Official Chart Reviewers Club Thread (Purely Optional)
Here's the hint for tomorrow's Revolution album:
We'll be fine. We just need a couple items.
I think I know what that band is, but I'll let you do the big reveal tomorrow, Rex.
I think I know what that band is, but I'll let you do the big reveal tomorrow, Rex.
I expected you would. But do you know which album? Look through their catalogue here to try and guess.
Actually, I thought of a better hint. Editing it before too many people see it.
This week's REVOLUTION album:
Zao - Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest (1998)
Reason: This is one of the essential metalcore albums, and yet, it only has one vote here?
That vote is from me. Here's my review summary:
The perfection of Zao's second and last album with the original lineup carries on to a new one. 1998 marked a new era for the band who have been grateful to God for where their ongoing lives took them. The remaining founding member Jesse Smith continued with new members Daniel Weyandt, Russ Cogdell, and Brett Detar, the latter from rock band The Juliana Theory for a dark turning point in hardcore/metal. Where would bands like Underoath and Haste the Day be without this offering? Dan Weyandt's screaming is perfect! Besides that, the two guitarists have heavy guitar riffs that would surely blow your minds. While they maintain the Christian lyrical themes, they have less focus on the spiritual side and the topics are more about Weyandt's fallen loved ones, with one track written in memory of a friend of the band who committed suicide, and another for Weyandt's late relative. The message in those songs is basically his faith shining to keep him alive after all the losses he and the band suffered. Its heavy impact has caused many Christians and non-Christians to relate. Musically, the songs show how well they've planted the seed for the modern metallic side of metalcore that can be heard in bands like Trivium, Eighteen Visions, Bleeding Through, and Bring Me the Horizon. All in all, Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest marks a different transition from The Splinter Shards The Birth Of Separation, including shorter songs, though both albums are the best. You like As I Lay Dying and all those bands I've mentioned earlier? Pick this up! Whether you're Christian or not, this is for the heavier metalcore fans. Zao is still alive!
5/5 (potential future Revolution feature release!)
Although I don't think I'll be joining the Revolution, I have to admit that I love punk. Right now the only punk genre I represent in a clan is crossover thrash, which is a problematic genre that rarely ever amazes me. Metalcore, IMO, is the superior genre thanks to the presence of more excellent bands. Unfortunately, the genre also gets very tiring thanks to the countless emulators of bands like Born of Osiris, so when someone in metalcore mixes it up, like Zao does with their own strong presence, I tend to feel a sigh of relief so powerful that it's almost like a weight is finally off my shoulders, as if finding creative metalcore has become a literal chore.
This is their most popular work: Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest. At first it starts off pretty typically, even though it's clear that mood and delivery is taken more seriously than punk energy, which is a sigh of relief. The same seems to be true even as it switches from calm acoustic james to slow punk screams in the beginning of the second song. Unsurprisingly, there are faint traces of proggieness and djent in the behavior of the riffage, but not enough to even warrant a sub-tag. This also feels like a smart decision to me because it's very tamed and used specifically for mood. In otherwords, this is the kind of metalcore album that keeps you on your toes, guessing what's going to happen next even as it rarely breaks its genre. There are quite a few instances of slow-paced growling and droning, which seems to me is an atmospheric choice that the band likes to take advantage of. In other words, speed is of little importance, even for a punk album. Very interesting choice, especially considering that there seems to be some sort of Neurosis influence.
But there's also some time taken for melody whether or not speed is a part of the picture. Listen to the openings of March and Ember, and then finish the songs to see where things go, even if certain sections may easily be dragged on too long. Another interesting choice the band made was writing some songs about hypocrisy in the churches, despite being a Christian band. They're tackling a wide range of themes involving personal struggles, even avoiding the preachy side of Christian lyricism. In other words, the band tried to make a Christian album that raw metalheads could relate to. Again, a smart move. But concerning the lyricism and quirky song structures, practically throwing pop structures in the trash, I'm wondering if each section symbolizes something, which would make this album more conceptual than advertised.
I can see why this is considered a metalcore classic. It's a SMART album. So overall, I kinda like this. Zao have gone far beyond what the Christian rock tag might've indicated for the music browser in terms of both style and quality. I can say, however, that I'd prefer a LITTLE more punk energy in certain sections, and that some sections whether fast or slow be shortened to maintain a further punk presence and less of a Neurosis one. Zao did something very artistic here, and they had their bumps but they were still very smart about this.
Hint for tomorrow's Sphere album:
This week's SPHERE album:
Sybreed - Antares (2007)
Genre: Cyber, Industrial
Reason: I was meaning to revisit this, anyway.
One day, and industrial band said, "let's put a better scifi twist on it" and created cyber metal, a niche genre that no one has really made a pure artform yet, and way? Because it has a tendency to be very trope riddled. But the appeal of the genre is obvious: cyber metal is all about the scifi, and one of the best bands to recreate that "cyberpunk" feel is Sybreed. It shines at full force on Antares, no star pun intended.
The album recreates scifi vibes beautifully. It's like all at once I'm being dragged out into space, experimented on in a lab or having to deal with dystopian problems in a cyberpunk world. The drama is there, but never played up too much. We have plenty of room for serene and melodic moments to just drag you away into "a sea of nothingness." Sometimes the atmosphere is Floydian. As for my favorite aspect of this album, I'd say it's Nominet's melodic vocals. His high and youthful pitch is just robotic enough for the cyber sound but powerful in its softness. The guy also has some decent metalcore growls, occasionally going into Wayne Static territory, which is pleasing to me considering that Wayne's voice was the best part of Static-X.
Unfortunately, the same problem that takes over the vast majority of cyber metal (I've started many albums but haven't finished them because of this) is that all the songs are pretty much covering every layer of influence at one. There's cyber, pure industrial, groove, djent, electronic and death here, but most of these songs are made up of multiple sections each covering one or two of these genres at once, so originality becomes repetitive. There's a little differentiation between songs sometimes, like the shift from atmospheric serenity in isolate to the raspy djent of Dynamic. But otherwise, the reliance on shifting the same genres becomes tiring by the end, despite the melodies and atmos still being good.
Although cyber metal is a genre yet to be mastered and perfected, the fans of this niche genre will still have Sybreed and Antares. This has very heavy feeling to it, which is the most powerful aspect of the album and the standout as well. If you want metal that will put you right into a scifi world, I can't think of a better album.
This week's FALLEN album:
Evoken - Caress of the Void (2007)
Genres: Death Doom, Funeral Doom
Reason: This album will make it into the charts with 2 more votes, so to get it there I'll need help on this one. You got a week before we switch to the next Gateway album.
I'm posting my review today, so I'm gonna need someone's help bringing this in the charts. Since I've been working on all the previous Evoken albums to prep for this, I've been able to get the Antithesis of Light in the charts as well, totally intentionally, too.
Each Evoken album is a little different, and each time it gets different, it also gets stronger. But how could you possibly get any stronger than the third album with its perfect atmosphere, evershifting sense of anger and despair as well as its perfect consistency?
Evoken had to step it up to compare this time, and while I don't feel that they did that with the titular opener, I still greatly enjoyed what I heard. The production was cleaner and less dense, so it was more accessible. But it didn't lose any of the structural strengths and emotional core of any of the songs from Antithesis. I could only hope that the other songs wouldn't sound exactly the same. Thankfully, Mare Erythraeum didn't. I've gone on about how Antithesis has some gothic touches, but this is more than just touches. This is the kind of heavily gothic doom you'd expect from My Dying Bride, and it's just as good as you'd expect from MDB. There are few changes in the main riff, but thankfully everything in the background is there to change things up and either get more melancholy, more artistic or even more melodic. It all depends on the section. This beautifully instrumental epic also goes into an amazing metal solo which is quite out of place for Evoken's catalogue, but also perfectly fitting for this album. That tells me that they're innovating once again.
We re-enter the death doom with a heavy dose on Of Purest Absolution. Despite that, it's surprisingly more melodic as well, and throughout the middle section, the doom is placed behind an aquatic guitar riff that carefully layers over the doom without drowning it out. The third section relies on none of that and goes right for tribal drumming and placing the vocals in the foreground to really bring out that deathly vibe. Astray in Eternal Light is dense in its production, but not so baritone. It's a very noisy track built on the same guitar sound as the middle section of the previous song. We also get clearer vocals to bring in more of a depressing tone as opposed to the deep-seeded hatred we've been subjected to before. But there's also something very sensual about the vocals, although this guy can't beat Peter Steele at this game. And I also feel that the monotone nature of the album isn't quite as strong as before, as much of it is simply going "up down up down" between two notes. So while it's a bit unique to the album for shifting focuses of similar elements in the same way that every song in Antithesis did, I can't help but feel it's a bit weaker than the previous songs.
Descend the Lifeless Womb is louder, deeper and slower, once again pushing the soul past its limits. And boy, does it feel epic. The general idea of funeral doom is extremely strong on this track. Unfortunately, because it's so standard, it feels like it's missing something in comparison to the first three songs. This is remedied during the third act, where things get more atmospheric and clear, as opposed to rough and dirty, and it features an ambient guitar drone which feels very astral. Suffer a Martyr's Trial begins very quietly and carefully steers into some droning sludge and doom. Throughout the thirteen minutes, it changes its monotone riffs and the back-layers of the density constantly, bringing back the overall high quality of the first three tracks as well as the previous two albums. And because of this, the longest song on the album goes by more speedily, even when much of it is snails pushing their way through heavy mounds of dirt. And finally, we have a single riff played with an orchestra of variation in the back, Orogeny, which has this post-metal vibe about it.
I have to say, I really like how straight-forward and accessible this is, not because a weird-ass like me who enjoyed Grand Declaration of War needs accessibility, but because it represents an incredibly healthy and high-grade kind of album which can be a very good introduction for noobs to get into both death doom and funeral doom, maybe even doom in general. I honestly don't know why these guys aren't more popular in the doom community. Is it the surrealism of esoteric? The traditional behavior of Skepticism? Either way, these guys are way underappreciated. Unfortunately, this also sometimes gets in the way of the emotional core, which didn't always feel so varied.
Well I can safely say that at this point, my favorite funeral doom band is definitely Evoken for their ability to deliver seriously heavy music. Even though this wasn't quite as creative as the last two albums, it more or less got the job done and would make a great introduction into doom, one that's very heavy but never too dense. So I'd say this is another success for the band.
Just a reminder: the clans can choose each next album to review if they want. Next week is the Gateway's turn.
Hint for tomorrow's Gateway album: the last album had hands, but this one has an ARM.
This week's GATEWAY album
Jerry Cantrell - Degradation Trip (2002)
Genres: Alt-Metal, Grunge
Reason: Since he's part of Alice in Chains, I figured we might as well give this album a go.
Hint for tomorrow's Guardians album:
I'm quite the Alice in Chains fan. Way back when I was first getting into regular album exploration, one of my first ever binges was grunge, and that binge would be on and off for years before I felt I had exhausted all the albums worth listening to. Of course, I kind of avoided solo Cantrell because I didn't want to explore a solo act just for a relation to Alice in Chains. But the way I see it, a grunge junkie who actually started a wiki on it has an obligation, even if he's not working on the wiki anymore.
I heard the decent but unimpressive debut, Boggy Depot, before heading to this, and it's easy to see that Cantrell belongs in the metal world. Right from the start, Cantrell makes a point of telling you that this is an Alice in Chains solo act by recounting that same dark and sludgy sound on the first track. But the album doesn't stay that way; it goes from harder to softer on a beautiful balance, sometimes progressively. Songs like Angel Eyes which bridge that poppy lightweight alternative with the noisiness of grunge riffs mingle well with softer and more acoustic bits with a slight emphasis on psychedelic country. It made me realize that I wished there was a slight more alt-rock and psychedelic in Dirt, then it might've risen on my overall log.
However, there are a couple problems with this album. First of all, the writing certainly isn't as unique or inspired as Alice in Chains. It seems more predictable this time, despite all its efforts to both remind one of Alice in Chains and separate itself from the band. The second problem is that the emotional aspect is not recounted much. It's occasionally there, but it's lightweight. This especially hurts if you know that Cantrell was with Alice in Chains, which means this overlong album is poppier. So the variety eventually gets samey.
Well, I can't say this is my favorite grunge metal album. I was hoping to love it for its connection to Alice in Chains, but I knew it was a bit much to ask for. It's a pretty fun album with some cool songs, but totally passable.
This week's GUARDIANS album:
Ozzy Osbourne - Bark at the Moon (1983)
Genres: Heavy Metal, Hard Rock
Reason: I wanted a real classic this time, plus I needed to get around to it.
This is my old review of "Bark at the Moon":
Both of Ozzy’s first two solo records had ended up becoming heavy metal classics which was more than partially due to the contribution of the ridiculously talented neo-classical guitar virtuoso Randy Rhoads. Unfortunately Randy was tragically killed in a light plane crash 1982 which left Ozzy & Sharon Arden with no choice but to rebuild Ozzy’s career with a new lineup. Thankfully Sharon is as tough as nails & she was able to pull Ozzy through this dark period & the result is 1983’s “Bark At The Moon” album. Ozzy had recruited Night Ranger guitar shredder Brad Gillis, Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo & Black Oak Arkansas drummer Tommy Aldridge for the “Diary Of A Madman” tour & the recording of his 1982 double live album “Speak Of The Devil” however Ozzy’s alcohol problems had been exacerbated by his grief over Randy’s death & he had taken a lot of his frustrations out on Gillis which resulted in him quitting the band at the end of the tour. Sarzo, who was originally recruited on Randy’s recommendation due to their prior relationship in Quiet Riot, also decided to leave the band after becoming disillusioned following Randy’s death so when tasked with the prospect of writing a new studio album Sharon & Ozzy needed to think long & hard about who would be the best fit to not only perform on the album but also to write it. The answer came in the form of 26-year old guitar shredder Jake E. Lee who had previously spent some time with both Ratt & Dio. Incidently, legendary Dokken shredder George Lynch was the other potential candidate & regardless of Lee’s undoubted skills I’m an absolutely huge George Lynch fan so I can’t help but feel that they made the wrong decision here . Strangely, former bassist Bob Daisley who had previously been unceremoniously axed from the band agreed to write & perform on the album too which is quite hard to believe given that he’d previously gone on holidays at Ozzy’s request only to find that he’d been replaced upon returning. If you look at the liner notes of the “Bark At The Moon” album you’ll see that all song-writing credits sit with Ozzy this time though. Bob apparently took a one-off payment for his credits while Jake was blackmailed by Sharon. She threatened to fire him & get another guitarist in to record his songs if he didn’t agree to sign over his portion of the song-writing credits. Such a nice chick!
The result is in many ways very similar to Ozzy’s first two albums but in others very different. Firstly, the production job on “Bark At The Moon” is incredibly ove rthe top featuring an extremely dated 80’s sound covered with cheesy Don Airey keyboards that make this album sound very much of it’s time. In fact I’d go so far as to say that this is the main reason that “Bark At The Moon” isn’t rated as highly as Ozzy’s earlier material. The other is the lack of Randy Rhoads but that’s not to say that Jake E. Lee doesn’t do a stellar job here because he certainly does. His style is a much more traditional heavy metal one but he’s clearly been heavily influenced by Randy in his improvisational approach to his rhythm guitar tracks. But the exotic neo-classical melody isn’t there & that’s what most people consider to be the missing link here. Personally I really like Jake’s performance as he’s got great technique & his sound is very exciting & very metal. In fact I find him to be the best thing about the album so I’ve never understood why some people seem to downplay his ability. I’ve never been a huge fan of Bob Daisley’s bouncy basslines however he’s now dropped those more minimal half-time efforts I took issue with on the first two Ozzy albums & his contribution is much more to my taste here even if I’d have much preferred to hear Rudy Sarzo. Tommy Aldridge takes a much more restrained & rock solid approach than he did on “Speak Of The Devil” which is a shame as I’d have loved to hear him play some more expansive stuff but it fits the songs pretty well regardless & ironically reminds me of Vinny Appice’s efforts on Black Sabbath’s recent efforts.
Musically “Bark At The Moon” features some great metal riffs that would comfortably have fit on “Blizzard Of Ozz” or “Diary Of A Madman”. Ozzy’s performance is par for the course although as the music gets cheesier with the additional keyboards Ozzy sounds more & more out of his comfort zone in my opinion. It’s only on the darker numbers that he seems to fit comfortably as his voice just doesn’t suit the more melodic stuff as well. The song-writing is as solid as ever but like earlier records we again have a horrible ballad in the middle of the album that brings the flow of the record to a grinding holt. I’m also not too fond of the pretty dumb “look at me, aren’t I a bad ass” approach of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebel” as it comes across as lacking any sort of artistic credibility.
When all is said & done though this is a pretty good Ozzy album. It’s just not a great one. If the keyboards were more restrained & tasteful with some less bombastic arrangements we might be talking about it in the same breath as Ozzy’s greats but that element really does bring it down a couple of notches. All fans of the classic heavy metal sound will find some enjoyment in the album anyway though. The performances are great & there’s quite a few fun metal tunes to be found if you don’t take things too seriously.
Forgot to post the hint for today's Horde album. I'll do that, and then I'll post the review for Bark at the Moon.
I'm nowhere near into solo Ozzy as I am into Black Sabbath, and I know I'm not alone in this. Because of this, I've spent very little time in Ozzy's solo career. Up until today, I had only heard his first two albums. I really think it's about time I stopped putting both solo Ozzy and solo Dio off and gotten to a couple of their albums. But I'll keep this brief.
I was glad that each song felt a little different at times. Some were pretty speedy like the title track and (ironically) "Slow Down," some were more about the beat and biker attitude like "Waiting for Darkness," and songs like "So Tired" added a more symphonic and melodic side, steering itself away from typical power ballads by keeping the gothic vibes of the album intact. There's also some time for raw creepiness a la Alice Cooper, like on the song "Spiders." But I think what really made the album so enjoyable is that all the melodies are very strong. It seems to be a major focus on the album where everything else, including the variety factor, seems to work around the melodies. And this leads up to the album's only flaw: stylistically and structurally, it's a pretty typical 80's heavy metal album. None of the songs are bad, but thanks to this, it comes nowhere near Paranoid as a whole. In fact, its typical structure is also why I'm keeping this brief, because there really isn't a lot stylistically that's unique enough to talk about.
Well, I'm largely impressed with this album. From what I can remember, this seems more focused on doing different things with typical heavy metal songs than Blizzard of Ozz. This is a great continuation of a solo career built on two great albums, and I highly recommend it for any metal fan that wants darkness in their music, even for extreme metalheads.
I'd actually suggest that there's a clear differentiator from your typical heavy metal record & it comes in the form of the overblown, keyboard-heavy production job which certainly gives "Bark At The Moon" a unique character but also dates it pretty badly. I find that element to be the clear takeaway from the album as it almost smothers the song-writing at times. I'm with you on the quality gap between Ozzy-era Black Sabbath & Ozzy's solo work though. Despite being a diehard Randy Rhoads disciple, I've never regarded albums like "Blizzard of Ozz", "Diary of a Madman", "Bark At The Moon" or "No Rest For The Wicked" as essential releases for your average metalhead, even though some of them may be essentials for metal guitarists like myself. Ozzy's live releases are another story though as I rate "Speak Of The Devil" & "Tribute" very highly, particularly the former which is a bit of an all-timer for me.
Today's HORDE album:
Behemoth - Demigod (2004)
Reason: Behemoth is an understated essential in modern death.
Forgot about the album this week. It'll continue next Tuesday.