Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Review; Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance

Track Listing;

1. Dead Early
2. Valkyrie
3. Lesser Men
4. The Ones You Left Behind
5. Come Warfare, The Entire Doom
6. Leave No Cross Unturned

Darkthrone's fifteenth album could be approached somewhat wearily by those who are aware of the recent experimentation that the duo have embarked on over the last three albums before it. Many people did not take well to the crust punk influences that Darkthrone brought into play, considering their background as an influential Norwegian Black Metal band. Listening to The Underground Resistance, however, gives a sideways nod to the band's Black Metal history.

The album is not what one would expect from Darkthrone at all, but it is a brilliant and welcome surprise. The overall feel of the record takes you back to the days of the First Wave of Black Metal, and bands like Mercyful Fate, Venom and Celtic Frost. The vocal styles given by both Fenriz and Nocturno Culto are reminiscent of King Diamond and Venom frontman Cronos, ranging from barked vocals right through to the very unexpected high falsettos. There's also a real feel of groove to the music; the forefront of which is absolutely massive riffs that sound more fresh than a lot of modern band's recycled catalogue.

The Underground Resistance is by no means a Black Metal album in the same respect as the likes of Transylvanian Hunger, so any listeners that are hoping for a record like that will be disappointed. This is a Heavy Metal album, through and through. No frills, no bullshit, straight up metal that could easily have been recorded in the early eighties. The production is raw but not unnecessarily raw like a lot of 'kvlt' Black Metal albums, there is the right amount of polish to the production job that the album is listenable to both casual listeners and the metal connoisseur.

It's difficult not to get over-excited when talking about this record, as it is a brilliant breath of fresh air for the modern scene. Darkthrone have proven that they are true masters of metal. It makes you wonder if there's any form of metal music that they couldn't turn their hands to and forge into something amazing. Darkthrone have brought their A-Game on this record, of which the only real fault I can find is that it isn't long enough, and leaves me screaming for more when the sixth track "Leave No Cross Unturned" draws to a close. Get this album! NOW!

Rating; 9.5/10

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Review; Suffocation - Pinnacle Of Bedlam

Track Listing;

1. Cycles Of Suffering
2. Purgatorial Punishment
3. Eminent Wrath
4. As Grace Descends
5. Sullen Days
6. Pinnacle Of Bedlam
7. My Demise
8. Inversion
9. Rapture Of Revocation
10. Beginning Of Sorrow

New York Death Metal legends Suffocation have been on an impressive run since their 2003 reunion, the three albums that have followed this reunion; "Souls To Deny", "Suffocation", and "Blood Oath" have all been excellent albums, but didn't do justice to their early work such as their trump card "Effigy Of The Forgotten".

"Pinnacle of Bedlam" is a true monster of an album, right from the start. There's no build-up, no intro track, instead it launches straight into the brutality with the headstrong abandon that one wants from Death Metal. It shows a band that is capable to both change with the times as well as stay true to their own established sound. The album has a modern sound, as highlighted by the excellent production value. The album is a fast mover with a running time just shy of 40 minutes. As opposed to the past three albums, which have consisted of slower, more crushing songs, this record is almost constantly going at break-neck speed, pummelling the listener with blast-beat drumming and technical riffs.

Suffocation were considered to have broke new ground in Technical Death Metal when they released "Effigy Of The Forgotten" back in 1991, and it never ceases to amaze that they manage to remain so relevant to their scene, which is over-populated with bands playing music that is so technical that it often comes across as soulless self-indulgence. Suffocation manage to write music that is both technically proficient and full of the snarling conviction that is so essential to great Death Metal. My personal favourite display of this is in the title-track 'Pinnacle of Bedlam" which goes through tempo changes, great riffs and never loses its sense of attack. The re-recording of "Beginning of Sorrow" sits perfectly beside the nine new tracks, and shows that the band is still at the top of their game.

It comes as no surprise that the band's trademark breakdowns are still prevalent throughout the album, and are still as brutal as ever. The band had great influence upon the Deathcore sub-genre, so it is great to hear that they can show them all how it's done. as great and technical as the music itself is, it doesn't take away from the vocal delivery of Frank Mullen, whose voice definitely hasn't lost its edge with age. Whilst death growls are heard a lot in the Metal scene today, Mullen's ability to keep his lyrics clear and intelligible despite his deep vocal style makes him stand out from the crowd.

The speed and constant battering that this album gives makes it somewhat tricky to pick out a favourite song, and this listener is left feeling that the record is best enjoyed as a whole. There is nothing in the album that is not consistently great and interesting, from the guitars and bass to the percussion, it's all quality music. Unpredictable, not in the sense that it's a departure from the band's usual sound, but that there are many twists and turns, with great effective changes in tempos. If you're not banging your head to this or running straight into the mosh pits at the gigs, you're probably deaf.

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Review; Hatriot - Heroes Of Origin

Track Listing:

1. Suicide Run
2. Weapons Of Class Destruction
3. Murder American Style
4. Blood Stained Wings
5. The Violent Time Of My Dark Passenger
6. Globicidal
7. And Your Children To Be Damned
8. The Mechanics Of Annihilation
9. Shadows Of The Buried
10. Heroes Of Origin

First thing to be said is that Thrash Metal is my all-time favourite heavy metal sub-genre. It was both my source of musical inspiration and my gateway to every following extreme metal sub-genre. You name a band; Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Overkill, Nuclear Assault, Vio-Lence, and so on; I know em, I probably love them, there's little thrash I dislike! Exodus have always been the great unsung heroes of Thrash, vastly underrated like Testament. So when I heard that former Exodus/Legacy singer Steve 'Zetro' Souza had recorded a new album with a new band, I was instantly intrigued.

Naturally, and to my relief, it was of course a Thrash Band. The instant thing that strikes me is how much the record sounds like it could've jumped right out of the mid to late eighties. Every part of the production and sound of the music screams "Bay-Area Thrash". The drums have a slightly tinny quality, the bass is distinct and prominent instead of just blending in with the guitars, the riffs are all fast-as-hell with little or no let up. The solos are blistering and would no doubt induce many a circle pit live.

It would be easy for a lot of people to see Hatriot as Steve Souza & Band, but I never find myself as a listener feeling that the record is all about the vocals, nor does it feel like an attempt to raise Zetro back to the heights of his Exodus heyday. Ultimately it comes across as an unpretentious Thrash album made for Thrash Metal fans, new and old. It captures the spirit of eighties Thrash with much more authenticity than current bands like Evile or Municipal Waste, but then; Zetro was there back in the day, so one would think that would be the case.

The album as a whole is very well-paced and typically fast. Double kick drumming is heard throughout, as is fast down-picked guitar riffs. Zetro, I'm glad to say still has the rasps and shrieks that he was known for, and he delivers his vocal lines with more viciousness than a lot of younger bands. The long scream at the end of the fifth track "The Violent Time Of My Dark Passenger" almost sent a shiver down my spine. The riff-crafting skills of guitarists Kosta Varvatakis and Miguel Esparza cannot be overstated. The intro/chorus riff of "Globicidal" is an absolutely huge stomping beast. Meanwhile, "And Your Children To Be Damned" sports a riff that shows off their speed playing. These two guitar players know how to make you bang your head!

Will this be my album of the year? Likely not, but it's brilliant to hear Thrash Metal still alive and kicking, and that more of the old guard of the genre are stepping back up to the plate. Thrash has had a great, well-documented resurgence recently, due to the likes of Testament, Megadeth, Overkill, Evile, Kreator, Destruction, Death Angel, and so on; and even though the material released will never be held in as high regard as such masterworks as "Reign In Blood", "Bonded By Blood", or "Ride The Lighning" I can only hope this continues for many years to come! Thrash isn't going anywhere, nor should it, and this record is a great example why!

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Review; Mechina - Empyrean

Track Listing;

1. Aporia
2. Asterion
3. Interregnum
4. Imperialus
5. Anathema
6. Catechism
7. [Cryostasis_Simulation__2632_01]
8. Elephtheria
9. Empyrean
10. Infineon
11. Terminus

This fifth album from American Industrial Death Metal crew; Mechina has an opening salvo that unleashes their sound with no hesitation or mercy. This is Fear Factory-esque riffs with electronic and orchestral atmospherics that gives a spectrum of sound so vast and epic that it should be used as the soundtrack to the next great Hollywood sci-fi film! The vocal delivery of David Holch ranges from Death screams and growls through to soaring clean vocals, and brilliantly accompanies the music behind it.

It strikes me as odd that there are generic bands enjoying such reverence and status in the world of metal when there are bands such as Mechina who are offering something genuinely interesting and different to listen to. I would be pleased to see this group join bands at the heights of other genre-defying bands like Dimmu Borgir, as their sound is one that could easily fill large venues live. It's engaging enough on record, I can only imagine it would sound massive live.

It's difficult to tell which song or songs are my favourites on this record, as there are no filler tracks on here, and the album flows from one song to the next with no seams or stutters, as any good concept album should. The riffs chug along with frightening accuracy and timing that is definitely born of a Dino Cazares school of guitar playing. With all the orchestra and electronic ambience in the forefront of the music, the guitar does take the back seat, but it is to no hindrance to the album, nor is the fact that there are no guitar solos in the whole album. Honestly, if they'd tried to fit any in, I don't know how they would have managed.

The orchestral elements are clearly king on this record, and a shout has to go out to Joe Tiberi, who composed and executed the arrangements on the album. It's nothing short of fantastic, and lets face it, it's at least two-thirds of what makes this album so great. The addition of female vocals aid the sound even further, whether they're programmed or not, I cannot tell, but to the ear it barely matters.

Since my first listen to this record, I've kept coming back to it, and I know already that unless there's a long succession of albums dropped this year that are absolute masterpieces, this will be high on my albums-of-the-year list. I can't fault this album. Check it out. Now!


Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Review; Hate - Solarflesh


Track Listing;

1. Watchful Eye Of Doom
2. Eternal Might
3. Alchemy Of Blood
4. Timeless Kingdom
5. Festival Of Slaves
6. Sadness Will Last Forever
7. Solarflesh
8. Endless Purity
9. Mesmerised

Poland is known for doing the Death Metal scene a lot of credit, and this latest offering from Warsaw four-piece Hate is another testament to their country's standing in the metal world. This is their eighth full-length offering since 1990, and shows a band who know their craft well. Blackened Death Metal is a sub-genre which is full of half-hearted bands, but their are those among the rabbles of the mediocre that can offer genuinely great metal that has the slamming brutality of Death Metal and the tense, ethereal atmosphere of Black Metal.

The album opens with an instrumental intro track, 'Watchful Eye Of Doom', and it sets the tone of the record brilliantly and epically. It becomes clear that this isn't the sound of a band with small aspirations, the grandiose, sweeping melodies, unexpectedly accompanied by eerie female vocals reminds this listener of the scope of bands like Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth. The second that 'Eternal Might' kicks in, the game is on; there are double-kick drum blasts throughout, creepily heavy guitar chord progressions and leads that show the band aren't here to show off, but instead, to write good songs.

The vocals do remind me of Nergal from Behemoth, and the lyrics do often cover the same anti-Christian/Satanic ground, but that is no discredit to the group, as their sound maintains identity of its own. Hate seem to owe a lot more to the Black Metal scene than their contemporaries; the music is punishing from start to finish, but atmospherics are woven even into the riffs and the structures of the songs, putting across a mood of misanthropy, without sacrificing that epic scope. The first few seconds of the song 'Timeless Kingdom' shows this well, before proving that the band can go flat-out like any Death Metal band. The overall sound comes across as a great balance between the Black and Death Metal scenes, and is very enjoyable.

Credit has to go out to the two guitar players of the band Adam 'ATF Sinner' Buszko and Konrad "Destroyer" Ramotowski; their lead playing throughout the bulk of the album is exquisite. It's the common trend in metal today for a guitar solo to be an opportunity to show off how many notes and different techniques you can play within the given time. I often find that approach bland, but ATF Sinner and Destroyer have given me hope that there are still guitarists out there that want to play something soulful, that lends itself to the song at hand, offering the listener a further uplifting into the music itself. Hats off to them.

For me, the definite highlight of the album is 'Festival Of Slaves', which is an absolute torrent of aural abuse and a definitive showcase of the epic brutality that the band conveys so well. The whole album is very catchy, if I dare use that word to describe a metal album, but this song is the one I reckon I will keep coming back to the most.

The band do offer the unexpected in the title-track, which opens with a dark, slithering acoustic guitar passage. The band then offers some more great leads, all the while keeping a tight-as-hell rhythm section. There are moments of musical beauty amongst the heaviness, and something in the feel of the song comes across as very Eastern, to this listener's ears.

This album is nothing short of spectacular, and stands as a shining example that even extreme, underground music can produce great songs that would sound simply massive at a metal festival. I would urge any fan of extreme metal to give this album a listen.

Rating; 10/10

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Review; Bullet For My Valentine - Temper Temper

Track Listing;

1. Breaking Point
2. Truth Hurts
3. Temper Temper
4. P.O.W.
5. Dirty Little Secret
6. Leech
7. Dead To The World
8. Riot
9. Saints & Sinners
10. Tears Don't Fall (Pt. 2)
11. Livin' Life (On The Edge Of A Knife)

The first word that comes to mind as I listen to the new Bullet For My Valentine is 'predictable'. Having listened to all of BFMV's albums, the only thing that's seemed to happen to their sound is that it's gotten more sterile and safe. This isn't entirely a criticism; some of the longest running bands have stuck to one sound and appealed to their existing fan-base (Cannibal Corpse, Motorhead, Overkill, for example) but the thing that makes it a different deal to me is Matt Tuck's frequent claims that his band would "Be the next Metallica or Maiden". When a band intends to get to that level, and even when they're enjoying the media frenzy that BFMV have enjoyed since the release of 2010's 'Fever' album, they should be pushing themselves to justify their lofty position in metal's upper echelon.

This album simply does not showcase the attitude of a hungry band. Tracks like 'Truth Hurts' and the wimpy ballad 'P.O.W.' show real complacency. Some of the guitar work is impressive, but no riffs that are particularly memorable. The band IS capable of such things! Who will forget the riffs of 'Scream Aim Fire' or 'Waking The Demon', after all? As such, to hear them resting on their laurels like this is very frustrating to this listener.

Vocals; safe and predictable singing with scattered screams. Lyrics; very twee, and reminiscent of pathetic teen poetry (Most sickeningly shown in 'Dirty Little Secret'! Seriously, it's vomit-inducing!) Some of the music behind all the 'Matt Tuck Band' showcasing is decent, often catchy and shows signs of the talent that we know the band has.

The one thing I heard about before I got this album was the inclusion of the song 'Tears Don't Fall (Pt. 2)' and that caught my curiosity, as I liked the original song. Upon listening to it, it's somehow been able to come across as more of a teeny-bopper heartbreak anthem than its predecessor. It's far inferior to the original tune. Feels a shame that they've pissed on the legacy of their own song.

I will say this much; The die-hard Bullet For My Valentine fans, and the countless girls that just like to gawp at Matt will likely enjoy this band, but contrary to what Kerrang! Magazine has printed; this is no rebirth for BFMV. If anything this lives up to my expectations that all of the aggression in Bullet's sound was siphoned off into the Axe Wound side-project, and that Bullet would make themselves an arena rock band, rather than the metalcore stand-outs that they had once been. By no means unlistenable; the closing track is solid, but overall the record disappointing and washes over this listener, leaving me wondering if Bullet will ever be a big deal again.

Rating: 3/10