Latest Releases See more
Back in the day this record definitely would have received an instant 5 stars from me as it was simply that influential on me at a very young & impressionable age when I was just freshly converted to the wonders of death metal. These days I can see it through an unbiased lens & it's definitely not without it's faults but it was certainly a revelation at the time & the highlights are truly gargantuan. John Tardy's monstrous vocal performance is arguably the best in all of death metal in my opinion. He's certainly the most unique vocalist the scene has ever produced as there's no one that comes close to touching the sheer ferocity of his talent. The recruitment of hired gun shredder James Murphy was a master stroke too as his highly melodic & technically dazzling contribution really does take this record to another level from anything the band would have been able to produce previously. The trademark Obituary rearranged-5th chords have never sounded so good while the cover artwork is my personal favourite of all time & goes a long way to maximizing my passion. The weaknesses of the album are the faster sections where the rhythm section draw upon "Leprosy"-era Death for inspiration as those parts tend to sound a little tame in comparison to the ridiculously heavy & doomy slow sections which are Obituary's real forte if you ask me. It's often a matter of less is more with Obituary as their controlled restraint is possibly their biggest strength & that's not something you can say about too many extreme metal acts. The song structures sound pretty loose & pieced together at times but thankfully every track includes at least one or two monlithic riffs of pure death to draw you in & Obituary understood how to create that authentic graveyard atmosphere as well as any death metal band that's ever picked up an instrument.
Looking back it's not difficult to see why "Cause Of Death" not only set a new standard for the band but also took them to the top of the Florida tree with Morbid Angel. The album reeks of underground credibility but it also manages to stay accessible enough to draw in a sizeable fanbase. I can't say that I regard it as highly as I did when I was a kid but it's clearly Obituary's finest work & stands as a key piece of death metal's historical puzzle. Even the cover version of Celtic Frost's "Circle Of The Tyrants" is a strong inclusion & represents one of the rare occasions when I actually think the cover may eclipse the original. The huge influence of Frost on Obituary's signature sound certainly helped in that regard as it doesn't sound anywhere near as out of place as many extreme metal cover versions do. When I look back on my youth in years to come I doubt my brain will ever forget to attach a soundtrack that includes belters like "Infected" or "Memories Remain" to the images in my head & this last 24 hours has seen me relishing the chance to regain an awareness of a time that I regard as one of the best of my entire life, purely through the sounds that played such a huge role in it.
For fans of Autopsy, Jungle Rot & Asphyx.
Progressive metal has challenges that other genres of metal do not have to comply with. And the biggest one for me has always been "how far off the deep end can an song/album go before it becomes too much and 'inaccessible'?" The debut record from out non-human overlords brought to focus the prog problem that myself and many of my music graduate class refer to as "the Berklee album". Berklee is one of, if not the most respected and revered post-secondary music program in North America and it produces some incredible talent across all genres of music. The issue is that no one who comes out of Berklee knows how to write a song properly. Animals as Leaders has the chops, but lacks any sense of dynamic growth or memorability for the listener. These records feel more like projects for the artists themselves rather than the audience.
Well in five years Animals as Leaders took these criticisms to heart and finally released The Joy of Motion. This album defines itself apart from other AAL records by incorporating melody and dynamic growth, while still maintaining what makes a record such as this the possession of Animals as Leaders. At no time throughout the record is someone not playing a consistent string of notes, whether that be in the percussion or a technical guitar ostinato pattern. What forces these songs to stand out is that these ostinato's are not at the forefront. Leads on "The Future That Awaited Me" and "Air Chrysalis" are slow and compliment the other parts brilliantly. Furthermore, the way that these leads build and mutate over time is splendid since they don't feel as if they were two separate ideas loosely tied together with silly string.
What matters most to me is that this record isn't boring. It does contain a plethora of Animals as Leaders tropes, but each track has its own unique style to it making it a much easier album to digest than the bands previous two records. Still, I noticed a considerable drop off in attention to finer details on the final three tracks after "Para Mexer". Perhaps it was proggy/djent fatigue that kicked in, but I would have been contempt after just nine tracks. They aren't bad per se, but they de feel like deep cuts, thrown on to the back of an album to pad runtime. Either way, this album is a joyous listen and the motion of head bopping is infectious.
Hardcore took on a new different form in the 1990s, embracing a bit of the mainstream while trying something different from what many expected to hear. More different was the metal influences in a few of those bands that lead to metalcore's creation. There are slow heavy riffs that go well with the speedy intensity. The ideal attitude was rebellious while caring for the world's environment, which lead to the straight edge scene. From the southwestern corner of the US, Unbroken became an important band for this decade with the amazing album Life Love Regret! Lasting throughout the first half of the 90s, the name Unbroken fit well for their straight-edge dedication and the rarity of passion. Guitars and shouting vocals chug through, the latter reciting struggles for hope in society. This actually fits well for the hard times of the pandemic when we all have to work together to make things better for the world. We need this band back together to motivate us with their hardcore attitude.
It's so amazing how vastly influential this album can be! They fulfilled a hardcore/metalcore legacy to be remembered by the bands they influenced, even after their split. Unbroken would have hardcore fans head over heels in love, and they would probably be like "Minor Threat who?" The passion and dedication comes from all the members, especially Dave Claibourn who shouts his lyrics with meaning. After their split in 1995, the band refused to reunite for anymore shows or albums. That is, until guitarist Eric Allen committed suicide and the band performed a charity show for his family. Over a decade later, they would spend the early 2010s playing multiple shows and donating to charities. Their final show was a 20th anniversary concert for this album. RIP Unbroken and Eric Allen...
Beginning "D4" is crushing sinister riffing, then it makes a slow transition to really grow on you. "End of a Life Time" is also so good, and the more hardcore fans might keep coming back more. "In the Name of Progression" is slightly more speedy and progressive, and it really hints at the metallic hardcore progression the band was shooting for. There's more hardcore madness to come...
"Razor" has sharp guitar work that can cut like a f***ing razor. "Final Expression" could've had some lyrics expressed better, but they still work well. Another favorite of mine is "Blanket", an intense unforgiving highlight!
But then it leads to an even better ending trio of songs, starting with "Recluse". Then "Setup" has the best setup for some of the most explosive music in this album. And soon comes the very best saved for last... The album ends with the 9-minute epic "Curtain" to shape up top-notch progressive hardcore/metalcore for a different metallic future. Everything is wrapped up with long feedback outro to pleasantly end the short yet wholesome journey this band has made. I know the more hardcore fans would certainly look forward to give this album a spin again.
Even though Unbroken is now just...broken, they remained a hardcore legend. This should be enjoyed by fans of hardcore and 90s metalcore. This band spawned a spark of hope for the hardcore rebellion!
Favorites: "End of a Life Time", "In the Name of Progression", "Blanket", "Setup", "Curtain"
Earth's 1993 debut full-length "Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version" is arguably the most important & influential drone metal release of all-time. Interestingly though I've never regarded it as a genuine classic up until now & have always preferred Earth's 1991 debut E.P. "Extra-Capsular Extraction". I think this revisit may have seen me changing my tune though as I've come out of it finding it noticeably harder to deny its classic status than I have previously.
I think there's a couple of reason why I've not managed to get there previously with the most obvious one being that the shortest & most popular track on the album (15 minute opener "Seven Angels) has never struck me as being anything particularly special even though I do find it enjoyable. It's the most traditionally structured of the three lengthy pieces which I feel is probably what makes it the most popular as it's clearly the most accessible but I do think it sounds a fair bit like Tom Warrior & Martin Ain from Celtic Frost testing their rigs during a Celtic Frost soundcheck. Thankfully I'd happily listen to those guys all day long but I can't say that it blows my mind as it seems to me to be incomplete without further accompaniment. Things pick up very quickly though with the 27 minute "Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine" which is a less structured drone metal piece that still maintains some semblance of riffs amidst an almost industrial atmosphere. That's some very solid & outrageously heavy drone metal right there & it's worth remembering that no one else was making anything like this shit at the time. But the real reason that I can't help but gush over "Earth 2" these days is my sheer delight at the half hour monster that is "Like Gold & Faceted" which sees the band completely abandoning traditional rock tools & creating a wonderfully monotonous & highly cerebral journey through the darkest terrain imaginable. I mean this muthafucka sounds utterly triumphant but also as evil as any black metal act known to man. It invariably draws me to conjure up images of Lord Satan himself standing atop a mountainous peak in front of a huge army of his demonic minions & slowly raising his hands to the Heavens while all of mankind is forced to instantly accept that evil has finally overcome the last ray of hope for humanity. I can very easily see what Earth were trying to achieve with this track as it's undoubtedly been modelled on similar drone works from the previous decades but the outcome is absolutely immense, making it by far & away one of the best examples of the genre you'll find. In fact, I'll be fucked if this track alone isn't enough to warrant the inclusion of "Earth 2" in my Hall of Metal Glory so I simply couldn't resist the urge to elevate my score a bit further.
"Earth 2" certainly wasn't made to appeal to everyone but those that "get it" are in for a transcendent experience. I highly recommend the commitment to "active listening" with this one because if you let it become background music it'll no doubt SOUND like background music. Patience is required to wade through the murky sludge in search of transcendence but rest assured that it is in there waiting for you & the rewards easily justify the effort. "Earth 2" was made for a dark room & a good pair of headphones at high volume whilst lying on a bed with your eyes shut. If you let it engulf you then it's actually possible to see the event horizon that Sonny portrayed so beautifully in his review. This should be essential listening for all drone metal fans.
For fans of Sunn O))), Boris & Nadja.
Uhhh NO. I'm sorry, no. There are good old-school metalcore albums out there, but this ain't it. It's highly difficult for me to enjoy this, let alone write a full review for it. The only golden nugget for me in my opinion is the title track. I guess I like this EP when it really rocks hard and complex, but that's all I can get, just from that track. Anyway, it's no wonder the band's collapse was inevitable, and this EP is not one to have for your hard/metalcore soul....
Favorites (only one I even remotely like): "Outlines"