Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fall Rundown: Releases You May Have Missed Pt.I

Cleaning out my hard drive again, so you know the deal. A paragraph (more in some instances) on each, some of the highlights and a final score . At most, if it sounds interesting, then go check it out!

Remember folks, that a 9 is a "good" album. A "10" is a great album. We've heard many good albums, but few great ones. You might see a lot of good albums here, but few are great. "8" is solid and "7" decent, respectively. "6" is alright, "5" is mediocre and anything below that you probably don't want to waste your time with.


Black Sabbath - 13 (2 CD Deluxe Edition 2013) - Let's be honest. I'm probably one of the last reviewers to get to this one and I'm quite sure that this dead horse has been beat and put out to pasture a long time ago. So I'll keep it short for those who haven't heard it. This is nothing more than a sort of retro-reboot for Black Sabbath, and it was supposed to sound like the album that came after their self-titled debut. They achieved that sound, but the problem is that we've already heard most of the material here before. The only real songs that stuck out to me were "End Of The Beginning 8:06", "God Is Dead? 8:52", "Loner 5:00" and "Live Forever 4:46" mostly due to the prog injections and Iommi's solos. "Zeitgeist 4:37" really struck out, and the other three songs were solid enough.

As far as the bonus tracks go, "Methademic 5:58" might be one of the heavier tracks, but it suffers in the chorus; while "Pariah 5:34" is decent enough and "Naivete In Black 3:52" is also worth mentioning. The ball was dropped on "Peace Of Mind 3:40." People have been debating as to whether or not this is an actual Sabbath album, or a thinly veiled Ozzy record. That choice is up to you. I will say that the bonus tracks here really do sound like a bunch of b-sides though and were left off for good reason. Reactions have been split across the board for this album, but I'm kind of in the middle about the whole thing. All in all, it's just another Sabbath album.

Highlights: End Of The Beginning, God Is Dead?, Loner, Live Forever (12Tracks 72:00)



Carcass - Surgical Steel (2013) - Some people (I don't know who) thought that when this album came out, the sky was going to rain down with gold and diamonds and that everyone was going to simultaneously masturbate with glee as it would be the best metal album of all time. But then, how their hopes were dashed when they found out that Carcass had made nothing more than just another Carcass album. I really don't know what the fans were expecting, but this meld of Heartwork and Necroticism was certainly a pleasure for the most part, despite it's rough beginning.

When I mean rough, I mean rough. "1985 1:15" was originally a demo track that the band found on a Russian torrent which had been previously lost to them. It's essentially a shit-tacular version of Judas Priest's "The Hellion" which Jeff admits in an interview, and the band simply reworked it for this release. Why? It sounds like Bill Ward hadn't picked up his guitar in twenty years and tried to play "The Hellion" but failed. Listen to the piece, folks - these riffs are broken. They don't flow like they should, and I know that I'm not the only one out there who's hearing these broken riffs. It clearly sounds like demo days and was a terrible way to start out the album. Then we have the garbage opener "Thrasher's Abbatoir 1:50" which was originally supposed to be on Swansong. So why is it here? Both of these songs just feel like unnecessary tack-ons and they shouldn't have even been considered.

But what really pisses me off about Surgical Steel is that the band recorded four more tracks for the album, only available on limited edition copies or in magazines (Have a Decibel Flexi with one of these on it, but can't listen to it because I quit listening to record players ages ago) or somewhere underneath Jeff Walker's welcome mat. Yeah, you might just find a Carcass track under there. But in all seriousness, why in the hell couldn't these guys have just scrapped the two openers, started the album out with the familiar territory of "Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System 4:02" and let it ride from there? I mean, one the album get's started, it's fine. Plenty of melodies and thrash/grind, delivered nicely on tracks like "The Master Butcher's Apron 4:00" and the thrilling closer "Mount Of Execution 8:25."

It's not necessary for me to tell you how these will sound. You already know. If you know Carcass, then you know what you should expect from Carcass. Some are even comparing the work to Reek Of Putrefaction, but I personally haven't heard the early days myself; so I can't tell you if those claims are justified. What I can tell you, is if you're expecting a ballsy thrasher with grind and blazing melodies/solos, then that's what you'll get here. After the two shitty opening tag-on's were over, the real album started and I couldn't find a flaw. If you want this disc to be the best metal album ever released in the history of mankind; well... I'm sorry to disappoint you and don't get your hopes up.

Well, we've gone way past one single paragraph, right? But it is Carcass, and it is an album that we never expected to happen. Yes, the guys are talking about doing another one. So maybe that one will have all the ice cream and sugar you wanted. I just wanted a good metal album and that's what this was.

Highlights: All except for the bullshit openers. (11 Tracks, 47:00)



Extol - Extol (2013) - Here's another album that's been quite a while in the making, that Extol album that goes back to the heavy days of Burial and Undeceived... or maybe not. But even if there are some core tendencies here, I can't deny that the vocal approach is quite ravenous at times, and the clean is strong - almost reminding me of a proggier Carcass. Extol definitely doubled up on the prog this time around, taking a cue from Ihsahn and Devin Townsend, especially on the single, "Open The Gates 4:28." The album's quite melodic as much as it heavy, making quite a hefty dent in their discography as it doesn't sound like anything they've done before. So at least they're not repeating themselves. Fans of progressive death and black metal will eat this one up, as it really sounds like these guys know what they're doing and it's certainly brought the band's sound into the modern era of metal (some might think that's a bad thing, but it will sell records.)

But if there's anything I'll say about this record, it's that the band's namesake track "Extol 4:03" is a fucking jewel. I really don't want to reveal this album too much to you, it's something you need to sit down and listen to as with the Carcass. I can say with all honesty that this is definitely one of the best Extol records in years, but be ready for the clean vocals (but hey, they work.) Extol's self-titled is a perfect meld of beauty and rage that equals out to be some of the best Christian metal I've heard in a while (or at least since the last A Hill To Die Upon record.) Christ would've probably called it "racket" but I don't know what kind of music they listened to back in those days. Of course, you'd have to have a musician come to your dwelling and play for you back in those days and only the rich could afford that. Be thankful that times have changed, and definitely check it out.

Highlights: A Gift Beyond Human Reach, Faltering Motives, Behold The Sun, Dawn Of Redemption, Extol, Unveiling The Obscure, Sting Of Death (11 Tracks, 50:00)


!T.O.O.H! - Democratic Solution (2013 Free Album) - What the fuck is this? I listened to the whole thing and I'd rather not listen to it again. Ever. TOOH have always been obscure, but this new direction of Neo-socialism and Russian Patriotism is not something that any of us probably wanted to hear outside of Russia. Odd things are happening in the country right now, and there could very well be a mass holocaust type event in the country regarding homosexuals. It's truly possible, especially given the nature of some of the things that the Russian Military Police have done. They claim that "Russian homosexuals have rights, but they don't need to have parades" and there's the fact that they armed Bashir Al-Assad with weapons, so its a big shitstorm right now. But Russian women champion strength, so I can't say too much about the country as I do have a thing for muscle-bound women.

As for the album... You know? I really don't know what to say here. The vocals are pretty much spoken word and there's some speedy drums with a hint of gravel every now and then, and patriotic rhythms; but that's it. TOOH has never been my favorite act, but making music that a shirtless Vladimir Putin might enjoy whilst riding on a horse might be the very furthest from something I would be into. The album is free, so I guess you can check it out if you want. I wouldn't. It was a complete waste of time, honestly. The album does have four new versions of classic songs, but I can't say that I would recommend those either. The band has gone a long way from Order And Punishment and decided to do THIS instead. But not many people outside the motherland would like it, I gather; even though I wouldn't mind lying on a bed while I watch a hot Russian IFBB flex to this. Other than that, I don't think I'm going to listen to it ever again.

You can download this oddity here, comrade: http://www.mediafire.com/download/dpt8nwd1d3z39t7/!T.O.O.H.!_-_Democratic_Solution_%282013%29.zip

(14 Tracks, 45:00)



Fleshgod Apocalypse - Labyrinth (2013) - The problem with Fleshgod Apocalypse's new album "Labyrinth" is that it's overblown to the point of absurdity. These guys want to be Septic Flesh and even took the mythology from Septic's homeland to use for their new album. Why? Whose idea was this? These guys are Italians, why can't they do something with their own Roman mythology? But yeah, the Romans did kind of steal the Greek gods; so it makes sense in that aspect.

If there's anything about this album, it's that it sounds like a fucking mess. Some people might consider it a good soundtrack to God Of War, but for the rest of us; there's just enough variety here to care. I think these guys bit off more than they could chew with the album and just came up in the middle somewhere. Though some of these tracks are peppered with hefty solos and high pitched falsettos, (am I getting that right?) the drums do the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, leaving the album to sound like one of the stone walls in this labyrinth. Imagine if the entire band was trapped in a labyrinth, and how it would sound. Some of the music would escape from the holes in the ceilings, maybe some of the operatic female vocals and great solo pieces - but other than that, the album came and went. I believe I've heard Septic Flesh do it better and can't wait until these guys evolve this style into something with more variety.

Again, it's filled with the operatic fanfare of a Greek epic, so if that sounds good to you; then you'll probably like this album and consider it some sort of masterpiece. But I think I've been spoiled by Septic Flesh and Rotting Christ had I not heard them first, this would've probably blown my mind. It's good, but not great.

Highlights: Kingborn, Elegy, Pathfinder, The Fall Of Asterion, Epilogue, Under Black Sails, Labyrinth (11 Tracks, 54:00)



Christopher Lee - Charlemagne: The Omens Of Death (2013) - The first Charlemagne was decent, but lacked metal. This one, on the other hand; sees Christopher Lee's Shakespearian approach to vocals backed with heavy, even thunderous power metal courtesy of Marco Sabiu, Jaun Remirez, and Hedras Ramos. There are also some unaccredited female vocals on the album. As you can expect, almost an hour of (somewhat rough, somewhat produced) operatic power metal follows with strong guitar melodies, anthemic choirs and some worthy solos. So even if the vocals sound a bit odd, the metal doesn't. The only thing I can say about the disc, is that drums really aren't that great on the album. They're there, but so weak in the mix that they don't seem to matter. Other members of the band also help Mr. Lee out on vocals, one of them being just as good as old Charlemagne himself. Harsh vocals actually appear on this album on the very rough "The Devil's Advocate 4:53" which I would have never expected on an album of this type, especially with Christopher Lee. You would expect the album to have better production than this, but it's certainly a good listen and is the most metal thing that Christopher Lee has even put his name to. There are memorable songs on the disc like "Massacre Of The Saxons 5:41" and "Let Legend Mark Me As King 5:45" as well as Christopher Lee dueting with a female on the ballad "Dawning Of A New Age 4:40." But if you want to hear good acting, check out the "Betrayal 5:02."

It's much better than the first one, I'll tell you that.

(10 Tracks, 52:00)



Autolatry - Native (2013) - I loved Autolatry's Land EP, but I have no idea what they're doing with Native. It's a little over thirty minutes and the approach is a bit more raw than their albums have been in the past. Even so, it's still got the feel of progressive black metal and is performed well enough with strong melodies and the bells and whistles that you'd expect from prog. "Colony 6:49" is a little rougher in nature, more akin to traditional black metal minus the prog, but then the band breaks into the melodic beauty called "Waning Moon 3:30" which is a fantastic instrumental piece. It sounds just as good as it should and I can hear the Agalloch and Sculptured influences a mile away. "Unrest With Tide 6:55" goes back to the progressive black metal assault, and "Pale Dishonor 7:53" sees the drums blasting even faster, but giving the guitar room enough for a couple solo pieces. Not to mention the clean vocals and flamenco inspired rock section that none of us saw coming, but we were certainly glad to hear it. "Setting The Sun 3:12" is another oddity, an acoustic track with a saxophone on it. One could make love to it, I'd imagine. But after you've finished, there's one more on this disc that goes back into black metal. It's very much the same Agalloch/Krallice type, but this one also contains a fantastic solo piece.

Right now, these guys are playing progressive black metal with hints of death metal and progressive rock with progressive rock solos, not to mention other types of experimentation. I'm not even sure if these guys ever got signed, but with an effort like this, someone should care. Someone's looking to take the throne from Agalloch and I think I know just who it might be... Do you?

(6 Tracks, 34:00)



Palms - Palms (2013) - Palms is a project that sees Chino Moreno (Deftones) fronting the rest of Isis, but it's definitely not what you'd expect. What they're created here is a notable mix of heavy rock and beautiful atmospheres that equal into one of the most profound releases that I've heard in years. It certainly seems to be a taste of some of the nicer afterworld planes of existence.

"Future Warrior 7:56" is an incredible song, with the right mix of heavy and light; and Chino's excellent vocals backing it. Call it Deftones, call it Isis. I don't care what you call it. It's good. "Patagonia 6:40" takes more of a shoegaze route in melody with Chino's vocals sounding ethereal, like they could go right through you. "Mission Sunset 10:00" adds some electronic influence and starts out with atmosphere but builds itself up to heavily melodic quality that would actually do well on the radio. The next part of the song is much trippier. You might want to be high before you listen to this one. But the music itself can give you a sense of being high. So that may not be necessary. "Shortwave Radio 6:56" is even trippier, with Chino's vocals sounding like they're coming through the walls or something. There's so much melody in this disc, that it's profound - just a beautiful piece to listen to. It's relaxing and probably works on a quiet drive through the country at night. "Tropics 5:44" gets a bit electronic, replacing the drums with electronic beats, but the song erupts near the end. Not too much, though. "Antarctic Handshake 9:41" is a simply beautiful instrumental piece, it definitely is capable of transporting one away from the stresses of life. I think I can apply that sentence to this entire album. Palms is beautiful. There's no doubt about it. This is some of the most enlightening music I've heard in years, it's as beautiful as Anathema's We're Here Because We're Here and then some. Definitely the most beautiful, peaceful and tranquil album of the year. There's nothing out there quite like it.

(6 Tracks, 46:00)



Queensryche - Queensryche (2013) - I've read all kinds of reviews for this album, and I've seen the band in two seperate settings on AXS with the new frontman. Whoever this fucking guy is, he's great. I never cared for Queensryche not even during the days of Operation Mindcrime. I guess I could try listening to the album again and see if it sticks this time, but there just never seemed to be enough thump in this band and they always seemed to have that whole "hair ballad" feel to them. However, my opinion started to change with this self-titled debut. While I've still to hear the other Queensryche album, (which is probably going to sound like cheesy hair metal) this one really seemed to power in and seldom let up. It's not a terribly long album, but definitely manages to leave a mark.

"Where Dreams Go To Die 4:25" has a strong chorus and an interesting solo, but "Spore 3:25" really seems to bring the band into a heavier sense. These riffs are basically nu-metal, but you can't fault the amazing vocals of this guy, who came out of a wall somewhere. The chorus is unforgettable. "In This Light 3:24" also contains a catchy as hell chorus, making that three for three on catchy choruses. Then we've got "Redemption 4:16" which also has a killer chorus and flaming solo. That's four for four. "Vindication 3:26" doesn't come off as strong, but there's notable bits of prog in it. "Midnight Lullaby 0:55" is forgettable, so let's move on. "A World Without 4:11slows things down a bit, but also contains a bit of an eerie vibe to it. The song is a bit more mature in nature and has a great solo piece, but there's no catchy chorus to speak of. It's still a great track. "Don't Look Back 3:13" has more of a driving rhythm to it, definitely featuring a strong chorus and some overall noteworthy musicianship. It verges on power metal, but that's completely okay. "Fallout 2:46" is next, and despite it being the shortest actual song on the album; it manages to break out a powerful chorus piece. Again. There's also a good solo here. The disc ends with "Open Road 3:54" which is a slightly heavy ballad to end the disc on.

Let's be honest, some of you might not like this disc because it's not "official" or something. But in all actuality, it's a good disc. I found plenty of memorable tracks on the album and I'd certainly recommend it over whatever in the heck that other disc will sound like. I will say that the production sounds kind of "tinny" as if the band is playing inside of one of those made to order steel buildings. Short, but most definitely sweet.

Highlights: Spore, In This Light, Redemption, A World Without, Don't Look Back, Fallout (11 Tracks, 35:00)



Agathodaimon - In Darkness (2013) - After many long years of waiting, the new Agathodaimon album has finally been released. But surprisingly, the band has take a turn back to their roots and this one might sit well more with fans of the band's older work than Serpent's Embrace, for example. But it certainly lends itself to maturity and that's what you'll get with the powerful opener "In Darkness (We Shall Be Reborn) 6:19" which goes into the thumping black metal inspired "I've Risen 4:48" and be on the look for the clean vocals, because they're certainly here and in some places they're fantastic. Even solos make their appearance. The end portions of each song are very anthemic, so if the beginnings don't get you, then the endings certainly will. There's a lot of choral repetition. Next is my favorite track on the album, "Favourite Sin 5:43" which I listened to about five times in a row after I first heard the album. There's also an unexpected rock solo on the track. The harsh vocals are exceptionally strong on this album, as are the clean vocals. "Oceans Of Black 5:32" mixes atmosphere with the band's melodic sense to black/death metal. "Adio 5:21" is next, which is basically a basher with mostly harsh vocals, but something that sounds more like a bree comes in. "Somewhere, Somewhere 5:48" brings more of the gothic aesthetic to the music, keeping the band's "gothic metal" semblances strong. "Dusk Of An Infinite Shade 4:42" doesn't hide it's black metal roots in the gothic slather, and closer "Hollenfahrt Der Selbsterkenntnis 5:59" brings a gothic doom feel to the band, not unlike My Dying Bride. The vocals, like on most of the album; are a mix of growls and scowls. There's melody upon melody on this one, but it still manages to kick up the drums and really deliver in the punishment department.

As a bonus, you get an acoustic version of the basher "Adio 3:26." Without the blasting drums and scathing black metal vocals, it's a much different affair. It's alright, but it's not my favorite track from Agathodaimon by any means. It's certainly a strong album and I think it's well worth checking out. As the acoustic version of "Adio" is a bonus track (that comes with every CD by the way) I'm not really going to count it in the score. With just eight tracks and forty minutes of material, these guys have once again delivered in the same way that they always do. Plus, for a song that made me hit "repeat" a bunch of times, it can't be too bad.

Highlights: In Darkness, Favourite Sin, Dusk Of An Infinite Shade, Hollenfahrt Der Selbsterkenntnis (9 Tracks, 47:00)



  1. Palms is incredible... I read some dumb review of it in some dumb magazine they said it was nothing special. I should have trusted the guys from ISIS. Thanks for the reviews.

    1. No problem. Another Fall review list is already done and will be on the way soon. These are much easier to handle, since I'm more familair with the artists, than I am with blind promo reviews. But I like doing both, as I also enjoy the surprise of not having heard a band's music before! It helps me get into new bands, which in turn helps me to promote them and get others also into those bands - so it's a win win situation!