminent though) but it does much of nothing until it gets into "Rise Above The Sentiment 4:03" where some nice leads are heard until Bjorn comes in with the same vocal approach we've heard a dozen times. There's a slight jazz portion here, you might not expect it - but that's right before the guitars light the track up and then the guitars and drums light the track up. This isn't Bjorn's show, it's the instruments on this one. The chorus is decent, but I really like what the instruments do on this one. "Parasite Blues 5:17" is next, with some interesting riffs as well, but it's more along the lines of groove. The chorus is strong, I like it. What's with all these spoken word parts? Anyway, there's a great solo portion on this one that's worth noting but the song just kind of ends abruptly. Well, on a nice effect - but it doesn't feel conclusive. The final track is "Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard 5:24" and it starts out with electronics, but gets surprisingly slow, deep and heavy. There's also a nice guitar solo that comes right in, despite the pounding. After some more electronics, an unbelievably welcome presence of death metal comes in. Take note of this, it's unparalleled and unexpected. Next some atmosphere comes in and after taking it all in, I feel it's arguably the best track on the album.
I have just one thing to say after listening to that closer:
Dear, hard working musicians of Soilwork;
I must admit that I'm a bit confused with your new album, The Living Infinite. I thought that after a long time since the release of the last album, you would come back with a new energy and perhaps a new edge. However, it sounds like you're holding back on this effort and that is readily apparent. While there are death metal moments, interesting ideas and things creeping up on this album, they all feel like mere glimpses of what you're truly capable of, as a long running and well-experienced heavy metal act. Unfortunately, only two tracks in particular really stuck out for me on the release, namely "Spectrum Of Eternity" and "Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard" which very well might be one of the single best songs that you guys have ever written as a band. And Bjorn, I love your clean vocal approach just as much as everyone else, but why did this album feel so formulaic?
Let me clarify this:
Song A (example)
verse, chorus, verse, breakdown portion (usually contains a short solo), chorus refrain
Most of the album seems to be built this way, with the breakdown portion offering the only point of interest for the gist of the material. Some songs are so bland in nature, that I'm literally having to judge them merely on the chorus portions alone. Why? You're all so much better musicians than that. Are you afraid of losing fans if you don't stick to this formulaic approach? When I heard "Oracles" I was utterly flabbergasted. Yes, that is a song that I would pay for with money out of pocket. But the rest of this material is questionable with a slight exception to the opener. No one is telling you to make another Steelbath Suicide or Chainheart Machine, but it would be really nice if we could get more differentiation and structure in the future, rather than hearing you resort to the same formula that you we've heard for many years now. There's a reason that people still like those old albums, and that's because they offer more than just a strong chorus line. In addition, the lead guitar just wasn't utilized as much as it should have been. Two instrumentals follow, one of which is incredibly bland and could do with a bit of guitar wizardry to perk things up. The solo portions on the record were good, but they all seemed to have the potential to be carried much further.
Now I know that this must've been a massive undertaking for you guys, but the fact of the matter remains that it still sounds very much like the melodic death metal equivalent of ABC gum. I've already tasted it and it's run out of flavor. We need something new and something fresh - something that you've alluded to here, but damn it; we may have to wait another couple of years before we actually get that fresh reinvention. As a longtime fan, I'm appalled that this two disc release is almost devoid of something more than what we've heard on nearly every release since Predator's Portrait and it was only welcomed there, because it wasn't something that we hadn't ever heard before from the band. This album seems to have gotten such mediocre scores because it really was so bland and expectable, something that doesn't make good musicians stand out amongst the ever-growing pack and the flood of metal discs that get released every year. These two discs of material showcase almost nothing, when we know that you're capable of far much more. If this two disc release is the send-off you're giving us, I will just let you know that in all honesty I'm clearly not happy with it; but will happily await your next project. Once again, I'm quite fond of The Night Flight Orchestra and wouldn't mind hearing another one of those in the future. I just know that from the story told by the music itself; you're capable of much more and could have crafted an exceptional masterpiece of an album that's an altogether different and unique shade of the band. I await such a release.
Now, it's doubtful that anyone from the band will actually read the letter (let alone Bjorn Strid himself) that I've enclosed with this review, but you never know. At any rate, I can honestly say that I cannot recommend this new Soilwork disc. I just think it's got too much safe material and doesn't seem to offer enough risks that the band needs to take right now to make a dent in the massive melodic death metal genre that they had a major hand in creating. I'll be a fan of Soilwork until the day I die, but that doesn't mean that I'll stand by all of their releases. Nevertheless; it does have a few meritable tracks and seems to serve as a celebratory note of the band's legacy, if nothing else.
You're welcome to check out the tracks that I've highlighted, but other than that; this album is not a metal necessity for 2013. That is backed by complete honesty. I wanted so much to like this album, even putting aside mediocre reviews until I heard the discs myself; but it feels absolutely horrible that I find myself in agreement with the other reviewers.
Highlights: Spectrum Of Eternity, This Momentary Bliss, Tongue, Whispers And Lights, Leech, The Living Infinite II, Rise Above The Sentiment, Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard (2 Discs, 20 Tracks, 84:00)
Avantasia - The Mystery Of Time (2013 2 Disc Limited Edition) - Alright, next we're on Avantasia. Now, it hasn't been that long since Avantasia released their guest-laden dual album set, and an even shorter amount of time has passed since the new Edguy released, to mediocre status. Being a fan of Sammet's work, I confess to continue dragging along behind him and continuing to listen and to review his works as they come escaping from his rectal cavity. This latest offering is called The Mystery Of Time and it is considered "A Rock Opera" according to the text below the title. Great! So this will be in the vein of Metal Opera Pt I & II right? Well, not exactly...
"Spectres 6:09" is a great start for the piece, beginning just like you would expect for a kind of metal opera. It is replete with thundering power metal riffs that are highlighted by orchestrated atmosphere. Tobias's vocals come in and they deliver from the very first note. This is a good sign. I would certainly say that the chorus here is powerful enough to carry the track all of the way to the end, and there seems to be enough progression in the overall song to keep it from getting boring. The song has a surprisingly evil breakdown however, it just sounds sort of ghastly and the keyboard solo here goes with that perfectly. The chorus comes back, but leaves us with a bit of a long atmosphere that I think is overkill. "The Watchmaker's Dream 4:14" is a bit shorter and begins with riffs that I'd mistake more for Edguy than Avantasia. This has a bit of a 70's feel to it in the keyboards and seems off for the band. I'm actually thinking Ayreon here, to be honest but that might be because of Arjen Lucassen actually being on the track! The guitar/keyboard solo is quite good though. "Black Orchid 6:52" features a very familiar voice in the vein of Biff Byford from Saxon, whom Tobias duets with on this slightly slower (yet still grandiose) song. When the chorus comes in, the orchestra perks up as such with most of the choral material here. "When Clock Hands Freeze 4:35" follows the same format of classic Avantasia (melodic, yet speedy power metal choruses) and reminds me of Helloween, probably because Michael Kiske is featured on it! He definitely highlights the track along with the screaming guitar solo placed right near the end of the track.
So far, so good. Right? But then there's this. "Sleepwalking 3:52" is a horrible male and female duet (the female vocalist seems to be uncredited in the ad) but the music on the track literally sounds like fucking Coldplay. Yes, let's not even deny it; those are Coldplay riffs to the core, sounding just like that shitty "Home" song that plays on the work PA all the time. Pretentious little fucks. "We never write an album that's more than 40 minutes long." Fuck you once again, you pretentious bastards! You ripped off U2 and put more prog into your music, trying to be a mix between a more cleaner Tool and Radiohead. All you fucks can go fucking fuck off somewhere. I fucking hate Coldplay! And I don't want to be reminded of Coldplay when I'm hearing Avantasia. Fuck you for this one, Tobias. This is horseshit sellout quality fodder. "Savior In The Clockwork 10:40" starts out with atmosphere in the vein of a film opening, but gets surprisingly heavy with some prog riffs when the music kicks in. The vein of the song seems to carry the same feel, light vocal refrains during the vocal lines of the track and then a higher pitch on the chorus. There's a light break as the riffs kick up let loose with a flying guitar solo. "Invoke The Machine 5:30" is more along the lines of power metal with some nice guitar melodies at the very beginning. The other guy (I'm not sure who it is) actually throws in a couple vocal lines during the Priestly part of the song, but Tobias doesn't really sing much during the high parts, except on the chorus and in a few vocal lines. The songs always seem to start up heavy and then dip down to light melodies when Tobias sings the first couple of vocal refrains and this is getting old to me. As expected, the guitars now begin to thunder and let loose into another screaming solo. "What's Left Of Me 5:07" starts out with the piano and orchestra and it's a ballad. I'm not sure who the gentleman singing is (many of these guys are before my time) but he will be familiar to many of you. It's a very 80's style ballad, you've heard plenty of ballads just like this before; I guarantee it. The solo is even in the same place as it is for most of these songs (it's formulaic as hell.) The next song "Dweller In A Dream 4:45" comes in with some keyboard induced power metal where it comes off as a hit. This is really what you expect from Avantasia or Edguy, but I will say that I much prefer the guest vocalist to Tobias on this track. Of course, the rinse and repeat formula puts a guitar solo in the same spot. The disc officially ends with "The Great Mystery 10:02" but there's a few bonus tracks here and I'll cover those in a bit. The track begins with light piano as the guest (Bob Catley) belts out a couple of vocals. The track is surprisingly light and ballady, not so much of what I wanted, but will admit that it has it's moments. Some heavy riffs finally do creep up in the track, but then it changes to a light approach - where it then transforms into a different style of music altogether. After that, we're treated to some more atmospheres (got to utilize that damn orchestra you paid so much money for) and as the riffs come back into the mix, it begins to sound a little like Nightwish. Everything slow as piano and light vocals come back into the mix. The album ends out with the choir and the drums getting the last note. It's a good way to end an album and has more structure than anything else on the disc, making it a highlight.
The Cross And You 4:16 - This track is surprisingly, a heavy number that could've been placed on the regular album (it fits on the special edition disc just fine, money grubbing bastards) with a straightforward chorus. I'm not sure if it's religious, because I've never known Sammet to be a religious man; (far from it in all actuality) but it with lyrics like "You've got to make it through, until it's just the cross and you" make me wonder.
Death Is Just A Feeling (Alternate Version) 5:22 - This is a different version of a track from Avantasia's 2010 album Angel Of Babylon. Having just listened to the original with the guest there, (I think it's Alice Cooper?) I'm definitely considering this unnecessary. As a matter of fact, they should have just added "The Cross And You" into the album and just included the instrumental disc as the only bonus. Who the fuck is working at NB these days? I swear, this particular label has been making me fume ever since they've started this musical DLC shit, but since I've already addressed this on the Amorphis review, there's no sense in digging up and beating the dead horse that I've already beaten enough this week.
Bonus Disc - Instrumental Album
This instrumental album is not completely instrumental, there are still a few chorus lines that the lazily forgot to remove, defeating my efforts to put black and death metal vocal lines on the disc. Of course, I could write my own lyrics and change the entire nature of this album. On second thought, I just don't have enough fucking time to do that with book work (yes, I'm still working on my novels) and some other vocal work that I'm doing (as soon as I can find time for that) when I'm not writing interviews next week.
Avantasia's The Mystery Of Time is certainly back to the roots of the project, in so far as operatic power metal. I think that fans will be pleased, despite that it's not as multi-faceted as The Scarecrow, which is still my personal favorite Avantasia album. Plenty of respected musical guests lend their support here (if you're interested, just check out Metal Archives) and the result is a thrilling album that's as much of a throwback to the band's classic style, as it is a new reinvention. "Sleepwalking" should have been replaced by "The Cross And You" and fans should openly demand the album to be re-pressed, destroying the Coldplay fodder from our memory forever. "We're sorry" doesn't cut it. There is no need to get the deluxe edition of this album either, unless you just have to have the instrumental disc. Simply download "The Cross And You" and then replace "Sleepwalking" with it and you'll have a solid record that clocks in at an hour's time.
Bullshitting aside, this album is definitely a strong return to form that is necessary for any fan of Avantasia or operatic power metal music.
Highlights: Spectres, Dweller In A Dream, The Great Mystery, The Cross And You (12 Tracks, 71:00 - Instrumental Disc Not Applicable)
7.5/10 (Replace "Sleepwalking" with "The Cross And You" to get an 8/10)
Cathedral - The Last Spire (2013) - Well, this is my first ever Cathedral disc which is kind of funny, because it's also the band's final album. It pulls no punches, being about an hour long and containing no incessant "special edition bonus track" fodder. These gentlemen just decided to put everything they had of merit (or probably everything that they had recorded for the album) on just one disc and left it at that.
After the album opens with "Entrance To Hell 3:07" I'm treated to the Sabbathy riffs of "Pallbearer 11:38" which contains some of the most foreboding doom I've heard in a while, albeit female vocal harmonization. Acoustics also come for a minute as something that reminds me of hardcore comes in next. Whew, what a mix. "Cathedral Of The Damned 5:48" continues with the bleak fuzz, but still provides just enough of a groove to keep things entertaining. There's a slight keyboard session of weirdness that precedes some spoken vocals and a solo. It's pretty basic. "Tower Of Silence 6:53" sounds about the same - bleak, fuzzy doom, just the way we like it. "Infestation Of Grey Death 9:02" also starts out about the same, but contains some sullen acoustics that add to the dread. Things start to thump much later on the track and that's when you can start banging your head. "An Observation 10:19" is much in the same fashion as most of the material here, so you know what you're getting here. A violin also appears on this track, along with some 70's keyboard effects that back the thundering doom riffs. There are some weird prog moments here also, but it sounds like what Pink Floyd would've done had they been a bit more dark. The violin, as I've mentioned; proves itself as being just as worthy as the guitar at bellowing forth sorrow and fear. But that's when things start to get really odd... what comes after is a prog circus that kind of sounds like a spaceship. The damn circus melodies come in at one point, and so do some atmospherics and some female choir effects and prog riffs that seem to almost end out the track, but it ends with doom riffs, as we'd expect. What a good show, gentlemen! "The Last Laugh 0:38" is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the disc, because it's one of the greatest interlude pieces made in the history of mankind. Listen to it, it's great - the sound of absolute madness. Someone needs to do a whole album based on that. I only wish it could've been longer. But the disc ends out with "This Body, Thy Tomb 8:46" which is Cathedral's last word; so to speak. Just as we'd expect, it's doom as bleak and thunderous as most of the album has been; but with a light acoustic that leads into a great guitar melody and some atmosphere. That goes back into keyboard laden doom which continues without vocal lines and ends the legacy of Cathedral out with some acid-laden amp fuzz. (Think early, and current era Boris)
Cathedral's The Last Spire is a record that serves as a swansong to their legacy. The band likens the material as their spiritual second album rather than their last and this 70's doom throwback material definitely seems so. I recommend this album to all fans of doom, because that's exactly what it is. It's doom, done as well as can be done by legends who've made it for decades. Chances are that you will pick up this album, even if I didn't like it. But that is definitely not the case. It's a shame that Cathedral called it quits, just like Candlemass last year; but at least they've left us with their best, rather than their worst.
Highlights: An Observation, The Last Laugh (8 Tracks, 56:00)
Vreid - Welcome Farewell (2013 Deluxe Edition) - Vried are back, but this time they've decided to go with a more straight-forward black n' roll approach that greatly departs from the prog-laden black metal on their last album, simply entitled "V." Like the name implies, it is a welcome farewell to the band's old style of black metal, yet still retains a few elements of it. If we were to compare the two by album cover alone, we would notice that V's cover seems more majestic, where as the cover of Welcome Farewell seems something a little more along the lines of horror. It very much seems like a sellout attempt to be perfectly honest and I don't believe many purists will be happy with the attempt.
The band already comes thrashing about like Satyricon with the first track, "The Ramble 5:19" which does still contain a little bit of prog black despite it's thrash nature. "Way Of The Serpent 5:30" does sound in the realms of traditional melodic black metal however, and should appeal to fans of the band's prior work. It also contains a great little solo, if you could hear it. Turn up your amp! "The Devil's Hand 3:41" starts out with definite prog and rock elements, but still comes off as something fresh. The shredding at the beginning of the track made me smile. The track actually starts to sound punk influenced later on, something that would make Fenrir smile. "Welcome Farewell 6:33" doesn't even sound like black metal at first, that opening melody reminds me of metalcore; but as the track continues it does manage to continue to embody the spirit of black metal. You'll definitely have your thrash sections (and solos if you can hear them) as the track seems to be a battle between the Norwegian and modern sound of black metal, culminating in melancholy which seems to carry the track off with a rather nice set of riff melodies in itself.
The next track is the first one that many of us heard, it's "The Reap 3:58" and obviously has lots of black n' roll influence. It's a good enough track, definitely balancing the harshness of black metal and the balls out approach of classic rock together in a nice and well-structured package. "Sights Of Old 8:38" is the longest track on this album, starting out with atmosphere but going into a very traditional approach of black metal that should make most purists smile with glee. There are certainly some thrash portions here, but this track is surprisingly old-school, especially in production value. Some nice melodies still manage to come in though and light the whole track up, which at any other moment is bashing. Until you get three-quarters of the way through and the whole thing takes on a different approach that includes light melodies and remarkable guitar wizardry in an unexpected atmosphere that really must be heard to be believed. "Black Waves 4:20" takes a while to start up, but automatically unleashes some impressive melodies from the start. You'll hear them in the background before the main riffs come in. When the vocals come in, they take on a gothic approach that will turn off about a million purists; but works perfectly well for me. This is really shaping up to be the black metal AOTY for me, thus far. The disc officially ends with "At The Brook 4:49" which showcases some guitar atmospheres before the main riffs start kicking. Odd that they would end this with an obvious nod to Satyricon, but it works for me. Later on in the song, some prog comes in and brings a bit of structure before the Satyr-thrash comes back in. Screaming guitars solo shortly after that, and after one more vocal line and some more melodies, the track ends on one riff. So does the normal version of the disc.
Fossil 5:57 - Yes, this track is near six minutes in length and would've been great as a staple from the beginning. The track uses some prog riffs and guitar wizardry before it opens up with a scowl. But what's going to piss most people off, is that you'll have to pay extra for what later becomes a black metal basher. I mean, this is the kind of black metal meets prog and rock thing that you wanted right? It's a great representation of the disc, should have been on the album from the get-go. There are no excuses. Melodies come in much later, to make this one just as much of a highlight (it already was) as everything else on the disc. Some people I'm sure would rather have this than "Black Waves" and I can't blame them. While I do like "Black Waves" not every person will care for that deep-throated gothic approach to black metal.
Vreid's Welcome Farewell is one of the best black metal albums of the year, if not THE black metal album of the year. Pick it up as soon as possible.
Highlights: All (9 Tracks 48:00)
Stonesour - House Of Gold & Bones Pt.2 (2013 Japanese Edition W/Bonus Track) - Despite Corey Taylor's whimpering on the stage of The Golden Gods Awards here recently, "I worked my whole fucking life for this, it means so fucking much you guys." he has always been one of my favorite rock and hard rock/metal vocalists. Ever since the craziness of "Scissors" and the poetry that accompanied Stonesour's first two albums (I still remember getting a call from a friend as they played the first couple lines of the debut's closer, "What a horrible wreck of a man this is...") I've always considered him a great poet and vocalist. If you don't like it, then fuck off. Because I do know that there are people out there who disagree and I respect your views entirely, but I also have mine. At any rate, Stonesour's new release is much in the vein of the of the first part of the duology, except that it's a little lighter in some areas than the last record. I'll admit that I don't really understand the concepts, because I don't really know the story and won't until the comics release, if they're not on the stands already.
The album begins with piano and vocal in the form of "Red City 4:39" which is a decent sort of atmospheric rock song. It gets a bit heavier and welcomes metal elements, but returns to it's roots and offers something of a mature and interesting sound for the band. "Black John 4:02" comes in with some hard rock riffing and had been previously described as "disco-metal" which is does sort of sound like that. There's a good solo portion on the track, but it's not overly long. "Sadist 5:07" is a basic rock ballad. It's a strong one, but it's still a rock ballad. An interesting solo portion creeps up on this one (It's really fucking good, actually) and surprised me. Of course, metal elements come in for a minute. "Peckinpah 4:11" starts out like progressive black metal, but gets a little slower and features shakers in addition to the atmosphere that soon overcomes it. Corey stays to a clean approach but gets a bit heavier when the riffs do. The latter portion of the song sees the most heaviness, accompanied by another solo. There's a formula here too - for sure. But it works well enough I guess. "Stalemate 4:48" is alright, I like some of the riffs on it, it chugs a bit and relies on the chorus. The guitar solos scream in however, but they're short. "Gravesend 4:41" is a bit of a lighter, but more morose track and I really don't find much in it, because it deals with the story itself. But it does feature some electronic samples and such and has a sort of crazed prose in the vocal line. Another solo follows. This one actually makes it all the way through. "82' 3:42" is just a regular hard rock song. Yeah, this one's bland. "The Uncanny Valley 4:01" starts off with a bit of a prog melody, but the song itself is also just a regular rock song that will fit the radio. There's a little solo, but don't worry about it. I like that little melody here, but it's not strong enough to base the song from. "Blue Smoke 2:07" Is just a weird atmospheric with Corey Taylor's vocals having been put through a vocal effect. I do like how the song ends on a progressive rock note, but when it reaches the jammy "Do Me A Favor 3:44" the party rock flair of the track doesn't work that well, even if he is using a more aggressive tone. While good solo work appears, it's so short that you'll barely notice it. There's an interesting keyboard effect however. "The Conflagration 4:56" is more of a ballad and I'm dreadfully sorry, but this radio ready schlock. Of course there's going to be that "I'm Slash on November Rain" kind of solo here, but you know what you're getting with this album by now. Or do you? Well, whether you understand what you're getting or not; the album ends with this final track "The House Of Gold And Bones 4:54" which is thrashy in the vein of hard rock. It's a highlight for the album though and a great way to end the disc. Yeah, there's a solo here as you might already expect. By the way this song sounds, I believe that the story has a pretty shitty ending.
Shine 3:25 - Our friends in the land of the rising sun are privy to this special bonus track, a rough demo of a rock track called "Shine" which actually is a catchy pop-rock song that would've probably made it well on the radio. The quality here is unpolished, hence "rough demo" in the song's title. Do you need this track? No. They'll bring it over to us as a B-side or something when they polish it. A catchy love song is the bonus track, folks. Stick with the original version of the album.
Now having heard both of Stonesour's new releases, I will say that they're both exceptionally good rock/.hard rock albums. Much better than the bullshit of Audio Secrecy in 2008, these are Stonesour's most impressive releases yet. It's definitely rock music, but it's rock with balls. Give me a choice between this and Nickelback and I'll choose this. A quote I read once was "In a better world, Stonesour would be a major rock act" and I do believe that. Nickelback got so damned famous for doing the same shit that Stonesour have been doing for years and with a much better attempt. Before these came out, I made fun of them. But after I've listened to both albums, I'll admit that there are good tracks here. Now Corey Taylor is back with Slipknot, so they're working on a new release which will probably be out in 2014.
Until then, this is a good holdover. Pick it up for some interesting hard rock with a couple of punches.
Highlights: Red City, Sadist, Gravesend, The House Of Gold & Bones (13 Tracks, 54:00)
Dark Sermon - In Tongues (2013) - There's a reason that I decided to review this album, and it's merely in the hopes that you don't buy it. Out of all the records I've heard in my life, I've never heard such boring schlock. This is technical brutal deathcore with bits of black that sound just like The Black Dahlia Murder, except without originality. A Decibel reviewer remarked that this "sounds like a band playing around it's record collection" and that's the same impression I have. Even the concept of the disc is null and void - I just wanted this album to end in so many ways, that you can't even believe it. It's not even worth streaming from the band's page. Don't even listen to youtube samples, it's honestly everything you've already heard before done ten thousand times over. Don't even download it! The genre tag says "progressive deathcore" but I don't hear any progressive nature to this presentation - not any inkling of the progression that Persefone showed with their new release.
All this is, is technical brutal deathcore done in the most bland way possible. It's 43 minutes of complete and utter schlock that I wouldn't recommend to anyone. This has got to be one of the worst excuses for a band that I've ever heard in the fact that they offer absolutely nothing. When you form a band, at least TRY to sound like something unique. I honestly don't even want to do an SxS with this one, because I'd rather do anything but have to listen to it again. Once was enough. Dark Sermon? More like Bland Sermon. They were speaking In Tongues alright, the kind of tongues that I wish could have been silenced. Even the quality of the recording is bad, it sounds like they recorded in a garage somewhere. Which they probably did. As far as the guitar solos, they're short and extremely pathetic and that's like shoving a dagger in my heart. I don't know how this could get any worse.
How the fuck did these guys get signed? EOne/Good Fight Records are you listening? I have bands that I can name off right now that are much more worthy of your attention then these guys. Have you heard the Sidious EP yet? That's what you guys were looking for with these guys. Only 18 minutes long and I guarantee that it'll blow this whole record out of the water. Somebody send these guys a copy of that EP from the kind of band that they were obviously looking for with Dark Sermon, because somehow I think they wound up with the wrong guys.
Once again, I don't recommend checking this out because it is time that you just won't get back. It's about as metal as a baloney sandwich. A regular old baloney sandwich. And yes, I spelled baloney in the way that refers to nonsense - which is exactly what this album is. Don't be surprised by the score, as I could not find even one song that I remotely liked or found interesting and I'm not giving points to a song that sounds different from the others just because it uses slightly different riff structures. That ain't gonna fly. Not this time. Refer to my review score definitions and you will see a one listed as garbage... hmm, this certainly sounds like it might fit that category.
If you're not going to try, then don't.
(11 Tracks, 43:00)
More PR and Requests to come in 79.5!