Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Mushroomhead are an industrial/alternative metal band from Ohio. The band started back in 1993 and have been labeled by some as a darker Slipknot, while their fans and the band themselves will say little on any relation between the two bands. This is their new record following up their last 2006 release, "Sing Sorrow."
I'll be honest right up front and say that besides a few tracks here and there, I've never heard an entire album's worth of tracks from Mushroomhead and this is really my first experience with one. From what I've experienced from earlier listening, songs ranged from boring and uninspired to some cool original industrial tinged metal songs. I have to say that the first single, being the opening track, Come On, leaned much farther to the former of the two. This opening track sounding like a very poor take on 80s thrash and goth combination really just bored me to tears with how actually boring and uninteresting it was.
The use of two vocalists, Jeffery Nothing and Waylon, does add a much needed diversity to the album, though that's something that has occurred for the last few albums. While fans of the band are much more familiar with the strengths and weakness, and preferences to either one, I found Waylon's more hard rock oriented singing much more appealing than Jeffery's industrial crooning. I found that most of Waylon's singing was underused in favor of his screams which, while used appropriately with the verses of certain songs, most of his singing is used to harmony Jeffery's. Though tracks like The Feel do showcase a good mix of both, I found the that the tracks that focused more on melody and less on aggression more pleasing, but that's just me.
Musically, I found what went on in this album pretty dull and underwhelming. Most of the riffs are pretty generic within metalcore, industrial, and 80's thrash metal, not that the music was all that intricate anyway since the vocals are really what this album focuses on. Probably the most interesting on this album, instrumentally speaking anyway, is the keyboards and samples that are scattered throughout each track. Tracks like I'll Be Here and The Harm You Do focus more on the darker industrial tones of the band while other tracks like Slaughterhouse Road and Holes In The Void use them in conjunction with the heavy guitars. What I found a bit odd was the placing of songs on here, as I felt more than half of this album was underwhelming and mediocre, the last handful of songs were actually quite good.
Overall, I'm kind of on the fence with this one, I found the first half of the album really lame and dull, the second half really had some cool songs. While this is most certainly not something that would inspire me to pick up the rest of their albums, I am most certainly interested in hearing more songs. If you're into industrial tinged groove metal, check this out.
Overall Score: 5
Highlights: I'll Be Here, Harvest The Garden, Your Demise
Obsidian is a technical death metal band from Holland. This is the band's second full-length album and the follow-up to their 2006 debut "Emerging." This is the first "new" release to feature vocalist Robbe K., his first being a re-recording of their debut.
This record really picks up exactly where their debut left off, technical guitar work, frantic drumming, and guttural death metal vocals. The band still have that Meshuggah groove present in their sound, but also that influence from groups like Necrophagist or The Faceless that has a more technical riff-driven approach. This is a record that does not fail to put up some great intense tracks that blast you in the face, but on there are more apparent inclusions of other styles in here than on the debut.
What becomes more and more apparent as the album goes on is the inclusion of more progressive and melodic influences into their sound. This is still in no way a melodic death metal record, and a far cry from any sort of deathcore band, this is a band that is highly technical but is learning how to write more interesting songs. You'll find inclusions of melodic death metal, post-metal, and even progressive metal on here that certainly make this album more unique than the usual tech death band coming out. There is even a more prevalent use of clean vocals on here than on the debut as well, but they have more in common with post-metal singing than melodic metal.
There a more than a few times on this record that the speed dies down and more mellow sections or slower riffs come in to the fold to break up the monotony that may have existed, hear Radiating Light or the instrumental The Upward Spiral. Don't fret though tracks like Illuminate or Incinerate are focused more on the intense and technical side of the band. Though I personally believe that the title-track, Point of Infinity, shows the greatest leap forward for the band, demonstrating plenty of more progressive influences while maintaining an almost frantic approach to the playing.
Overall, I found this a welcome surprise to all the other technical death metal/deathcore groups coming out that all sound like The Faceless rip-offs. This album is a solid leap forward for the band, and a record that they should feel proud of having made. If you like technical/progressive death metal, definitely check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Tidal Waves, Point of Infinity, Spectral Pathways
Sunday, September 26, 2010
In Lingua Mortua are a progressive/symphonic black metal band from Norway. The debut record that emerged back in 2007, "Bellowing Sea - Racked By Tempest," exhibited some of the most forward thinking during that year for black metal. This is the follow-up record and has even more guest musicians on it that it's predecessor did.
For those that don't know, this is the brainchild Lars Fredrik Frøislie and this is his most experimental and progressive project. Being that he sites everything from old school death and black metal metal (Entombed, Mayhem, Burzum) to jazz (Miles Davis) to electronic (Amon Tobin, Massive Attack) as influences, you can imagine how diverse an album this is. All of those influences manage to find their way into the eleven songs on this record.
As mentioned above, there are a lot of guests on this record, and I'm not exaggerating, there are a LOT. Vocals are handled by Nefas himself along with Thebon (Keep of Kalessin) and Niklas Kvarforth (Shining, Swe.). There are also about a dozen more including Jørgen Munkeby (Shining, Nor.) on saxophone and clarinet, Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willows) on guitar and bass, and Ketil Einarsen (Jaga Jazzist) on flute, just to name a few. I'll just come out and say that there are more than a few moments on this record where you can just get lost in everything that's going on.
It becomes quite hard to pull on song from another on here, as this record is so dense and progressively avant-garde, maybe a new genre(?!), that every song, whether it be the short two minute long A Force of Nature or the epic eight minute Like The Ocean, sounds epic in their own right. The flow to every song, and with as much going on in a single song as there is, not one song on this album ever felt too long. Having said that, most of this record is blistering and intense, there aren't very many moments where things slow down, hear Open The Doors of Janus for one of those moments.
The production on this record has to be complimented for it's pristine clarity, everything can be heard. This is a very dense record, you'll have black metal band playing with symphonic keyboards, saxophones, and weird electronic glitches going on all at once and they can all be heard quite well, listen to the opener Full Fathom Five. While this is most certainly not a squeaky clean, polished record, it's clear that everything is heard while still making it sound like a black metal record, a modern one that is.
Overall, this is a very unique record that showcases multiple styles within a single record and manages to not make it sound forced. For how impenetrable this record is, it still manages to pull of several good tracks with some catchy parts. If you like experimental or progressive music this is something you'll have to hear this year, prove how much of a good listener you are and listen to this.
Overall Score: 8.5Highlights: Darkness, Like The Ocean, Cold Void Messiah
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Serj Tankian is the lead vocalist of System of A Down and this is his second solo record. Following the hiatus of SOAD back in 2006, he released his first solo record "Elect The Dead," and done many tours on that record. After performing with an orchestra in more recent tours, this new album shows a broader range of influences than his debut.
From the opening seconds of this album, Serj lives up to everything he stated in interviews about this album being almost completely different from anything he had ever done. Within the first minute, you get a burst of energy from a symphonic rock before switching gears and moving into an mish-mash of electronic, jazz, and classical parts. This is easily one of the most unique records of the year; Serj has definitely created a sound that no one else has done before.
This record easily is one of the most original to come out this year, with all the above genres being mixed together, weaving in and out of each other fluidly. With a unique sound that mixes elements of electronic and symphonic, this record is also immensely textured and layered. There are little subtle things that might not be so obvious on the first listen but will come out with more listens, like the flute in Beatus or the building atmospheres in the single Left of Center. It might even turn some off knowing that Yes, It's Genocide is in fact sung in Armenian, not in English. There is also a very persistent darkness throughout this record, listen to the lyrics in Wings of Summer, to contrast the almost pop-rock sort of attitude that carries through some of these tracks.
I think that this is a record that is not as immediate as many people might expect. When listening to Serj's previous work, both solo and in SOAD, the music had a hook that was easily graspable on a first listen, the hooks are not as obvious on here, though there are still tracks like Borders Are... or Gate 21 that are easy to get into right away. Those that approach it with the mindset that you'll get a bunch of catchy songs that you can sing along to after hearing it once will be sadly disappointed; I believe that you have to approach this record with a bit more of an open mind and be willing to accept that these songs are not immediate and are filled with much more experimental tendencies.
Overall, I'd have to say that this is a very solid record where, despite being original and unique, has catchy and melodic songs. The songs are well put together and still maintain a short pop structure for the most part, so there isn't a lot of wanking off with big orchestral interludes or whatever on here. If you're into experimental rock music, you probably already know Serj, but even this might test you're listening skills, if you're up to it, check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Deserving, Electron, Left of Center, Wings of Summer
Vit is a blackened doom metal band from Ohio. The band hail from a small town named Swansylvania and are what the band site as their main influence. This is the trios, vocals, guitars, and drums by the way, first release and they have said that they are already working on a follow-up for next year.
Despite the style on here being generalized as blackened doom metal, you'll find elements in here that could connect this band or album to several other genres. The opening riff on The Ardour of Saints reminisces of post-rock while Ascension Ritual has more than a few links to the rootsy Americana style. The black metal part of the band could even link them closer to a band like Cobalt, where it's certainly black metal, but there's just an air of uniqueness to it.
The track Swansylvania is actually quite an experience, as the song is just an oppressive dirge of a song, crawling along with a terrible disposition. You'll notice that the track is a pissed fist in the face of everything that is accessible about black metal today, choosing to have a building tension within it and never really letting it go. But that is just one of the more "normal" tracks on this album, with the next song, the aforementioned Ascension Ritual, being a 14 minute track that is much more experimental.
This record has a real sense of melody and groove present, showing how much the band actually manage to write solid songs while retaining an originality and experimental nature. There are moments on here that sound a bit like a Black Sabbath riff from the early 80s, while others are ripping melodies that recall 90's Norwegian black metal. While tracks like Perennial Collapse or Puritan Ossuary are definitely more aggressive and should appeal to those that enjoy the more "straightforward" approach, I have to say that personally, I found myself enjoying this album's more adventurous tracks.
The production on here, being self-produced, is rather fitting for the music when you look at how much the production COULD have hindered this album's attitude. When you look at bands that choose a rawer production, their sound is often more muddied and at times "sloppy" and other bands might choose a cleaner, more pristine sound where everything is polished and things can end up sounding a bit too shiny and mechanical, this record leans a bit more to the dirty side, but has enough of a shine to allow things to come through. You find that everything is very clear in the mix, while remaining an almost live quality that captures a real gritty assault.
Overall, I had little expectations approaching this release and was really blown away by it's unique take on black metal. After listening to this record a few times, I have come to expect a lot from the next release, keep your eye on this band. This might not appeal to those with a liking for more melodic black metal, but those that like the style when it has a fistful of passion and emotion should definitely check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Swansylvania, Ascension Ritual, -
Dordeduh is a progressive/atmospheric black metal group from Romania. This is the new band formed by former Negură Bunget founders Hupogrammos Disciple and Sol Faur. This is their debut release after leaving the band in 2009.
The two songs that make up this short EP contain what some fans of Negură Bunget the true follow-up to their 2006 masterwork "Om." While the new record from Bunget took a decidedly more atmospheric and almost tribal style, this record kind of sticks with the style that was present on "Om." There are elements of the tribal and atmospheric are present on both these songs, but it still has a more black metal core sound. I think it's fairly obvious that the sound on here is very natural and both songs feature progressions that flow together quite nicely.
I would say that this record is more of a black metal release than the newest Negură Bunget, while maintaining elements of folk, progressive rock, and symphonic music. While the first track, Cumpat, is in a similar vein of the new Bunget record, being very ambient and orchestral sounding, making use of keyboards and violins over guitars; the second track, Zuh - Cu Tunetel Muntilor picks up the pace being a somewhat proggy black metal track with a nice ebb and flow to it. Despite having only two tracks that are kind of opposites to each other, a full-length can hopefully explore both separately and together in the future.
Overall, this is nice little release that should appease those that found Bunget's newest release too atmospheric or not up to their own standards. While this doesn't really do anything really new to the sound that was established by these two already, this should probably be best approached as a first release starting pad for them to only get better. If you like black metal that is able to move from meditative to blasting easily, check this out.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Zuh - Cu Tunetel Muntilor
Friday, September 24, 2010
Dinner Auf Uranos is a avant-garde/psyche rock band from Germany. Members from this band come from former German progressive black metal band Nocte Obducta. According to the main composer of both projects, Marcel Breuer, this album is a compilation of stuff written from near the end of 2006 onward.
Anyone that is familiar with Nocte Obducta could tell you that they were never the most accessible black metal band, often writing songs that went into Dream Theater length, that's the ten plus range. This record kind of has a mentality, but is far less metal than even the later albums from Obducta. As a composer of many different styles, Breuer himself has stated that even early in Obducta's career he had kind of relinquished the idea of being a "black metal" band. That mentality carries on in this debut album, where it's not quite prog, but it's not quite metal, but a sort of weird amalgamation of that and more.
This record comes off like a mix of post-rock, 60's psyche folk rock, a bit of Pink Floyd prog rock, hints at metal here and there, and a vocal style that sounds like Rammstein, if it sounds weird written out, you'd be surprised how well it fits together. You'll find that this record really just flows better than a lot of other records giving it a bit more of a live band performing in front of you. The passages in Zwischen Dem Salz Und Montpellier that move from post-rock builds to and almost Isis-like crescendo before falling into a Pink Floyd psychedelic moment. The climbs and falls on here really fit better than a lot of, if you don't mind a personal opinion, NeurIsis bands coming out today that don't have a lot of personality, though it's a bit hard to even call these guys metal anyway.
Probably the track that will grab people the most is the 22 minute Töte Das Jahr Für Mich. Not to put down the other tracks, and because two other tracks top five minutes to begin with, this track is really the epitome of the album. Pretty much, if you found something you liked on the four tracks before this one, this one will have those found in here and a bit more. It has to be said that with all the different melodies going on in this song, the bass-lines are just as good, really giving the track that heavy groove to keep the track from going into post-rock oblivion. I know I probably say this a lot but despite the length of this track, it actually manages to move faster than some of the tracks before it.
Overall, this is a record that could really be the right record to scratch a post-rock/psyche rock itch. While this never really leans too far in one particular direction I still think fans of the styles could find at least one thing on here to appeal to them. If you like Pink Floyd prog or post-rock atmospheres definitely check this out (or if you like Rammstein's vocals, the music sounds almost nothing like them though).
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Texas Della Morte, Töte Das Jahr Für Mich
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
James LaBrie is the vocalist of prog metal legends Dream Theater. There are many different opinions of him as a vocalist and what have you, but he has something that is pretty hard to come by nowadays, a unique voice and a personality. This is his second full-length solo album, following up his 2005 debut, "Elements of Persuasion."
Lets clear this up before progressing any further into the review, this is the closest thing Dream Theater fans will ever get to a metalcore record, most likely. This record is much more melodic and straightforward compared to LaBrie's main band and the songs feature guest vocals from Swedish thrash metal drummer, he drums on here too, Matt Guillory. From what I've read on the two tracks released prior to this release, most were all about disliking this track for the one matter of the yelled/screamed vocals on the tracks.
The songs on here are short and melodic, rarely moving into progressive sounds. One could easily say that this is essentially a mix of modern hard rock, melodic death metal, and groove metal with James' voice guiding these tracks along. There are elements on here that do indeed hint at metalcore throughout metalcore, but I wouldn't go as far to say that any one track could be put into that genre. While this is a vocalist's solo album, personally, I would have liked a bit more from the music, like the debut, though I have to applaud the performances of tracks like I Tried and Just Watch Me.
But onto the main man of this album, the vocalist himself. The growls on here are used sometimes as the lead vocal, mainly the verses anyway, which I understand can be a bit frustrating since it's not even James doing them, but James' on top of his game whenever he's singing. His vocal melodies on tracks like I Need You and are simply fantastic and catchy as anything he's ever done. You can't deny that his singing on here is simply jaw-dropping, his performance ranges from soft and warm, Just Watch Me, to aggressive and raspy, Who You Think I Am, to his higher voice that was a signature on early DT records, This Is War.
Overall, I think if you're looking for an easy way to get into Dream Theater, this would be a good place to start. This is nowhere near as good or original as the stuff James has released in DT, Mullmuzzler, or Frameshift, but it has plenty of good, catchy songs on it. If you like melodic metal that has elements of metalcore/melodic death metal, definitely check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Mislead, I Need You, Coming Home
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Kkoagulaa is an avant-garde/electronic/metal group from Norway. The band was formed out of the ashes of one of Norway's principal experimental groups, Manes. Though this is the first record to be released, after several individual noise/electronic tracks by themselves, but still carries with it some of the tendencies of more recent Manes sounds.
Those that have fallen in love with the early or even more electro-rock Manes had used might be disappointed with this record. Those that were familiar with that band could tell you that with each consecutive release, they got weirder and more abstract sounding, this album is yet another step into unknown territory for the band. With each release Manes continued to move farther away from "metal," briefly returning with their final recording "Solve Et Coagula," then disbanding. This could very well have been the route Manes could have gone on their next release.
This is a single track spanning over fifty minutes. Don't assume, like I did, that this will be some sort of massive, experimental mix of electronic, rock, and symphonic music, because rock is pretty much gone on here. Guitars can still be found occasionally in the background, but they rarely go into anything that really sticks out, usually playing jazzy chords or simple chord progressions. Beyond that this record is really more of an electronic album, taking bits from trip-hop, ambient, dubstep, symphonic music, and industrial music and putting them in a blender together. There are a lot of open and atmospheric spaces in the music, but also very mechanical sounding orchestral work, synthesized beats, and other odd noises going on.
Onto the vocals, they're there, they're about as weird as the music. On here you'll hear, vocally, sections of chanting, spoken word, singing, there's even someone burping around the 22 minute mark. The weirdest thing on here is the lyrical content, from what I actually could make out and put together, it felt very abstract and almost random at some points, making use of days of the week, science references, and society's darkest edges all at some point are mentioned on here. There is also, what I would assume, a guest appearance from Shining's own Niklas Kvarforth in the final 15 minutes of the track.
Overall, this is a pretty dull record from an extraordinary group of musicians. It almost pains me to say so because I hold Manes to such a high regard in their bold experimental nature that I found this record most appealing when I let it play in the background. If you want to hear an experimental/electronic record, there are ones better than this that have come out this year, or just check out mid-period Manes releases.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: It's Only One Track
Sunday, September 19, 2010
After releasing a rather underwhelming EP earlier this year, solo guitarist/songwriter Jak Noble has returned with a full-length from his project. This album may surprise those that found the EP that exact itch they were craving due to an expanded sonic palette on here. Whether you like this album or not, you really have to commend Jak for stepping out of his comfort zone with this release.
This album really explores a completely different side of the djent sound. I am aware that Jak Noble does create scores for his own independent company, and that comes through on this release. While most djent/math metal bands right now are very much based in technical musicianship and a lot of punches to the jaw sonically, this album takes the opposite approach. When listening to this album, most of the songs lay low for the duration of most of their lengths, utilizing atmospheric textures and clean guitars to set a mood. There still are several heavy sections on this album, so don't freak out and cry "sell-out" just yet, it's not that far gone.
Personally, as stated above, I found the EP that came out earlier this year pretty underwhelming, not to say it was bad, it just didn't really do anything that made me see this band as different. I now feel that after listening to this album, that I was quite mistaken, this full-length really showed me how much depth Jak can actually put into this music. This is not just djent/math metal or whatever, I would say that this album certainly has those moments in it, but has more in common with post-rock. The use of atmosphere on this album appears to come first before riffs, as the mood on here ranges from rage, the heavy parts, to mournful at the drop of a hat.
What I found to really harm this record most was the song lengths, a few of the tracks on here are too long. Tracks like IV: Of Spectres and Angels just feels too long, as half of these tracks are eight minutes long, and another being just over sixteen, but that one justifies it's length. I feel that a few of these songs could have been shaved down to maybe around five or six minutes and still had the same effect.
I cannot say for certainty that this is a concept album, but it certainly seems that way. Each track on here is linked together and also titled within chapters, further strengthening this theory. I would also definitely lend this to the music, as a constantly building track rather than several different songs, each track flows into each other and really moves like a single piece.
Overall, I can say that this album is a much more refreshing experience than Jak's previous work, and is hopefully a style he'll continue to use in one form or another. This album really shows different side to djent as it is more textural, and not in the same way that TesseracT is, a more emotional side. If you like post-rock, post-metal, djent, math metal, etc. check this out, this is unique for sure.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: II: The First to Fall, IV: Of Spectres and Angels, V: Returning, We Hear The Larks I: A Daemon In The Hearts of Man
Enslaved is a progressive black metal band from Norway. Those that are aware of the band's beginnings will realize that this is a band that never did the traditional black metal, even on their debut recordings. This record is not so much a step backwards, but a look into their past from a modern perspective.
First off, to those that either haven't really given Enslaved a chance or disregard them as just another black metal band, it has to be said that there is a reason that this band is respected and held to a high standard among those that listen to them. Enslaved can never be called lazy or monotonous, always making different records and songs, they are a band that has never stayed in just one spot. In more than one way, Enslaved could certainly be called the Opeth of black metal, in a way that both bands are put among the highest echelons of their respective genres and have consistently moved into and used elements of progressive music with their own.
The statement above where I mentioned that this album is a kind of look into the band's past sound is meant to be taken in that this is more aggressive than the last few releases from the band. Guitarist Ivar Bjørnson has stated in an interview that with this album, the band wanted to include more black metal into the sound, as they thought they had gone far enough into the mellow and moody parts of their sound with the last few albums. Though, this is a fact, and this album is most certainly heavier and more aggressive, those that did find the softer and more melodic moments more appealing will still be able to find this album more than acceptable.
The guitar playing on here most certainly accentuates more of a black metal style, hear tracks like The Beacon while others hint at a slightly doomier vibe, Waruun, but even during the most aggressive parts of this album, there is always either an atmosphere or a melodic guitar part that makes it feel more appropriate, though tracks like Giants or Nightsight should really give those that found the last few releases were what they're looking for as well. Those with a fetish for actual "riffs" should hear what goes on inside Singular, a song where the title couldn't be farther from the truth.
Overall, this is just another step forward for Enslaved, and one that can be applauded by all those who listen to this. This record kind of takes a look back at their more aggressive moments, but is able to employ them without sounding like they're rehashing old material or looking for new ideas in previous work. If you like refreshing, progressive metal or rock, this is one you'll probably already have on your list, but for those that don't, check this out, it is THAT good.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Song Is A Highlight
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Evolutionary Production and Textures.
Stealing Axion are a progressive metal group from Washington. They formed early this year with the intention of making music that combines elements of brutality, melody, and progressive tendencies. This EP follows up a demo they released earlier this year, with this release having credits from members of TesseracT on the mixing board.
Those that are aware of the sound that TesseracT have crafted themselves will have an idea as to how this album will sound. The sound is very clean, of course this happens in the production where most of the comparisons can be made though, and atmospheric with ringing clean guitars playing along with heavy distorted ones. But in terms of the actual sound of the band, you'll find more in common with tech metal band Textures.
The band focus on a sound that is in a similar vein as Textures, with a groovy guitar style and underlying melodic textures. But the thing that makes this comparison most appropriate is the vocalist's uncanny similarity to ex-Textures vocalist Eric Kalsbeek in both clean singing and growling. But besides that, there are elements of Sikth, Deftones, and Porcupine Tree as well that can be found in here with more angular riffing and open soundscapes.
Overall, this is a good debut EP that has a lot of cool soundscapes and riffing. There is a lot of potential here and hopefully a full-length is in the works. If you like groovy, atmospheric metal, definitely check this out.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: 47 Days Later, Eventide
Friday, September 17, 2010
Here we are, three years after the release of 2007's "The Dystopia Journals," and Vulture Industries has returned with their second full-length. Those familiar with that debut will recognize the band's unique take on progressive avant-garde metal is still very much a part of this record's sound. While they are not the most unknown band out there, this has been a very anticipated release for me this year.
After a short, and somewhat unusual, usual, introduction, if you know avant-garde, you'll get that, the album opens up with what can only be said is a very much evolved sound. In a nutshell, what you'll find on this album is not a departure from the debut, but a growth of it, the use of more building, the introduction of catchy melodies, and more abstract song structures. This album still borrows its fair share of Arcturus moments, but it seems to hark back to "La Masquerade Infernale," more than "The Sham Mirrors" on here, mainly due to a more dramatic performance.
While this is not a large leap forward from the debut, it does indeed live up to the band's promise of being more progressive sounding. The songs build and fall a lot more than the songs on the debut did, making use of chugging in an almost post-metal sense, where a rising intensity is demonstrated rather than simplistic one-note riffs; on the other hand, the falls make use of the more abstract side of the band, where it can range from a short dissonant riff to a saxophone solo, a song like The Hangman's Hatch demonstrates both of these very well. The use of even what could be considered a ballad, I Hung My Heart On Hallow Square, on the album also shows the expansion of territory the band have moved into as well.
As one of the band's most identifiable features, vocalist Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen's performance on this album most definitely tops his performance on the stellar first one. I am fully aware that there are those out there that were not so keen on his Garm-esque croons, and those are still on this album, they are no longer the central vocal style of choice. This album contains a broader spectrum of vocalisations, from whispering to death metal growls and black metal screams, both of which were only used rarely on the debut are now on a good portion of the album, hear the first proper track Race For The Gallows.
With an expanded sonic palliate thanks to the growing inclusion of progressive influences, this band not only becomes more interesting and unique, but also more catchy. Tracks like The Bolted Door or Crowning The Cycle demonstrate a larger sense of melody into the band's sound by making use of choruses that are simply drenched to the core with hooks. For some I realize that this will immediately signal the words, or tag, "sell-out," but like I mentioned above, this is clearly more progressive and unique than the band's debut record, and becoming more aware of writing hooks does not mean you're selling out, but merely becoming better songwriters.
Overall, this was one of my most anticipated records this year, and it did not disappoint. While this record did not provide the same feeling the debut did for me, it did give me a completely different feeling. If you like progressive/experimental/avant-garde extreme-rooted metal, definitely check this one out.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: The Bolted Door, I Hung My Heart On Harrow Square, Of Branded Blood
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The Foreboding Sense Of Impending Doom.
Stargazer is an avant-garde/death metal band from Australia. This is the band's follow-up to their 2005 album "The Scream That Tore The Sky." This album is yet another notch that Profound Lore Records can add to their wall of fantastic releases.
The sound that Stargazer make use of is very unique and unlike what is even considered to be death metal in modern days. The music itself is very different, making use of stop-start patterns as well as speeding up or slowing down throughout a course of a single song. On here you'll find a band that can maintain a very intense and tense sound while making use of multiple genres and styles. The styles, to state them out anyway, include elements of old-school death and doom metal like Autopsy, early My Dying Bride, and even Incantation, but also elements of black metal, grindcore, and a bit of technical prog as well. What surprised me to find out was that this is only a trio.
The production on here does serve to give this record a very authentic feel. Being only a trio, this recording allows every member to be heard very clearly, Passing Stone - Into The Greater Sun for instance, while one never really overpowers the others. This also serves to keep things sounding like a real sort of performance in front of you, almost live if you wish, except for the occasional studio effect.
I think anyone that listens to this album will be able to see quite easily that every member of this band is talented and plays their respective instrument very well. The guitar playing gives you a lot to work with, moving from dirge like sludge/doom riffs into quick tremolo picking or a thrash groove, then just opening up into more clean work every once in a while as well. The bass is well performed as well, it cuts through the sound just enough to be heard and appreciated, but not enough to become annoying; and the bass-lines on here often bring to mind groups like Cynic or Atheist in their more jazzy flow that really does add something different to the music. The drumming is obviously well performed as well, it keeps a very steady control, or sorts, over everything else going on, seeming to keep the bass and guitar from just flying off the handle.
For those that have not heard of Stargazer, there really isn't any easy way to get into them, since they only have two full-lengths and several splits, but this would be one of the easier things to find from them. Due to the music's complexity and often use of tempo and time shifting things can become a bit hard to grasp onto, but possibly one of the easiest tracks to hear would be Hue-Man-King, the first song released from this album. I only suggest this one due to it's more graspable structural shifts and stop-start patterns are a lot easier to wrap your head around on a first listen.
Overall, like mentioned above, this is a great album with some great songs and playing. This is easily one of the best death metal releases of the year, very few other band's have as unique a sound as these guys do in this day and age. If you're a fan of technical and progressive death metal, definitely check this out, it'll be hard to find a lot that's better than this one from 2010.
Overall Score: 8.5Highlights: Pypes of Psychosomatis, Chase For The Serpent Song, Formless Face of The Timeless Faceless
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Winterfylleth is a pagan/black metal group from the UK. Though this is the group's second full-length, they have gained praises for their take on pagan/black metal. This will be my first encounter with the band, so let's see what all the hype's about.
From the beginning onward, it became apparent to me why this album, and band, have earned the praise that they have, the sounds they create are reminiscent of early Ulver records and the work of bands like Drudkh. The sheer amount of music on this debut is a bit overwhelming when glancing at tracks that, for the most part, are all over five minutes, with two over ten, yet never really seem boring. Throughout this record, the band maintain a certain vibe similar to the two groups mentioned above that just makes these tracks more interesting than some other groups despite the repetition.
The sound is primal without being raw, a plus for this album, considering that this could have easily have fallen into the same place as groups like Hate Forest or Kladovest, good bands and music, but terrible production. But to the band's credit, the production maintains a raw quality to make allow it to keep the atmosphere, but is produced enough for every instrument to ring out and be clear.
When listening to the music, it's obvious to anyone that it's black metal, atmospheric and pagan as it may be, it's still going to be very aggressive. Here is where the band say, "We can do more than play fast," with tracks like Children of The Stones showcasing their ability to write great instrumental folk songs, with a great violin in this track in particular. But of course, as the album progresses, the two things become more intertwined, but that should be expected if they're put in the same league as Drudkh and Ulver and being categorized as "pagan."
I think it's fair to say that when people use the term "epic" to describe something, it should mean that that thing in particular is big, both in structure and nature, and whatever else comes into your mind, but I think it fits the two tracks that make up the center of this album, The Honour of Good Men On The Path to Eternal Glory and To Find Solace... Where Security Stands (The Wayfarer III). When listening to these tracks, it's easy to find comparisons to progressive music in the grandiose sound of these two tracks, or even mid-period Bathory for that matter, a better comparison for that matter anyway. These two tracks seem to begin one minute and then just simply end, yet being over ten, which is something that really helps me, personally, and most likely others as well, to enjoy an album with lengthy songs. Both tracks also go into different directions, where the former track is very epic and progressive at times, the latter track features a more straightforward approach in comparison being much more melodic, the bridge of the track in particular.
Overall, I can't really praise this album enough, being a first time listener, I have been thoroughly impressed. This album holds a lot of what I consider to be lacking in atmospheric and ambient black metal as well as having more than a few great songs to boot. Pretty much, if you like black metal that can actually have solid riffs, great melodies, and a bit of an old-school approach to atmosphere, check this out.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: The Fields of Reckoning, The Honour of Good Men On The Path to Eternal Glory, A Valley Think With Oaks
Back Into The Loony Bin.
Disturbed is a alternative metal/hard rock group from Illinois. Everyone has their opinions about the band, their style, and what have you, but I've been a long time fan, especially following 2008's "Indestructible" record. Now, whether you like them or not, this album is being reviewed.
Now, lets face it, this album has been hyped to death, mainly by lead vocalist David Draiman. Before this was even released there were two official videos put out for it, the title-track, Asylum, and Another Way to Die. But the band themselves, once again this is mainly Draiman, have been saying that this is some of their darkest, most melodic, and aggressive material released; and to their credit, that is partially true on here.
Let's settle the hype right now, musically, on here you'll find what was mentioned above to some extent, but let's not allow Draiman's words about guitarist Dan Donegan creating songs within songs fool us, there are plenty of songs on here that are solid, but they're not that complex or layered. Donegan is a solid player, his playing on songs like Warrior and Crucified showcase some of his best playing and writing yet, unfortunately it's Drainman's vocals on those tracks in particular that kill the potential of those riffs. That's not to say that Draiman is a bad vocalist, he certainly has a polarizing style, but he's not bad, but the melodies on those particular tracks are just boring. But back to Donegan's guitar playing, it is reminiscent to "Indestructible" in it's more rhythmic riffs, solid solos, and melodic interlude sections, but it doesn't really tread into a lot of new ground.
I've read some things saying that drummer Mike Wengren's performance on here sounds lazy, and that is most certainly not so. You can't really call him lazy for not putting double-bass and poly rhythms in every song if it doesn't call for it. Tracks like The Animal really show some of his best playing yet even if it isn't the most complex he's done.
Onto Draiman himself, he is doing everything he's always done, in more ways than one unfortunately. This album certainly has some of his best performances on here, but some of it feels rehashed while some parts are just bad, hear Warrior again for his failed attempt at screaming. However his presence isn't all a hindrance, tracks like Serpentine and My Child really show more range and strong melodies than ever.
Overall, this is a decent record, but is not anywhere as epic or different as Draiman had promised. Pretty much, this is their last record redone, not a whole lot is that different. If you like melodic, groovy metal, check this out.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Asylum, Serpentine, Innocence
Friday, September 3, 2010
The Long Awaited Release.
TesseracT is a progressive metal/djent group from the UK. This is their first release on Century Media records following a praised 2007 demo. This comes to long awaited fans after announcing that their debut album would not be released this year.
For those that weren't aware of what this EP is, to sum it up briefly, it was to be, or might still be the bulk of what their debut album was going to be. Concealing Fate is a six part song that moves through multiple phases and shifts demonstrating the band's unique brand of djent. This may not be how their fans may have wanted their first "official" release to come out, the full-length would have been more appreciated, but this should buy them over before that record is released.
The sound of this EP, and really the sound of TesseracT is a bit unique compared to a lot of other groups out there, and this sound has earned them praises from magazines as well as other musicians, IE. Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah) and Misha "Bulb" Mansoor (Periphery). What you'll find on here is categorized in djent due to the Meshuggah groove parts, but besides that, the sound on here contains more elements from groups like Deftones or Porcupine Tree. There is a large presence of atmosphere on this release, and the band's sound in general, that really sets them apart from other groups doing a similar style. Clean singing also sets them apart from other groups simply due to the fact that there aren't that many heavy screaming or growling vocals used on here, they're there, but they aren't really the focus.
The tracks that compose the single song on here really do present the listener with a journey that moves exactly how a prog "epic" should. There are moments of groovy djent as well as calming and melodic atmospheric moments on here that just flow into one another very easily. Vocalist Dan Tompkins really shows a lot of diversity from his passionate screams to hardcore yells and his trademark pop-like clean singing.
Overall, there really isn't a lot to complain about on here, for me anyway. The only thing that might get people upset is the fact that this isn't a full-length, but the songs on here are at least enough to get us through till that day it is put out. If you like progressive, groovy, atmospheric metal, this is a band you have to check out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The Whole Piece Is Worth Checking Out