This Misery Garden - Cornerstone (PR2013) - In Decibel Magazine (Issue 103) Kirk Miller thought he might have handled three albums with just one review, (which I'd say is a superhuman effort) but his observations were too bland and didn't even leave me with anything more than an inkling of the these three discs which were This Misery Garden, Memory Garden and Misery Index respectively. While I'll talk about Memory Garden later, (but not Misery Index as I tend to stray away from reviewing live discs unless it's something major) the gentleman didn't even think to mention this Swiss group's major comparison to current era Katatonia. I mean, it's unmistakable. The whole thing carries that sort of sullen vibe in the riffs, even when the band is rocking out (with current Zuul FX axeman, Laurent at the helm) on numbers like "Angry Child 4:46" and "Holy Clutch 4:01."
Also, he forgot to talk about the progressive riffing on the disc. But what can you really say in one paragraph, huh? Yes, the album does include plenty of proggy riffs and such that are quite reminiscent of Tool "Mr X (was right) 5:16" in areas, but nowhere near as hypnotic. This is really the kind of album that you just sit back and listen to, as the promo material says. They're right. Sometimes I find myself agreeing and other times I don't, but this time - they're certainly right. You turn out the lights and just let the music do the talking. It isn't "headbang fest" as Laurent obviously has Zuul FX for that mission. This is something of another beast and it's refreshing. Seeing Kirk's review made me want to get on a plane and go down to his house, knock on the door and slap him in the face. Then I'd get on another plane and go home. Yes, I'm serious. Very few bands are as terrible as the 4 he gave this disc. You'd have thought this was Design The Skyline or Butcher Babies or Black Veil Brides or something. No, this is not that. It's a very good debut from a promising hard rock/metal band that plays along the lines of Katatonia and succeeds in it.
Right now, "Crowded Hallway 5:13" is playing. I'm listening to these awesome leads in the background, and I guess I'll take back the "not as hypnotic as Tool" comment, because I would certainly say that they elicit that effect. This band is all about voice, melody and structure. It's again, not a blast fest. It's an album that you put on when you want to calm down a bit. It's not to say that there aren't a couple of heavy riffs on the album, but it's certainly much better than the hard rock music scene that we have over here, which one could say is dying.
I suppose what Kirk's trying to say is that the disc really doesn't do anymore than it offers and that's fine. It's just a debut and the band has much more evolution ahead of them before they really get their bearings. But could I see myself listening to this out of the reviewer spectrum? Yes. It's catchy, I enjoy the melodies and it fills a spot that Katatonia really couldn't fill for me last year. Oddly enough though, the disc ends on "Death Head Colors 4:44" which is about as jarring as they get with some death growls in the background. It's a prog sort of heavy that sounds nice, but it feels a bit forced to me and is an odd way to close out a disc.
I still don't get where you're hearing the Alice In Chains influence though, dude.
I don't believe these are DLC, which is a good thing. But they're both worth hearing at any rate.
Swallowing The Monster 3:50 - In the vein of the disc's closer, it's a heavier track than what you'll hear on most of the original disc (did you hear that drumming at the beginning? that's skill) and includes a little bit of a solo.
Flower Eye Tree - 4:57 - Alright, now I hear an Alice In Chains influence, but the chorus has some backing melodies that come off as hypnotic. It goes along well with the rest of the album.
This Misery Garden may not have put out one of the best hard rock/metal albums in the history of man, but they definitely put out a solid one. There's plenty of interesting ideas on these tracks that could certainly come off further realized in future efforts. For the final time, This Misery Garden's Cornerstone is not a all guns blazing "headbang fest" so don't expect it. It's soft, melancholic and full of more potential than I've heard from hard rock in quite a while. I'll be keeping my eyes on these guys.
Go check it out from Season Of Mist and make your own decision.
Highlights: Angry Child, Mr.X (Was Right), Rope, Crowded Hallway, Warning Zone, The First Man (12 Tracks, 53:00)
Beyond Creation - The Aura (PR2013) - While not an actual new release from the band, The Aura documents the very beginnings of this technical death metal powerhouse. The opener "No Request For Corrupted 4:56" pounds in, while the shredsmanship of Chartre peppers the track with brilliance and continues further into "Coexistance 7:36." It's a successful debut that owes as much more to Mozart and Beethoven as it does to technical death metal stalwarts like Cynic, Gorguts, Atheist, Cryptopsy and numerous others. I hadn't expected to hear the neoclassical influence, but it's great to hear the most intelligent music in the world (classical) flowing through the rhythms in the modernized version of the most intelligent music in the world (metal.) These points are arguable, I could write nearly a dozen pages on that topic alone, but it would scarcely drive me away from the point that I'm trying to make here.
Despite Boucher's drumming and the shred after shred on the album, it readily becomes apparent that only the lengthy tracks really seem to offer the full weight of the disc, with the only exception to this rule being found on "Injustice Revealed 3:54" which would have worked better as an instrumental anyway. These guys can definitely play and they've got a hell of a lot of talent (check out the closer "The Deported 10:38" for further assessment of that point) as they plow through their influences (count how many Cynic riffs you can spot) and do justice to everyone from powdered wig wearing aficionados, all of the way to their long haired death metal brethren. I also think that we need to bring back the powdered wig.
What Beyond Creation offer on this album is a definite case for showmanship and an awesome debut that outshines their sophomore outing, at least as far as I'm concerned. The Aura has more potential than the other disc that I heard from them and I'd really wish that I had heard this one earlier. To think that a disc like this was being self-released. It seems pretty far-fetched to believe that they couldn't find a label willing to put out this debut until now. But I guess that's just how things work.
Enough of my yammering. The disc has been reissued with a bonus demo of "Injustice Revealed" which isn't much, but if you're buying this album; then it's probably because you hadn't heard the original. Of course, there's the chance that this reviewer got confused and already heard The Aura long ago and forgot about it and reviewed the damn thing on the blog a while back. If that's the case, I probably couldn't hear it as well as this one. Or maybe my ears just weren't tuned right. I don't know. But for some reason, I really like this album NOW even though I didn't then. But that's perfectly fine, because it reflects how our tastes change in life, how our palettes become much richer and so-forth.
Damn, I'm yammering again. But definitely check this album yet if you haven't, and go see them open on the Decibel tour with Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death and Immolation. I'd certainly like to see them pull off this shit live, I must admit that I'm a skeptic and that at shows I listen to the notes, even on live concerts. if something is played even a bit wrong I'll say to myself "oh, they really fucked that part up" or "so much for that" or "what happened there?" Yeah, that's why I don't got to too many live shows, because I'm like the biggest critic. It's the same with cover songs.
But I'm yammering once again, aren't I? Still, it kept you reading. Go check this shit out. I mean, you know it's going to be good. I'm not sure if they're as good as Rings Of Saturn or The Faceless, but they're right up there.
Get it from Season Of Mist.
Highlights: Coexistence, Omnipresent, Injustice Revealed, The Aura, The Deported (You'll probably like them all though.) (11 Tracks, 55:00)
Arckanum - Fenris Kindir (PR2013) - Based loosely on the concept regarding the building of Saint George's Cathedral... Whoops! Wrong album. (They'd probably would've raised Saint George's Cathedral in all honesty.)
Let me try that again. Based on the concept of the great god-devouring wolf, Fenris (which Amon Amarth will soon do a concept about as they're running a bit low on ideas) this album really gets going at the start of "Tungls tjugari 4:33" which brings me right into the raw production value and vicious assault that one might expect from black metal. Shamaatae's coarse vocals really seem to further hammer the viciousness, making this album embody the spirit of the bloodthirsty beast on the album cover. This album comes thrashing and bashing it's way right into your heart, threatening to rip it right out from your chest and perhaps even tearing out your throat in the process.
Some folk does make it's way into the album, and for some that might be the slight let down as it really doesn't begin it's approach until about the fifth track "Hamrami 2:35" which also gives off a sort of ghostly and unpleasant vibe, the sort of song I would expect to play during the scenes of a decimated Valhalla on some yet to be made film. But if you can sit through it long enough, you'll be handsomely rewarded with "Fenris Gangr 3:15" which returns us back to the kind of rough and raw black metal that we used to expect from Bathory back in the old days. There's also some odd "guitar-scream effect" (that's the best way I can describe it) coming from the Motorhead influenced black/thrash of "Angrboa 4:38" and a bit of welcome gloom that arises from "Uskepna 4:02."
I still find it odd that such a grim-fisted attempt would end out on the classical folk of "Solbols Sigr 3:20" but go figure. It's a track that most people will skip, because they only came to band their heads in the first place and this album will certainly offer that and then some. You'll just have to skip a track or two.
Lycanthropia (Necromantia Cover) 1:44 - Maybe I would care more about this if it was actually a song in itself and not just an outro to an outro. I mean, the album has already ended with the folk natured outro, but to write an outro to an outro just sounds a bit silly. However, the atmosphere to the song is greatly reproduced and features some hissing and snarling from Shamaatae. To be honest, I would have rather the album ended with this cover and the folk tracks removed. They just seemed out of place and since you have to put up with them in the confines of this release, I'm going to have penalize him for it.
Arckanum's Fenris Kindir is definitely not the best black metal album that's been made this year, but It's got enough raw power and ferocity to appeal to your corpse-painted friend that lives up the road and doesn't come out of the house very often. You know who I'm talking about. The folk was unnecessary, because it didn't fit the feel of the rest of the album and I can't forgive it. Nevertheless, you could always use more black metal, right?
Go get it from Season Of Mist.
Highlights: Tungls Tjugari, Dolgrinn, Hatarnir, Vargold, Angrboa, Uskepna (12 Tracks, 42:00)
UDO - Steelhammer (PR2013) - You know how it is whenever your old uncle Udo comes to visit. He's not interested in your "techno-djent-apple core" metal, so you can't play that crap around him. What's more is that he brings over his old vinyl albums from bands that you've never heard before because you weren't even alive back then. He sits back in his lazy chair and tells you about his times in Accept, even though you still have a hard time "accepting" that he was actually in a metal band... or at least, your kind of metal band.
And that's what Steelhammer reminds me of. It's in many ways a trip back into the days of classic metal, where leather pants and spikes ruled the world of fashion and songs about steel and the devil were extreme popular. One might wonder what in the hell happened to those days. and apparently Udo thought the same thing over a couple of beers with Stefan Kaufman. That's because Steelhammer is very much a return to form for the band (at least that's what the promo information tells me) though I admit that I haven't heard the segue into other styles that came before this disc.
The Judas Priest influenced cover that adorns the disc is definitely warranted as Udo's approach does remind me a little of a German Rob Halford in some areas and the thundering riffs that make of most of this album certainly don't seem too far off from the Judas Priest camp. Opener "Steelhammer 3:23" certainly makes me think of Priest, but just doesn't hit all that hard until the solo comes in, even though that seems to be the sad truth for most of the tracks on this disc. The new guitarist Andrey Smirnov certainly proves his merit (after having been chosen from 300 demo tapes) on several of these tracks, including major album highlight "Basta Ya 4:33" which has melodies that remind me a bit of Iced Earth, and really focuses on his shredding ability.
There's not much I can say about "Heavy Rain 2:25." I have no idea what in the world Udo was thinking here, it just doesn't sound like it should be on a heavy metal album at all. I was glad for it to be over, in all honesty. "Devil's Bite 5:06" is another one that interested me. It sounded like Udo bringing out his old Atari console to show the youth of today what video games were and mixing those sounds in with metal. The song certainly stands out as a highlight, but unlike most heavy metal guys who sing proudly about the guy downstairs, Udo wants you to stay away from him so that you can have eternal life in Jesus Christ. Being from the south, this is something I hear quite a bit and have gotten used to. I'm sure that Stryper would be proud (and I'm not going to talk down those guys because Second Coming is a great record) and religious minded metalheads will definitely raise their fists to this one. It is one of uncle Udo's catchier tracks though.
"King Of Mean 4:07" comes out like Wasp with a little more melody to add to the palette, but it's not as strong as it could be. Except for the solo section, of course. "Timekeeper 4:26" however makes up for it with a strong hook even though some of the vocal passages sound odd and confusing. I'll also have to admit that I really like "Never Cross My Way 4:23" and consider it one hell of a ballad, just as catchy as the 80's and makes me think of better times. I'd honestly rather listen to hair metal ballads like this, then listen to some of the mindless crap that we have now.
When "Take My Medicine 5:07" comes in, it elicits a slight chuckle from me, as I think about an old man who has to take his medicine and what-not - but to tell you the truth, it's a pretty damned good song. UDO definitely play along the lines of Priest and there's nothing wrong with that in my book, because when they do it, they do it well. Then "Stay True 4:04" comes into play and continues rocking right along, offering one of Smirnov's best solo performances on the album as it goes right into another ballad. But this ballad "When Love Becomes A Lie 4:12" actually has some balls and that's refreshing. The only real oddity here is "Book Of Faith 5:12" which I've heard another reviewer describe as Udo attempting Tom Waits. (If you aren't aware of Mr. Waits, please do become aware as he's one of the greatest living musicians of our time.) The song is about reading your Bible. So go do that. As he says, "you hold it in your hand." It's also really catchy and makes me want to dig up the old Bible that I have around here somewhere.
After all is said and done, uncle Udo leaves behind a Bible and walks out the door. But that's just what happens whenever he comes to visit. Though in all honesty, Udo Dirkschneider has ten albums with legendary heavy metallers Accept and fourteen albums with UDO which totals to twenty-four albums. He's obviously up there in age, but isn't yet ready to retire. Considering all of this, I have to consider the album pretty decent and confess that I probably couldn't achieve this sort of thing at his age. I guess you're never really too old for heavy metal. God bless ya, Udo.
Go check it out from AFM Records.
Highlights: Basta Ya, Devil's Bite, Timekeeper, Never Cross My Way, Take My Medicine, Book Of Faith (14 Tracks, 61:00)
Gloryhammer - Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife (PR2013) - I really don't know what to say about this "epic power metal" album from Alestorm mastermind, Chris Bowes. it's definitely power metal alright, with some obvious cheese and parody that can be inferred by album opener "The Unicorn Invasion Of Dundee 4:26." However, it has all the chugging and symphonics that one might expect from the genre and the same style of high rising chorus that I've heard in countless power metal bands from Helloween to Hammerfall.
"Angus McFife 3:28" really comes out to me however, it's got some great melodies, strong vocal lines and one of the best choruses on the album. It's probably the best representation of this band and it'd be a sin to not use this as a single. From the sound of this track, it seems like "Angus McFife" was probably the very first song written for the project. Even though you might think that the "Quest For The Hammer Of Glory 5:27" held by the armored paladin on the cover might be something of grandiosity, or dare we say "epic" the song itself just isn't as good as it's predecessor and doesn't leave me with the same feeling elicited by the latter "Magic Dragon 5:27."
"Silent Tears Of Frozen Princess 5:34" isn't vocally where it should be and I don't think that the frontman can handle it. He's got a good vocal, but needs some more power to hit the notes that he wants to hit there and it fails miserably. While a female vocalist backs him on the track, it just could've been a better ballad. "Amulet Of Justice 4:26" comes back thrashing and erupts into a powerful chorus complete with folk-inspired guitar melodies (as also heard on Angus McFife, but not quite as good.) Then there's "Hail To Crail 4:43" which has one of the most genius and witty titles I've ran into on an musical disc. This is a Monty Python level of wit only made sweeter by the triumphant chorus, "Hail to Crail! Mightiest warrior in the land! "Hail To Crail! Ready with a sword in hand!" and the whole song talks about how badass the guy is, which really goes back to Manowar and I'm glad to hear that this "badass warrior aesthetic" hasn't yet left heavy metal. "Beneath Crowdenbeath 2:29" is also notable as it's a wonderful synth backed instrumental that sort of reminds me of the battle music for an old-school role-playing game and that's always fun. But the main meal on the disc is in it's closer "The Epic Rage Of Furious Thunder 10:33." Yes, the track is undoubtedly overblown, but at least the structures don't bore easily and it's got plenty of storyline elements to keep your attention.
Wizards! 2:22 - Why was this left off, Chris? I mean, there was room for it. Maybe it just didn't fit the story. But then again, it's kind of short. The only thing that it has going for it is it's chorus, which it seems to rely on. I definitely consider it a b-side in the strongest of terms. It just doesn't seem fleshed out enough and probably shouldn't have seen the light of day. But someone will spam it during WOW.
But then again, it's a good thing that I mention World Of Warcraft. In all honesty, Gloryhammer seems like World Of Warcraft metal. Even the paladin on the cover seems like it has the same color palette that is used on WOW. The art-style is even similar. Then you've got a man singing about Unicorns and such, with the parody role-playing nature that WOW tends to have. Gloryhammer also seems like a post-Dragonforce re-reboot of power metal. But if we put the humor and the WOW-influence behind, we've got a worthwhile debut album from a project that should see more focus in later releases, and that's what counts.
Grab the adventure from Napalm Records.
Highlights: Angus McFife, Magic Dragon, Amulet Of Justice, Hail To Crail, Beneath Crowdenbeath, The Epic Rage Of Furious Thunder (11 Tracks, 50:00)
King Carnage - Ounce Of Mercy, Pound Of Flesh (PR2013) - A new project from the one man powerhouse behind the avant-garde act Trillion Red, "The Left Hand" has given us an offering of some of the grimiest old school death metal this side of the French catacombs. The rough production value actually gives the act some balls, as none of these songs would come off as well as they do had this a high-budget product. However, from the minute that "Blade Efficacy 5:07" starts up, you know that you're in for a sludgy and deathy good time.
The next song that comes up is "In Death Overshadow Thee 5:34" which features bass lines that stink of the sewer, drums that sound like they're in that same sewer and guitar riffs that sound like they're covered in filth, which certainly isn't a bad thing. Also keep in mind that this bashy monster (that continues it's drone effort better than most bands I've heard that use this style) actually goes all of the way back to a band called Ligeia back in 1996 and was originally featured on a "7" which would suit this entire album well. It is truly the effort that vinyl was made for, something that reeks of old soil and incorporates some of the most uncomfortable and hypnotic atmospheres that I've ever heard on a metal album. That's right, I mean "a metal album period." The Left Hand does some shit on here that I've never heard in my life, like that "strange" solo on the opener "Blade Efficacy" that I just have to mention again, or I won't feel right.
"Lord Sabotage 3:54" comes in with the same grime, it literally sounds like it came off a well-produced demo. And for some odd reason, I'm getting a bit of a Primus feeling on some of these riff melodies... it's a truly noteworthy piece of music. Don't cast off this one because you haven't heard of the band, or you're making a fool's error.
Then I have to mention "Scions Salvation 6:05" which is downright abominable. This is how you make an ominous atmosphere, folks. These demonic trillings leave me with a sense of dread and follow up with truly vicious death metal that grooves just as much as it blisters on the kit and then the solo comes in which sounds like it was conducted in the same sewer. The title track "Ounce Of Mercy, Pound Of Flesh 5:14" comes in next and I love the pacing on this one. It broods, but it kicks up with just a bit of groove that makes it stick out. Then when you hear that fucking chorus, you know that you've got an album worth buying. I sometimes listen to this and wonder where in the fuck it came from, because it's such an out of the box approach that has potential to revolutionize the genre of classic death metal. Highlight is an understatement.
"Archetype Of Evil 3:31" is just an instrumental, but it continues along the same vein of the album and makes a great atmosphere. I think it works well after the title cut, because it adds to the atmosphere. I doesn't work well on it's own however. The final track is "Making Angels In Blood 4:53" which starts out like death metal, but drones into brood and incorporates a great atmosphere towards the end, but I wish the drums thundered a little bit more during the latter vocal lines. I hear them kicking up, but he's trying to keep the atmosphere intact and I guess that would kill it. But it's your call as to whether or not you agree with me.
Fuck yeah, this is how you do death metal in 2013. I hear quite a few slabs of old death these days, but this really revolutionizes the whole revival movement of the genre. I think that The Left Hand's work in Trillion Red might have influenced the more atmosphere and off-kilter ideas on this album. This is something that you'll hear once and never forget. I didn't expect much at first, but there were quite a few welcomed "what the fuck?" moments and it all works as a whole. Remarkable.
Get your hands on this from BadGod Music and do it right fucking now. It's not everyday you hear it done this well.
Highlights: Blade Efficacy, In Death Overshadow Thee, Lord Sabotage, Scions Sabotage, Ounce Of Mercy, Pound Of Flesh, (8 Tracks, 47:00)
Laid8 - These Faded Lines (PR2013) - I wasn't sure what to expect from Laid8 when I first heard them, but when I listened to these hard rockers (originally from Israel but now based in London U.K.) for a few minutes I began to notice that they've got potential - and that's just an understatement. it might at first sound like a djentier/proggier version of Lacuna Coil, but these guys have an edge. The frontwoman has the kind of voice that really isn't "too theatric" and comes off natural. She lets off a few higher notes, but I really like the chorus on "Darker Than My Night 3:56" (as well as the guitar solo) as it's catchy as hell and could blow up American radio in an instant. Despite the djent influence, I will say that hard rock benefits from the use of it and it benefits the d-tuned riffs which erupt into some nice melodies during the next hard-rock chart topper in "Corner Of The Evening Sky 3:40."
Truthfully, every song has it's own nature. Nothing really comes off as too similar (and you can hear the Tool and Meshuggah influences clearly) as "Flush 3:46" comes in with something that could also top American hard rock charts. "You 3:50" has a killer fucking chorus, not to mention the melody that backs it and the d-tune thumps that remind me of Motograter. "Ode To You 5:10" shows off the atmosphere and lightens things up a bit, but there are some nice moments on the track that show you that Laid8 isn't all about hooks even though there are plenty of them to be found here. I'm not the biggest fan of the punky "Is This What You've Waited For 3:14" but you can bet your ass that there's someone out here who is. "Hopelost 4:03" doesn't actually do anything for me, but the dreamy closer "Before You Choose 4:21" almost makes me think of atmospheric A Perfect Circle with female vocals in some areas. It also sort of sounds a bit like a nursery rhyme. Not everyone's bag, but it's got some good moments.
Bonus Tracks (2010 EP Remastered)
Four tracks from the 2010 EP now appear remastered, and with a slightly different style then featured on this release. This release is a little dirtier on production but has more of a nu-metal sound that still borrows a bit from Tool.
Necessary Evil - 3:43 I really like the chorus on this one. It's powerful, the vocal acrobatic that she uses is unique and it's backed by some yells in the background and d-tuned hard rock riffs.
Point Of No Return - 4:10 This track doesn't really offer much. It feels like filler and doesn't really go anywhere for me. Just being honest.
Answers - 4:48 This track however sees the band coming in full force, coming off in style of punk rock with a few tricks here and there. Could be catchy in a horror movie soundtrack. A definite radio hit, regardless.
Living Flame - 4:37 This one has a ritualistic vibe about it. When the guitars erupt, the frontwoman's vocal effect works quite well. There's also a portion in the middle of the track that adds some depth and further explores the band's sound. At this point, Laid8 could really go anywhere and that's a good sign.
After hearing the entire release, I want Century Media Records in particular to read this. You are looking at the NEXT Lacuna Coil. Listen to the album in it's entirety first, then decide on whether or not you want to sign them. Laid8 is a name that is very easy for people to remember, it is synonymous with something that most people are subconsciously thinking about all of the time (the prospect getting laid) and therefore it is truly marketable.
For any other labels, if you're looking for a female fronted hard rock/metal act to shake up any that are out there, you've got it here. The frontwoman doesn't feel the need to fake scream or bullshit around with these lyrics. The disc is chock-full of catchy songs that could take the radio by storm if they were just given the chance. This band could be a fucking overnight sensation. They mix all of the current nuances of the scene with a style that is already quite familiar and they do it with a sense of realism unlike any other band of this genre. They know who they want to be, the vision seems fully realized and I'm sure they'll amass fans in no time. Somebody please sign these guys. They have the skills needed for commercial success.
Highlights: Darker Than My Night, Corner Of The Evening Sky, Flush, Ode To You, Necessary Evil, Answers, Living Flame (13 Tracks, 54:00)
TwinGiant - SinNombre EP (2013 Band Request) - TwinGiant are a sludge/doom act from Arizona composed of two guitarists (Dave and Nikos) who also share backup vocals, Jarrod who handles the lead vocals and plays the bass (yes, the bass player is also the frontman) and Jeff the drummer. Which should probably be his moniker. "Yeah, that's Jeff the drummer." Works for me.
"Pelisneros 5:44" opens up the disc with some heavy sludge that is backed by just as thunderous vocals. It's huge wall of sound that is only enhanced by the gorilla vocals of Jarrod, which almost bridge on death metal grunts.
"Fossilized 6:15" doesn't get right into the action as fast, but that's what makes it unique. You start to see where TwinGiant's going and where they separate from other acts of their type. TwinGiant seem to excel in making some great riff and drum driven atmospheres that prove how much the chemistry of these four guys truly matters. Most of this song is sans vocals and it just sticks to a solid groove when the atmosphere isn't being utilized. It's a dirty sort of feeling that makes me think of the Arizona desert landscape that surrounds the band (and the ripping guitar solos also add a nice touch.)
"La Haine 4:36" comes next, and it comes in with fury. Slow, reverberating riffs are accompanied by the gorilla vocals and a solo just comes on it and says "hi" without even asking. But it's shit like this that I welcome, bands experimenting and setting themselves from the norm. The song also features a slight groove moment that comes off well-warranted.
"Cloaked In Black 7:18" ends the album with a sort of dark edge and some delay that builds the atmosphere. The vocals seem to feature Jarrod at his mightiest, sounding like some kind of barbarian as I'm taken on this trip through the dusty desert, which seems to take several twists and turns along the way. This is just the sort of thing that you expect in sludge/doom and these guys definitely have the formula down, not being able to experiment and try new things.
The last track is "Ricky X R.I.P. 1:06" which is about Ricky X Martinez, one of the DJ's at Wreckage Metal Radio (http://wwreckagemetalradio.blgospot.com) who recently died from means not described. But it always sucks when a metalhead dies and this is a great way to remember him.
This is EP is a monster, it's a giant for sure. I definitely recommend all fans of sludge and doom and the atmosphere held within to go check these guys out. It's raw, rough and sludgy - just how you like it.
Grab it from the band's official bandcamp page.
Highlights: Fossilized, La Haine, Cloaked In Black (5 Tracks, 24:00)
Zafakon - War As A Drug (2013 Band Request) - Though I don't have much information on Zafakon, I can certainly tell you that they're a worthy death/thrash group with both a raw sound and a raw fury that comes off quite memorable, especially in the band's attention to detail. "War As A Drug 3:01" starts the album off with a fury that extends on into the slightly more technical "Fall 4:15" which also displays the fact that these guys just plain like to show off. But that's a good thing, because they have the talent to show off. While the quality of the recording is quite rough (and I hope that their next disc is a little bit clearer) I'm certainly hearing some potential and no signs of slowdown from these guys.
"In Resistance" comes in like a titan, complete with the scathing vocals of the frontman who's more than capable of handling this band. He's got the vicious tongue that you want to hear on this kind of material, mixing in perfectly with the drum assault and thrash riffs that pepper the disc. It's an approach that goes back to Carcass and The Crown, a tried and true method that always seems to bring out the utmost rage in the music. A solo caps this one off rather nicely too. At about the halfway point we get into "Collateral Slavery 4:01" which sees the bass more pronounced but doesn't actually add anything new to the mix, other than some tinkering towards the end of the track. Next we've got "The Call Of Winslow 4:06" which actually injects a dose of unexpected prog into this death/thrash for just a second before the band gets back to business, delivering yet another worthwhile solo. I'm not entirely crazy about the breakdown on this track though, considering it a little unnecessary.
"Conspiracy 4:57" also starts out with a bit of prog but resumes with death/thrash in which it seems to be more proficient. I do like the twists and turns of this track (and many others) as this is the basis of good thrash I think, even since the days of early Metallica, a thrash band shows it's merit when they can really display how much they can do with their instruments, rather than just straight forward "thump, thump, thump" which is what really separates many of the greats from the retro-thrash movement. "Summoning The Vortex 4:18" features Joel Grind (and yes, I'll have the Yellowgoat disc up for review later) which of course is a fantastic track, just like the vein of the others. It's punchy and carries that sort of punk vibe that I got from the Yellowgoat disc. The album ends with yet another thrasher in "At The Mercy Of Fate 4:46" shattering all of my previous notions about a possible love ballad. At any rate, the last cut on the disc delivers just as well as the others, showcasing yet another worthy solo and the expectant viciousness of the frontman amidst the drums and irate guitars. Except here, the solo is especially poignant and ends the album out in the most traditional of ways, just as if you were to see Zafakon in their live element.
Live element actually says a great deal about the performance, because many of these songs sound just as they would, were you to hear them in a live setting. It's an extremely raw but audible approach that will have quality whores up in arms, but old-school aficionados worshipping at the gates. I would certainly recommend these guys to fans of Heartwork era Covenant, earliest era (Hell Is Here/Deathrace King) The Crown, God Dethroned and Impious among others. There's a good bit of melody, prog and thrash here amongst the frontman's hot-tempered vocal work to get any and all heads banging. If this is a debut, I want to hear the sophomore. These guys have truly crafted some intriguing death/thrash in just a little more than thirty minutes of playtime. It's raw, vicious and relentless... Who could ask for more?
Highlights: Fall, Collateral Slavery, The Call Of Winslow, Conspiracy, Summoning The Vortex, At The Mercy Of Fate (9 Tracks, 34:00)
Dylan Furr - Isolated (2013) - Dylan Furr interested me upon noticing his ad featuring a rather buxom and beautiful woman:
It is those kinds of things that usually do rather interest me, (including Herculean women that can lift me right up off the ground, but that's another story entirely) but like the ad for "free black metal" from the band Tvangeste (which was actually really fucking good and I'll have a review for them both as well as links to where you can download the discs and donate if you like them soon) I definitely wanted to hear the music first and it was certainly spectacular, large breasts aside.
Dylan Furr's first solo album consists of a very interesting situation - an EMP grenade. If one of them went off, you certainly wouldn't be able to check out my reviews, which wouldn't matter anyway, because you wouldn't be able to hear the music unless you can make an air powered record player. Yes, I said "record player" as in large vinyl's and one needle. I had one and remember playing "Addicted To Love" all the time back when I was five because I liked the song (Yes, I was raised on MTV.) so much. Guitar-driven music has been in blood and I remember listening to stuff like Bon Jovi and Aerosmith back in the day. I remember hair metal and all that too. But I'd certainly have to say that it was Nu-Metal (one of my many guilty pleasures) that I considered my gateway drug into real metal. But enough about me.
Isolated opens up with "Hubris 4:24" which is a sort of spatial, djenty ride through the stars, where it finally lands, taking time to sail through the vast countryside of the planet. Dylan shows that he can also shred and quite well, really taking control of the guitar as he weaves a truly majestic soundscape that's certainly memorable. This is the overture to the album, but it stands alone as a powerful piece. Vocals are finally utilized near the end of the track, but it could have benefited without them. "Timeless Moments 4:07" takes us into very familiar territory for prog, reminding me a little of Dream Theater and Queensryche. When the song finally gets a shot of heavy guitar, vocals come in for a couple of seconds (and they weren't really needed) as the drums begin to thunder along with synths and decorate the whole world in color. The soundscapes on this little thing are immense. Don't take it for granted because the artwork isn't absolute amazing or the release length is short - this is what you want to hear from prog metal.
"An Unheeded Warning 4:13" brings back the djent but decorates it with clean melodies and some strong vocal work by Dylan and the well-endowed female vocalist who's visage turned me onto the album by the name of Aphroditee. But don't take her lightly, as she's a vocal powerhouse and compliments Dylan's (he hits some strong notes on this one) vocal approach quite well. Obviously, the guitar work is the best here proving that the man knows his chops and he knows them well. If people aren't noticing this guy's talent, then they'd have to be tone deaf. "Impact 4:05" it's a little fiercer in nature, playing around with djent and technicality in the background but taking a Devin Townsend approach in other areas. Drums thunder on this one, backing Dylan's clean vocal (he never uses a harsh approach on the disc) while the guitar sings throughout the track. "The Lost Signal 4:27" is just as djenty as the last one (which does begin to great a bit... little less djent next time?) but thankfully calms down and brings nightfall on the heavier notions of the previous track. It's all instrumental, but who cares? I'm not complaining one bit about the awesomeness that's entering my ears.
Then there's "Endless Nights 5:12" which is fucking beautiful. Again, this album works entirely without vocals but they do appear sprinkled throughout places on the album. I feel like I'm being serenaded in all honesty, some of this work is so beautiful that it's utterly mesmerizing. It's the kind of music that you just throw on your mp3 player, crank it up to full volume and turn off the lights as you sit back and let the music take you off into realms unknown. Dylan has a bit of a nasally approach on this one, but there's no way in any of the multiple heavens or hells, (that may or may not exist within the confines of the multiverse) that you can deny his guitar work. The word "wow" doesn't accurately describe it, but that's what you might find yourself saying. The disc ends with "Sealed Fate 4:42" which features Dylan's vocals in more prevalence, but drives quickly from acoustic somber into full-on electric fury. A little bit of orchestral synth comes in next to close out the release, firmly burning the contents of this effort into your mind.
I'm flabbergasted. Well-endowed beauties are great, but nothing could have prepared me for this. Most of you know that I find myself quite a fan of melody and this disc offers all of that and then some. Dylan is offering this album for a small fee on Bandcamp, but I can honestly assure you that the playing is worth it. His vocal range isn't so great, but doubled with the female vocalist it sounds much better although she isn't utilized on much of the album. If you listen to Isolated, don't just listen to it for the words that come out of Dylan's mouth; listen to it for the music that flows from his hands. This guy is a virtuoso and a half, there's no question that he's studied at the Vai and Malmsteen school of thought and I'm sure that in future efforts his skills will be further evolved... even though that seems almost impossible.
He's coming out with a "just for fun release" soon (and whatever the hell he calls "fun" is probably going to mind-boggling for the rest of us) as well as a new album. To be honest, I would like to see this work crafted to a larger extent, something in the vein of ten and twelve minute epics which I've certainly seen is possible here... and less djent. It would be nice to hear Dylan do something more than most prog-metal bands are currently doing right now. But only time will tell what looms on the horizon...
Yes, that's the guy you're hearing on this disc. I know, it's incredible. If he's this good now, just think of how good he'll be in the future!
Highlights: All (7 Tracks, 31:00)
Thira - Cognition: One (Single) (2013) - Though I enjoyed the Thira EP a bit, I find the whole experience of this new release to be a bit djenty for me. It doesn't really offer much more than a Meshuggah meets deathcore mix with some distortion in vocals. Also, the vocals on the release just seem to come from nowhere, they just don't seem to go in tune with the music. There's a slight break from the djent though where a light melody is played and some more electronic distortion flows. It's on the second half of the song that I should impressed, but I don't feel that Thira have quite gotten there yet. Closer to the end of the track, it's back to heavy djent and harsh vocal. Surely there's an audience for this, but little separates them from being a carbon copy. But I do profess that I would like to hear more as little inklings of potential do exist within the track.
The track is available for free, via the band's Bandcamp page.
(1 Track, 5:03)
Icefield Kingdom - Civilization Of Decline (2013) - Despite the interesting cover art, I have just one problem with this album. It's emulated metal. You heard me, right. This disc was not recorded with instruments, it was programmed. While I'll admit that the guy can program good melodies, drum hits and solos, the fact that he's not really playing them is a bit disheartening. Civilization Of Decline sounds good enough, but it makes you wonder what it could have sounded like if it didn't remind you of midi. The disc is a little more than a hour with all of it's various symphonics and atmosphere - it makes you think of black metal, thrash metal and death metal in their most grandiose construct; but the fact that it isn't real is kind of a letdown. For those of you who need more clarification, imagine this album as the equivalent of old-school video game music.
Again, it's done well but for the most part sounds like someone's work in Guitar Pro, just blueprints for what they later planned on penning down with real instruments. Now if the guy could find a band and do all of this with the real deal, then I think he's got a successful and thrilling project on his hands. I mean, you can bang your head to this, but it's kind of funny. Other metalheads will point and laugh at you. Perhaps Ice Field Kingdom is hoping that a band will listen to this and become so inspired that they actually make it their own work, which would be a great thing. Also, vocals could be put on the album and perhaps said band would have a vocalist to lay down those parts.
It's not that Ice Field Kingdom is bad, it's that it just sounds like a template for something that could and very well should be. It also shows where we're at on the technological scale of composing digital music without instruments. I would like to hear this in a video game, a beat-em up or old school throwback perhaps, but as a conventional piece of music it is something that most reviewers won't even touch as an insult to their intelligence. But I consider myself different from the usual gamut, being that I will even review someone's midi metal album as I have just done. Yeah, this is a first for us here at the Tower (me and all the ghosts, you know) and I can say that the proverbial midi metal disc is much better than I thought it would be.
However, why is there a cover of "Time To Say Goodbye" from Francesco Sartori? This Italian ballad of parting seems foreign on the rest of the disc, it just doesn't belong. But neither do the tits on the front cover. There's not too much that I can say about this one beyond what I've already written, suffice it to say that I wish there was more here to go on. Let me know when you get a full band together. My score for this won't judge it as a metal release, but as video game music in which it does manage to excel. You could play it during the old Doom or Hexen, which are far better FPS's than the modern day Call Of Battlefield crap.
(12 Tracks, 40:00)
7/10 as video game music.
0/10 as a metal record. (Won't be considered actual music by professional standards.)
Tvangeste - Damnation Of Regiomontum (2000) - Tvangeste is a classical laden black metal band with nods to Emperor and Cradle Of Filth, but they lean far from the lipstick and black nail polish and seem to be more focused on guitar melodies, in which they greatly excel. The album was made quite a few years ago, so the production isn't as crisp as it could be by today's standards. Nevertheless, you'll hear melody upon melody on album opener "From Nameless Oracle 13:01" even though the album doesn't seem to offer the breakneck blasts of standard black metal fare. The frontman has a rather unmistakable scowl, like something truly otherworldly and this comes off as sort of classic by today's standards.
"Angel's Retreat 8:36" comes in with Wagnerian thunder, sounding like something great and terrible approaching as the frontman bellows the news of it's arrival. Then the guitar melodies come in and make things even sweeter. The guitar and vocals seem to be the most pronounced on the album even though you'll hear the drums (which I think are being done on a drum machine) from time to time, mostly ignoring them because everything else on the piece seems to hold more value. The female vocalist comes in every now and again to add her touches to the material, but doesn't overstay her welcome.
The album's title track "Damnation Of Regiomontum 10:56" comes in next, mainly showcasing in atmosphere and melody and performing rather well in each aesthetic. Despite the fact that I can clearly tell that this band begin with a drum machine, it's extremely hard to deny the riffs (and it makes me think of Graveworm a bit here) and melodies that accentuate the piece.
"Thinking... 8:54" starts off with a shriek as the classical setting comes in to enhance the music. The vocal style sounds a bit different on this track for some reason, it's more the focal point of the song with the guitar not getting so much focus. However, the piano section is nice, it does work well with the vocals and I will give the song credit for that. This one might have the most "gothic sense" of all the tracks on this disc thus far.
"Born To Be King Of Innerself 8:47" is next, evoking even more of a gothic atmosphere than the previous song, both in synths and vocal atmosphere. They've definitely taken a cue from Cradle Of Filth (as I've said before) and you can certainly hear it here in a less polished fervor. The album ends with "Outro 1:26" which continues right on from the last song and welcomes a sullen violin and the whispering of wind.
This debut album from Tvangeste is the sort of thing that fans of Cradle, Graveworm, and Hecate Enthroned would drool over. Chances are that they've already heard it and I'm just digging up old history. But there's nothing wrong with that as there are so many metal albums still yet to be discovered out there, and as I discover early material worth mentioning, I will review it just to simply get the word out.
Tvangeste is giving this album away for free on their official website in a very low (128 kbps) quality (you can probably get a full booklet/cd scan and 320kbps rip of the disc on Rockbox) but no matter how you get it, the band wants you to know that music shouldn't be about money and if you like the album, that's all they really want. But if you do feel compelled to donate them a few bucks, that will help on their next record which they're currently working on.
Highlights: From Nameless Oracle, Angel's Retreat, Damnation Of Regiomontum, Born To Be King Of Innerself (6 Tracks, 51:00)
Tvangeste - Firestorm (2003) - The second Tvangeste album is much different in that it features more folk elements, less gothic quality and a higher production value. It's still not on the level of overproduction (which is a good thing, in all honesty) but is a bit more vibrant than the debut.
"Under The Black Raven's Wings 5:54" starts out with all sorts of folk/operatic fare (including the 0:46 intro) and plays around with goth for a bit until you notice that there are shitload of vocalists on the track. But yes, there's an actual drummer behind the kit this time. The frontman's vocals are more pronounced making him sound very much in the vein of Peter Jackson's interpretation of Tolkien's Gollum character. My goodness, there's even a male choir on this one. How did they manage all that so fast?
"Birth Of The Hero 5:46" is next, separating itself from black metal and heading much more in the goth-opera vein of Cradle Of Filth. At this point, it's quite difficult to consider them black metal with everything else so crowded. But that's not to say that it doesn't pack a black metal bite. When the clean duet appears backed by blasts and the like, it may be a bit different than what some of you were expecting, but it works for this new image.
"Fire In Our Hearts 5:59" actually strips the whole choir and opera image for just a bit, returning briefly to the band's original style of gothic/black metal while playing around with a flute and piano for just a bit. The middle section of this piece sees the band at it's heaviest thus far and really gets your head banging. Unfortunately, none of the guitar melodies on this record have been anywhere near as good as Damnation. What happened?
"Perkunos Flame 6:44" starts out like black metal basher, but moves onto the sounds of a classical orchestra quite quick as the black metal comes back in to back it. It's great to hear things getting heavy again, especially after all of the opera in the beginning.
"Godless Freedom 5:37" is for the most part an exercise in gothic black metal, but still includes a bit of opera as it slows down. The piano part here is gorgeous, it makes me think of Dracula's castle for sure.
"Storm 7:46" lays it on thick with the orchestration (again, where did they find the money to hire these people?) and is full of many structural, vocal and style changes. Opera returns here in full fold, but still sees the black metal in top form. And what these guys do with violins is fucking so good that it's sinful, so definitely check it out.
"Tears Will Wash Off The Blood From My Sword 6:18" ends the tale, with more opera, classical and black metal fare. Thankfully, it's still heavy but definitely features the orchestration in full force. Some parts of this song truly thunder, it's definitely something you can bang your head and throw the horns up to, even during the orchestration. They really don't make symphonic black metal like this anymore, at least to my knowledge. I'm sure there's somebody doing it out there just as good, but I haven't discovered them yet.
Well, I would've hardly expected Tvangeste's second opus to be a symphonic black metal album with thick elements of opera and orchestration. The production value is much improved, the drums are absolutely furious and the frontman seems primed for the attack. While some songs lay it on a bit thick, I can't really say that there's anything on the album that came off as less than brilliant. This is a concept album with it's own storyline and for the most part, the tale is told quite beautifully. Unfortunately, the stunning guitar melodies of the debut have been replaced with orchestral melodies that evoke the same feel, but don't leave me quite as mesmerized.
Once again, this album is offered free from the band at their official website. If you're not sure of that address, I am sure that a simple google search of the band's moniker will help you find that site. This time, the release is offered in 320kbs, which should be fine for most audiophiles here (which I find myself slowly becoming) and it includes the album's cover artwork, but no scans of the booklet. At any rate, this is really all that you need to be able to enjoy the album. And don't forget that Tvangeste want you to have and enjoy the music that they've made, so please get the album. Once again, if you're compelled to donate them some money for their effort you can do that very easily through the band's website. I will definitely give them a few dollars for their efforts in addition to these promotional reviews. I enjoyed both albums really, so I was more than happy to review and promote their work.
(8 Tracks, 44:00)
Burzum - Sol Austan, Mani Vestan (2013) - Well, I was all geared up for the next black metal album from Burzum, because the last record he made was not so... well, great. I thought that maybe he would try to kick it up a notch this time. But it seems that this is not the case, as Varg then declared "I'm not doing black metal anymore." So what are you going to do now? Folk hymns to the Allfather?
Nope. Turns out he wants to try his best Steve Roach impression with the new release Sol Austan, Mani Vestan in which Steve Roach has wiped the fucking floor with twenty times over. Check out his massive body of work if this album appeals to you. But like Steve Roach's works, the majority of this disc is about creating an atmosphere. Some tracks have a little bit of percussion and one has the clanking of a hammer, but the effect is the same. Anyone who shit themselves over Mortiis's atmospheric albums (which also wipe the floor with this) will find themselves into this album, while noticing that the approach is quite subtle. After the percussion and the hammer clanks, the disc begins a starlight journey that does seem to set the proper mood at night. Quite simply put, Burzum didn't make an album for you to bang your head, he made an atmosphere for you to listen to while you're in bed.
By the way, this isn't another Hildsjalf. I definitely prefer the atmospheres on the album to this one, even though he recorded it while behind bars and with limited resources. You would think that now that the man whizzed out of jail (some fucking how) and has all the resources at his disposal, that he would one-up Hildsjalf. But that isn't the case here. Most songs simply flow into others, making one big atmospheric piece that is rather subtle. It's the lightest and least harmful type of music that he's ever recorded. There is not one ounce of grimness on the album, not one harsh utterance or even an electric riff. You'll be lucky if you hear a guitar. This album is so far removed from the realms of metal that it'll bring most Burzum fans to tears. But for those of you who liked Hildsjalf, you won't find much solace in this one either. I guess if you want to have nice dreams you can play it. Maybe he wrote the album because he had trouble sleeping at night and needed something to listen to drift off.
But do you know what my problem with this disc is? I mean, god forbid - I have thee unmarked atmospheric discs attributed to Mortiis, they're burned CD's that I got from a friend a few years ago. I used to listen to them to drift off (and perhaps should do again) and those discs were fucking magical. There's one song in particular, I don't even know the name of it - but when I listen to that track, I feel like I'm in this great temple. I don't know where the hell it is, but it's fucking spectacular. There's great horns in the background, stars in the sky, some great and terrible deity who's just sitting on a throne and looking down at me in my insignificance. I can feel all that from the song alone. Words echo from the mouth of the being, but I can't make them out - my feeble brain is far too primitive to be able to decipher them. I used to leave the discs on repeat which scratched the hell out of them, yet they still played.
But my point is, that's what an atmosphere should be. Hildsjalf had atmosphere. There's one track on the disc that scares the living daylights out of me. It just sounds like something foul. No words, no riffs, just fear - whatever the hell Burzum was feeling when writing that track, it worked for me. It built that atmosphere. Go listen to Steve Roach's Dreamtime Return. There are several different atmospheres on that record and two discs were required for the full journey. That was back in the late 80's. He's since then made five Immersion discs and each one of those offers the same feeling, but to a far greater extent then what you'll hear here. I'm not saying that Burzum can't do it, I'm just saying that there are much better renditions of this kind of music out there.
Most of you won't care because it's not metal, and that's understandable. If Burzum has his sights set on beating Roach at his own game, then let him have a go at it. He did some wonderful things on Filosofem, but that goes in line with most of the things that we can say about him. He DID many great things, but now might be the time for him to face the fact that the well's gone dry. I understand that the guy wants to make all of the albums that he couldn't make when he was in prison, and that's probably why releases from him have been so prolific as of the past couple of years. But now we're already on that "old man" stage as the youthful vigor has left Varg like a fleeting wind, leaving us with this sub-par ambient record. You'll notice that I said "ambient" record, as in AMBIEN and yes, it works the same.
Sol Austan, Mani Vestan is not the kind of album that you'll listen to while drinking a few with the guys, and it won't romance up your sex life either. It's the kind of music that you put on right before you're ready to call it a day. It's subtle and soothing, but not much can be said about it. Sure, it'll take you on a journey but I confess that I've been on far greater journeys before.
Decent, just like the score implies.
(11 Tracks, 58:00)