Saturday, 13 September 2014

Album Review; Korpse - Korpse

Track listing;

1. By All Means Necessary
2. Persuasion
3. School's Out Shootout
4. Devil's Breath
5. Valuable Skills
6. Fireworks
7. More Funerals To Come
8. Complications

This is the self-titled debut album by Korpse; a four-piece Slamming Brutal Death Metal band from the Netherlands, and it's really exactly what you expect; Devourment influenced, heavy as Andre The Giant carrying a boulder and very D.I.Y. sounding in terms of production. Everything in the mix has the rough edges untouched by studio wizardry, making the overall sound of the album relatively grizzly and uncomfortable if not difficult to listen to, but since it's a Slam band, that's not necessarily a complaint.

The most obvious problem with this album is that each song sounds, well...the same! It's all big, crunching riffs, tinny drums and guttural vocals that leave any and all lyrical content completely unintelligible. The titles of some of the songs are clearly standard Death Metal fare, particularly the likes of 'School's Out Shootout' and 'More Funerals To Come'.

It's very clear that the four Dutchmen responsible for this torrent of aural abuse are skilled enough on their instruments, but there's a lack of imagination present in the material. Obviously, there is only so much you can do with such a brutal genre as this, and most of the best ideas have already been delivered by Dying Fetus, Devourment, Benighted and their likes. There are some good moments of speed here, some typically smothering Slam breakdowns, all delivered with an organic feel only made possible by honest musicianship rather than Pro-Tools.

Basically; if sheer brutality is your thing, this album will give you some kicks. The rest of us will probably grow bored rather quickly. There's not much present to warrant repeat listens very often. A decent, but too often generic lesson in modern Death Metal sickness.

Rating: 5/10

Album Review; Judas Priest - Redeemer Of Souls

Track Listing:

1. Dragonaut
2. Redeemer Of Souls
3. Halls Of Valhalla
4. Sword Of Damocles
5. March Of The Damned.
6. Down In Flames
7. Hell & Back
8. Cold Blooded
9. Metalizer
10. Crossfire
11. Secrets Of The Dead
12. Battle Cry
13. Beginning Of The End

Judas Priest have a new album out. That sentence alone should fill you with anticipation, but there may be people out there who approach this album cautiously due to the divisive nature of the 2008 concept album 'Nostradamus'. We should all be glad to discover that 'Redeemer Of Souls' sees Priest return to the sound of such albums as 'Screaming For Vengeance', 'Killing Machine' and 'Sad Wings Of Destiny'.

'Dragonaut' opens this thirteen song record with panache and the sheer balls to begin with the lyric "Welcome to my world of steel". Instantly, with the combination of Rob Halford's inimitable voice and iron-clad riffs, the Metal Gods are back in style. Mike Exeter's production job on this album is instantly powerful and everything that a band as legendary as this deserves. The title track of the album carries things forward in an equally satisfying manner, but it's 'Halls Of Valhalla' that takes things to the high points and gets heads banging, not least due to it being the first song to feature the frontman's now-iconic and still impressive screams.

Ritchie Faulkner, new guitarist replacing K.K. Downing fits into the band well, trading great solos with Glenn Tipton and keeping the sound of the band authentic. The album is not full of instant-hits though; 'March Of The Damned' is a Sabbath-like slow burner, but when it grows on you, you're hooked for life. 'Down In Flames' features some great guitar work, with dual harmonies galore, reminiscent of 'Screaming For Vengeance' era material. 'Hell & Back' is a soulful yet rocking ballad that seems to tell of the ups-and-downs of the band's career, and do so with a fantastic riff that could be a classic in the Priest canon.

'Cold Blooded' is another slow number that is rather introspective, much like 'Prisoner Of Your Eyes' from the aforementioned 'Screaming For Vengeance'. 'Metalizer' on the other hand, harks back to the time of 'Painkiller' with a constant stampede of palm-muted guitars and thunderous percussion.

Another curveball is 'Crossfire', which has a swinging rhythm to it and some vocal dynamics as the song progresses, steadily speeding up. Perhaps the most gripping and euphoric song on this record is 'Battle Cry', which is every bit a Judas Priest classic from its heroic lyrical content, to it's staccato-edged riff and soaring chorus, bringing back memories of the song 'One Shot Of Glory' from 'Painkiller', with its epic feel.

'Beginning Of The End' has a finality to it, with Rob Halford singing a heartfelt eulogy that could bring a tear to any dedicated Metalhead. If this should turn out to be Judas Priest's final curtain call before they ascend further into Metal legend, then this song is a fitting close to a triumphant and long career for the first bona-fide Metal band. However, if recent interviews and the sheer exuberance of this record are anything to go by, then I reckon there's a lot of life in the Metal Gods yet. Is 'Redeemer Of Souls' their best work ever? No, of course not. It can stand shoulder to shoulder with any of their great albums though, and for a band seventeen albums into their career, that's more than most could expect.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Album Reviews; Godsmack - 1000Hp

Track Listing:

1. 1000hp
2. FML
3. Something Different
4. What's Next?
5. Generation Day
6. Locked & Loaded
7. Living In The Gray
8. I Don't Belong
9. Nothing Comes Easy
10. Turning To Stone

Godsmack are one of two main bands that started me down the road of Hard Rock and Metal music, the other being Motorhead. I can easily say that the songs and lyrics of their back catalogue are tattooed onto my brain. While this fact rings very true, as a reviewer I must remain relatively impartial and critical in my approach to writing about this album.

The album opens with a tribute to Godsmack's formative and rising years in the form of a self-titled song that channels the spirit of Aerosmith and mixes it with the right-hook style that Godsmack are famous for. Doubtlessly, this song will make heads bang and voices blow out among the fanbase, and the almost party-like vibe is nice to hear from a band that often carry a darker lyrical theme.

'FML' does have the familiar feel of more classic Godsmack songs like 'Changes' or 'Sick Of Life', and has a trademark Sully Erna vocal hook. It's very satisfying to hear that they can deliver a song of this ilk this far into their career. Is it on the same level as the songs I cited in comparison? Not quite, but it's better than a lot of the songs on the previous album 'The Oracle' were.

'Something Different' is just that. Yes, Godsmack have plenty of ballads under their belt, but the use of a string section and even the vocal melody carry an air of influence that may easily have been carried over from Sully Erna's solo record. This new take on the Godsmack sound range is a welcome guest that helps turn this song into something memorable and affecting. 'What's Next?' has a sound, rhythm and even a riff that calls back to the first two albums, and does so well.

'Generation Day' is without a doubt the catchiest track on the record, and could simply be described as Godsmack at their best and hookier than a fisherman's lure case. Shannon Larkin gets to show a bit more flair on the kit during a mid-song fall-away that leaves him a lot of room for fills, though his performance on the album thus far is as impressive as one would expect.

The next song is 'Locked & Loaded', has the lyrical themes that show the streetwise attitude of Boston, with an air of trash-talking. The song as a whole is not the greatest that the band have ever written, and doesn't feel like it's going anywhere. 'Living In The Gray' has solid riffs from long-serving guitarist Tony Rombola and a solid bass line from Robbie Merrill. There's even more catchy vocal lines, but it's the percussive punctuation that Shannon Larkin brings to the fray that carries the song to an even higher peak.

The song 'I Don't Belong' has more lyrical melancholy; the verses are strong enough, but the chorus can sound rather juvenile, which leaves the song feeling like a misstep, which is a shame because the music itself is strong enough, the idea is just poorly executed. A bluesy guitar solo doesn't do much to save it, either. 'Nothing Comes Easy' features a surprisingly rapid, almost thrashy riff to it, and does pick the album back up after the blow of the previous song. There's a lot of breathing space in the chorus of this song which is an effective contrast to the verses, all the while Sully Erna's trademark lyrical simplicity keeps Godsmack relatable at a street level.

'Turning To Stone' is the obligatory Godsmack ballad. Tribal percussion and clean guitars will satisfy fans of the band's classic songs 'Voodoo' and 'Serenity'. The electric guitar does make an appearance, and the result is the album closing with a promise that this band are not likely to make any future steps that could alienate their fanbase.

I wouldn't say that this album is their definitive best, nor is it perfect; the production seems a bit soft in places, but this may be a personal niggle. I could've done with both the drums and the guitars being more brash and in-your-face as far as the mix goes, and it could be argued that Sully repeats himself with his lyrics. That being said, this is an album that, while it certainly doesn't stand above albums like 'Faceless' and 'Awake', it can stand back-to-back with them and not come up short by very far. A recommendable album for fans that is unlikely to sway detractors, yes. But as a fan; it's damn good to hear from them again, and this album does redeem them from the very patchy previous album.

Rating: 8/10

Album Review; Vader - Tibi Et Igni

Track Listing:

1. Go To Hell
2. Where Angels Weep
3. Armada On Fire
4. Triumph Of Death
5. Hexenkessel
6. Abaondon All Hope
7. Worms Of Eden
8. The Eye Of The Abyss
9. Light Reaper
10. The End

As far as Polish Death Metal goes, you cannot get much more revered than Vader. It's easy to forget that this is a band that is now thirty-one years into their career, especially considering the vitality and awesomeness of 2011's 'Welcome To The Morbid Reich'. Considering that brilliant previous album, expectations are high for 'Tibi Et Igni'.

There's a long, atmospheric build-up before 'Go To Hell' kicks in properly. Immediately thereupon, this album becomes everything you could want from Death Metal, and then some! The speed that Vader deliver this first song with defies the idea of mellowing with age. The riffs and percussion compliment each other brilliantly, and the vocal roars of Poirt 'Peter' Wiwczarek are impactful and vitriolic. 'Where Angels Weep' takes the second step in the hellish war march of the album, going from breakneck speed to slower, anvil-weight stomps in the vamped-up-Slayer idiom that Vader personify well, complete with atonal shredding solos.

In simple truth, there isn't much change to the tone and flow of the album as 'Armada Of Fire' comes ripping through the speakers, except that the riffs get bigger and the pace gets faster. This is simply Vader doing what they do best. 'Triumph Of Death' bears a talking point, though; there are riffs in the song that are eerily similar to those found in the Slayer classic 'Angel Of Death'. Some may get cynical and say that Vader have ripped Slayer off, however, there are still enough differences to show that this is not the case. Besides; when the resulting song is this good, who the hell cares?

'Hexenkessel' starts out with an epic, strings-led intro and a tolling bell before the heaviness reintroduces itself. This song stands out from the album due to a feel of scope and an almost Black Metal element to some of the tremolo-picked guitar lines. It's a little different for Vader, and it's an approach that Vader pull off very well, showing themselves to be more than a one-trick pony. The two and a half minute onslaught of 'Abandon All Hope' is a blasting lesson in brutality, while 'Worms Of Eden' keeps up the anti-religious attack with the kind of fury and fire that would leave fellow Poles Behemoth taking notes. And, no; the album still has not slowed down!

'The Eye Of The Abyss' is another adventure into the ominous, and the guitar leads that litter the long intro are sheer brilliance before the scything Death Metal attack comes ripping out with frightening proficiency, especially where James Stewart's drumming is concerned. Seriously; his bass drum kicks are so fast it borders on ridiculous. Stewart's chops then go on to open the more simplistic 'Light Reaper'.

By the time the gorgeous, thought-provoking 'The End' comes to a close, this album will doubtlessly leave any unprepared listeners in a state of shellshock. This album is Vader's magnum opus, their calling card, which is simply ridiculous! So long into their career, one would think they would be running out of ideas, but no such limitations apply to these gods of the Polish Death Metal scene. This is yet another memorable album for 2014, and a fine testament that Metal is going from strength to strength these days. Raise your horns and hail the mighty Vader!

Rating: 10/10

Album Review; Origin - Omnipresent

Track Listing:

1. All Things Dead
2. Thrall:Fulcrum:Apex
3. Permanence
4. Manifest Desolate
5. The Absurdity Of What I Am
6. The Source Of Icon O
7. Continuum
8. Unattainable Zero
9. Redistribution Of Filth
10. Obsolescence
11. Malthusian Collapse
12. The Indiscriminate

It's safe to start of by stating that with 'Omnipresent', Origin did not want to fuck around all that much. This is their sixth album since their first full-length back in the year 2000, and as such, their renown as one of Technical Death Metal's leading bands does not require much explanation. The band have made an impressive career out of blast beats, growls and unstoppable guitar chops that have seen them amass a considerable following in the Metal Community.

The first clue that the album gives as to the confidence of its creators is in the thirty-six minute running time. Many of the songs come in around the two to three minute mark, and yet the band manages to showcase their understanding of their craft in a brutal, brash manner.

The argument of technicality against song writing doesn't apply to this album; as they are both given equal treatment. The destructive intensity of the music continuously threatens the sanity of the listener, but there are hooks, be they instrumental, rhythmic or vocal that keep everything grounded enough for songs like 'Manifest Desolate' to appeal to newer Origin listeners.

To say that each band member brings their A-game to the table is to state the obvious; Origin albums have always called for and delivered a consistently stratospheric level of musicianship that will keep existing fans more than happy to continue trying to figure out how to headbang to these songs, just listen to the album highlight 'The Absurdity Of What I Am' to see what I mean. There are also short instrumental interludes in the form of 'Permanence', 'Continuum' and 'Obsolescence' which offer a moment to catch your breath, even though the shredding doesn't really let up.

'Malthusian Collapse' is another stand out track on this album, due to many satisfying moments as far as the instrumental composition is concerned. In short; the riffs on this song are delicious to the ear. They are also well punctuated by the underlying drumming.

The production is occasionally the only thing that makes this album stumble. Granted, it's doubtlessly difficult to make all that chaotic noise come through crystal clear, and hell; maybe the band didn't want a polished sound, but there are brief moments where the music bends into a muddy, aural Picasso. It may be nit-picking, but it's a point nonetheless.

The greatest strength of this album is that the band don't seem to be trying too hard to impress everyone or prove anything. As already stated; they're not fucking around. The album contains all the hallmarks of a good Technical Death Metal record, and of a good Origin record for that matter. Origin are clearly a band that are very comfortable in their own skin, and while the music may make casual listener's heads explode, the initiated will be well satisfied with this staunch album.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Album Review; Septicflesh - Titan

Track Listing:

1. War In Heaven
2. Burn
3. Order Of Dracul
4. Prototype
5. Dogma
6. Prometheus
7. Titan
8. Confessions Of A Serial Killer
9. Ground Zero
10. The First Immortal

The return of Septicflesh in 2007 has seen them go from being part the hordes of Atmospheric Death Metal to being the leading band in the Symphonic Death Metal scene. Their 2008 album 'Communion' was simply stunning, as was the follow-up 'The Great Mass' in 2011. Now, their latest album 'Titan' has a lot to live up to.

The grandiose is immediately embraced as the Death Metal stylings of the Greeks mingles once again with the sweeping soundscape of the FILMharmonic Orchestra and Choir of Prague. 'War In Heaven' displays the kind of dense sophistication that was heard on the previous two albums, but with a far more concise compositional style than what was heard on 'The Great Mass', which often stretched ideas out further than needed. Even this first song shows Christos Antoniou's expertise in orchestration, as well as a clear influence from the likes of Wagner. The way his writing makes the orchestra and the guitar interweave so effectively and affectingly, as can be heard on the twisting, morphing second track 'Burn', which features a frankly beautiful break into a strings passage towards the end.

The brilliance of Septicflesh is in their ability to have this depth and extra dimension to their music in the form of the orchestration and other, often unorthodox passages without sacrificing the impact or indeed the heaviness of the music. As far as the bizarre pieces of instrumentation goes, look to the solo string sections found in 'Order Of Dracul'. They add the element of seductive darkness, which helps the musical feel match the subject matter at hand.

'Prototype' sees the use of a children's choir, and it is used brilliantly as, once again the music constantly shifts and keeps the listener on his toes. It's also clear that Septicflesh do not feel they have anything to prove to the Metal World; their compositions are clearly not subject to compromise, and as such sound pure and undiluted. Artistic.

Madness is portrayed well in the introverted darkness of 'Dogma', which paints a bare and frightening image of religious indoctrination as a brainwashing and damaging power in the world. There's almost a melancholy edge towards the end of the song, making this a poignant and thought-provoking song. 'Prometheus' is one of the longer songs on the album, at six and a half minutes in length. It's also one of the most epic.

In the context of Septicflesh's music, there is much more justice done to the orchestra than in the music of more obvious bands such as Nightwish and Within Temptation, where all the orchestral elements ever do is follow the guitar lines note-by-note, almost like a chorus effect for the guitar. This has been a source of undue credit given for some time now in the Metal World. Especially when there are bands such as Septicflesh, Fleshgod Apocalypse or even Dimmu Borgir using orchestration with a far more forward-thinking attitude. It is this, truly exceptional dedication to their craft that makes this writer think that it is this band that should be enjoying the glory that seems to be reserved for the often female-fronted Symphonic Gothic Power Metal fraternity. Listen to the song 'Titan' and you may understand what I mean.

In 2013, the aforementioned Fleshgod Apocalypse released the masterful 'Labyrinth' album, making a chaotic and frankly excellent swoop for the Symphonic Death Metal limelight. Now, in 2014, Septicflesh have returned and shown with almost frightening efficiency that they are far from abdicating their well-earned throne. Titan is a hugely impressive album that has so many sides and angles upon which to view it, that it keeps you listening to it again and again, just to journey through the depths of each composition with feeling and fascination. Sterling work from one of Greece's, and indeed Europe's finest bands.

Rating: 10/10

Album Review; Wolf - Devil Seed

Track Listing;

1. Overture In C Shark
2. Shark Attack
3. Skeleton Woman
4. Surgeons Of Lobotomy
5. My Demon
6. I Am Pain
7. Back From The Grave
8. The Dark Passenger
9. River Everlost
10. Frozen
11. Killing Floor

Wolf are one of those bands; you may not know them overly well, or be familiar with their back-catalogue, but when you do hear them, you're going to like them unless you are the most miserable person on Earth. This is Wolf's seventh full-length album since their beginning in 1995. At this point there is only one original member left in the band; vocalist and guitarist Niklas 'Viper' Stalvind, which may lead long-time fans of the band to wonder where Wolf's sound has headed now, after so long playing none-too-serious Heavy Metal with their tongues firmly lodged in their cheeks.

What 'Devil Seed' offers is a much more mature and elegant approach for Wolf. Here is the sound of a band that wants to be taken seriously, among existing fans, those who are yet to discover them, and indeed their critics and peers. The opening instrumental 'Overture In C Shark' lays down a darker template than Wolf usually utilise, but it turns out to be a track that is reminiscent in weight and impact to Anvil's 'March Of The Crabs'. This then leads into the first full song, 'Shark Attack'; a slick, streamlined piece of headbanging brilliance that will easily stand as one of the coolest songs you hear this year. Everything from the riffs, to the melodies and the solos make this a propulsive, full-throttle Metal song that grabs your attention.

'Skeleton Woman' is a slow-burner, that almost has an Avenged Sevenfold-esque vocal melody to it. There's a creepy vibe that has an element of catchiness to it, but the following track 'Surgeons Of Lobotomy' fares far better, with an absolute peach of a riff driving it on and on without a hiccup. The lyrical theme follows the idea of humanity's descent into madness. As I said; this album is a lot more mature than previous Wolf albums.

'My Demon' has a great chorus, and sounds like a Judas Priest song that Judas Priest never wrote, 'I Am Pain' on the other hand, features the kind of riff that wouldn't have been out of place on an early Iron Maiden song, again bringing a creepy element to the fray that is a fair contrast to Wolf's usual fun-and-games lark.

Most praiseworthy on this record is the quality of the song writing. Each song is different, but they all have an inherent flavour that give the album a sense of direction and identity that makes it stand out from not only Wolf's back catalogue, but from all the traditional Heavy Metal albums of recent times. 'Back From The Grave' is an accomplished, multi-layered and well executed song that really has everything one can look for in classically-styled Metal. This is also true of 'The Dark Passenger'.

This is the album that should bring Wolf a whole new generation of fans, and it would only be right for this to be the case. Yes, there are many bands channelling the spirit of Metal's beginnings, but Wolf have done so to the Nth degree on 'Devil Seed'. Grand Magus might want to start watching their backs, because Wolf have staked their claim to the riff-writing throne in a stylish and confident manner. Believe it or not, this is essential listening for 2014.

Rating: 9/10

Monday, 4 August 2014

Album Review; Benighted - Carnivore Sublime

Track Listing:

1. X2Y
2. Noise
3. Experience Your Flesh
4. Slaughter/Suicide
5. Spit (Feat. Niklas Kvarforth)
6. Defiled Purity
7. Jekyll
8. Collection Of Dead Portraits
9. Carnivore Sublime
10. Les Morsures Du Cerbere
11. June and the Laconic Solstice (feat. Michael Kern)

The word "Brutality" gets thrown around a lot, but usually all it means is that the album runs constantly at a level of heaviness that even some Metalheads would call unlistenable. Here's the issue though; ten songs that run at a constant show themselves to be tiresome more than anything else, because they lack any sort of dynamic. Without that ebb and flow of musical or emotional variation, what you end up with is stale, ineffective and frankly boring.
'Carnivore Sublime' is not one such album.

From the opening blast of 'X2Y', the gauntlet is thrown down with chaos and huge riffs. This song leads straight into the hook-filled 'Noise'; which establishes that the latest of Benighted's albums takes a lot of influence from Deathcore. That's not to say that the band have turned into a Deathcore band; what it means is that the Frenchmen have incorporated a lot of groove and a decent helping of breakdowns to their Brutal Death Metal sound. It is a different writing style heard here rather than that on 'Asylum Cave', and it may be divisive to fans of the band. This would be a mishap in my opinion, as this record is just as potent as it's predecessor.

The sudden changes in vocal styles between basic screams to throat churning growls and immensely powerful pig squeals, alongside equally as abrupt tempo changes accompany the themes of psychoses that the band write about. 'Experience Your Flesh' shows this brilliantly, before 'Slaughter/Suicide' comes in with all the catchiness of any other band, but still displaying an insane musical palette.

'Spit' features the disturbing talents of Shining frontman Niklas Kvarforth, who fits in with the disturbing nature of Benighted like a glove on a hand. The song itself is strong, too. 'Collection Of Dead Portraits' continues to deliver hooks that you could hang a carcass from. The title track takes a detour into quieter moments that were clearly intended to build tension, but can seem rather unnecessary considering the insane dynamic nature of the album thus far.

Ultimately, last couple of tracks on the record are not as engaging as the rest, but they are not bad songs as such, and so it's really only the flow of the album that can suffer slightly towards the end, but as a whole, this is a strong effort. The first half of the album is so choke-full of truly brilliant songs that it can't really be brought down very far. It'll be open to debate whether this record is as good as 'Icon' or 'Asylum Cave', as well as where else Benighted may take their sound, but this will certainly be one of the most brutal albums you hear in 2014.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Album Reviews; Overkill - White Devil Armory

Track Listing:

1. XDM
2. Armorist
3. Down To The Bone
4. PIG
5. Bitter Pill
6. Where There's Smoke
7. Freedom Rings
8. Another Day To Die
9. King Of The Rat Bastards
10. It's All Yours
11. In The Name

Overkill shouldn't need an introduction. If the Big Four of Thrash were to expand to include a fifth band, Overkill would be a prime contender, alongside Testament and Exodus. This is their seventeenth album over 29 years, and after the universal praise of the last two albums (2010's 'Ironbound' and 2012's 'The Electric Age') expectations are high.

The album opens with ominous noises that make up the intro track 'XDM' before 'Armorist' comes in proper with the kind of stampeding rhythm that Overkill are known for. The riff is simple, but effective and frontman Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth's shrieking vocals are still top-notch. It's a well-written Overkill statement of intent that lines the album up well.

'Down To The Bone' comes in with one of the most furious drum displays that Overkill have put to tape before it takes on a new life with D.D. Verni's rumbling bass tone cutting through satisfyingly. There's more of an old-school Overkill vibe to this song that wouldn't sound out of place on 'The Years Of Decay'. Next comes 'PIG', which is easily one of the heaviest and most accomplished songs Overkill have written so far into their career. Blitz gives his vocal chords a real workout here, and the track is packed to the brim with killer riffs. This will have the loyal Skullcrushers going insane at future Overkill shows.

The album as a whole shows the band's darker side of song writing that makes for sneering, sinister Thrash Metal. In this manner, it's not entirely dissimilar to 'Ironbound'. This is shown very clearly on lead-weight slammer 'Bitter Pill', which sees the band slow down, but not the momentum of the album. 'Where There's Smoke' immediately puts things back into top gear. It's another straight-edge thrasher.

Obviously, the star of Overkill is the band's irreplaceable frontman, and his vocal style have always been a large part of their trademark sound; but it's great to hear that even this far into their career, their recorded output lets each musician present shine just as brightly. Be it Derek Tailer's riff-by-riff attack, or Ron Lipnicki's dynamic drumming style which both hold the Overkill sound together at the seams.

Another stand-out track; 'Freedom Rings' shows a more free-form song writing style that has a catchiness all of it's own, showing that Overkill have picked up a few tricks through their long career. 'Another Day To Die' builds around a memorable staccato riff and becomes a stomping powerhouse song to be reckoned with. This then leads into 'King Of The Rat Bastards', which has that real New Jersey fuck-you vibe to it, showing that Overkill have not mellowed with age.

The album concludes with the double header of stop-starter 'It's All Yours', which shows all the hallmarks of the band's Motorhead affinity, even the riff has the Rock 'N' Roll turned Metal sound to it, and the similar 'In The Name', on which Ellsworth flexes his vocal chords for more higher notes. This is an album that is not going to convert those who do not like Overkill, nor will it surprise those who love them. It is a perfect example of "If it isn't broke, don't fix it". Overkill do what they do best, and they continue their streak of greatly impressive albums.

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Album Review; Mastodon - Once More 'Round The Sun

Track Listing:

1. Tread Lightly
2. The Motherload
3. High Road
4. Once More 'Round The Sun
5. Chimes At Midnight
6. Asleep In The Deep
7. Feast Your Eyes
8. Aunt Lisa
9. Ember City
10. Haloween
11. Diamond In The Witch House

Mastodon have been a strange band for me to consider for the last while. Obvious things out of the way; 'Leviathan' was a great album, 'Blood Mountain' was solid as well, and both of them gained the band an entire fanbase worldwide. Then came 'Crack The Skye'; without a doubt the best thing Mastodon had done! It's bizarre concept combined with equally as bizarre music that twisted and undulated it's way through all kinds of progressive genius made for a heady tonic that is highly unlikely to be removed from my list of best albums ever made. From there, I was hoping for more aural wizardry from the band. I was massively disappointed when 'The Hunter' came out. The follow up to one of the finest albums of recent years came in the form of a simplistic Rock album that was full of brain-dead riffs, cringe-worthy choruses and irritating melodies. Sure, it gained worldwide appeal, and that's fine if everyone else loved it. For me, however; it was underwhelming, to say the least.

The idea of another Mastodon album since then has brought apprehension and dread to my mind. Questions such as; Are they going to produce 'The Hunter Pt. II'? Are they going to dumb things down even further? Or could my own hopes be granted with a return to form worthy of the musicianship that this band is more than capable of?

'Once More 'Round The Sun' is an odd beast, it turns out. It's clear from the off that the juvenile simplicity of 'The Hunter', I'm glad to say, is all but gone on this album. It's also not an album free of an overall concept. What's on the menu is instead some melodic Progressive Metal that is in some places reminiscent of 'Crack The Skye' without it feeing like the band is repeating themselves. 'Tread Lightly' sets the tone well, but it's on 'The Motherload' that the direction of this album is clarified. The melodicism in the writing and execution of these songs is very clearly on show. There's a good punch to be delivered on those first few songs for those who have the foresight to maybe dig a little deeper into the album.

'High Road' was the first single released from this album, and it's safe to say that it is the most catchy song on the album. That's not to say it's the best song here; it isn't! It's a to-the-point Hard Rock stomper. The Progressive feel is far less evident on this tune than on the rest of the album, and the vocal harmonies at the chorus may sit funny on some people's ears, but it's a grower. One issue that does leap to mind is just how out of place it seems to be among the album as a whole; is it possible that Mastodon have taken to writing singles, in the more cynical understanding of the practice? Was 'High Road' written to appease the more pedestrian fans that they gained with 'The Hunter'?

The title track goes straight into Space Rock territory, with the intricate flourishes on the guitar lines and Brann Dailor's technical drumming that definitely show the band's affinity for bands like Rush and Yes. It doesn't grab you by the throat, and the chorus is definitely a bit flat. 'Chimes At Midnight' and it's follow-up are the closest that the album gets to the greatness of 'Crack The Skye' and is a standout track, considering all the subtle twists and turns present. It also conveys a much darker song writing style than the band used on 'The Hunter'. 'Asleep In The Deep' sways and spins with spiralling, kaleidoscopic guitar lines that are well matched up with rather low-key vocal lines and a general weirdness that has a relaxed vibe coiled through it.

'Feast Your Eyes' sees the album lose track a bit. The opening guitar lines just sound strange and ugly, not in an artistic way, it hits rather like a splinter to the ear canal that does little more than irritate. From there on out the riffs are clumsy and the structure comes across like amateurish fumblings rather than a smoothly crafted piece of music. The abrupt ending is welcome. 'Aunt Lisa' continues the weirdness, with bizarre psychedelic noises sounding like slowed down samples of farts. Such additions are what can kill an otherwise okay song, and perhaps a band such as this could do with learning that there is such a thing as too much. Those noises all but smother a perfectly strong riff! The riff at the end is one of the best on the album, and even a rather tongue-in-cheek female group chant can't stifle that.

'Ember City' is one of the more instantly accessible songs on the album, but it does show that the song writing style on here is all rather samey, and at times there is a little too much going on to digest. As if Mastodon simply cannot sit still long enough to create a body of work that is more concise. Sure, some of the riffs on the songs are pretty damn good, but there's always a long labyrinth of rather boring music that connects them. This is true of most of the songs on the album; the tone and structures all become rather too familiar. Only the most ardent stoner or tripper could put up with so much of this. 'Halloween' is guilty of these faults as well as the praises that have been mentioned, and as such only further displays my point. To be fair though, there's some great guitar leads, not something that has been utilized very much on this record.

'Diamond In The Witch House' closes this album. I rather expected a song that lasts for nearly eight minutes to be a showcase of a few different ideas and a bit more imagination than the band have shown on the majority of this record, instead it's much the same. Herein lies the biggest issue and a subsequent question about 'Once More 'Round The Sun'; Mastodon are a band that have not repeated themselves very much since their inception as a band, and they've amassed great popularity through this, but where this individual's favourite Mastodon record has wowed him immediately, my least favourite has repelled me just as quickly. It's strange to now be faced with a Mastodon album that leaves me with a real question mark over my head. In short, the question is; what direction are Mastodon moving in, musically? If there's an answer to this question, it is not displayed very clearly at all on 'Once More 'Round The Sun'.

In summary, this is far better than 'The Hunter', no question about that. However, it does not have that explosive might that Mastodon have already proven themselves to be more than capable of. In that respect - it is also far from the band's best release. The addition of such an obvious single makes this album all the more worrying. This is a band that has every right to be fearless as far as song writing goes, and that fact makes me wonder if they are running out of ideas, or simply trying to juggle too many ideas at one time. Listen to this album and judge for yourself, of course, but I expect just as many to be confused as to be captivated.


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Album Review; Arch Enemy - War Eternal

Track Listing:

1. Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude In F minor)
2. Never Forgive, Never Forget
3. War Eternal
4. As The Pages Burn
5. No More Regrets
6. You Will Know My Name
7. Graveyard Of Dreams
8. Stolen Life
9. Time Is Black
10. On And On
11. Avalanche
12. Down To Nothing
13. Not Long For This World

This album will no doubt be subject to very close scrutinizing; it's been three years and a lot of inactivity since the last Arch Enemy album 'Khaos Legions'. Whilst that album did have its moments, it was largely a disappointment, and certainly no match for albums such as 'Rise Of The Tyrant' and 'Doomsday Machine'. In the time since then, Michael Amott has fully left the band Carcass in order to focus fully on Arch Enemy. Then, only last year, Carcass released the monstrous album 'Surgical Steel' to universal acclaim. I'll stress that I'll be making no direct comparisons to that album within this review, but it's safe to say that the pressure was on.

Things get more delicate yet; a few months ago, the band's iconic frontwoman Angela Gossow announced her exit from the band. This was seen as a blow to the band that left many fans shocked, wondering what the future would hold for Arch Enemy. At the same time, a replacement was announced; Alissa White-Gluz, who previously headed up the Canadian Metalcore/Melodic Death Metal band The Agonist. Doubtlessly, it entered the mind of many that Arch Enemy couldn't possibly be the same band without the irreplaceable presence of Angela Gossow's voice.

However, when the first single and title-track from 'War Eternal' was released the song was given praise. This praise also stretched to the talents of the new frontwoman.

Maybe the band weren't as doomed as the naysayers would have you believe...time to find out.

After the ominous, strings-led intro track, Arch Enemy kick the album into high gear with the single fastest song they've put to record. 'Never Forgive, Never Forget' contains the kinds of blast beats that you wouldn't expect of Arch Enemy, but it fits them like a glove. Melodic guitar flourishes separate the blasts of all-out speed. The vocal performance by newcomer Alissa is venomous and manages to bring a brilliant new feel to the band that does not cast off the bands history. Throw in some brilliant shredding from Michael Amott and Nick Cordle and you have one beast of an album opener!

This leads to the first single 'War Eternal', a fast paced, melodic affair that is more reminiscent of classic Arch Enemy. The lead guitar lines are sublime and will get stuck in your head for days on end. The star of the show here though is Alissa, who really shows off what she can do with her voice with vehement conviction. Nick Cordle also shows a manic soloing style that contrasts Amott's precise, Mustaine-inspired style wonderfully, bringing another dynamic to the band. This song will likely join the list of Arch Enemy's anthemic hits.

'As The Pages Burn' was the second song released from 'War Eternal'. Here, we see the song structure go from fast to slower with great effect. Lyrically it's a beast, with all the rebellious fire that one would want from Arch Enemy. We also see the new vocalist perform lower growls in the bridge section before the chorus as well as somewhat more a melodic vocal production during the chaos. It's another great song, which is especially great for everyone when I consider that this far into 'Khaos Legions' I was already bored!

So, with the guitar solos, vocal style, riffs, and song writing standards, we've seen that this new line-up of Arch Enemy are capable of playing songs cut from the same cloth as the albums 'Rise Of The Tyrant' and 'Doomsday Machine'. We'd hope for nothing less from such a well established band, but listeners are in for a few surprises after the absolute guitar shredding, larynx tearing, head banging tour-de-force that is 'No More Regrets'.

'You Will Know My Name' opens with an atmospheric percussion-and-strings arrangement before the traditional Arch Enemy fare comes back into play. The song itself is slower than most of the band's past work as far as overall pace goes. The added strings again rear their heads during the second verse and it's an extra ingredient that adds a brilliant new flavour and texture to Arch Enemy's repertoire. I'll admit that when I'd heard Michael Amott mention that the band were working with a string section on this album, I was apprehensive, but it could not have worked better! With this new addition to the sound of Arch Enemy, the material here gains a whole new dimension that Arch Enemy have sorely needed for some time.

'Graveyard Of Dreams' acts as a short, emotive intermission in the album before 'Stolen Life' comes in with a solid riff and a thick, familiar sound that's trademark Arch Enemy. Venomous lyrical content comes back again, urging you to scream along in fury. 'Time Is Black' has an off-kilter intro passage before delivering a very thick riff, one of the catchiest that Arch Enemy have put out in quite some time. There's more strings to be heard during the chorus, and yet again it works wonders. Definitely a stand out song on the record, especially when the guitar solos come out swinging.

'On And On' features another few great riffs, and Alissa's vocals continue to command one hell of a charge. There's a speedy groove on this song that's rather infectious. More great leads are punctuated by great drum beats that show diversity between the conventional metal beats and the more subtly executed use of the cymbals. Vocally, the chorus shows the frontwoman's somewhat more melodic side, which is used well on the album.

'Avalanche' starts off with a bit of an eyebrow-raising electronic sound, but it's only for a second, so it's not worth losing sleep over. Orchestration takes more of a front seat on this song, which may throw as many listeners as it endears. There's still a good guitar solo to wrap your ears around, though. This song displays again how the writing of  'War Eternal' has taken musical dynamics to the next level for the band. There are more layers, musically to this album than would have been heard previously on an Arch Enemy record.

'Down To Nothing' sees Alissa embracing full-on, deep, guttural vocals as well as utilizing that scream. It's another faster song for all the Thrashers and headbangers out there. The guitar solos are maybe a little too drawn out for some people, but shred-heads will love it. Leaving the last lyric on the album as "I will return" makes for a cool exit from the new frontwoman.

The album closes with a slow, steady, but ultimately rather satisfied sounding 'Not Long For This World', an instrumental that brings out Michael Amott's more anthemic edge, as the track closes there's almost a feeling of foreboding which rather matches the mood of the moment in regard to this band, as one cannot help but wonder; what is next for Arch Enemy? Where does it go from here?

The answer to those questions will come to us in the not-too distant future. For now, we've got 'War Eternal' to enjoy. It's great to see one of the genre's greats get a new lease of life and put out a fresh sounding body of work that shows the potential we all know this band is in possession of. Sure, some will find this transitional period jarring, and we will all miss Angela Gossow's presence; what she brought to Arch Enemy, to their fans and to the Metal World can never be denied nor forgotten, but the world must go on, and I for one am very happy with the trajectory that Arch Enemy have set themselves upon.

Rating: 9/10

E.P. Review; Metaprism - Metaprism EP

Metaprism EP cover art

Track Listing:

1. Even The Lights
2. Lost In The Dark
3. Against All

Hailing from Bournemouth, UK, Metaprism have already covered impressive ground considering how difficult it is for bands to get onto the Metal scene in todays world. They've played alongside prolific bands such as I Am I, Sacred Mother Tongue and Evil Scarecrow, and have plans to record and a full length album in the next year. Until then, we have their live shows and this three track E.P. to go by.

As Even The Lights opens, guitar proficiency is clear, and the band's progressive leanings make themselves clear. The sound of the music is decidedly modern, and the production job matches this well. Vocally, there's a beauty and the beast style present; Jut Tabor's impressive harsh vocals contrasting to Theresa Smith's clean singing, as well as another male voice singing in harmony, brilliantly. Using this vocal contrast without the overused Gothic/Symphonic aesthetic is a welcome change that will no doubt help Metaprism stand out from the crowd.

There's a good penchant for riffs on show, and the percussion is as precise as would be desired. The chugging, rhythmic riffing style may be rather in style at the moment, but there is a great melodic sensibility on show in certain guitar lines and the eye-popping solo on 'Lost In The Dark' that helps bring this collage of musical elements together seamlessly.

As opposed to a lot of Progressive Metal band's material, none of the three songs here overstay their welcome. These songs have been well crafted; riffs are placed well, the songs flow very well and nothing has a chance to get stale. This is a concise, sharp and impressive showcase of Metaprism's style. I await a full-length with great anticipation, and so should everybody else.

Rating: 8.5/10

Album Review; Impaled Nazarene - Vigorous And Liberating Death

Track Listing:

1. King Reborn
2. Flaming Sword Of Satan
3. Pathological Hunger For Violence
4. Vestal Virgins
5. Martial Law
6. Riskiarvio
7. Apocalypse Principle
8. Kuoleman Varjot
9. Vigorous And Liberating Death
10. Drink Consultation
11. Dystopia A.S
12. Sananvapaus
13. Hostis Humani Generis

Impaled Nazarene's latest album, the follow up to 2010's solid 'Road To The Octagon' is one that catches my interest because, while the band's sound is very much established, I'm curious to see just how good this album is. For me, it's really a case of "I wonder..." with this album. Always an exciting feeling! My hopes are high after hearing the previous album from this Finnish four-piece, especially when I know that a good Black Metal album goes a long way. With that said, let's dive straight in past that sweet album cover.

The album begins with 'King Reborn'. It's mere moments before all the Black Metal hallmarks are present, with Impaled Nazarene's Punk and Grindcore influences clear to hear. It's a very quick blast of just two and a half minutes. Reima Kellokoski's drumming offers a bit more dynamic rather than just blast beats, and Mika Luttinen's vocals steer clear of the overly typical Black Metal shriek with an old school pre-Death Metal tone to them which helps the clarity of the lyrics. 'Flaming Sword Of Satan' takes things into a much groovier area, with a catchy riff and a headbanger's standard-issue, thrashing pace.

Things get faster with 'Pathological Hunger For Violence', which reminds me somehow of the band Goatwhore. Besides the change in pace, there's not a whole lot going on to capture the imagination. Production wise, the album is low-fi but avoids being overly muddy. There's a certain aesthetic being hunted with the production and mix on this record, which will surely satisfy Black Metal die-hards, but the album isn't overly accessible to the more casual listener. 'Vestal Virgins' carries on the very Punk laden approach; these songs are not arranged to be complex or technically-minded, instead opting for simplicity through an attack that is intended to induce whiplash.

There are some moments where the music shines through, though; the ridiculous pace on 'Martial Law' and the guitar solos that Tomi Ullgren pulls out being what leaps to mind. Tonally, the instrumentation is very old-school and very slick. The bass guitar sounds great, and the electric guitar tone sounds a lot more organic than most that you hear these days. In this, Impaled Nazarene capture the oft-forgotten spirit and fire of Extreme Metal. 'Riskiarvio' is sung in Finnish, but I don't care a jot for the fact I cant understand the lyrical content; the music involved is badass enough to make up for it!

Things get faster yet in the form of another flurry of noise that is 'Apocalypse Principle'. On songs like this, Impaled Nazarene really capture the essence of Extreme Metal's past. This song in particular makes me think of early Venom, Possessed and (ever so slightly) Slayer. 'Kuoleman Varjot' roars out of the speakers with the primitive bite of real old school Black Metal. Unlike a lot of bands, Impaled Nazarene avoid the pitfall of sounding like they're trying to hard to be 'kvlt' or retro, and I can only put it down to the attitude on show. It's not something that can be faked, really. There's a grit and grime to this album that is simply cool to listen to.

The title track is a stand out, for no other reason than that there are some really cool riffs within yet another break-neck assault of unpretentious Extreme Metal. The guitar work throughout is really fun and satisfying to listen to. The barked vocals are the icing on this particularly tasty cake.

Of course, Impaled Nazarene's discontent with the way their home country is run is no secret. Their thoughts on the state of Europe, the attempted censorships of free speech, and other social and political issues are blatantly and boldly on show here. Regardless of whether you agree with, disagree with, or are completely indifferent about their views, you can still hear just how pissed off this band is. Most great Metal is pissed off music, and that's a beautiful thing.

Perhaps the one hang-up on this album that will likely alienate it's share of listeners is that the material on 'Vigorous And Liberating Death' is all rather samey. There's no variety going on here, no twists and turns. There's no Progressive instrumentation to be heard within a five mile radius of this album. However, for those who just want primal, raw, pissed off aggression, you could do a lot worse than Impaled Nazarene's efforts shown here. In short; this album is nothing new, but it's got a whole lot of balls, it sounds great loud, and the songs would be great fun live. There's nothing wrong with that at all!

Rating: 6.5/10

Album Review; Sonata Arctica - Pariah's Child

Track Listing:

1. The Wolves Die Young
2. Running Lights
3. Take One Breath
4. Cloud Factory
5. Blood
6. What Did You Do In The War, Dad?
7. Half A Marathon Man
8. X Marks The Spot
9. Love
10. Larger Than Life

Since the release of their first studio album in 1999, Sonata Arctica have taken their Power Metal sound and have tried to refine it and reshape it in different ways. Whether that's adding Symphonic elements to it, making it more melodic, vamping up or toning down the presence of guitars and keyboards from album to album. Recent albums had seen their long-time fans disappointed, but prior to 'Pariah's Child' the band stated they would be going from the recent Hard Rock style back to their original Power Metal sound, bringing attention back to the band.

At the opening moments of 'The Wolves Die Young' the sweeping, epic feel makes its presence felt well, but it's unfortunately soon that the song turns into a strange collision of Rock and lullaby. The verses are odd, a bit too peppy and sees the epic feel vanish. The chorus, on the other hand, is catchy as anything you'll hear these days, and does see the scope return. Tony Kakko's voice is obviously of an impressive range, but the melodies heard in the verses are rather too wish-wash. 'Running Lights' doesn't help much; it's very twee, like something from a poor musical. Lyrically it's cringe-worthy, and the chorus section sounds like it belongs to a different song, as if the verses and chorus were written totally separately. Very odd.

'Take One Breath' starts with another twinkly keyboard section, a muted riff resting beneath it. It's only very occasionally that the guitars take the forefront, much less any riff-oriented playing. It's more guitar leads that imitate the vocal melody. A lack of flow is a problem yet again. Three songs in, and it's very difficult to get into this album properly. 'Cloud Factory' is the closest to Metal that this album has sounded so far. primarily because the guitars are more audible, though cascading keyboard flourishes take over at a few points, and also because the song structure is much leaner due to less faffing about! There's a catching guitar solo, and then a very strange attack of eccentricity on behalf of the aforementioned vocalist.

'Blood' begins by giving off a dark vibe (dark for Sonata Arctica!) with piano and synthesizers. The vocal lines here are catchier in the verses, though there's a strange spoken word sample that comes ridiculously close to killing it. The vocal melodies are also too familiar, too the point that you might even think you've heard it on the album already. Even with that placed to one side, the song just washes over this listener with little to no effect.

'What Did You Do In The War, Dad?' starts really well, when you consider the album so far. A keyboard and guitar-led intro gives way to a verse that does come dangerously close to making you cringe, but the lyrical narrative strikes enough of a chord to save it. I still would not go as far as calling it a great song, but it's certainly a stand-out track on this album.

The most frustrating thing about 'Pariah's Child' so far is the sheer lack of memorable riffs or any kind of edge. The album comes across very pedestrian, middle-of-the-road. I can't help but wonder who this music is for. 'Half A Marathon Man' is a bit more of a Hard Rock stomper than we've heard on this album so far, but it's rather too little too late, and I've heard far better songs in this style. Not to mention the simple fact that it defies the more Power Metal leanings that the record has shown so far. So the album that struggled to flow so far veers off into a weird Glam Metal territory. There's also no need to say "It's a beautiful day" that many times in one song!

'X Marks The Spot' carries on in the same vein; cheesy weirdness all wrapped up in a song that is just poor. Next thing you know, 'Love' comes along and makes you feel anything but. It's the kind of ballad that makes you want to recoil horribly. Put it this way; if a man were to try and sing this song to a woman she would either laugh boisterously, run to the hills or perform a murder-suicide.

'Larger Than Life' is ten minutes long. If, like me, your patience has been stretched to it's limits by the rest of the album, this is a daunting thought. However, it's not as bad as I had thought it would be, considering how the rest of the album has been. There's a few moments of melodrama from the vocalist that give the impression he would rather have been on stage for an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical than in a Metal band, but there are also some parts of this song that do feel epic, there is a good flow to the song with some good dynamics. Once again though, it's just too little too late.

The lyrics in that final song urge the listener not to take life so seriously, and that's a decent message by anybody's reckoning. However; plenty of Metal fans, including Power Metal fans take the music they listen to seriously. As such, 'Pariah's Child' is an album that almost comes across as tailor-made to be forgotten. For all the praise I've heard for this album, I was curiously hoping for another great album for 2014, but the reality of it is that this album could not have been over quick enough. I'm left with a feeling of indifference by Sonata Arctica's latest offering. It is a shame that there's no love found here, but there wasn't really any lost, either.

Rating: 3/10

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Album Review; Sabaton - Heroes

Track Listing:

1. Night Witches
2. No Bullets Fly
3. Smoking Snakes
4. Inmate 4859
5. To Hell And Back
6. The Ballad Of Bull
7. Resist And Bite
8. Soldier Of 3 Armies
9. Far From The Fame
10. Hearts Of Iron

Sabaton's brand of Power Metal stands very high in todays Metal scene. This Swedish band has built a massive following since their formation in 1999; their music has connected with many people in many countries, a fact that is aided by the use of war history as a subject matter for the vast majority of their songs, mainly drawing from World War I and II. This, combined with their energetic and fun live shows and dedication to their ever-growing fan base is elevating them through the upper echelon's of Heavy Metal. This year sees the release of 'Heroes', their seventh full-length studio album. There have been a lot of line-up changes since 2012's stunning 'Carolus Rex' album, so some people may be apprehensive before going into this album. They needn't fear at all.

Album opener 'Night Witches' combines the tale of the Soviet 588th Night Bomber Regiment with dynamic, bombastic Power Metal to astonishing effect reminiscent of the band's classic song 'Ghost Division'. It's a A-grade Sabaton song, an S-grade album opener with a chorus that goes beyond such bizarre rating systems. It's very easy to imagine this song standing strong in their live set, which is always important for this band's material. Great guitar leads and strong riffs weave together Joakim Broden's inimitable vocal style with punctuating and powerful percussion from new drummer Hannes Van Dahl.

'No Bullets Fly' proves equally as sing-along, as energetic as one would expect from this band, another guitar solo acts as a stand-out point in this song. It's worth noting at this point that the over-the-top orchestral sound of 'Carolus Rex' is not present; there is still orchestration, just not as much. This is not particularly a low point, but it is a difference between the two albums that is worth noting. So, those looking for something in the same vein as 'Carolus Rex' will not find it here.

'Smoking Snakes' packs plenty more vocal hooks and is a great display of the epic edge that Sabaton pull off so well, with a chorus backing up the frontman's formidable singing to great effect. So far, it's largely Sabaton as we've known and loved them, but a curveball comes in the melancholy and heavy song 'Inmate 4859', a song about Witold Pilecki; the Polish soldier who deliberately became a prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp during World War II, who then went on to lead the resistance against the Third Reich from within Auschwitz and wrote the first reports about the terrible atrocities happening there. The song is a stirring piece; epic in feel with a certain sadness within the composition that captures the tragedy of the events that the song recounts. It's a bit different from songs that Sabaton have written before and at the same time, still showcases everything we love about the band.

Following that is the pumped and powerful first single from the album; 'To Hell And Back' which tells of Audie Leon Murphy, one of the most decorated American combat soldiers of WWII. It's a triumphant and upbeat salute to a one man's deeds. A dead-cert for Sabaton's live shows from here on out. The catchy headbanger is followed by another curveball in the form of 'The Ballad Of Bull'. It's a piano led power ballad that sees most of the Metal elements of Sabaton giving way to poignant strings and a backing choir, with very little guitar being heard at all. The song works a lot better than you'd think, and it shows off Joakim Broden's great singing voice and his ability to deliver lyrics with great emotion. A stunning stand-out track on the album.

The second single from 'Heroes' is 'Resist And Bite'. The guitar lick that plays through the verses may seem somewhat influenced by AC/DC's 'Thunderstrike' but it's a catchy-as-hell song that is somewhat minimalistic until the choruses come in, which will no doubt make many people want to jump in time with the beat as they sing along. In spite of the line-up changes, Sabaton have not changed musically and the quality of the material they release stays high. Fans will be more than pleased with songs like this. 'Soldier Of 3 Armies' continues in this fashion. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, after all!

'Far From The Fame' is one of my favourite songs on this record, and even one of my favourites that Sabaton have yet recorded. It might be the melody, the pace, the riffs, or even the drumming. More likely though is the fact that it's Sabaton at their very best! Oh, that chorus! I challenge anyone not to be at least humming it for days! A homage to Czechoslovakian hero Karel Janousek, a remarkable soldier and war pilot who proves that some of the most admirable men in war times are not the politicians and generals that the history books speak of every day. A great song with a memorable subject; just what makes Sabaton so special.

'Hearts Of Iron' is an epic closer, about the end of World War II, from the point of view of the German 9th and 12th armies who chose surrender to the West rather than certain death at the hands of Soviet forces on the Eastern Front. They helped fleeing soldiers and refugees escape with them over the river Elbe. It's fitting that this song, which also emanates a slight feeling of the kind of relief that one would feel at the end of a conflict like WWII was. So there is a feeling of sadness and futility coupled with triumph and celebration. Such feelings make for a suitable album closer. This stands as my favourite song on 'Heroes', and one which I would love to hear live!

Any reservations held by those who were worried that Sabaton would be a pale shadow of the band we know in the wake of all the line-up changes will be blown apart by this album, which is nothing less than bloody brilliant. Power Metal again gives 2014 a brilliant album, this time from Sweden's most promising band. Sabaton have already achieved big things that many other bands could only dream of, but if they keep making albums as sharp, enjoyable and memorable as this one, then they're trajectory will remain ever upwards. A stalwart effort from a deservedly celebrated and cherished band.

Rating: 10/10

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Album Review; Gamma Ray - Empire Of The Undead

Track Listing:

1. Avalon
2. Hellblazer
3. Pale Rider
4. Born To Fly
5. Master Of Confusion
6. Empire Of The Undead
7. Time For Deliverance
8. Demonseed
9. Seven
10. I Will Return

Gamma Ray have long sat high as one of the more revered of the European Power Metal bands. To my mind, this is probably a combination of the musical nature of the band, which is trademark Power Metal, with no real surprises and a lot of memorable songs, and the fact that the band's frontman and one of two guitarists is former Helloween singer Kai Hansen. Whatever the big reason is, this is their eleventh album, which follows four years after 'To The Metal!'. It's been a long enough wait, but the rewards for our patience are apparent rather quickly.

There have been many albums over recent years that have had some eight to twelve minute song at the end, designed to be an epic, that have been little more than drawn-out bores that are never over quickly enough. Well, Gamma Ray have switched that trend around - the album's opener 'Avalon' is a nine minute monster, and is truly epic! Kai Hansen's vocals cut through music that moves between subtlety, bombast, heaviness, speed and choral majesty. With a narrative that turns the Arthurian legend of Avalon and the Holy Grail from a tale of hope and righteous triumph into one of uncertainty and foolishness found in blind faith. It's one of the finest songs that has all the dynamics of a whole album, and sets the bar high for the rest of the album. The band play tight and with memorable execution, especially in the chorus riff and the guitar solos. There's a Thrash feel to be found in the faster sections around the six minute mark of this song that make for a happy headbanger.

After the knockout punch that the opening track delivers, 'Hellbent' feels rather odd. On the one hand it's a decent Judas Priest honouring sing-along song with some good riffs, but on the other hand, the chorus reminds you a little too much of 'Hellbent For Leather' by the aforementioned band. This doesn't change the fact that we will all likely sing along with it at any Gamma Ray gig we go to.

By the time 'Pale Rider' comes on, any epic feel that 'Avalon' brought with it is well and truly gone. What we get here is rather old school Heavy Metal, as opposed to the kind of grandeur we'd want from such a big name in the Power Metal ranks. Good guitar solos aside, this continues to feel overly like Judas Priest worship. A questionable, and arguably flat melody at the chorus makes this listener cringe.

The Priest problem continues into 'Born To Fly'. By this point, it's quite grating. The cheesy lyrical content here doesn't help either. The opening riff sounds just a bit too similar to Motley Crue's 'Dr. Feelgood', of all things. 'Master Of Confusion' sounds like the album is getting back on track, there's a bigger sound to it, although the start of each verse sees the guitars fall out of the song while Kai Hansen sing alone, with some very questionable lyrics, yet again.

The title track comes in with a Thrash Metal riff and drum beat, so the excitement steps back up in that respect. However good the track is as a stand-alone song, it's very out of place on the album. The simplicity of it reminds me slightly of Venom, not necessarily in a bad way, but ultimately Thrash Metal is done far better by actual Thrash bands. Nice try though!

'Time Of Deliverance' - The mandatory Power Metal ballad. The cheese on show is unbelievable, and personally I can't decide if I find Kai Hansen's heartfelt delivery admirable or ridiculous. It swithers back and forth between the two. Irritatingly, just when you feel the song is about to get more majestic with some sort of soaring guitar solo, the music falls away in an instant, leaving a rather minimalist guitar solo to play. Certainly has me scratching my head.

'Demonseed' opens with a horror film sample before striking with a big stomping riff that Rob Zombie would be proud of. It's not long before the Power Metal comes back though, the shifting dynamic between the faster and slower riff helps the song stand as one of the catchier songs on the album so far. It's also not as boring as many of the songs prior to it have been. 'Seven' sees the Power Metal come back pure and strong, and there's no Judas Priest whiff to it. It does sound rather like an Iron Maiden song that never was, though. Everything from the song structure to the vocal melody and accentuations of certain notes used, especially in the chorus, are so reminiscent you could be forgiven for thinking that Bruce Dickinson was Kai Hansen's vocal coach for the song. Not a bad song, but possibly good for all the wrong reasons.

'I Will Return' (opens with a sample of Schwarzenegger saying "I'll Be Back!) brings back a sense of identity that was lost somewhere in the album's second song. This has been the biggest problem I've had with this album; with the exception of that first song, it's felt like Gamma Ray have tried to do everything on this album; as if they can't decide if they want to do Power Metal, Symphonic Metal, Trad Metal or Hard Rock. It's made for an album that flows very clumsily, if at all. I had a lot higher expectations about this album when I got it, and there was a quality promised both by the band's reputation and by the track 'Avalon' (which will be one of the best songs of the year!) but it is a promise that is just not upheld. I cannot imagine I'll have this album playing too much at all, and it'll likely be all but forgotten before too long.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Album Review; Triptykon - Melana Chasmata

Track Listing:

1. Tree Of Suffocating Souls
2. Boleskine House
3. Altar Of Deceit
4. Breathing
5. Aurorae
6. Demon Pact
7. In The Sleep Of Death
8. Black Snow
9. Waiting

If you know anything about Extreme Metal in any of it's many forms, then Thomas Gabriel Fischer (AKA Tom G. Warrior) should need no introduction whatsoever. For those who are not aware; Fischer is the Swiss genius behind the legendarily experimental First Wave Of Black Metal band Celtic Frost, which itself rose from the ashes of the notorious Venom-worshipping Hellhammer. Celtic Frost, I'm sad to say are no longer active after the group imploded in 2008, but Tom Fischer is still going strong with his trademark misanthropic soundscapes taking form in the music of Triptykon. 2010's 'Eparistera Daimonas' was a brilliant album, befitting the legacy of Celtic Frost. It's been a hell of a long wait, but now we have Triptykon's second full-length album 'Melana Chasmata'.

From the beginning, there's a claustrophobic feel to this album, with enough of an avant-garde edge in opening song 'Tree Of Suffocating Sorrow' to keep any fans of Celtic Frost happy. Fischer's distinctive vocals cut through what is very catchy music with an almost Thrash Metal feel to it. The chorus may be one of the catchier in Fischer's career. The whole song is propelled by Norman Lonhard's drumming. There's a tinge of beauty brought to the song in the form of an acoustic string instrument that makes for an interesting segue into an electric guitar solo.

'Boleskine House' takes things into slower territory, with a downright filthy bass tone and a great drum beat. It turns out female vocals work with Fischer's clean vocal style brilliantly. This composition, named after Aleister Crowley's estate in Scotland, is both chilling and tantalising at the same time. There's something almost peaceful interspersed between moments of heaviness in this song that stands as a strong contrast against the usual chaos to be heard both in Triptykon and Celtic Frost before it.

'Altar Of Deceit' continues the journey with a Doom Metal sound. It's worth noting that Thomas Fischer's voice has lost none of it's venom over the years. Every syllable seems to ooze with conviction, but then you would expect as much from one of Extreme Metal's most extreme people. The riff that dominates this song is a great example of simple but effective. There's a well placed burst of a guitar solo that saves the droning from becoming even nearly tiresome. 'Breathing' takes things back up to higher speeds. The moments of reverb-laced clean vocalisation are sublime stop-gaps between what is otherwise a brilliant, straight-edge Metal songs. Towards the end it veers off in a Slayer-esque style of whammy bar abusing Thrash Metal, but it soon slows down to a crawl in good fashion.

Some might believe that the album, up to this point, has not displayed enough of the experimental edge that Tom G. Warrior's work is so famed for. I could see where they're coming from, but I think to make that accusation would mean you were missing something. To my ear, the experimenting going on within 'Melana Chasmata' is to be found within the way songs are structured and the flow of emotional charge. It's the expert use of dynamics here within the composition itself that grants this album it's biggest strength, hand-in-hand with the flow of the album as a whole. To me, this is of more worth than simply adding random instruments that are considered unconventional within Metal.

One need only listen to 'Aurorae' to understand what I mean. This is a fantastic, beautiful and soulful piece of music. Emotionally it sits somewhere between being misanthropically jaded and being deeply sorrowful. It's absolutely captivating, and as a piece of honest, moving music, I can't think of anything I've heard in recent times that is quite so powerful. 'Demon Pact' is one unsettling song, which sees the return of the avant-garde; there's a wailing, high pitched noise heard throughout the heavier moments, while Tom's vocal style during the verses is almost throat singing. The percussion is great, I'm always a fan of tribal sounding percussion. There's a gothic weird-and-wonderful vibe to this song that many will, and should love.

'In The Sleep Of Death' continues in a downright disturbing vein. That's really the only phrase I can think to use in regards to this song. It's a steady, doom-laden song that sounds like a bereaved man falling into despair and the beginnings of insanity. Deeply unsettling stuff, very effective, and all anchored down by great, haunting music.

'Black Snow' is the longest track on the album, clocking in at 12:25, and it starts as a cast-iron heavy, droning, hypnotic piece of work. It starts off damn slow yet manages to slow down to a snails-pace half way through. Metaphorically, the general theme of the song writing on this album has seemed to be that of a suffocating smoke, and this song shows this more than any on the rest of the album. Vanja Slajh's bass and Lonhard's drumming remain consistently great focal points that anchor the music well.

The beautiful female vocals are again present in the closing song 'Waiting' which offers up a moment of serene peace at the end of what has been both a tasking and rewarding album to listen to. This song serves well to bring the album to a curious close. There's a bold melancholy feeling to the bluesy guitar lead that takes up a good portion of the track.

Lyrically, Thomas Gabriel Fischer has often used death as a theme, but on 'Wiating' there's an almost chilling acceptance, even a welcoming of it. It makes for one hell of a powerful close to what is a moving and utterly captivating album. In summery; those who wanted a great album to follow on from 'Eparistera Daimonas' will de far from disappointed. Those who wanted Triptykon to release an album that lives up to the legacy of Celtic Frost will be equally satisfied. Indeed; this is not an album that can only be appreciated by Metalheads. Music fans, fans of art in any form, could surely see this album as an exceptionally executed representation of a true artist's vision. That's a thing that is very rare these days. I heard Tom G. Warrior in an interview saying that he wanted to take music that was heavy and combine it "with something that approaches art".

'Melana Chasmata' does not approach art. It surpasses it. My hat is forever off to Triptykon and Thomas Gabriel Fischer.

Rating: 10/10

Friday, 25 April 2014

Album Review; Nervosa - Victim Of Yourself

Track Listing:

1. Intro
2. Twisted Values
3. Justice Be Done
4. Wake Up And Fight
5. Nasty Injury
6. Envious
7. Morbid Courage
8. Death!
9. Into Moshpit
10. Deep Misery
11. Victim Of Yourself
12. Urânio Em Nós

Brazil's female Thrash Metal trio Nervosa have garnered a fair amount of attention since the band's birth in 2010, but this year sees the band releasing their first full-length album. The band have cited that their musical influences come from the old school Thrash Metal days, with Sepultura, Slayer and Exodus being mentioned in particular. As many may know, Thrash is a particular favourite of mine, so I've been waiting to get to grips with this album since it was announced.

A three minute long intro track shows that Nervosa have a taste for the darker side of Thrash, bringing to mind the likes of Dark Angel and Sodom. When 'Twisted Values' kicks in proper, there's a catchiness to the riffs that straddle atop a rather plain Thrash Metal drum beat. Vocally, the inspiration seems to have come from the likes of early Kreator and, again, Sodom. One riff in particular, which sees the music stop dead for a moment, is both effective and slightly reminiscent of early Sepultura. 'Justice Be Done' is a headbanger's practice tune; the riffs make you want to bang your head as Thrash Metal should. There's more pace shown in the drumming on this song as well as a more guttural vocal style in places, used as a backing vocal. The guitar solo half way through the song is a great one that hammers home the point that the band has real skill. Those of you hoping for an all-girl band that exists for the sake of eye candy or novelty, turn away now.

'Wake Up And Fight' sees the band use groove, anchored down by a satisfying bass line. It's already clear at this early point of the album that the band has its sound refined and set in stone. There's no progressive tinges to be had here, although the chorus riff sounds like something from a Strapping Young Lad song, which enhances the song to no end. 'Nasty Injury' is a decent mid-paced song, with a few interesting little tinges and nuances on the drums at the start of the song. Meanwhile 'Envious' is one of the harder, and more complete sounding songs on the album, a real highlight that should make it onto any Thrash fan's playlist.

Some may think it goes without saying that there's no experimentalism or leap forward for the genre to be found on this record, but while the sub-genre labels may be more or less defined in terms of the core characteristics of the sounds therein, the lines between the individual sub-genres are also becoming blurred, and in some cases are overlapping. With this in mind, it would've been nice to have heard something on 'Victim Of Yourself' that showed a touch of adventurousness. Thrash Metal is all well and good, so many won't complain.

'Into The Moshpit' was clearly written for the purpose of starting a few pits at the group's gigs. Another solid guitar solo sings out well from the gritty old-school Thrash. At this point it's worth pointing out that one of my favourite things about the way that this album is mixed is the bass guitar. The tone itself has a sharpness to it that you don't hear that often anymore, with a lot of bassists' tones sounding too silky-smooth and getting lost in the distortion of the guitars. Here, the bass stands out well, giving the attack of the music an extra edge.

'Deep Misery' is the shortest song on the album, and shows the band's ability to write a concise song that doesn't outstay it's welcome. The title track has a decent bass solo section at the start, leading in to one of the sharper riffs on the album. The speed of the song is typically fast, and only gets faster at the choruses, with the drum beat blasting ahead of the rest of the music. Unfortunately, unlike the song that precedes it, this song does eventually drag on. It could have done either with an extra dynamic element, or it could have just been cut in half.

The last track sees the band hit out with one more barrage of fast-and-furious Thrash, but apart from being particularly Thrashy it's nothing too spectacular. This is probably the single biggest issue with this album. As a record, it's solid enough to pass, but it feels too much like a homage to the glory days of Thrash Metal. At this point in time, that feels unnecessary since a lot of the classic bands of the genre are still going strong, or in some cases, stronger than they ever have! So, how much call is there for an album like this?

At the end of the day, a debut album usually shows a band just cutting their teeth, getting ready for whatever future they map out for themselves, but my concern is whether or not Nervosa have boxed themselves into a corner. At this point in time, there's actually a fair share of innovations happening within the world of Metal music, and as such, my standards for music being released is getting higher. 'Victim Of Yourself' may tick many of the right boxes for any Thrash fan, but what it's missing is that feeling of excitement. It's worth a listen or two, but it's nowhere near essential listening. Hopefully the band's second album will be a sharper affair than this.

Rating: 5.5/10

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Album Review; Devil You Know - The Beauty Of Destruction

Track Listing:

1. A New Beginning
2. My Own
3. Embracing The Torture
4. For The Dead And Broken
5. Seven Years Alone
6. It's Over
7. A Mind Insane
8. Crawl From The Dark
9. The Killer
10. I Am The Nothing
11. Shut It Down
12. As Bright As The Darkness

So, after Killswitch Engage staged a return to former glories in the form of last year's album 'Disarm The Descent' which saw the band reunited with original singer Jesse Leach, we finally hear from former singer Howard Jones again. Many of us, myself included, have been wondering what his return to the Metal scene would be like since he announced the formation and details of Devil You Know. My worry has been that it would turn out to be just another Killswitch clone. With 'The Beauty Of Destruction' finally upon us, it's time to see.

The album starts off in powerful and impressive form. 'A New Beginning' is Modern Metal at its most in-your-face and catchy. It's a great start to an album that sees Howard Jones' vocal abilities in rude health. I'm one of those who greatly preferred Jones' voice to Jesse Leach's as far as KSE goes, so it's great to hear him coming out with his brilliant screams and his accomplished clean vocals with more power and conviction than we had heard since 'The End Of Heartache'. The almost doom-laden riff helps in delivering a statement of intent before the album carries on.

'My Own' has the kind of rhythmic quality and chorus that is reminiscent of Killswitch, but manages to avoid sounding too similar. There was always going to be shades of Howard Jones' former band present in Devil You Know, especially on their first album, but there's enough personality on show to save this song from sounding like a Killswitch song that never made it to press. Jones' clean singing shines through in the hooks of the chorus.

It should also be unsurprising that the band have an Industrial sound to their albums, since the drummer is Devolved's John Sankey, who was also responsible for programming the drums on Fear Factory's 'The Industrialist' album. He also drummed with FF guitarist Dino Cazares in the side-project Divine Heresy. The guitars also have an Industrial sound on the lower registers, which gives the music an extra sense of weight that the frontman's former band sometimes lack in. These elements are particularly prominent on 'Embracing The Torture' which shows moments of crushing heaviness that even manage to carry through to the sing-along Metalcore chorus. If Devil You Know get lumped in the Metalcore category, let them sit with bands like The Defiled.

'For The Dead And Broken' shows a more melancholy side to the band's sound, but it's still fairly potent. Sound effects thrown in here and there, as well as some effects put onto the vocals, keep the Industrial edge ever-present. There's the first bona-fide breakdown in this song, too. I'm personally glad that it took so long for a breakdown to be used. 'Seven Years Alone' could just as easily be a Fear Factory song, as far as the verses are concerned, and the chorus is strong as well. Jones' vocals never seem lazy, and indeed there seems to be a fire burning in the man that was absent in the time leading up to his ejection from Killswitch. A great guitar solo soars over the percussive onslaught, further solidifying this as an album highlight.

'It's Over' begins with a somewhat predictable clean guitar introduction, paving the road for a more transparent and heartfelt performance from the frontman. The chorus will stick in the head and you'd be easily forgiven for singing along. As ballads go, this is one of the better ones I've heard, though there is an element of cheese in the backing vocals that can be heard in the chorus. Lyrically, you don't get much more basic, but at least the song offers a breathing space and shows another dimension to Devil You Know, albeit an expected one considering who their frontman is.

'A Mind Insane' brings back the relentless percussion and the frontman's more venomous vocal abilities. This is, yet again, catchy stuff that stands head and shoulders above any Killswitch Engage music in terms of style and individuality. I'm glad that the band haven't fallen into the easy trap that is the Metalcore scene. Indeed, this music is much more than just Melodic Metalcore, I'm happy to inform you. 'Crawl From The Dark' is a creepier song with an almost Sabbath like quality to the vocal melody. Sounds mad, I realise, but there's a definite Doom element to the slowly stomping feel of this song. It fits the band brilliantly and it's also great to hear Howard Jones doing something other than the constant mid-tempos that he was given in his previous band! The vocal harmonies fall on the ear really well here.

'The Killer' keeps things going smoothly, though it is one of the more pedestrian songs on the album. There's almost a Nu-Metal feel to this song, hidden somewhere in the groove and the simplicity of the lyrics used. I can already tell that some people may cast this song off, though the guitar solo might just change their minds. Definite marmite track.

'I Am The Nothing' focuses on Jones' clean vocals, though there's a good amount of lead guitar lines woven in throughout the song. Again, the more melancholy side shows itself. The chorus comes close to being moaning in tone, though the kind of melody on show here has not really been utilised a lot recently, so it's a good change in a way. Industrial tinges remain rife. Towards the end of the song, the whole song seems to come together a bit more for one last chorus and a classy use of a strings section to close the track.

'Shut It Down' takes things back to the feeling of the first song. It's full-speed ahead, with some spoken word sections and a few familiar melodies from the frontman. The percussion remains an ever present drive that, along with the weighty guitar work, keeps this album heavy enough to satisfy the ear that looks for the heavier side of Mainstream Metal music.

Closing song 'As Bright As The Darkness' starts off rather odd, having a dark, almost gothic feel to it. There's a bit of experimentation with some noise effects here and there, but the use of effects on the vocals is rather inexplicable, and as a result, this song sits rather awkwardly next to the rest of the songs on this album. It could easily be a case of debut-album experimenting on the part of the band, but this song, especially as an album closer, is just confusing.

Apart from a couple of miss-steps in the song writing (Seriously, that last song...) this is a pleasantly surprising album! Devil You Know are definitely a band with a lot of potential as a working unit. There's maybe a little bit of refinement needed to the band's sound, but hopefully that can happen in time for the next album. I can safely say I reckon I'm going to end up listening to this a fair bit more, and for longer than I listened to last year's Killswitch album! So, fans of Howard Jones; rejoice! The man has come back swinging. It'll be interesting to see where this goes. For now, pick up this record, it'll be worth your time.

Rating: 7.5/10

Album Review; Sinbreed - Shadows

Track Listing:

1. Bleed
2. Shadows
3. Call To Arms
4. Reborn
5. Leaving The Road
6. Far Too Long
7. Black Death
8. Standing Tall
9. London Moon
10. Broken Wings

The German Power/Speed Metal band Sinbreed's second album 'Shadows' is another in what seems to be a constant stream of Power Metal that has hit us in this, the first half of 2014. As such, there's a chance that it could get lost in the hordes, so to speak, although it is an album I've seen a lot of promotion for.

Opening track 'Bleed' has all the power, speed and catchy melody that one could hope for in a modern Power Metal album. The empowering, fist clenching lyrics are there. The song 'Shadows' comes in with a similar vibe, and is equally as good a song. There are great riffs to be heard, and a lot of good, precise drumming from former Blind Guardian drummer Frederik Ehmke. Herbie Langhans' singing voice reminds me slightly of Biff Byford, in a good way, and with an extra helping of force.

'Call To Arms' has a bridge section that proves Sinbreed can slow down and throw out a chunkier riff when they want to, but the Speed Metal side continues to prevail. The choruses so far have been expectedly sing-along, and 'Reborn' continues in the same fashion. There's an interesting use of melody and a lot of powerful, sustained vocal lines that will keep many a Melodic Metal fan happy. 'Leaving The Road' and 'Far Too Long' carries the album on in similar fashion, and while the song 'Black Death' has a darker feeling to it, getting through the album starts to feel like a bit of a drag. It would've been good to have a slower song, or even an acoustic track in there to help with the flow. Apart from the decent guitar solos and consistently reliable vocals, the album starts to trail off by this point.

From then on, nothing really picks the pace back up, which is really frustrating, since the album started off so well. By the time 'Broken Wings' comes in with a rather lovely acoustic intro which sets up a really good song, it's just too little too late. The album as a whole is not by any means bad, but what I would say is that it offers little to no variety. Some people may love that, others may hate it. For me; this album is one of those that strikes a good chord in its first half, but fails to follow through. Worth a spin or two, but it'll likely skip the mind in the future.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Album Review; Whitechapel - Our Endless War

Track Listing:

1. Rise
2. Our Endless War
3. The Saw Is The Law
4. Mono
5. Let Me Burn
6. Worship The Digital Age
7. How Times Have Changed
8. Psychopathy
9. Blacked Out
10. Diggs Road

Whitechapel proved themselves to be more than just another American Deathcore band with their 2012 self-titled release. The album combined their trademark heaviness (and it is heavy!) with a moments of eerie tension and showed that they knew just how to craft great songs and build an album that flows with ease despite the brutality of the music. Phil Bozeman's vocals were also at an all-time high. I had admired their previous albums 'This Is Exile' and 'A New Era Of Corruption', but it was the self-titled album that really grabbed my attention. The question now is; How will 'Our Endless War' compare?

In the form of 'Rise' the album begins with a standard-issue tension building intro track. Marching drums, strings and clean guitars set a relatively tense tone before the title track sees the main event begin. A fast track with a truck-load of vocal hooks and an infectious lead guitar line heard in the chorus. The breakdown featured in this is coated with Phil Bozeman's great vocal talents, but the riff and feel of it is rather too familiar to the breakdowns that Whitechapel have used before. Fortunately, more lead passages make up for this to a point. 'The Saw Is The Law' comes in with fairly standard Deathcore fare. The song shifts between slower and faster speeds, giving a lot of dynamics that are heightened by exceedingly fast moments of vocal delivery that are impressive and slightly reminiscent of Corey Taylor's rapid-fire lyricisms of the first Slipknot album. Great track, matching up to anything on the previous album with ease.

'Mono' starts off with a surprisingly high pace, showing that Whitechapel could just as easily be a traditional Death Metal band. It's not long before things slow down for an anthemic chorus. Lyrically, this one smatters of insincere, angst-ridden misanthropy, and risks being cringe-worthy if you're not in the mood for it. 'Let Me Burn' is driven by a slow, pounding beat on the drum kit, and is another brutal ode to insanity, the likes of which we have come to expect from Whitechapel. Towards the end we see the frontman push his already impressive vocal talents to a new limit that would blow out the throat of many other vocalists. It's an album highlight, and will certainly be a favourite among the band's fanbase.

'Worship The Digital Age' sees the slow, chugging side to Whitechapel rule with prominence. The song slows down to a sluggish crawl before drummer Ben Harclerode gives the song a massive burst of speed to contrast with the still-lumbering riffs. 'How Times Have Changed' has the groove element present in any of Whitechapel's better songs, but fails to hit the heights that some the band's previous songs had managed. 'Psychopathy' takes a shot at creating more moody tension before the song arrives in earnest, and it succeeds. Again, the groove is present, as are the Whitechapel-style riffs that work with this band overall. 'Blacked Out' has more of the fast delivery of lyrics, and also has a few blast beats in it. The speed of the drums on this track stands out well, again offering a peek at the more traditional Death Metal influences upon Whitechapel. This isn't another style-over-substance Deathcore band, so don't feel any need to worry if you have an inherent hatred of anything 'Core'.

'Diggs Road' is the last song on the basic version of the album, and begins with a swirling instrumental break before the brutality comes in again with a heavy-as-hell riff that contains a satisfying degree of melody. If there ends up being a sub-genre called 'Melodic Deathcore' then this song could end up being referred to as a starting point; there are guitar solos good enough to please any fans of conventional Metal styles, and there's another anthemic feel to the whole song, both as a finisher of an album and as a stand-alone song. Indeed, this song provides something that was absent from a great portion of the music on the rest of the album - the proverbial punch in the face.

This is the only issue that I have with 'Our Endless War'; it has it's fair share of moments, but apart from 'Let Me Burn' and 'Diggs Road' there are songs that can feel somewhat by-the-numbers. I wouldn't go as far as to say that this album is poor or inferior (I've heard many things that are worse this year) but it feels like something of a let down after the absolutely superb self-titled album. That notwithstanding; 'Our Endless War' is a solid enough album that's worth a spin in it's own right.

Rating: 6.5/10