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 Celtic Frost, I'm sad to say are no longer active after the group imploded in 2008, but Tom Fischer is still going strong with his trademark misanthropic soundscapes taking form in the music of Triptykon.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

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Album Review; Emmure - Eternal Enemies

Track Listing:

1. Bring A Gun To School
2. Nemesis
3. N.I.A. (News In Arizona)
4. The Hang Up
5. A Gift A Curse
6. E
7. Like Lamotta
8. Free Publicity
9. Most Hated
10. Grave Markings
11. Hitomi's Shinobi
12. Rat King
13. Girls Don't Like Boys, Girls Like 40's And Blunts
14. New Age Rambler
15. We Were Just Kids

This is both the first time I write about or try to completely digest an Emmure record as a listener. As always, I go into this with an open mind, despite the never-ending torrent of abuse I've seen online, attacking the band, and particularly their fontman Frankie Palmeri. At the same time, I see plenty of people rush to their defense. So for what it's worth, I decided to review this new record myself and add my vote to the count.

I would set the scene here by saying that the last few years have seen a few different things happen that some believed were signalling a return of Nu-Metal. KoRn returned to form, Limp Bizkit came back from the grave, Coal Chamber toured and bands like Escape The Fate had elements of their sound compared to the Nu-Metal of days gone by. I say with no embarrassment that some of the first Metal I discovered and became a fan of was Nu-Metal. Some of the classic Nu-Metal albums, I still listen to from time to time, whenever I feel a little nostalgic.

Therein lies the problem with Emmure, from a matured Metalhead's point of view. Here's a band that have taken the marmite Deathcore subgenre and have mixed it with Nu-Metal's more simplistic and adolescent format. From the intro track 'Bring A Gun To School' this album's goal seems to be to allow kids a way to vent their pre-pubescent problems, and at the same time Emmure seem to be on a hollow mission to shock the parents and authorities of the world. This alone makes me sigh with exasperation at the sheer shallowness of the band.

Before I get into the album properly, I'll get the good points out of the way; The production job is great, the album sounds as professionally mixed as a band of this notoriety should. Now, onto the main event...

'Nemesis' is the album's first song proper, and it's clear that Palmeri's vocal influences are Jonathan Davis, Fred Durst, but he also delivers a bland and generic Deathcore growl. The song itself is largely made up of breakdown-type riffs that are so simplistic, I wonder if Jesse Ketive and Mike Mulholland even know how to play guitar at all. Not even sure if I'd call them riffs. 'N.I.A (News In Arizona)' is lyrically infuriating; the kind of song that only hardcore fans could ever claim has any substance. All this sounds like to me is Frankie Palmeri trying to come across as a hard man while he attempts to sell a sadistic fantasy to kids who want to hear something that's edgy for the sake of it.
"I'm damaged goods, I'm the toy that you broke and threw away, but I'll remain above it all stuck underneath. No one can face me now." That's the kind of lyrics that even Fred Durst would not have been able to sing with a straight face.

'The Hang Up' is another song exactly like the last. Tough-guy posturing, lobotomized musicality, horribly unaccomplished shriek vocals thrown in amongst the Deathcore blandness and Durst-like clean vocals. The fact that Palmeri manages end the first verse by saying "Bullshit you say to get attention, Just pretentious, Growing tired of your shit" is so laughably hypocritical that it made me shake my head every time I heard it. 'A Gift A Curse' is another track that tries to be brooding and introspective, instead coming across as the kind of thing that you'd expect to hear coming from the Cd player of somebody who's very quick to claim that they hate you and nobody understands them.

'E' is a call-to-arms for the die hards that don't know any better than to love Emmure. It contains very clear homages to KoRn, though I can't help but hope that if KoRn ever came to learn that they had inspired this drivel then they would sincerely apologise to the world. Lyrically it's full of the same lines we've heard in countless brainless hip hop and dance songs. The phrase "Keeping it real" should be banned.

Really, there's nothing I can say about the rest of the album that I haven't said already! This record could probably be improved by being half the length that it is. That wouldn't absolve it, however; because this album is so safe, so grounded in a musical blueprint that is less than mediocre that it can't help but be constantly bland and infuriatingly brain dead from start to finish. When it comes to lyricism, there's nothing positive to say whatsoever, I could probably find an instrumental album with better lyrical sense. (Yes, I know how stupid that looks, but honestly, it's utter garbage!)

Emmure have made it plainly clear why Nu-Metal died off and hammer it home that it should never be resurrected. Leave it to the old guard that were actually good enough to carry on after the genre's implosion. If it's Emmure's aspiration to be the new Limp Bizkit, they've got no chance. Limp Bizkit at least had a sense of style to them. This album shows no style at all. In fact, it shows no sense at all.

The only people that could possibly like this record are those who enjoy cheap angst as opposed to anything else. If you love that one-chord-fits-all style of guitar playing, then here's fifteen whole tracks of it. The one thing I can say for Emmure is that they know how to provoke a response from the listener. Many will tediously defend this steaming pile of an album by saying things like "You don't get it, it's not meant for people like you!" or that it's somehow cool to dislike the band. It is true that Emmure probably isn't aiming for fans of Extreme Metal, or any of the more traditional Metal subgenres. However, it gets touted as some form of Metal music and as such, I imagine many Metal fans will reject this band for the hollow insult to modern Metal music that it is.

I can say nothing positive whatsoever about 'Eternal Enemies'; it's a terrible, terrible album that somehow manages to make stuff like Black Veil Brides and Of Mice & Men seem like musical genius. Never a good thing! There's nothing memorable. There's nothing vaguely catchy. There was not a single moment that this album made me do much as nod in appreciation of the music. All that this album has done is taken up time in my life that I can never get back.

Rating: 0.5/10

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Album Review; Conan - Blood Eagle

Conan - Blood Eagle

Track Listing:

1. Crown Of Talons
2. Total Conquest
3. Foehammer
4. Gravity Chasm
5. Horns For Teeth
6. Altar Of Grief

So, Conan are a Doom Metal band that have been going since 2007 and 'Blood Eagle' is their third full-length studio album. It also marks the first album released by the three-piece on Napalm Records. Doom Metal, as it stands, is a genre that is fast producing more and more bands into the limelight of the Metal world at this point in time. Often, these are bands that have an occult edge to them. Conan, on the other hand are all Vikings, Tolkien and raw production values.

What Conan prove to be, right from the start of 'Crown Of Talons', is boring! The opening song is nearly ten minutes long and has the slowest, simplest and most irritating riff I've heard in a while (Actually, I'm not sure if I've ever heard an irritating riff!) and has what I can only describe as bad shouting throughout. This then moves into the equally stale and unmoving 'Total Conquest', where Conan manage to show again that their idea of riffing is to simply have both guitar and bass droning over one another, producing a muddy mess that makes Venom's 'Black Metal' album sound like a master class in studio production and mixing.

If 'Total Conquest' was muddy, then the introductory moments of 'Foehammer' are filthy. I do not mean that in the retro-sounding Florida Death Metal scene way. I mean simply that it falls on the ear like a stupefying aural fuzz. The vocals maybe cut through a little bit more, but as positives go, that's like a five pence piece that's found in a bucket of broken glass; it's not worth your trouble enduring such unpleasantness for such a small reward.

Each song is too long, especially when they all lack any sense of dynamics. There is absolutely no personality to this music. The riffs remain infuriatingly simplistic. The drums are never interesting and the purpose of the bass seems to be just to suffocate the guitars and vocals under a horrible tone. People talk about bands playing it safe with their music, but on 'Blood Eagle' Conan are taking it way too far! 'Gravity Chasm' ironically makes you want a black hole to swallow you up. Then 'Horns For Teeth' comes along, sounding like the worst Alice In Chains song you've ever heard covered by Crowbar while drunk.

After a ridiculous minute and a half of droning, empty nonsense, the remaining seven and a half minutes of  'Altars Of Grief' do nothing to redeem this perplexingly poor album. The tone never changed even once on the whole record, and nothing stood out apart from the drums, which wasn't because they were exceptional, but instead it's because they were the only thing that weren't covered in that bloody bass tone! If anyone reading this manages to become a fan of Conan and the 'Blood Eagle' album, and then wonders if they could make it onto my top fifty albums of 2014 come December, I'd say not to hold your breath. This is the kind of album I wouldn't inflict upon anybody, in fact I can only recommend this record to the tone deaf and the masochistic. Don't waste your time and move on swiftly.

Rating: 0/10

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Album Review; Animus Complex - Animus Complex

Track Listing:

1. Admission Of Guilt
2. Right To Remain
3. Survive
4. From The Bottom Of Your Soul
5. The Forest
6. The Way Things Should Have Been
7. I.D.
8. Astral Projection

The sound of Arizona's newcomers Animus Complex is easiest described as Progressive Metal, though there's a definite flavour of Djent and a tasteful sense of groove right from the start. The strength of this band and their debut self-titled album comes from sheer musical technicality combined with the ability to craft quality songs that won't be solely appreciated by musicians. There are enough soaring vocal melodies and more extreme vocal styles to appeal to more casual listeners.

The opening riff for 'Admission of Guilt' is a flurry of jazzy sounding single notes before a combined whirlwind of clean and screamed vocals as well as very accomplished percussive backing, that all together hooks this listener, as it should many. No riff is overstaying its welcome, and the song flows well. The album is off to a great start, and the groove comes in large for second song 'Right To Remain', which has a great chorus that will easily remain in the memory of listeners that have a taste for a good melody. The clean singing voice that this band uses reminds me a little bit of Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth fame.

'Survive' is without a doubt my favourite song on the album. The riff used is clearly jazz-infused, but it's one of the more interesting and unique riffs I've heard recently. The melodies remain high in quality, and the guitar solo present is emotive and backed by an intricate and suitably heavy riff. The drums are another stand-out point in this song, and indeed the band. Anyone who appreciates a talented, inventive drummer will be in for a treat on this album.

'From The Bottom Of Your Soul' starts with one of the more Djent sounding riffs on the album, but it grants the listener a well-timed break from the musical complexity. The leads don't even take a minute to present themselves and are as good as you'd expect at this point. Again, the song constantly twists into something new, keeping the listener on their toes as any Progressive band should. In fact, Animus Complex are a band that are Progressive in the best way. It's superior song-writing, a through-and-through knowledge of their instruments, their own abilities and the medium of Metal that drives this album. This isn't a collection of songs in which each band member simply shows off, and throw in a flute or some obscure instrument that is new to Metal music in an attempt to seem Progressive.

The album, to my mind, has a very organic feel to it. By that, I mean that nothing sounds forced or thrown into the mix in some clumsy attempt to draw in a certain audience. 'The Way Things Should Have Been' starts of with a clean, jazzy riff and percussive background that almost sound like lounge music in a way, but the distortion kicks in at exactly the right place and the band continue to satisfy. 'I.D.' also shows the guitar player's chops, which are as undeniable as the likes of Animals As Leaders guitarist Tosin Abasi.

The album ends on a surprisingly heavy note. 'Astral Projection' has a modern American whiff of bands like Lamb Of God, but without losing the technicality. The best section of the song features a swirling background of synths over a jungle beat and some brilliant bass guitar tapping that is just sublime to hear before a breakdown comes in. As one would expect from this band, it's not a basic breakdown that has been recycled from a laundry-list of bands either.

Uniqueness is the name of the game here. Animus Complex is a band that even in such larval stages as a debut album already have their own sound and their own identity. It's one that very much stands out from the crowd in the best possible way. As the start of this year goes, I cannot think of a band quite like this that deserves your attention half as much. There is nothing I can fault this album for without targeting a particular type of music fan that this clearly is not aimed at, and nor should it be. A self-titled album should be a statement of purpose and intent, this is exactly that. If you don't know this band yet, you're missing out.

Rating: 10/10

Friday, 11 April 2014

Album Review; Black Label Society - Catacombs Of The Black Vatican

Track Listing:

1. Fields Of Unforgivness
2. My Dying Time
3. Believe
4. Angel Of Mercy
5. Heart Of Darkness
6. Beyond The Down
7. Scars
8. Damn The Flood
9. I've Gone Away
10. Empty Promises
11. Shades Of Grey

'Catacombs Of The Black Vatican' stands as the first proper studio album from Black Label Society since 2010's 'Order Of The Black', which was something of a mixed bag to my ear. The rockers rocked loud and hard enough to please the ear of any Hard Rock or Metal fan, but the album suffered from being bogged down by too many ballads. It's great to hear that from the off, this album has some memorable riffs worthy of main man Zakk Wylde's extensive back catalogue.

'Fields Of Unforgiveness' has an obviously Black Sabbath-inspired sound to it, which is to be expected from the man who used to be Ozzy Osbourne's right-hand man. The first single 'My Dying Time' has a distinct feel similar to Black Label Society's 2006 album 'Shot To Hell', in a good way. It's catchy and heavy enough to hit the mark. Unfortunately, the lyrics show Zakk's standing as a born-again Christian, and may be a bit too preachy for some to accept. This is well balanced by 'Believe', which centres on the spiritual again with more of a questioning tone to it, so there is something for everyone to enjoy. The riff is infectious, and the guitar solo is Zakk at his trademark best.

'Angel Of Mercy' is the first ballad to be heard on 'Catacombs...' and it's not that bad, really. Zakk shows again that he can sing both powerfully and gently yet again, while the use of a string section and a satisfying bluesy guitar solo elevate the song. Things then carry on into the groovy 'Heart Of Darkness', which again shows how catchy BLS can be and is one of the more standout songs on the album.

One issue I have is that while the sheen that this album gets from it's production and mixing gives it clarity, it's also sanded down the rough edges that could have given it a bit more impact. As such, even though 'Beyond The Down' may have the best riff on the album, it washes over the listener rather than demanding attention. Still a great song that will probably stand well in their live set, but in the context of the album, this and the other songs could've done with an extra push from the production values.

'Scars' is another ballad that shows the southern tinge of Black Label Society's music well, but other than being a good song to drink bourbon to, this is a lower point on the album, and is probably best left to one side. 'Damn The Flood' is probably the closest to out-and-out Metal that the album gets; it picks up the pace and has a lot more punch to it than the songs that have preceded it. There's another solo in there that gives the long standing Zakk fanatics what they're looking for.

'I've Gone Away' is rather jarring; on the one side you have a heavy riff that's great to hear, but on the other, the vocal melody is rather too passive and dragged out to go along with it. It's more of a grower than a shower, as one can get used to this musical juxtaposition, but it may be rejected by those looking for a quick fix of biker rock.

'Empty Promises' starts with one of the most interesting percussive patterns I've yet heard in a Black Label Society song, showing that the band's latest drummer Chad Szeliga (previously of Breaking Benjamin) can bring something new to the fold. After that it's business as usual for Zakk and Co. The album's closer 'Shades Of Grey' is another ballad, but one of the best that Black Label Society have put out to date. In a word, it's a gorgeous song that should get people holding lighters to the sky. To my mind, it stands as the band's own equivalent to the Guns 'N' Roses classic 'November Rain'. It also makes for a rather classy and unexpected ending to the album.

This is Black Label Society I'm talking about, so I doubt anybody familiar with the band was expecting a big leap forward in terms of their sound, but 'Catacombs Of The Black Vatican' stands as a collection of pretty good songs, that make for an enjoyable listen. By no means would I call it essential listening unless, like me, you fly the Black Label colours proudly. Even then, it's clearly not their best work. Put short; it's a light hearted, fun album that, while good to listen to, unfortunately falls far short of being something truly special.

Rating: 6.5/10

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Album Review; Lvcifyre - Svn Eater

Track Listing:

1. Night Seas Sorcery
2. Calicem Obscurum
3. Liber Lilith
4. Svn Eater
5. In Fornication Waters
6. Nekuomanteion
7. The Fiery Spheres Of The Seven
8. Fyre Made Flesh
9. The Sinister Calling

Being completely honest; upon my first listen to this album 'Svn Eater', I wasn't completely sold. Black Metal is a genre just like any other - it has it's copycats. Bands that, despite the fact it's 2014 and they'd easily be able to get ahold of some decent home studio equipment, decide to make their recorded output sound really shitty and reverb-drenched, just to be like their 90's Norwegian heroes; evil sounding music from the underground. In reality, most of it just ends up sounding really cheap. More like a Disney villain than anything to do with supposed demonic entities.

'Svn Eater' comes dangerously close to making the same mistake. It's not all typical Black Metal; the opening song 'Night Seas Sorcery' begins with Doom Metal pace, sluggish guitars and drums twisting around echoing rasps. Filling the empty spaces is a droning bass guitar. For a solid five minutes this continues. A bit long, some may agree, but the waiting soon pays off somewhat. Death growls make their first appearance, as does a sense of speed and heaviness.

'Calicem Obscurum' is quite typical Black Metal for the most part, although a lot of the vocal work owes to Death Metal. The Death vocals are pretty damned accomplished, actually. They go as deep as any Death Metal fan could want. The idea clearly seems to be for the song to sound like a swirling mass of Chaos. Constant blast beats, evil-sounding tremolo-picked chord progressions, a few Slayer-esque guitar leads for good measure. All the ingredients are there. It's just a tad too predictable. The screams of "Summon me" half way through are quite silly, too. Obviously, the demonic has always been a key element of Black Metal, but at this point it is rather cabaret. Black Metal has grown up since the 90's.

Another issue that makes itself blatantly known in 'Liber Lilith' is that the lyrics are difficult to make out. Not because of the vocal style, but because the ever present echo in the production makes the vocals quite muddy at times, infuriatingly hiding the lyrics. The title track is another all-speed Black Metal song. There's a lot of impressive drumming going on, but largely, it still strikes the same iron, only it's not so hot anymore.

'In Fornication Waters' starts with another dose of droning bass sounds, and when the music comes in proper...it's the same again. Lyrically, it's a twisted account of sickening or disturbing lustful and carnal desires. Which is all fine and well, but such things aren't really shocking anymore, are they?

There may be the odd slower, doomy passage where the intention may be to increase atmosphere, or allow the listener a breather, but the sad thing is that these are the better parts of the songs. There's a refreshing melodic guitar solo in 'Nekuomanteion', but that's over too quickly to really change my opinion of this offering. Hell, maybe it'll be better suited for live showings. Maybe I'm missing something when I'm listening to it, because all I've heard are great things about this album. I can only be honest though, and in all honesty; this album basically bored me. It's all very samey, nothing stood out either on the record or from the hordes or Black Metal bands. Something about it feels to me like a rehashing of twenty year-old ideas. At this point in time, Black Metal doesn't need that.

If you're a rabid Black Metal fan, this may be your cup of tea. If this is your first taste of Black Metal, I can well imagine it would be an eye opener. For me, and maybe others who have listened to more than their fair share, this is, in a word; throwaway. There are many other Black Metal bands that are either doing something more original or memorable, such as Marduk, Rotting Christ or Behemoth. And with Mayhem set to make a return to the fold, I don't know what need there is for Lvcifyre in my record collection at the moment.

Rating: 2/10

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Album Review; Savage Messiah - The Fateful Dark

Track Listing:

1. Iconocaust
2. Minority Of One
3. Cross Of Babylon
4. Hellblazer
5. Live As One Already Dead
6. The Fateful Dark
7. Zero Hour
8. Hammered Down
9. Scavengers Of Mercy
10. The Cursed Earth

England's standing as one of, if not the best country for the output of classic Heavy Metal albums is undeniable. This is where the whole thing started, after all. However; in the present day, the UK is often overshadowed by the USA, Scandinavia and Europe for it's output of good and great bands or albums. One problem I've noticed is an overabundance of tween, copycat Metalcore bands that bring absolutely nothing original to Metal, be that in sound, appearance, live performance, etcetera. Fortunately, those who know where to look can still find really good bands lurking underneath the smokescreen of the ludicrously mainstream. Savage Messiah are one of these bands that caught my attention in a big way only two years ago with their album 'Plague Of Conscience' and a memorable set on the Sophie Lancaster stage at Bloodstock Festival in 2012.

Upon hearing the new album, 'The Fateful Dark', I had hopes of it being another strong album from this very promising band. Kicking off with triumphant-sounding guitar leads reminiscent of 'Screaming For Vengeance' era Judas Priest, 'Iconocaust' shows off riffs that's also cut from the cloth of Megadeth and Destruction just as much as the UK greats like Iron Maiden. Dave Silver's vocals might have the odd Hetfield-like enunciation to them here and there, but there's a Mustaine-like sense of melody that works well with the technical-yet-tasteful music. High falsettos are thrown in for good measure, and the end result is a very good album opener.

'Minority Of One' has a similar feel to some of the songs on 'Plague Of Conscience', with a bloody brilliant guitar solo and the socio-political theme behind the lyrics that makes it sound like it could just as easily be a Megadeth song, and a great one at that. All credit to them for that. 'Cross Of Babylon' is a definite Thrasher, through-and-through. Andrea Gorio, the band's new drummer, shows his chops on this song, and he's a great fit with the music of Savage Messiah. There's a great sing-along quality to the chorus of the aforementioned song that has a traditional Metal or even Power Metal feel to it. Whatever you call it, it's big, it's memorable, and it shows that Dave Silver can sing his heart out, with very flamboyant vocal abilities when the music calls for it.

'Hellblazer' steps back into that Judas Priest territory again, and does so very successfully, thanks in no small part to Joff Bailey and Silver's great guitar playing . It's the kind of song that should have you headbanging like a trooper, doing air-guitar like an idiot and singing with a clenched fist raised high. Heavy Metal's pure spirit is blatantly on show here. Hurrah!

In comes the clean and emotive guitar lines for 'Live As One Already Dead'. Savage Messiah are not the first band I think of when I look for balladry, but here they show a fair aptitude for it. What they deliver here is the kind of mildly soul searching song that shows another dimension that would take a lot of people by surprise. It's a hell of a tune, and again Dave Silver shows the extent of his vocal prowess. Throw in a captivating guitar solo and you have a fantastic song, and an unexpected highlight. Too many bands are too busy trying to be brutal or too caught up in shredding like their guitarist is the new Dimebag Darrell that they miss the part where they're meant to be writing great songs, in my opinion.

The title track comes in stomping all over the place with a big, bouncing, headbanging riff. The riff-vocal-riff-vocal song structure doesn't get old, does it? Especially when the riffs are as big and juicy as the ones Savage Messiah are packing. 'Zero Hour' is equally as brilliant, with the band channelling their inner Metal God as the anthemic feel carries on from song to song. How they're able too keep up such high quality from song to song is astounding.

'Hammered Down' takes things back to the Thrash side of the coin again. It's full-speed ahead, with lyrical content and a chorus that is perfectly crafted for the live environment. A nice half-time headbanging riff is a good addition in the right place, but it's not long until the song would be calling for a furious pit. I'd be too happy to oblige at a show.

'Scavengers Of Mercy' is another Thrash Metal piece with the rhythm section sounding tighter than the coil of a bear trap. The falsettos in the chorus give the listener the evergreen chance to challenge the Halford within every Metalhead. The greatest thing about this album as a whole is that everything is sounding big. Massive, even. Producer Scott Atkins has helped this to no end, but the mainstay of the credit simply must go to the band members themselves for writing and executing a great album, their best work to date. All things considered; this album is a testimony that Savage Messiah have a lot ahead of them. They've blown my expectations apart with 'The Fateful Dark', and that is saying something. Let's hope they are recognised as a glimmer of light in what is largely a very bland UK Metal scene. That's the least that this band, and this album deserves.

Rating: 9/10