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