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I've recently been extensively revisiting Anthrax's earlier stuff and whilst Spreading The Disease and Among The Living still retain their classic status for me, I have had a huge about-face with the subsequent two albums, State of Euphoria and Persistence of Time. I was originally much better disposed towards State of Euphoria with it's catchier choruses and less so to PoT's denser material. However, I feel time hasn't been too kind to SoE, whereas Persistence of Time has aged much better. Neither are as good as the previous two albums and I feel the main reason for this is the fact that there are less by way of backing vocals (particularly Scott Ian) that helped to beef up Joey Belladonna's performances on those earlier releases. Joey is a perfectly fine singer, but lacks the vocal presence to carry off such aggressive thrash in isolation, sounding a little weak as a result.
SoE comes across as a bit throwaway now and, to be honest, in places a little silly, fuelled I'm sure by the "success" of I'm the Man. PoT, however, whilst not having as many great songs as Among the Living is much more akin to the 1987 classic and songs like Blood and Gridlock wouldn't feel out of place next to tracks like A Skeleton in the Closet and Imitation of Life. There is some filler and I think it peaks with Gridlock - Intro to Reality, H8 Red and One Man Stands failing to match the preceding highs and sounding a bit vanilla. It does go out strong with Discharge, but overall the latter half is ordinary.
It is a more mature-sounding album than State of Euphoria, but just doesn't have enough killer tracks to justify higher ratings. Would have been much better if they had trimmed the length to about 40 minutes and lost some of that Side B filler.
A five-track, 38 minute EP (why not just call it an album and have done with it?) that truly lives up to the atmo-sludge tag and starts off strong, but gets better and better as it proceeds, building up to the climax of the twelve-minute closer, the awesome Wave After Wave. A crushingly heavy atmosphere perpetuates throughout, but this is no stilted sludge-bomb, maintaining velocity as it is driven forward thanks to the thrusters provided by Thomas Hedlund's kinetic drumming. The only real niggle is the loss of impetus that results from the still air surrounding the Mark Lanegan-featured track Inside of a Dream, but it's not a bad track and does provide a counterpoint to the furious, raging behemoth that surrounds it.
Overall an organic-sounding album that feels forged by the laws of Einsteinian physics and possesses a planet-killing potential energy. Me, I just had to jump onto Bandcamp and get myself a vinyl copy - it deserves that at least.
The first classic album by probably the first Melodic Death Metal band, The Gallery's release in 1995 marked the coming-of-age of a sound that had been brewing in the Swedish underground since the early 90s.
A flurry of demos and EPs from bands such as Eucharist, At the Gates, and Unanimated, in addition to Dark Tranquillity, had established a primordial version of the "Gothenburg sound"... taking the raw tremolo riff-fest of Death Metal and infusing just a dash of melody and dynamic variation, with eyes towards gothic and philosophical themes rather than horror. Many bands have since achieved success by taking that formula in various directions in the decades since, but in my opinion this release marked the moment Melodic Death Metal truly became something separate and distinct.
Building upon influences hinted at in their earlier works, Dark Tranquillity intelligently took everything differentiating them from standard Death Metal, and took them even further. The compositions became even more progressive and ambitious in every way. More intricate and technical in the fast guitar-driven parts, juxtaposed against increased presence of simple piano, acoustic guitar, tasteful bass. More emotional, varied and understandable vocal delivery to complement the more cryptic and, frankly, epic lyrics. More complex. More melodic. And more intellectual than anything this burgeoning scene had yet produced. In short, Dark Tranquillity finally became everything that the extremity-focused Death Metal of this era wasn't. Yet, somehow, it was still sonically "Death Metal" at its bleeding heart.
People rapidly caught on to the appeal of this juxtaposition. Remarkably, despite the explosive proliferation of the Gothenburg sound and Melodic Death Metal as a whole in the decades since, The Gallery remains notable not only for its pioneering influence but also for its sheer musical quality. Still to this day, The Gallery remains one of the gold-standards and essential listens of Extreme, Dark, and Melodic Metal alike.
Now, it's not quite a perfect album in my view, at least not from a track-by-track perspective, which is how I rate albums. Although every song is very enjoyable and captures that early-DT splendor, only about half of them ever caught on with me as regular listens in my rotation. Those songs, however (see below), are all-time favorites that I will listen to 'til I die. I just fucking love the band's sound at this moment in time and it flows so well and consistently across the album. There's a certain adventurous charm... a certain youthful passion... an emotional gravity to these songs that would never quite return in the same way after The Mind's I or Projector as the band aged and modernized. This isn't a shot at Dark Tranquillity's latter discography, which I enjoy, but they were just on something different in the 90s.
I'm just thankful I live in a universe where Mikael Stanne joined up with these guys and recorded this treat for the years. His pained, dramatic vocals and poetic lyrics are just so perfect for the sombre, bittersweet melodies Dark Tranquillity specialize in. This, right here, is the epitome of what I like to call "Prime MeloDeath".
Essentrial Tracks: Punish My Heaven, Silence and the Firmament Withdrew, Edenspring, The Gallery, Lethe
Despite my many years of listening to music and having nearly 3 decades to mature and learn to give all genres, sub-genres and styles of metal a chance, I still have this annoying trait of telling myself I am going to hate something before I listen to it. Now, I am not entirely in love with Inside The Beehive and their spazzing riot of math and grind but I am suitably impressed enough to take the time to write a review.
I don't often venture to the Revolution Clan (see my opening comment above to understand why) but this release transcends mere rebellion against conventional metal. It is a release that flourishes greatly within a relatively short play time and shows a band with a great understanding of texture in their music. Amidst the stabbing frenzy there is an almost constant sense of form still, some basic structure that gets elements moulded around and slammed onto it. It's like a very scalable foundation level that can be subjected to intense and sustained levels of obliterating fury and it still maintains integrity throughout.
The best way I can find to describe it would be to say this is the eye of the storm and at the same time is the constant, violent swarm that swells around it, driving its own growth and expansion. This in essence is its downfall also as there are times during the release where there is a feeling of the album trying to cover too much ground. The overtly core sounding elements do grate a tad and it loses the grind element a little to readily in favour of these elements which leaves me conflicted about the overall piece.
Considering grumpy old Macca would have had me dismiss this had I not resisted, this is a decent find and one that hopefully will help me to learn to put that character in his box more readily in future and actually find some new shit to like.
'Iced Earth' was a solid debut album that set the bar pretty high for this band very early in their career, but they've managed to take what worked before and build upon it, with this, 'Night of the Stormrider', an equally solid follow-up.
Most of what we have on this album is identical to its predecessor with just a few tweaks. Most notably is the acquisition of a new vocalist (a position that will change many times in this bands history) in John Greely, who replaces Gene Adams. While Adams did a great job with his fairly limited ability, Greely has a much more powerful voice which suits the more symphonic and operatic elements which have been implemented into the groups sound with this record.
Guitarist, songwriter and all-round band leader Jon Schaffer takes charge once more with lightning-fast riffs that puts most thrash metal bands to shame. With song-writing so polished and precise, this sounds like a band that has been around for a long time. If their debut album didn't convert any fans, then tracks like 'Stormrider', 'Desert Rain', 'Travel in Stygian' and the true gem of this release 'Angel's Holocaust' will surely win you over.
Whilst I personally prefer ‘Iced Earth’ to ‘Night of the Stormrider’ (personal preference), strong songwriting and beefed up production make this a worthy successor to a strong debut. It no doubt helped establish Iced Earth as one of power metals heavyweights, and deserves its place in the genres history.