Thursday, 19 December 2013

Albums to look forward to in 2014

From the looks of things, there's already set to be a lot of exciting and/or interesting Metal releases coming out in the next calendar year. I just want to go through some that I'll be keeping a watch out for the most. The following list is in no particular order.

1. Iced Earth - Plagues of Babylon.
Admittedly, I'm not really an Iced Earth fan per se. But I always like to give bands their chances to turn my head, and this album is getting a lot of attention already. The band have just recently released the title track from the album and it's pretty decent, so it'll be worth a listen.

2. Grand Magus - Triumph And Power.
There's always room for some cheesy, epic metal. Grand Magus are a particularly good musical accompaniment to a bottle of Jack Daniels and a few Marlboros. Again, I'm not counting down the minutes to the album's release, but it'll be good to hear, and maybe even see 'em live again.

3. Cynic - Kindly Bent To Free Us
I happen to love Cynic. As far as I'm concerned, they have released some killer stuff in their career, particularly the album 'Focus'. They're masters of progressive, jazz-influenced Death Metal. It's the kind of music that can go from tearing you a new one to putting you into a trance in a matter of seconds. I'm hoping for a lot from this next album, especially since it's their first full-length since 2008!

4. Behemoth - The Satanist
The primary reason I want to hear this record so much is that after hearing the recently released single 'Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel', I'm starting to think it possible for the Polish Blackened Death Metal legends to equal or maybe, just maybe exceed the majesty and power of 2009's 'Evangelion'. I really hope it happens, because if it does then Behemoth are gonna be indestructible in the Extreme Metal scene for 2014!

5. Arch Enemy - (To Be Confirmed)
I do remember it being said, before Arch Enemy vanished from view so abruptly that there would be a new album in 2014. Never a bad thing, an Arch Enemy album. Though if there is a release, I do hope they step it up from 2011's rather throwaway album 'Khaos Legions'. Sure, it had it's moments, but it was nothing compared to 'Doomsday Machine' or 'Rise Of The Tyrant'

6. Slipknot - (TBC)
With Joey Jordison's sudden and unexpected departure from the band, all eyes are on Slipknot in terms of what happens next. Will they call it a day? Will they just be a touring band? Most importantly; If they release an album, will it live up to Slipknot's now-iconic back catalogue? I await the answers to these questions with great trepidation.

7. Tool - (TBC)
Tool (but mainly Maynard Keenan) have been screwing with us monumentally for the last fuck-knows-how-long! At this point I really want them to just get their fingers out and release this album they're teasing us about. My biggest fear is that for all the hype and the wait it could end up being a 'Chinese Democracy' type deal.

8. Judas Priest - (TBC)
With the Metal Gods' days as an active band seeming to be somewhat numbered, it's a relief to know that the band intend to melt our faces with another album before there's any talk of permanent retirement. The band have also stated that the recent Epitaph World Tour will not be their last tour. Which suits me brilliantly, as I've not had the opportunity to see Judas Priest yet. Hands up if you want big Metal anthems!!

9. Metallica - (TBC)
True; we don't even know if this will be out in 2014. It's also worth mentioning that the cynical bastard in me says that I don't give a shit about Metallica's creative output anymore. Our world has gone since 1991 without a Metallica album that has truly thrown a gauntlet at every Metal band out there. Yeah, 'Death Magnetic' had it's odd moments here and there, and yeah I really liked 'St. Anger' (Problem?) but when was the last time every Metal fan agreed on the merits of a Metallica record? The hopeful person inside me still thinks that they might have enough in them for one last hurrah, and I'll live in hope until we find out.

10. Anthrax - (TBC)
Anthrax's comeback album 'Worship Music' was ace. Really ace! Like, stupidly great!! Now the band are saying they're working on the follow-up, and I'm that excited at the idea of them slaying it again that it may cause a prolapse when I listen to the finished product. Enough said?

11. Slayer - (TBC)
The death of Jeff Hanneman was a big enough blow for the band (And indeed, Heavy Metal as a whole! R.I.P. Jeff!) but to lose Dave Lombardo as well has really put Slayer's fan base on the back foot. I for one am glad to see Paul Bostaph back at the kit for Slayer, as the 2001 album 'God Hates Us All' is my favourite Slayer album ever, but without Hanneman's writing contributions, I really wonder what the next Slayer album will be like. Another one where we don't know when it's coming out, but I can hope for a 2014 release, like many people will.

12. Godsmack - (TBC)
It was announced not too long ago that Godsmack were starting work on their next album. Hoping for a mid-to-late 2014 release, I'm thoroughly looking forward to this! Alongside Motorhead, Godsmack are my favourite band of all time. I've played every record of theirs to death, know every word of every song and can play a fair few on guitar too. More Godsmack? Fucking bring it on!

13. Mechina - Xenon
After this year's 'Empyrean' blew my head up, re-assembled it and then fired it into the white-hot heart of the sun, I'm only too keen to see what they follow it up with. Best bit? This album is being released on January 1st! Roll on the New Year!!

Other bands whose albums I'm keen to hear next year include; Suicidal Angels, Hirax, Within Temptation, Alcest, Chrome Division, Legion Of The Damned, Skindred, Periphery, Mayan, Hatriot, Cancerous Womb, Wintersun, Gorgoroth, The Devin Townsend Project, Triptykon, Godflesh, Megadeth, Entombed and Vader.

Be sure to let me know what albums you're looking forward to hearing, or what bands you hope release a record in 2014 by commenting over at Stay Metal folks, soon I'll be putting up my Little List of Bad Shit (2014)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Best Albums Of 2013

There's been an absolute fuckload of amazing albums this year, and as a task, I decided to make a list of my top forty albums of the year. No easy task when one considers how many I've heard! I could probably make a top eighty if I really stretched it out, but that'd be too easy, so, I'll get right into it! This is all completely my own opinion, and as such, anyone that reads this, I'd love to know your favourite albums this year too, so feel free.

(Honourable Mention). Avenged Sevenfold - Hail To The King

The reason this falls as the honourable mention this year rather than on the main list is down to the simple fact that the songs on here, while good, I've heard before. There's too much here that sounds like it's pretty much ripping off other bands. On saying that, it's the Avenged Sevenfold album I've enjoyed the most out of any of their albums. I also have nothing but respect for the doors that the band's efforts and this album have opened for them, including headlining Download Festival 2014 and Wembley Arena. It really can't be denied how big they are now, whether you're a fan or not.
Favourite Track: Planets

40. Hatebreed - The Divinity Of Purpose

This album kick-started my year with the kind of full-throttle abandon that helps rile you up for a good one. It's my favourite Hatebreed album to date. The old ideas are recycled, yeah, but I ain't complaining when the end product is this good.
Favourite Track: Own Your World

39. Satyricon - Satyricon

Satyricon's self-titled album arrived this year, and it was pretty good as far as albums go. It had a lot of grandiosity and at times, an almost seductive darkness to it that lured you into the album without wanting to turn back. On saying all that, it's not what a lot of people, including me, would've expected from a new Satyricon album. It's solid, a great effort, and proves that the band have no fear of evolving the boundaries of Black Metal, but compared to 2008's 'The Age Of Nero', it didn't engage me as much as I'd like.
Favourite Track: Nocturnal Flare

38. Born Of Osiris - Tomorrow We Die Alive

While many would agree that 'Tomorrow We Die Alive' is not as good as 2011's 'The Discovery', it's still a solid, jarring and well executed album that has a lot of draw and certainly shows that Born Of Osiris stand well outside of the normal boundaries of Metalcore. There's enough going on here both melodic and heavy that there's something for everyone on this album. Definitely keeping a closer eye on this band in future.
Favourite Track: Mindful

37. Sodom - Epitome Of Torture

Sodom albums are almost made for these kind of inane lists that Metalheads tend to compile. They're old faithful; everyone knows what to expect. The reason this isn't higher on the list is that after such a long career, I hope for much stronger songs than some of the ones on show here. So, yeah; it's a decent Thrash album, which is something I've always got time for, but I didn't quite get the kick that I like to get from Thrash.
Favourite Track: Into The Skies Of War

36. Kvelertak - Meir

Kvelertak are 'That band' at this point. Everyone who hasn't heard their music should, and everyone who hasn't seen them live yet is due to get their brains blown by what this Norwegian band has to offer. 'Meir' was released this year, album number two. Is it better than their first? Can't say I'm sure. Sometimes it is, other days it isn't, but either way, this is a band that are crouched and ready to leap towards greener pastures than most bands reach these days.
Favourite Track: Bruane Brenn

35. Hate - Solarflesh
Hate - "Solarflesh" CD cover image

Okay, so it sounds a fair bit like Behemoth, but it's still a great album that proved to be a good start to the year as far as Extreme Metal goes. A lot of chilling atmosphere, and heavy as hell. If dark metal music with a satanic edge to it is what you like, get this release. At the very least, it'll tide you over until the release of Behemoth's 'The Satanist' early next year.
Favourite Track: Festival Of Slaves

34. Death Angel - The Dream Calls For Blood

Death Angel are among my favourite Thrash Metal bands of all time, so getting their newest album is always a welcome treat, and this one had everything I'd hope for in a Death Angel record. All the band members performed well on this album and there's plenty on show for some good ol' fashioned moshing. There's life in the old band yet!
Favourite Track: Son Of The Morning

33. Saxon - Sacrifice

Saxon have had their misfires in the past, and there's no way in hell that this is one of them. Packed from start to finish with classic, British Metal the way it's meant to be done! There's so much here that will make ideal headbanging music at any festival. It's great to see that the old guard have so much to offer to this day!
Favourite Track: Night Of The Wolf

32. Warbeast - Destroy

Warbeast came out kicking in all directions with this record. Thrash at it's nastiest, this album is gritty, grimy, and ultimately, a huge sledgehammer to the face. All the while there is a party element to it that suggests the best way to experience this music is in a big tent at a festival, headbanging with a drink in your hand, throwing the horns and generally making a complete tit of yourself. There's always a place for an album like that. And oh, the riffs!
Favourite Track: Egotistical Bastard

31. Gorguts - Coloured Sands

Gorguts releasing a new album was far beyond ace, and they sure as hell delivered from start to finish on this record. Let it never be said that Luc Lemay rests on his laurels; his song writing in this album is top notch and the instrumentation on show is very impressive. It's a dense motherfucker of an album that demands a lot of attention, but the listener's attention is rewarded frequently enough that it's worth delving into this jazzy, Progressive Death Metal oddball of a record
Favourite Track: Forgotten Arrows

30. Immolation - Kingdom Of Conspiracy

This album proved yet again what I already knew; Immolation are a massively overlooked band. Their albums are so tight and so brutal that I don't know how they don't attract more attention than they seem to. It's no-bullshit Death Metal that tries to make you think with it's lyrical themes. An Immolation album is great anyway, but for them to have attempted a concept album based loosely on Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' is a lofty task. It goes without saying; they smashed it.
Favourite Track: God Complex

29. DevilDriver - Winter Kills

From typically cool album cover, to Dez Fafara's ripping vocals and the colossal grooves, DevilDriver continued in their crusade to pummel everyone's ears with grooves so slick you'd think British Petroleum had fucked up again. DevilDriver's songs always lend themselves so well to the live environment, from the casual screamer to the circle-pit enthusiast, there's something for us all as Metalheads to enjoy about 'Winter Kills'. The band's consistently high-quality studio output is why I love 'em, and they refuse to let me down. Oh, and the hook on 'The Appetite'. If you can listen to that without screaming 'Eyes on fire' then I really don't know how to help you.
Favourite Track: The Appetite

28. Children Of Bodom - Halo Of Blood

We've all known this whole time that Alexi Laiho and his crew can deliver great albums full of shred wizardry and sharp enough riffs to cut diamonds, but for a while there...they just didn't! So thank fuck that 'Halo Of Blood' set the record straight and showed us all that the Finnish legends have still got it! After spending a lot of time this year dreading the release of this one, I was massively surprised, to the point that it stands as a bit of a year's highlight despite it's lower ranking on this list.
Favourite Track: Damaged Beyond Repair

27. Soulfly - Savages

Little surprise here; Soulfly have been on fine form for years, releasing album after album of great Metal music with a distinct flavour to it that only Max Cavalera can bring to the fray. While the album cover isn't one of my favourites, the music on show more than makes up for it without letting up. Brazil's favourite metal legend strikes again, and I can't wait to hear these songs live next year.
Favourite Track: El Comegente

26. Evile - Skull

Evile are pretty much the UK's finest export of Thrash Metal, certainly as far as the Thrash Revival movement is concerned. After 2011's 'Five Serpents Teeth' I thought they'd peaked, and to be honest; when this album first came out I didn't listen to it immediately. Since then though, it's become my favourite straight-up Thrash Metal album of the year. Believe me, to come higher on this list than a Death Angel record as far as Thrash is concerned, is no small feat! Big up to Evile for this one, here's hoping they carry on with this high quality output.
Favourite Track: Head Of The Demon

25. Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance

Another surprise for the year is Darkthrone's 'The Underground Resistance'. I, like many people was expecting either an old-school, murky-as-hell Black Metal album or another jaunt into the realms of Crust Punk. What we got was neither. This album has a 70's/80's sound to it and is more akin to the likes of Venom, Mercyful Fate and Iron Maiden than it is to the traditional Norwegian Black Metal sound. It's a majestic, effortless and uncontrived throwback to the glory days of Heavy Metal and the only complaint is that it's too short!
Favourite Track: Come Warfare, The Entire Doom

24. Amorphis - Circle

This is another album that slipped under my radar somewhat when it first came out, but upon digesting it properly, it's nothing short of a stunning Progressive album. Huge riffs, great melodies, vocals to die for and a touching concept that strays away from the usual ideas inspired by Finnish folklore or poetry. A combination of Death Metal, Progressive Metal and even tinges of Folk Metal make this an album capable of standing high as an unsung hero of 2013 in Metal music.
Favourite Song: Shades Of Grey

23. Hell - Curse And Chapter

Unashamedly over-the-top without being uncool; Hell's second album was awaited with baited breath by many in the Metal community after the huge success of 'Human Remains'. We needn't have worried at all. Hell have dragged the 80's kicking and screaming into 2013, modernised the NWOBHM sound in little ways here and there and have released an album full to the brim with big songs, big riffs, and David Bower's show-stealing vocal delivery. Thank god for Hell!
Favourite Track: Darkhangel

22. Sepultura - The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart

When this first came out something put me off for a while. I don't know if I was just expecting another album like 'Kairos', or if it was the way Derrick Green's vocals sat in the mix, but after I got over whatever that initial niggle was, this album really grew on me in a big way. There's some real rage and a relentless attitude that we haven't heard from Sepultura in while. I remember thinking that with both Sepultura and Soulfly releasing an album this year I was probably going to prefer Soulfly's album. I was wrong, there; I said it, and I don't say that much.
Favourite Track: Trauma Of War

21. Five Finger Death Punch - The Wrong Side Of Heaven & The Righteous Side Of Hell, Vol. 1

I've always had a big place in my music collection for Five Finger Death Punch, and while that faltered after the release of 'American Capitalist', on this album they redeemed themselves (Though I will note that the less said about Volume 2, the better!). From the get-go, this is an album that I loved as a fan of fun, catchy Metal music. A lot of the holier-than-thou Metalheads may scoff and sneer, but at the end of the day, this album really hit the spot for me as far as modern, mainstream Metal goes. Sometimes you just need to beat your chest and get in the pit. This band, this album, lets you do that.
Favourite Track: Dot Your Eyes

20. Bring Me The Horizon - Sempiternal

Again, make way for the "Dats not metulz" crowd. Wake the hell up and listen to it. I was never a fan of this band, but to say that this album surprised me is the understatement of the year! Yeah, there's a couple of ballads on there that don't lend themselves to my palate, but the heavier songs on here are REALLY heavy! No longer categorising them as Deathcore, more Electronic-Metalcore, this album is like Deftones meets 'Hybrid Theory' era Linkin Park with a healthy dose of youthful fuck-you attitude. Bring Me The Horizon shocked a large portion of the Metal community with this release, I've spoken to many people who were taken aback by this record. How could they not be? Between choruses, riffs, originality and shout-along moments, this album has nothing to be ashamed of. If the band carry on in this direction, Metalheads worldwide may have no choice but to doff their hats to them, if they haven't already.
Favourite Track: Shadow Moses

19. Fleshgod Apocalypse - Labyrinth

Holy chaotic wall of sound, Batman! Fleshgod Apocalypse finally produce the greatness they've threatened to since they started out. I tell you; for their third album, this is good fucking going! Crazy-yet-beautiful orchestrated madness blends flawlessly with modern Death Metal on this album to produce what is one of the unexpected great records of Extreme Metal for 2013. I can't begin to imagine how destructive this material will prove in the live setting, and I really daren't think how the band are going to top this when it comes time to make album four! Scary thought.
Favourite Track: Minotaur (Wrath Of Poseidon)

18. The Defiled - Daggers

Another triumph this year as far as follow-up albums go is The Defiled's second full-length. Where the first, while critically acclaimed, had a few amazing tracks that made the rest of the record somewhat lukewarm, here the band come up trumps with an album stuffed with great songs that carry their trademark stamp of Industrial Metalcore. Sure, it doesn't have any instant hits like 'Call To Arms', but with a few listens, this album grew on me to the point that I prefer it to 'Grave Times' beyond a shadow of a doubt. Potential greats for the British mainstream Metal scene.

17. Kataklysm - Waiting For The End To Come

If you want to hear Death Metal that does more than bludgeon your ears with raw, distorted fury, and would rather hear something with more tasteful song writing and vocals that are easier to understand than most Death Metal; listen to this album. If drums are your thing, you'll probably already know Kataklysm to be an all time great band. If I were to sum up my case as to why this album is higher in this list than some other releases in one word, it'd be 'Elevate'.
Favourite Track: Elevate

16. Avatarium - Avatarium

For all those struggling to get over the fact that Doom Metal has lost the band Candlemass as far as studio output is concerned, this album is the perfect remedy. Showing again that metal can be a beautiful form of music, Leif Edling's new project Avatarium's debut album quickly became one of my favourite albums of the year and Jennie-Ann Smith is the star of the show on vocals. Equal parts Doom Metal and fantasy whimsy, this album is a treat for the ear. If you don't like it, you're either already dead or are deaf.
Favourite Track: Moonhorse

15. Autopsy - The Headless Ritual

Gore, glorious gore!! Autopsy absolutely blew my mind with this release! I knew they were awesome, but THIS awesome? Fuck! Everything the old-school Death Metal fan could want is present here, with added doom passages just to help the disgusting nature of this record fester in your earholes that little bit more. Listen to this album as if your life depended on it!
Favourite Track: She Is A Funeral

14. Watain - The Wild Hunt

The conquest that Watain have taken upon both the Black Metal Underground and the Metal mainstream cannot be denied at this point. 'The Wild Hunt' proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this band is a fearless entity at this point. There is no boundary too strong, no wall to high. From the traditional Black Metal fare of 'The Child Must Die' to the balladry of 'They Rode On', Watain can do it all, and do so with far more gusto than most Black Metal bands that build a glass ceiling above their own heads. Erik Danielsson and co. have far grander aspirations than playing in dingy clubs to twelve of their friends, and I'll eat my hat if they don't get the glory. Oh, and yes; it is as good as 'Lawless Darkness'

13. Ghost B.C. - Infestissumam

Ghost may seem to be a bit of a hokey band to some, with the costumes, the satanism and the mystique that is fundamental to the band at this point, but under all that lies some great music. After the astonishing success of 'Opus Eponymous', some viewed this album as a let-down. I don't understand this. This record has all the pomp and bombast that makes the band's image so appealing, and a slew of great, memorable, singalong songs that will get stuck in your head whether you like it or not. If you weren't sure about this album, I implore you to give it another listen or two. You won't be sorry.
Favourite Track: 'Year Zero'

12. Trivium - Vengeance Falls

Finally, Trivium made an album that has all the hooks and serrated edge riffs that made 'Ascendancy' and 'Shogun' so great. Do I think it's as good as those two albums? Not as good as 'Ascendancy', but certainly as good as 'Shogun' in my opinion, though it is a much simpler and more accessible than 'Shogun'. David Draiman's stamp might be boldly imprinted upon this record, but to me it's Trivium's ability to write great songs that shines through so boldly on this album. A massive step up from 'In Waves', love it!
Favourite Song: To Believe

11. Phillip H. Anselmo & The Illegals - Walk Through Exits Only

Phil Anselmo is, without a doubt one of the reigning kings of modern Heavy Metal. His past work with Pantera and Down speaks for itself, and all saw Phil's recognisable vocals help in putting the two bands at the forefront of their respective Metal movements. Now, on his first solo album he's defied the entire Metal universe and stunned it at the same time. This is one album you cannot afford to miss out on. It's bone-shatteringly heavy, the lyrics are sharp and pointed in the manner we're used to of Phil. The music on show is off the wall, almost avant-garde. Must have for 2013.
Favourite Song: Battalion Of Zero

10. Killswitch Engage - Disarm The Descent

Killswitch Engage's first album after Jesse Leach returned put the world of Metalcore to rights. Enough of the bog standard open string riffs, flashy but soulless guitar solos, piss-thin screams and copycat singing vocals; Killswitch have brought the spirit of 2002 back to life, proving to all the style-over-substance wannabes of the last ten or so years that nobody does it like they do. It's a sleek, honest and musically engaging album that proves Killswitch Engage have still got it. Jesse Leach steals the show with ease, and his comeback came at just the right time. If they keep this up, they'll have a throne all to themselves.
Favourite Song: Beyond The Flames

9. Motorhead - Aftershock

Motorhead are always on this list. They're my favourite band ever, the one that got me into Rock and Metal music in the first place. Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee are inspirations to me, musically speaking, and Lemmy is basically god! This, Motorhead's 21st album and even with that much music in their repertoire, this stands out as a great album of theirs! Carrying on the streak of great albums they've had going since 2004's 'Inferno' and easily standing higher than a few albums in their catalogue of brilliant music. If this should turn out to be the last Motorhead album we get, then by fuck they've gone out with a bang!
Favourite Track: End Of Time

8. Rotting Christ - Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy

Rotting Christ gave us a delight in a dark, sophisticated take on Black Metal as only they can. This, their latest album is full of brooding charm and a swirling soundscape that most bands would kill for. It's decidedly different, and some may scream that it's not 'tr00 kvlt' Black Metal, but they're what I'd call idiots who judge on face value. Ignoring this album as a Metalhead is, in my opinion just foolish. Everything from the vocals and guitars to the atmospherics on show give the whole album a very unique feel. There shouldn't be any sort of debate about Greece's darkest band's importance and stature in the European Black Metal scene, but if there is, this should annihilate the naysayers.
Favourite Track: Cine Iubeste Si Lasa

7. Man Must Die - Peace Was Never An Option

When I first heard Man Must Die on Machine Head's 'The Black Procession' tour, I fond a Scottish Metal band that I could stand behind one hundred percent! Then, when I got their third album 'No Tolerance For Imperfection' I thirsted for more. After a long fucking wait, this year saw the band release this absolute monster of an album; technical without being a load of wank, melodic without sacrificing impact and with the kind of political and social lyrics that every Metalhead can relate to. Everything about this album exceeded my expectations of the band and I'm going to be listening to it for a long time!
Favourite Track: Hiding In Plain Sight

6. Deicide - In The Minds Of Evil

Brutal, antichristian Death Metal done brilliantly. That's what Deicide excel in, and this album smashes 2011's 'To Hell With God' to pieces, and I loved that album too! Easily the best Deicide album since 'Scars of the Crucifix', and I'm speaking as someone who has never been overly disappointed with Deicide's studio albums over the years. 'In The Minds Of Evil' brings the band's sound closest it has been to the sound of the first two albums in years. Not in terms of production, in terms of song writing and attitude. The riffs are insanely good from start to finish and overall, Glen Benton doesn't write songs better than this. They're still my favourite Death Metal band, and this is one of many reasons.
Favourite Track: Thou Begone

5. Newsted - Heavy Metal Music

Jason Newsted stood as my favourite bass guitarist from the time he was in Metallica. Not to mention his stint in Flotsam & Jetsam, and that amazing bass solo on the song 'Metalshock'. This, his first proper metal album since leaving Metallica, sees him fronting his own band, with his own name, playing guitar, bass and doing the lead vocals. The strength here is the songs. Old school Metal tunes that are equal parts classic Metal and Thrash Metal. Jason Newsted clearly knows the power of a memorable riff built upon a fucking solid groove. This album is so full of that it's hard to pick a favourite moment. Newsted's vocals are unexpectedly good too; with him sounding half like James Hetfield in his prime and half like Chuck Billy from Testament. It's great to have the man back, with 'Heavy Metal Music' in it's truest form.
Favourite Track: King Of The Underdogs

4. Black Sabbath - 13

Black Sabbath. Heavy Metal can be summed up with those two words, really. After such a long wait, just when we'd all abandoned hope of it happening; the Metal band that started all Metal bands released a new album. Plenty of folks can complain that Bill Ward wasn't on the album if they want to, but better though it would have been to have seen a full reunion, this album truly speaks for itself. What we see on display here is Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne each bringing their distinct style, without pulling any punches. The songs don't simply recall former glories, they offer a modern take on what Black Sabbath truly stands for, lest we ever forget. The album '13' is perfectly executed, perfectly timed and reaffirms Black Sabbath's position at the very top of the Metal Pantheon.
Favourite Track: God Is Dead?

3. KaiDekA - Blissful Image Of A Dystopian Vision

Those of you who don't know this band are missing out massively. Take the speed and aggression of Thrash Metal, the flow of Groove Metal and the quirkiness of Nu-Metal, combine them and what comes out will sound like KaiDekA. This Cornwall quintet's first album 'False Idols & Pyrite Thrones' was a great enough discovery for me, but the step-up in quality between that first record and 'The Blissful Image Of A Dystopian Vision' is huge! On this record, every band member shines through in these brilliantly crafted songs. My favourite riff of the year is on this record, on the song 'Higs Bosun', which made my jaw drop first time I heard it. I really hope the future holds big things in store for KaiDekA. Check this album out, if you take nothing else from this list, take this as a big recommendation.
Favourite Track: A Blissful Image Of A Dystopian Vision

2. Mechina - Empyrean

As far as vast, all-consuming layers of sound goes, this is one album that couldn't be beaten this year. An early find for me. and a massively impressive one at that. Telling a captivating story through an album that is weaved together in a way which I can only describe as Fear Factory's Cyber Metal meets Nightwish's orchestrated brilliance (only better than Nightwish!). There's so much going on in this album that it requires as much attention as you can give it, otherwise you'll miss something. Brilliantly produced and flawless in it's delivery, this album for the longest time was set to be my album of the year. One album changed that.
Favourite Track: Interregnum

1. Carcass - Surgical Steel

Carcass have always ruled, but this year's best Metal album just made me go 'wow!' from start to finish. After seventeen years without an album from this, one of the UK's most cherished Extreme Metal bands, the pressure was on for them to deliver. I'll be honest, I didn't expect anything special. I was expecting a tired rehashing of old, worn ideas that would simply satiate casual Metal fans. This is not the case. 'Surgical Steel' is a master-class in Grindcore, Death Metal and Melodic Death Metal all rolled into one. Lyrics don't get more savage than this. Riffs do not get catchier than this. It doesn't get faster or more extreme than this. Really, the other bands touting themselves as Extreme should be ashamed of themselves as they stand in the shadow of this album. Carcass have put the smack-down on 2013, and I don't think the Metal Community could be more glad to have them back!
Favourite Track: All of em, can't pick! That's why it's album of the year!!!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Review; Five Finger Death Punch - The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Vol. 1 (Deluxe Edition)

Track Listing;

1. Lift Me Up (Ft. Rob Halford)
2. Watch You Bleed
3. You
4. Wrong Side Of Heaven
5. Burn MF
6. I.M.Sin
7. Anywhere But Here (Feat. Maria Brink)
8. Dot Your Eyes
9. M.I.N.E. (End This Way)
10. Mama Said Knock You Out (Feat. Tech N9ne
11. Diary Of A Deadman
12. I.M.Sin (Feat. Max Cavalera)
13. Dot Your Eyes (Feat. Jamey Jasta)
14. Anywhere But Here (Duet with Maria Brink)

Five Finger Death Punch are another of many modern metal bands that divide opinion almost completely among metalheads. Add onto that factor the idea of a double album, which is always a risky move, and this band is not going out of its way to make friends. At eight years into their career, maybe it was time to take a chance, but it's a good thing they're starting off with a little help from their friends on part one of The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell.

As far as album openers go, they don't come much better than the one heard here. Are FFDP a technical band; no. Are they progressive or experimental; no chance. What they are is a bare-bones, no-frills modern American Metal band that writes some cracking tunes. 'Lift Me Up' is one of the best they've written in their career, and with a great vocal appearance from Rob 'More-Metal-Than-A-Lead-Bullet-Belt' Halford of Judas Priest, the album hits the ground running. It's a catchy tune that you'll listen to and sing along to again, and again...and again! (You get the point!)

'Watch You Bleed' starts softly, but it doesn't last before the steam-train rhythms and riffs fly in. On this album it's already apparent that singer Ivan Moody is on fine vocal form, showing off the higher part of his singing range. Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook are as functional a guitar duo as ever and Jeremy Spencer's drumming, while sometimes simplistic compared to other metal drumming, works in the context of Five Finger Death Punch. This isn't music for serious musicians, it's music for people that want to have a good time beating their chests and stomping around the pit. Some could call it stupid if they so wished but they'd be missing something, in my opinion. The ballads may seem a tad generic, such as 'Wrong Side of Heaven', but while the song writing involved isn't by any means breakthrough, there's something in Ivan's voice that sells it.

'Burn MF' could be accused of being a lazily written song. It reeks a little of Dope's 'Die Motherfucker Die' at the chorus. However, it's a good, fun tune with a good riff and some pummelling drums. The rhythmic quality in the verse's vocals shows Ivan Moody's background from much-forgotten Nu-Metal group Motograter. It's catchy, but while fans will still like it, it could be too derivative.

'I.M.Sin' is another rager, with the familiar feeling of 'fuck you' that litters much of their back catalogue. There are two versions of this song on the album; one just with the band, and the other featuring Soulfly legend Max Cavalera. Who sings his parts in Portuguese, adding a different flavour to the mix. Hearing Max's voice is always a pleasure, and as such the version without his contribution is inferior. 'Dot Your Eyes' is another song where this is the case, but instead features Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed on the second version. It's also my favourite song on the album.

'Anywhere But Here' is another ballad, another song that there's two of on the album. Both feature In This Moment frontwoman Maria Brink, but the second version is a full duet version, rather than the first in which her voice makes a scarce appearance. On paper, this collaboration looks odd, but on record both voices accompany each other well. Lyrically it's a more emotional side to FFDP that might seem out of place, but at least it shows another side to the band that some might find unexpected.

'M.I.N.E (End This Way)' is a low point on the album for me. A heartbreak ballad that has no chance of equalling the band's breakthrough single 'The Bleeding' and while I'm all up for a band putting a bit of emotion into their music, this song just doesn't do it for me.

Major talking point on the album alert; 'Mama Said Knock You Out'. An LL Cool J cover seems the least likely thing to work on a modern metal album. No doubt it'll make many people spit bullets in disgust, but here's the kicker - it's great! With another guest appearance from American rapper Tech N9ne, this tune combines the fist-to-the-face assault of bullish modern metal a la Pantera or Hellyeah with the rap swagger that the song calls for. I'm speaking as someone who's not a big fan of rap, but I really enjoyed this song, which would be a beast to hear in any metal club.

'Diary Of A Deadman' is a strange way for the band to end the first half of the double album; it's an odd song for this band; With it's very introspective spoken-word lyrics that almost sound like Ivan's written his own eulogy. It's unsettling in a way, with how transparent and honest the lyrics are. The album closes after this very soulful tune. I find it hard to reckon what most people would make of it as a whole song, though the guitar solo heard on it is a great one.

It looked like Five Finger Death Punch had made a rash decision when they announced this double album, but as far as the first half of the album is concerned, it's solid. There's the odd dip in the song writing, and it's not exactly original stuff, but for those wanting their Death Punch fix that maybe felt a little let down by 2011's love/hate album 'American Capitalist', this album will more than suffice. I, for one, felt that 'American Capitalist' was a real let-down, with the odd solid song that couldn't save it, but now the love I had for this band after 'War Is The Answer' is peaked again.

In terms of accessible, fun metal music, its one of the best releases of the year, and will no doubt count as another step on the band's path towards arena headlining glory. Whether you like it or not, this band will get bigger yet, and detractors wont really make a difference to that.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 2 December 2013

Review; Rhapsody Of Fire - Dark Wings Of Steel

Track Listing;

1. Vis Divina
2. Rising From Tragic Flames
3. Angel Of Light
4. Tears Of Pain
5. Fly To Crystal Skies
6. My Sacrifice
7. Silver Lake Of Tears
8. Custode Fi Pace
9. A Tale Of Magic
10. Dark Wings Of Steel
11. Sad Mystic Moon

Rhapsody Of Fire, previously known simply as Rhapsody, were once among the highest echelons of the Symphonic Power Metal subgenre. Their first five records, released between 1997 and 2002, collectively known as 'The Emerald Sword Saga', formed an impressive concept series that boasted great song writing and instrumentation. They once called their genre 'Hollywood Metal', a tag which fits the band when one takes note of their almost ridiculous bombast and over-the-top flair. Theirs was a pompous yet sincere take on the Symphonic Power Metal sound that may have not gotten as much kudos as it deserved back then.

Unfortunately, the albums since then have been poor, or worse. Neoclassical orchestration gave way to by-the-numbers use of the symphonic elements that failed to set the band apart from the increasingly overpopulated pool of bands taking orchestral elements and blending it with metal. On this album there are two new members on board; guitarist Roby Di Micheli and bassist Oliver Holzwarth. With the departure of Tom Hess last year, Di Micheli stands as the only guitarist on this album. The band has not had only one guitarist since before the year 2000, when Luca Turilli was the stand-alone guitar player. This reshaping of the band might lead some people to hope that the band may get a new lease of life. Unfortunately, this isn't the case.

An overly long intro track leads into 'Rising From Tragic Flames', with a rather uninspired and understated speed metal riff at it's backbone, the over exaggeration of the keyboard elements immediately comes across as being self indulgent on the part of composer, keyboardist and last remaining original member Alex Staropoli. The singing voice of Fabio Lione, while clearly accomplished, lacks the kind of flair or impact to leave a lasting impression and is far too often interrupted by a choir assembly to really take flight or show off any flamboyancy.

'Angel Of Light' does offer Lione opportunity to sing more freely, but it's an opportunity that's wasted, and during the chorus of this song, the second on an hour long album, the cheesier-than-a-gorgonzola-factory choir becomes the element of the album that makes me roll my eyes every time I hear it. Guitar leads seem too often to be staying in a comfort zone, playing it safe with every note to the point that you could almost predict how it will sound before you hear it. It's a shame, because Roby Di Micheli is clearly a talented player, but in the confines of this album I feels that his input has been sterilised.

'Tears Of Pain' starts with a slightly more promising riff, but it's not too long before the orchestration puts a stranglehold on it; taking the spotlight and thus the punch out of the song. The same is to be said of 'Fly To Crystal Skies', which differs only that the Metal elements of the song are minimalized even further. 'My Sacrifice' starts as a typical ballad for the genre, but lacks anything to really make you remember it. At eight minutes long, that's a real problem. You'd think the band could've fit something in to grab your attention or imagination.

Speaking of unimaginative; 'Silver Lake Of Tears' and 'Dark Wings of Steel', as well as 'Angel Of Light' and 'Fly To Crystal Skies' all begin with the same bloody guitar slide. Unimaginative doesn't even begin to cover it. 'A Tale Of Magic' may stand as a stronger song, but that's not saying much, and it's largely down to a slightly faster pace and a pretty good guitar solo. It's

The sheer (and ironic for a Power Metal band) lack of power is really unfortunate. Any and all potential for demanding bombast is either drowned by the damn keyboards or is watered down by depressingly boring vocal melodies. Personally I found it rather difficult to force myself to listen to this album straight through, even after a couple of listens. As a whole, I find 'Dark Wings Of Steel' tiresome, dull and bland. Sure, the album cover is pretty neat, but that doesn't change the quality of the musical output. It's a real shame, but this definitely isn't a return to form; instead it just seems like a reminder that Rhapsody Of Fire just aren't the band they used to be.

Rating: 2/10

Review; The Defiled - Daggers

Track Listing;

1. Sleeper
2. Unspoken
3. Saints And Sinners
4. As I Drown
5. Porcelain
6. New Approach
7. Fragments Of Hope
8. The Infected
9. The Mourning After
10. Five Minutes
11. No Place Like Home

The Defiled are one of the few UK Metalcore bands of recent years that have piqued my interest. Avoiding the typical Metalcore image of clip-on fringes and skinny jeans, they adopted a darker gothic look that seems to be more akin to Marilyn Manson than Architects. Their sound, on the other hand, is more original than bands like Escape The Fate; The integration of keyboards delivers a darkness and a different edge to the Metalcore formula, and the bands clever use of staccato guitar riffs makes them more instantly recognisable from the crowd. Their 2011 album 'Grave Times' brought them to the attention of fans and press alike. Combined with their chaotic live shows and near-constant touring efforts, which included appearances at Download, Sonisphere and Bloodstock, outlined them as a hungry, energetic, hardworking band with a lot of promise as a UK prospect on the Metal scene. Earlier this year, the band's second album was released. It is also their first after being signed to Nuclear Blast Records. A greatly anticipated release; there has been a high expectation for more Industrial tinged Metalcore anthems.

Buzzing to life with a cinematic-meets-electronic wild build up, the opening song 'Sleeper' kicks in with frontman and guitarist Stitch D's screams alongside a thrashy, straightforward riff. It isn't long before a steadier, pounding riff comes in, with some eerie keyboard work from The AvD. All the while, new drummer Needles makes his mark upon the overall fashion of the band. The chorus has all the jump up and down and sing-along appeal of the songs on 'Grave Times', and the breakdown that follows it is laced with more great atmospherics that define their sound so clearly. Lyrically, the dark, pseudo-disturbing themes are immediate, with Stitch D screaming "I am the sleeper trapped in the cell that haunts me", delivering us into the darkness.

The production used on this album is very bass-heavy, with the samples and atmospherics wrapped around the overall sound of the guitars and drums. The vocals take the back seat somewhat. They're still there to make out and are completely intelligible, but I can't help but feel that (upon first listen) this could take away from the impact of the band's brilliantly crafted choruses, such as the one on 'Unspoken'; an absolute gem of a song that would get any crowd started, whether on a headline tour, or an opening slot of a festival morning. The riffs in the song are just downright delicious, too. After a few listens, the slight niggle with the production is forgivable, you get used to it I'd say. It's an interesting approach from Jason Suecof, to make the Industrial element of this band the focal point, and it does assist the band in showcasing how different their music is from general Metalcore.

'Saints And Sinners' opens in such a way that you could mistake it for a Fear Factory song. The incredibly fast drumming shown also supports this. Here The Defiled show that they can put their Metal chops to the grind as well as any other young band, if not better. The vocals are on point, with the screams sounding as solid and energetic in their execution as we've come to expect from witnessing the band live. The AvD turns up the creepiness level on his contributions with distorted spoken samples and a tolling bell after the breakdown. His backing vocals are well placed and compliment Stitch D's, especially the deeper growls alongside the frontman's higher screams.

'As I Drown' sees the band reach out to the disenfranchised youth. The singing melodies do run the risk of sounding a bit like Bullet For My Valentine in places, but the heavier nature of the music behind the vocals as well as the aforementioned Industrial edge saves it, and the band don't lose their identity, while also managing to deliver a solid track. Any influence that The Defiled may have taken from Marilyn Manson's classic works is worn on their collective sleeve during 'Porcelain', with it's jarring, weirdly catchy introduction and verse sections, even the vocal delivery has smatterings of the God of Fuck. However, another one of those trademark choruses lies in wait, just as catchy as anything else they've written. The track brings that sense of the macabre, as well as another Thrash riff right at the end. Great stuff.

'New Approach' is probably one song on 'Daggers' that could've easily been on 'Grave Times'. It has the huge chorus and frantic verse formula and shows the hunger for success that this band shows to their credit. It also sees some of Stitch D's best screams, as well as continuing to show that the rhythm section of Needles and impressive bassist Vincent Hyde is an effective machine keeping the rest of the music grounded. 'Fragments Of Hope' is maybe a weaker point on the album, but it features a rhythmic beating in the second verse that catches the ear well. The breakdown, while fairly basic, is arguably the most brutal the band has written yet. A tasteful use of leads is also shown by Aaron Curse.

'The Infected' again shows The Defiled's strengths, and in terms of the lyrical theme, reminds me a little of the song 'Black Death' from 'Grave Times'. It's also one song where the guitars and vocals get a bit more room to breathe in the mix, mainly because the keyboards used have a slightly subtler feel to them, except from during the breakdown and the outro where the sounds used have an almost Nu Metal vibe to them. The bass loses none of it's punch though. In fact, this stands as my favourite song on the album. 'The Mourning After' sees the high screams kick out at full throttle, and the pre-chorus has an eerie quality on the vocal side. The song does have a few moments where it risks slipping into that Bullet For My Valentine territory again, perhaps due to the singing voices of Stitch D and Matt Tuck being a little similar maybe.

Perhaps the interesting point on 'Daggers' is the song 'Five Minutes', which starts simply with an acoustic guitar and some crackling samples, before Stitch D's singing presents a more vulnerable side of this band. An unexpected song to be sure, and it would be as likely to enthral some as alienate others momentarily. The harmonisation of the vocals in the chorus is done well, and the frontman shows that his singing voice has a more impressive range than some may have thought prior to this. A ballad is not what I would have expected from The Defiled, but it's refreshing to hear them step out of their familiar zone.

'No Place Like Home' comes in to close the album and does it well, with a return to the tour de force sound that the previous song interrupted. It's another song that mimics the formidable feel of their debut. The breakdown riffs are once again colossal, and the scream of "Fall to your knees and pray for forgiveness' is such a good hook it's just unfair. The album fades out with quite a triumphant feel, and rightly so. The debut record 'Grave Times' may have had a few unforgettable bangers, the truth is that there are some songs that, on record, weren't as strong. You could even call them fillers. The thing with 'Daggers' is; while some songs take a couple of listens, they are all great songs. There is no filler here, just quality songs. In that respect, I'd argue that The Defiled have surpassed their previous efforts, though those looking for their gratuitous instant-hits may debate that fact.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Review; Avatarium - Avatarium

Track Listing;

1. Moonhorse
2. Pandora's Egg
3. Avatarium
4. Boneflower
5. Bird Of Prey
6. Tides Of Telepathy
7. Lady In The Lamp

Avatarium is the new side project featuring Candlemass bassist Leif Edling. Formed less than a year ago, the band (completed by singer Jennie-Ann Smith, guitarist Marcus Jidell, keyboardist Carl Westholm and drummer Lars Skold) has already created quite a buzz in the Metal Universe, with the new self-titled album getting a few great reviews that I've seen thus far. So, naturally I thought I'd turn my ear to it myself.

A huge, booming Doom Metal riff opens the record's first song 'Moonhorse' in a strong fashion, showing off a very tight and well suited rhythm section. Keyboards create a background atmosphere, bringing an ethereal quality. It's just as you're used to this direction that the heaviness dissipates, replaced by an acoustic guitar and Jennie-Ann Smith's vocals. With lyrics that seem to speak of an innocent child's imagination or daydreams, the overall picture is painted beautifully, like the audio equivalent of a watercolour. Immediately, I find myself drawn to speak of the purely fantastic vocal abilities on show. A deep, bluesy tone is delivered both delicately to begin with, like a lullaby. However, Jennie-Ann is more than capable of belting it out with sheer power that does nothing to falter her tone or range. Leif has done well to bring this singer to the band. I must say, towards the end of the song, and frequently through the rest of this record, she reminds me of the late, great Ronnie James Dio!

'Pandora's Egg' continues in a similar fashion; underlying clean guitars let the gentle singing set a melody before the heavy, Sabbath-worshipping riffs lead to more powerful vocal dynamics. The lead playing of Marcus Jidell suit the band well and are flamboyant enough to save the whole sound of the band being bogged down within the somewhat simple and sometimes restricting boundaries of Doom Metal. There is almost a classic rock feel weaved between these songs. In fact, the song 'Avatarium' with its darkly mystical sense of melody, fantastical theme and massive chorus, seems slightly reminiscent of Dio-era Rainbow. The hidden hero of this band already seems to be Carl Westholm, whose very tasteful use of the keyboard gives the songs a sense of majesty and fullness.

'Boneflower' changes things up a bit, with slightly faster pace in the verses and a haunting, ghostly vocal performance. The song has a few twists and turns, with the almost psychedelic keyboard break and the dramatic shift in tempo between the verses and the chorus. It's a well placed song that clearly displays that Avatarium's music is not forged with a formula in mind. Everything feels more organic than that.

The songs never span less than five minutes, with two breaking the eight minute mark, but they don't feel long. There's enough going on within each song to captivate the listener's imagination and demand attention, whether or not the listener even realises it! There's plenty in each song that is catchy enough to get stuck in your head four hours, and the chorus of 'Bird Of Prey' is a prime example. It is safe to say that the star of the album is Jennie-Ann Smith, though the band as a unit functions impeccably, each musician perfectly complimenting what the other does.

The intro for 'Tides Of Telepathy' is played over a marching drum line. After which, the grandiose combination of the bass-heavy rhythm section and the soaring singing come back again in the now-standard fashion. 'Lady In The Lamp' on the other hand, opens with a very beautiful slide guitar, and then gives way to the arpeggios and vocals, with a very bluesy lead pleasing the ear. Hell, it's all very pleasing to listen to. No doubt, Metal fans who are just in the music for punch-in-the-gut heaviness and violent or angry lyrics barked by a hairy lunatic would disapprove, but this is an album with a real artistic vision that transcends Metal to some degree. There is a lot on this record to appeal to many different tastes. Simply great music, is possibly the best way to put it. Larger than life and beautiful, this is easily one of the best debuts I've heard all year. I can't wait to see how things go for Avatarium.

Rating: 9/10

Friday, 29 November 2013

Review; Deicide - In The Minds Of Evil

Track Listing:

1. In The Minds Of Evil
2. Thou Begone
3. Godkill
4. Beyond Salvation
5. Misery Of One
6. Between The Flesh And The Void
7. Even The Gods Can Bleed
8. Trample The Cross
9. Fallen To Silence
10. Kill The Light Of Christ
11. End The Wrath Of God

It's strange thinking about Florida as a Metal fan; It conjures thoughts of sun, sea, Disneyland, family holidays...and some of the greatest Death Metal bands that have ever emerged! With bands like Death, Hate Eternal, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Atheist, Cynic and Six Feet Under, to name but a few, Florida will more than certainly be remembered by Metalheads as probably the most important hotbed of Death Metal pioneers that the genre has seen.

As far as my vote is concerned; the unholy beast of a band that is Deicide has always been my favourite of the Floridian Death Metal bands. Between frontman Glen Benton's bowel-churning vocal abilities and the Jesus-bashing lyrical content, there's a lot to appeal to my ears, not to mention the consistently great and understated instrumental capabilities the band have brought to each of their now eleven records, throughout all the line-up changes, the quality of the band's output has never disappointed me. Now the band's latest offering of evil brutality is upon us, and I've been dying to get my ears around it.

The first thing you know of this album is the distorted voice, saying "Some men just want to watch the world burn", which would set the tone for a Deicide album better than almost any sentance. Then with a triplet-powered stampede of guitars begins the music itself. Alongside some fairly standard-for-Death-Metal drumming, the album is off to a predictable but strong start. Riffs are solid and the execution is tight. All the while, Glen Benton's signature growl completes the sound, while the lyrical content appears to address the subject of terrorism. 'Thou Begone' brings in the first salvo of lyrical ammunition aimed directly at religion and the religious. It's arguable that this lyrical theme, which continues into 'Godkill' and 'Beyond Salvation' without relent, is repetition on the band's part, but with the impact of Benton's voice and the similarly powerful impact of the vocabulary that he applies to his lyrics it doesn't present itself as a problem. Instead of evolving the formula that is used in their material, Deicide push it onwards, adding to it like chapters added to a book.

With the lyrical content covered, it's worth mentioning the high class production on this album. Of course, producer Jason Suecof has lent his expertise to many other solid albums including Trivium's 'Ascendancy', The Black Dahlia Murder's 'Ritual' and The Defiled's latest album 'Daggers'. The nuances put onto a portion of the vocals, wherein Glen's voice is preceded by a fade-in of a sample of itself, giving the vocals an ominous, demonic feel that lends itself to what Deicide stand for perfectly. Everything else in the mix sits perfectly, with drums, guitar and bass guitar all perfectly audible, as opposed to many other Death Metal albums that bury the bass so far under the electric guitars that there's almost no point for it to be there. So, a quick well done to Jason Suecof for his contribution to this record.

A major strength that this record has is that none of the songs hit the four minute mark. I cite this as a strength because it keeps everything trimmed and concise. If a band like Deicide were to go attempt a long epic song eleven studio albums into their career it would be boring. We know this band's sound, as previously stated. The metal world now knows exactly what a Deicide album will sound like, so keeping the songs so choppy and to-the-point helps prevent the brutal in-your-face approach from becoming quite so old, even at this point. Was this a conscious decision on the band's part? Who knows, but nonetheless I find it worth mentioning.

Ultimately, as the album comes to it's conclusion with the venomous 'End The Wrath Of God' any fan will be left satisfied. I know I am. 2011's 'To Hell With God' was a great album in my opinion and is one that I revisit almost regularly, but I've come to like 'In The Minds Of Evil' even more, which is saying something. As far as I'm concerned, Deicide are still a band that are at the top of their game, and even though they haven't done anything here that will blow the minds of those familiar with their back catalogue, they've very effectively reminded everyone that they are the undisputed titans of insane, twisted, gory and blasphemous Death Metal. Get this album, you won't regret it.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Review; Sepultura - The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart

Track Listing:

1. Trauma Of War
2. The Vatican
3. Impending Doom
4. Manipulation Of Tragedy
5. Tsunami
6. The Bliss Of Ignorants
7. Grief
8. The Age Of The Atheist
9. Obsessed
10. Da Lama Ao Caos

Sepultura need little introduction to most people in the Metal community, at least that's true when you speak of classic records like 'Arise', 'Chaos A.D.', or 'Roots'. The band's efforts post-Cavalera brothers have garnered a great deal less euphoria for the Brazilian band. Something of a criminal shame considering that the Derrick Green fronted incarnation of the band has seen the release of solid records like 'A-Lex' and 'Dante XXI'. Not to mention the simplistic pleasure of the 2011 album 'Kairos'. Recently though, it's come to my attention that this year's release 'The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart' has seen a spike in interest for the Seps. It's coincidental that Soulfly have recently released the brilliant 'Savages'. Now, lets see which wins between them.

After a droning, intense beginning, music comes in with ferocity that I haven't heard from Sepultura in some time now. Anyone looking for an album like 'Kairos' should look elsewhere. Lyrics like "I saw the worst in the human nature, My hands are stained with blood of death" have real impact, or at least they do after you can get your ears past the music under which the vocals are almost hidden in the mix. This issue with the production, which was surprising considering that the band are working with 'Roots' album producer Ross Robinson, prevented me from instantly taking the album on, if I'm honest. However; after a few listens, it's not so much of a bother.

Musically, the album starts about as solid as it gets. Andreas Kisser delivers some riffs that could cut diamonds on 'The Vatican'. New drummer Eloy Casagrande is out to wow us all with incredible dexterity and power at the kit. The human mountain that is Derrick Green is on great vocal form. Combine that with guitar solos that show that Andreas is a massively underrated lead guitarist and you have all the elements of a great album. 'Impending Doom' shows off the band's knack for a slow, pounding number that tells the nearly over-told tale of how mankind is pushing itself over the proverbial precipice.

Things move back into faster territory for 'Manipulation Of Tragedy', whilst showing on two distinct occasions that Paolo Jr. is more than proficient on the bass guitar. The overall sound of the album does borrow from Sepultura's entire back-catalogue, and while the tribal beats that made them truly stand out from their contemporaries are present, the focus seems to be leaning more towards the murkier pseudo-Death Metal sounds of earlier Sepultura works such as 'Morbid Visions', walking the fine line between Death and Thrash. 'Tsunami' sees the frontman coming out with some high quality vocal hooks, and while the vocals do remain obscured in some way in the mix, the larynx shredding screeches of Kisser that back up Green's throaty roars ring through for added impact.

'The Bliss Of Ignorants' is weaved with the aforementioned tribal percussion that keeps Sepultura's identity open for all to see. Unfortunately the riffs in this tune pale next to many Sepultura riffs and the solo is more Slayer than Sepultura in places, but whether that's good or bad is up for debate. The percussion elements on show, which includes a solo section towards the end of the song do keep the song from being labelled as bad, but it's arguably a lacklustre song musically for this album, which is a shame considering the demanding screams of "Our freedom now!" that would've otherwise been the final selling point on the song. The beginning of 'Grief' is altogether strange, with a mournful vocalisation and plodding sound that is out of place on what has generally been a high-energy record. As the band comes in, it's fair to say that the full song does achieve the mood that it's name suggests, but it's simply not what I look for in a Sepultura song. Something of a misfire, in my opinion.

Luckily things go back on the upward trajectory during 'The Age Of The Athiest', which sees the energy return as Derrick Green launches into another verbal assault upon religion, politics and the current sheep mentality of many. Of all the tracks so far, this one would be the best addition to Sepultura's live show. On 'Obsessed', things start with a slow build that leads into a rather muddy sounding song that has its moments but never really reaches the heights that it threatens to through the bulk of the song.

'Da Lama Ao Caos' is a Chico Science & Nação Zumbi cover that has a lot of that tribal percussion courtesy of Derrick Green, some catchy guitar riffs and a very strange vocal performance that sounds very out of place on a Thrash/Death Metal album. There's a long bout of silence as the main album itself is obviously over, then at 17:34 into the track, there's a seven and a half minute long percussive solo that is more infectious than the song that took up the first four and a half minutes of the track. A disappointing end to what had the early promise of being a great addition to the Sepultura canon.

I won't deny that the album was generally concise and solid with a few truly standout songs, but at this point in the game, Sepultura needed to do more than what they have done. There are enough people that have pretty much abandoned the band post-Cavalera brothers (a MASSIVE injustice!), and what once was a global giant of a metal band has been relegated to a smaller league than they should be in, and I can't help but feel that part of the problem may be inconsistency. Sepultura is a band capable of much more yet, which makes this album somewhat frustrating. Solid effort, but only time will tell if it is counted among the classic albums that this band has released.

Rating: 6.5/10

Monday, 11 November 2013

Review; Carcass - Surgical Steel

Track Listing:

1. 1985
2. Thrashers Abattoir
3. Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System
4. A Congealed Clot Of Blood
5. The Master Butcher's Apron
6. Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard
7. The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills
8. Unfit For Human Consumption
9. 316L Grade Surgical Steel
10. Captive Bolt Pistol
11. Mount Of Execution

The return of Carcass has set the Metal world ablaze. For any poor sod unfamiliar with the legacy of this UK band - Carcass were spewed forth from Liverpool, England in 1985. After a few demos they went on to release 'Reek Of Putrefaction' in 1988. In a very short amount of time they became a founding band of the Grindcore scene, alongside Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror. Album number two, the seminal 'Symphonies Of Sickness' was a continuation of the sound, but featured a distinct flavour of Death Metal. The follow-up 'Necroticism - Descanting The Insalubrious' almost completely abandoned the Grindcore format in favour for Death Metal. It was also their first album with Michael Amott.

It was the 1993 album 'Heartwork' that saw the bands go in another direction, and made them pioneers in the emerging subgenre of Melodic Death Metal. Many fans didn't take too kindly to the band's change in sound back then, but the album stands as a landmark classic within the subgenre that it helped to forge. They then went on to release 'Swansong' in 1996. This was seventeen years ago now, in which times there have been a few break-ups, reformations and now-legendary festival appearances including Wacken Open Air and Bloodstock Open Air, among many others. It is only now, without Michael Amott, (who's primary focus has always been Arch Enemy) that Carcass return with new material as a three-piece. Guitarist and Vocalist Jeff Walker, Bassist and sometimes-vocalist Bill Steer and drummer Dan Wilding present 'Surgical Steel'...and it's a cast-iron Extreme Metal classic!

Opening with an instrumental intro in the form of '1985', which consists of guitar lines that almost sound like a lead that Iron Maiden forgot to write, it provides a foreshadowing of the greatness you're about to experience. Within seconds, any ill-feeling towards the band for not giving us any music for nearly two decades is obliterated. Then comes the first full song 'Thrashers Abattoir', which annihilates any worries on what Carcass would sound like in the 21st Century. It's a short, seemingly effortless statement of intent, and a furious one at that. Already the band sounds more vital than pretty much any band half their average age. 'Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System' carries this on with some more melodic moments added and a brilliant Thrash-like riff underneath a catchy guitar solo. Vocally, Walker and Steer are on top form.

As the album carries on into the third track which has a very modern groove to it, there's no denying the sheer power of the music on display. The tag of Extreme Metal has been applied to many, many albums in the 21st century, many of which have seemed to lack ant real conviction of the label applied to them. A lot of bandwagon-jumpers have caught the scene's interest simply for being the latest name in Black, Death or whatever niche of Metal it is they seek to inhabit. True extremity is something that the Metal world has lacked for some time. It only seems right that a band like Carcass would be the ones to give the scene a bloodied boot up the ass.

'The Master Butcher's Apron' breaks into a slow, stomping riff in mid-song that proves that Carcass have never been a one-trick pony. Their faster works may be what whips us all into a frenzy, but if riffs like the one heard in the aforementioned song don't make you bang your head, you're probably losing the function of your neck muscles! Throughout the record, the band's penchant for gore-laced lyrical content has been on constant display. The drumming of Dan Wilding is more than proficient for Carcass' music' Blastbeats are impeccable and every strike of a drum or cymbal falls in the right place and never feels wasted. Carcass are clearly a band made up of masters of their individual crafts the same way that a band like Revocation or Motorhead are. The tightness of the rhythm section and the flurrying guitar licks at the start of 'Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard' are the perfect show of this very fact.

'The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills' shows the side of Carcass that gave birth to 'Heartwork' a little more obviously, but as a whole the album does seem to combine the Grindcore sounds of their 'Reek Of Putrefaction' debut or 'Symphonies Of Sickness' with the aforementioned 'Heartwork', resulting in a balance of the sounds in their repertoire that flows with ease where it could easily have sounded like a muddy mish-mash of former glories. Whether this was a calculated move or a result of spontaneity barely matters after a few listens. The riff - vocal - riff structure in 'Unfit For Human Consumption' gives the song an anchor in the starting days of Metal. Some more sublime guitar leads fit the near-virtuosic musicality in with the brutality of the band like a glove. '311 L Grade Surgical Steel' and 'Captive Bolt Pistol' strike a similar chord as the previous songs without being tiresome. You're too busy trying to pick your jaw up off the ground to get bored with this album. Boring, this certainly is not!

The last song 'Mount Of Execution' starts with an unexpectedly slow series of clean guitars then leads into almost Doom-tinged territories that yet again have an almost classic-metal vibe to them, perhaps inadvertently showing the bands initial influences from back in the day. Then just as you think the album has come to a close, the best riff I have heard in a long fucking time comes in and lets Jeff Walker solo over it one last time, leaving the listener craving the next Carcass album to further cement the bands name in the history pages of Heavy Metal, just as Surgical Steel has this year. In a word - Brilliant.

Rating: 10/10