Gatecreeper's third album weighs in at eight tracks with a measly 18 minutes runtime - and eleven of those are taken up by the final track, so as you can imagine, this really is an album of two halves. The first seven tracks are ever-so brief bursts of aggression (the longest being a mere 73 seconds) their mix of Discharge and Bolt Thrower feeling like death metal machine gun bullets rapid-fired to your brainstem that will leave you reeling so that when the death doom sledgehammer that is Emptiness hits you won't know what fucking day it is! My only real criticism is the disappointing ending of Emptiness - it just kind of.. stops!
As I continue my non-linear narrative with Author & Punisher I find more and more textures being applied with each release I consume. This eight track release from 2015 being now the fourth album from Shone's discography feels a lot more contemplative and deep than other outings I have witnessed. Not that any of these reflective and pondering aspects are done at the expense of sheer banging intensity mind you, more that the album itself feels like a congruent entity, that the tracks all belong together.
The realm of industrial metal isn't the most vast in terms of scope (not that I pretend to be an expert on the genre) but what Melk en Honing has in abundance is attitude to amplify its use of industrial music. It is a record that clearly has something to say and uses all the mood and intensity over its fifty-three minute length to great effect. Tracks build consistently, instead of relying on just raw throbbing and racing pulses coupled with pounding and looping percussive assaults to force you into submission. There's a real sense of accomplishment to the progression of tracks, like they have been written thoughtfully and real attention paid to detail. None of this quality control makes for a dull or boring record; quite the opposite this has an emotional yet calculated delivery and a real sense of connection with Shone himself.
In its more harsh and abrasive moments Melk en Honing is scarring and uncomprehending yet in the throes of building tracks it is explosive and compelling at the same time. Like the rampant scribing of a Richter Scale machine in a magnitude 8.0 earthquake, music jabs across the page in sharp and violent surges, blunted by low-end bass lines that swell beneath the build of trajectory.
It feels like there's more vocal content here this time around and again this is well-balanced in the overall mix. The vocals hold some horrific semblance of tune played deliberately slowly to add an alien ethereality to them that is probably the main take from the record that stays with me post-listening. Tristan Shone continues to impress as I explore his discography in my albeit scattergun approach that I take.
Funeral Winds are basically black metal fundamentalists heading for thirty years of existence in one form or another, the current of which is as a solo project of founder Hellchrist Xul. This is real old-school, early second wave, snarling, savage black metal, driven by pummelling blastbeats that fans of early Mayhem, Immortal, Darkthrone etc will recognise only too readily. Hellchrist Xul's croaking vocals are similar to Abbath on the early Immortal albums and is a style I particularly enjoy hearing I must admit. I guess the title refers to the album's attempt to distill black metal down to it's purest essence and it would be hard to argue than it hasn't been successful in doing so, now whether that has any relevance depends on your point of view. Personally I don't rate it as highly as previous album, Sinister Creed, but I feel it still has a place here in 2021 if only to remind us that there are still artists who don't give two f*cks about trends or fads and only want to create a blasphemous, hellish racket and I'm right behind that.
Opus Nocturne is a ripping but unexpectedly controlled and slightly atmospheric album from second wave Swedish Black Metal band Marduk that left me with some mixed feelings at the end of it all. As a band who eased themselves into Black Metal through their previous two records Dark Endless and Those of the Unlight, they decided to fully unleash the aggression and grime on this one, pushing new drummer Fredrik Andersson to the absolute edge and forgoing a more balanced old school mix for one that has less pronounced guitars but a more sinister and epic feel. Even though Opus Nocturne tries to balance itself out with chuggier, more plodding tracks like "Materialized in Stone", the appeal inevitably comes from the unrelenting torrents of blast beats and classic Black Metal chord progressions that sometimes feel a bit too watered down for their own good. So even though the slower and more atmospheric sections are few and far between, they make up most of the highlights for me on Opus Nocturne thanks to incredibly well written transitions and slower, chunky riffing.
Marduk does manage to forge a connection between cleaner, slower parts and raging tremolo riffing that feels much more natural than other epic Black Metal albums at the time, with the transitions in "Sulphur Souls" and "Untrodden Paths" being brilliant and satisfying. Even though some of their repeating riffs put me to sleep after a while, especially since most of the rhythms and melodies felt recycled towards the end of the record. Andersson's drumming tends to accent the same sort of rhythm throughout Opus Nocturne's entirety, so it's not too surprising that the whole affair starts to blend together by the time I reach "The Sun Has Failed". All of that considered, though, I came around to the pernicious wickedness that this album tries to convey, with vocalist Jaokim Af Gravf giving a harrowing performance that refuses to ease up for any amount of time.
The monotony of this album really wore me down, with big, epic build-ups and crescendos ending in the same old riff over and over again. Marduk certainly know how to structure their songs in interesting ways that keeps the evil atmosphere intact, but I was never wowed by any of the riffs themselves. Most of them are only one bar in length and while there's enough variance and subtle progressions as each song goes along, I can't help but go numb to it all after a while. The drumming also doesn't help this case, as impressive and well-placed as it is. I actually really like how all the percussion is tonally placed, with the bass drum sounding solid and slightly cutting through the rest of the mix without letting the blast beats not completely take over each track. Even still, Andersson's relentless performance alongside the sometimes elementary riffing wore me down to a point where I somewhat dreaded every transition back into aggressive Black Metal riffing. It's a shame because he has a hell of a performance on this album, with every crash cymbal being expertly placed and his fills to transition out of slower sections being incredibly addicting.
Opus Nocturne may be considered a forgotten gem in the midst of 90's Black Metal revival, but it's not necessarily a forgone classic for me. Marduk has some great ideas and a killer, classic feel, but they fall a bit flat on staying interesting through the entire runtime of the album. I'm sure that diehard fans of the classic Black Metal sound will be returning to this release as Marduk's standout alongside Those of the Unlight, but it doesn't leave me with many standout impressions compared to other Black Metal releases at the time. Still a welcome and sinister addition to multitude of fantastic and relentlessly aggressive classic Black Metal albums.
Timing in everything when it comes to music. Heavy metal, the genre created by bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, was already starting to stagnate by the end of the 70's, with a lot of the genres leaders already burning themselves out. Thankfully, in 1980, Iron Maiden unleashed their debut album, taking the flag and running with a new subgenre known as the 'new wave of British heavy metal', or NWOBHM for short, and giving the metal world a kick up its own ass, as it prepared for a whole new level of global domination.
Combining elements of heavy metal with 70's punk, Iron Maiden's self-titled debut is a ball of raw energy, with its gritty production and its unpolished songwriting, this is an album where no punches are pulled. It's rough, it's dirty and there's certainly room for the band to mature, but there's just a charm and importance about the album that makes it stand out. I mean, it's Iron bloody Maiden for Christ's sake!
However, all praise aside, let's get to the nitty gritty of the review. The music is fun, catchy and full of life, but there's nothing truly outstanding jumping out at me. Each track is good, but lacks that extra something that leaves me feeling like I've just listened to a masterpiece.
Musically the band are pretty tight. Guitarists Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton display a chemistry other bands at the time were lacking, and Steve Harris' fast-paced, galloping bass playing instantly sets him apart from other bassists from that era. Vocalist Paul Di'Anno, who would only appear on one other Maiden record before being replaced with the beast that is Bruce Dickinson, may not have the widest vocal range or the most powerful voice, but he makes use of what he has, and it fits the stripped down, almost punk-esque feel of the album.
While the London five-piece would certainly go on to release more ambitious albums (and take over the world, pretty much), 'Iron Maiden' itself can only really be considered a "good" album. 'Prowler', 'Running Free', 'Transylvania' and 'Phantom of the Opera' are all reasons to get this album. But the truth is, realistically, Iron Maiden will go on to release some of the greatest metal albums of all time, and pretty much all the later material makes this album seem a bit dated and obsolete now.
It's good, and it has stood the test of time well, but I'd still only class it as "good". A worthy addition to the collection.
Stuck Mojo's brief flirtation with rock stardom came in 1998 with the release of their third album, 'Rising'. Having garnered a loyal following due to their relentless touring and insanely energetic performances, the rap rockers scored big when they filmed a music video featuring superstars of World Championship Wrestling, at the time one of the hottest shows on television. This gave the band an unprecedented amount of promotion that they'd never had before, as the video received heavy rotation on WCW's flagship show; 'Nitro'.
(It was also how guitarist Rich Ward met wrestling legend Chris Jericho... his future Fozzy bandmate).
Brimming with groove metal riffs and rapping vocals, Stuck Mojo's sound is simple and effective; heavy, energetic, and full of attitude. Ward's instantly recognizable guitar tone and style makes for some truly memorable headbanging anthems, and rapper Bonz is on fire lyrically, lashing out at governments, society, and celebrating all things America! What 'Rising' lacks in intricacy it more than compensates for in enthusiasm and machismo.
'Crooked Figurehead', 'Rising', 'Southern Pride', 'Enemy Territory', 'Dry', 'Pipe Bomb'... the whole bloody album is just one great song after another. Even goofy hip hop bonus track 'Suburban Ranger' has a nice charm to it.
Sadly, rap metal is usually considered the black sheep of metal subgenres. Which is a huge shame, as 'Rising' is such a great album that blended old-school metal with a legit rapper, as opposed to a singer who can rap. Stuck Mojo have toured with some heavy hitters such as Pantera and Machine Head, and it's evident in their music, that if metal fans can open their minds just a little bit, there's a true gem of a record waiting for them.
I have brought up the name Daughters on several occasions here on this website; in both album reviews as well as in forums. They are an industrial rock band whose 2018 album You Won't Get What You Want is by far one of the finest displays of apocalyptic imagery through noisy and alien production, and surely one of the best albums to be released in all of the 2010s. That was the feeling that I got when I listened to Shame, the newest album from this industrial metal band.
And I did enjoy this album a fair bit, I do have to admit that the messy production is both a benefit and a flaw in the overall scheme of things. For starters, Shame is a much slower moving album than You Won't Get What You Want is. The grooves that incorporate "Delco", "The Shadow of God's Hand" and "All We've Ever Wanted" are far more in tune with something doom or sludgy. While songs like "Life in Remission" and "Dispatches from the Gutter" are much more aggressive and leaning towards hardcore punk. Everything here is mixed really muddy and distorted to create an uncomfortable atmosphere; one that is brimming with pessimism and self-loathing. But the vocals are paramount to the atmosphere and they have quite a drastic change of cleanliness to them throughout the record. While "This Won't End Well" and "The Shadow of God's Hand" are pretty good, the opener "Delco", as well as "Life in Remission" don't feel as pronounced.
While this may be a part of the point with the instrumentals sounding as slapdash and rough as they do, I still feel like the vocals should have served of greater importance than they ended up doing. Meanwhile, the heavier sections that incorporate blast beats on "Life in Remission" and "I Am the Cancer" are meshed so close together that it sounds like proverbial nothing. As a result, the bass becomes lost, but I'm not sure it needs to be as fruitful and progressive as I typically like. When the distortion of the mix is so important to a record's appeal, and for it to work as well as it does here, you almost wish for it to stay in the vein more frequently, rather than returning to relatively cleaner tones during the pure punk sections.
I like this. I like this a fair bit actually. The low quality production is something that is very reminiscent of some of my favourite hardcore punk albums by Black Flag, Rites of Spring or even Hüsker Dü. But I am also aware of what hardcore punk is capable of in the 2010s and beyond, and Daughters have proven that you can have clean production and yet make it sound so alien. Uniform are close to that, and should not bow their heads with this project.
Until just recently, I never really had the appeal for industrial metal. I thought it was an overrated mainstream metal genre like alt-metal, with the invasion of bands like Ministry and Rammstein. Now I can see where its heavier background lies, when I was pulled into listening to Strapping Young Lad during my run through Devin Townsend's discography. This band has started my quest to dig into industrial metal's heavier background for bands like Fear Factory and the genre's true pioneers, Godflesh!
But for now, I'm gonna review the Strapping Young Lad albums, starting with this one Alien (the rest would be after I finished reviewing the Devin Townsend albums). Alien is the follow-up to their self-titled comeback album and, unlike other bands' fourth albums, is of higher quality instead of lower. Their extreme industrial metal is punishing!
Kicking off the CD with a bang is the fantastic crushing intro "Imperial". The song features the humans within this machine; drummer Gene Hoglan, guitarist Jed Simon, bassist Byron Stroud, and Devin Townsend who also plays guitars while screaming with a bit of clean vocals. Great start! Following this is the brutal "Skesis" where you can hear Gene's amazing drumming that might've inspired the more metal side of Protest the Hero. The drumming is filled with punishment, no remorse. Finally, the vocals kick in that are amazing as always, along with fast riffs and neat keyboards all over. The song that many people have heard the most is surprisingly the one with swearing in the title and the lyrics, "S***storm". Devin Townsend sounds absolutely p*ssed and determined to stab your eardrums (already done by the music in a way I like). The entirely shouted vocals threaten you with crazy lyrics. The song is fast with good riffs and fantastic keyboards. The choirs diversify this amazing song. Can this album get better?! Yes, with "Love?" This is an absolutely emotional composition of punishing heaviness. Devy's great vocals range from screaming to clean. The guitar, bass, and keyboards are amazing with fantastic lyrics. The best song of this album! Though I'm sure there's at least one or two song by the band that's better...
"Shine" is another song that prevent the quality from going down, crushing you into Hell with riff heaviness and drum insanity. The song keeps you busy and in attention with Devin's maniacal screaming. Once again, the choir in the second half keeps the interesting level high. There's more relentless chaos to come... "We Ride" is a fast riff ride, driving through the well-written lyrics in high gear. Something that makes this song unique for Strapping Young Lad is the amount of soloing, well-performed for listeners' ears. "Possessions" is another major highlight for this album. The lyrics might be corny for other bands, but they fit well with the band's great riffing and crushing drumming. What's fantastic is the choir being more prominently used. The choir isn't underused or overused but just right.
"Two Weeks" is where the album starts... SLOWING DOWN?!? YES!!! BUT FOR ALARM?! NO!! It's Pink Floyd-like well-written slowness! Still there isn't a break in atmosphere, adding to the album's greatness in mellow relaxing form with emotion. The only people who can't deal with this song are either strictly heavy metalheads or anyone wanting to hear the song go 200bpm like All That Remains in their song "Two Weeks" or DragonForce. "Thalamus" returns to the heaviness, and while it sometimes drones on, it's still good. Its diverse effect keeps the album interesting. The last track in real song form is "Zen", bringing back the speed that was missing in the previous two tracks. The great riffing and drumming is impossible to forget. The absolute final track "Info Dump" is a controversial track worth liking or hating. It's a 12-minute ambient track, but it doesn't affect the perfection at all. If you're patient enough to stick around, you would find that there's more than just feedback, instead being a feedback experiment. It's so cool yet scary! It sounds like the feedback has its own beat. Then the feedback stops then comes back differently, getting louder and more distorted. This is SYL's "Elastic"!!
First Strapping Young Lad (and Sphere) album I've reviewed and already I think this is the best of their tenure! It has heavy anger and emotional power. Alien is probably my new best of 2005. No matter the craziness, you must hear this!
Favorites: "Skesis", "Love?", "Shine", "Possessions", "Zen"
Epicloud has confirmed the extension of the otherwise 4-part Devin Townsend Project, being the project's 5th release and his 15th overall solo release. However, I think this is the second part of the true heavy Project (after Destruction, before Z² and Transcendence). It's amazing that during his long prolific career, Devin has never slowed down or lost quality in his heavy albums. In Epicloud, Devin continues his diverse songwriting by adding a bit of everything from his previous Project albums; the rock'n'roll of Ki, the pop-ish style of Addicted, the grand heavy chaos of Deconstruction, and the new-age of Ghost. Another different idea was adding a gospel choir that's never out of place.
However, this album might not exactly be your cup of tea of coffee or whichever hot drink you like. This is basically an experiment that broadens horizons much further than before, and apparently it has worked really well. Restoring the Addicted lineup, this album has Devin on guitar and vocals, female vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen, drummer Ryan Van Poederooyen, bassist Brian Waddell, and Dave Young on guitars and keyboards. The band has performed the music greatly, including Anneke's sweet vocals.
"Effervescent!" is the 44-second choir-sung intro. Then, "True North" starts the music in spectacular grandeur. "Lucky Animals" is a straight-up mix of pop and metal, that's can't be taken seriously but worth a fun listen. "Liberation" twists the conventional rock/pop structure. "Where We Belong" is a slow ballad ending in a huge climax.
Another good usage of heavier sections is evident in "Save Our Now" that's actually based on a Pendulum song structure. That song is a mid-tempo jam with vocals by Devin and Anneke, the latter sounding clearer than the former, along with a gentle riff building into a soulful chorus. "Kingdom", originally from Physicist, has been made into an epic re-recording for this album! However, instead of transitioning to a fast death song, what follows is a slow love song, "Divine" with nothing but Devin's vocals, ambient guitar, and minimalistic expression. "Grace" starts in a similar fashion, this time with Anneke's vocals, like a reply message from the girlfriend. Then suddenly, a heavy rhythm and electric riff comes in, and vocals from Devin, Anneke, and the choir all layer over one another. After revisiting the opening passage, the song ends in a grand climax.
"More!" is a heavy rocker that would make you want more! "Lessons" is a short instrumental reminiscent of Devin's earlier solo and Band material. "Hold On" is another slow ballad ending in a huge climax. "Angel" repeats the "Effervescent!" verse at the end as a reprise, but I don't think they should've done that. Oh well...
Devin Townsend continues cooking up his songwriting skills including winning dishes. If any you feel skeptical about Devin Townsend's poppier side based on one single, I would suggest give Epicloud a chance to find out that the album isn't that bad. However, timing is everything, people! This album can be used in less demanding actions like working out, driving, or just kicking back. But a close listen is a more rewarding experience with all you really need to digest. This is a nice balanced album with elements of all 4 previous Devin Townsend Project albums mixed together in a way of certainty. He sure knows what he's doing. Neither longtime fans nor newcomers would ever get disappointed. His Strapping Young Lad material may be gone, and his heaviness is miles away, but Epicloud is indeed and epic and loud!
Favorites: "True North", "Where We Belong", "Kingdom", "Grace", "More!", "Hold On"
Even at the worst of times, there's no way to deny how prolific and inspired Devin Townsend is. Before the Devin Townsend Project, he was in a few other side projects, and before the release of this album Ghost and its epic extreme counterpart Destruction, he had already made a dozen albums (not including the Strapping Young Lad albums), some with odd incomprehensible concepts that are still enjoyable and have their own destination, though not entirely agreeable. He has tackled more genres that any other songwriter, far beyond SYL, and that's not easy for anyone else to do. It's all about the energy of songwriter/musician producer Devin Townsend!
Ghost is one of his most unique projects, yet this album unique in a somewhat bad way, being much different than most other albums. The heavy dynamic people have known about Devin has been replaced with something light and clean. It's not totally a problem, I don't mind a little bit of atmosphere, but I prefer the heavier elements. Ambience is good when mixing it with the heavier stuff, but being ambient in its entirety is just off-kilter. This new age-inspired music can be used for meditation and yoga, yet can get a bit annoyingly boring if listened to freely. Of course, this is different from the ambient soundscape albums Devlab and The Hummer. Think Kenny G and Enya influences mixed with the older folk rock of Nick Drake, the post-rock of Explosions in the Sky, and pieces of (dare I say it?) dream pop.
While I'm not a total fan of this new-age album, some songs work here like the ethereal "Fly". The 11-minute "Feather" is more drawn-out but doesn't fall from grace. Devin's resonant performance are in an ethereal floating mix with the female vocals. The wind instruments and acoustics sound more exotic and soulful. The stellar clear production never gets exaggerated and is more touching than any other work. The atmospheric title track is shorter but too long for a pop-ish song. "Blackberry" has country-style banjo.
Despite only a few songs being good, and the rest being lull and dull, Ghost is no big deal to complain too much about. I just prefer excess punctuated by energy. Though those 4 songs share fair moments, only certain listeners and settings would see the appeal. It's surprising how Devin's fanbase stays the same in every different album, yet they don't mix well with mainstream success. However, almost a decade and a half after Ocean Machine that has his poppy moments, Devin has maintained those elements while staying sober and bipolar, and his creativity rolls on....
Favorites (only songs that I at least slightly like): "Fly", "Feather", "Ghost", "Blackberry"
You ever think years from now, in the later part of this century, people are gonna look back at albums dating back to the 2000s and 2010s and realize how much outlandish yet great appeal would carry over to their future children? This album Deconstruction is an experimental evolution of an album to remember!
We could finally see again what an extremely talented musician Townsend is. The production is inspiring and the music is ridiculously awesome! The experimental writing stays steady and catchy. The hooks are far more unique than the ones in Addicted or any other album in the world for that matter. An array of vocalists (as many as in Ayreon's albums) help sing the satirical yet meaningful lyrics for a bombastic nature taking this wonderful offering to where no other album has gone before...
Picking up right where Addicted left off to start this one, "Praise the Lowered" begins as an atmospheric electronic song that gets heavier as it goes on. Sung by Paul Kuhr (Novembers Doom), this tune is thought-provoking and beautiful before evolving into maniacal heaviness. Then it transitions into "Stand", a heavier almost 10-minute epic! There's way more than just a few riffs, and so many influences in one song. The choirs are interesting, and Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) does some killer background growls (his absolute last before Opeth went prog-rock). The last 2 minutes are not to be missed, bringing back a bit of Ocean Machine before a heavy ending.
Next track "Juular" (I assume a misspelling of "Jugular") brings back to mind the whimsicalness of Infinity and Addicted. The chorus has a bit of chaotic black metal with vocals by Ihsahn (Emperor). Then it heads to "Planet of the Apes", one of the best of the album! There's a bit of jazziness before having some anthem-rhythm, along with amazing vocals by Tommy Giles Rogers (Between the Buried and Me) (both cleans and growls). Sometime after the 3 and a half minute mark, there's a catchy yet extreme Meshuggah-like part. Then over the 5 and a half minute mark begins a section hearkening classic lighter Townsend with humorous lyrics mentioned that thing that turned "bone" in a verb. Then Tommy does some more of his wicked growling in awesome heaviness surrounding the "Jesus/Jihad" part. After the 7 and a half minute mark is some infectious speedy prog metal. Finally, it ends with a sick guitar solo over electronic experimentation. Then "Sumeria" bursts into symphonic melodic black/death similar to Septicflesh, but the vocals are barbaric choirs by Joe Duplantier of Gojira that make that part sound like his band. The rest of the song is the usual extreme progressive metal with Duplantier's growls. However, the catchy chorus sounds closer to bubblegum pop, especially the end with melodic singing by Paul Masvidal (Cynic).
"The Mighty Masturbator" has a strange title, but it so long and so epic that it needs its own paragraph to describe it all in detail. Many of the influences and lyrics used by Townsend since the very beginning, and he really shows off his vocals here. After a calm intro, the song goes off in different directions and styles. So many of them in fact that it's hard to describe them all. I'm just gonna say it's a unique mix of orchestral electro-industrial progressive metal, or in other words, Ziltoidian metal. Man, this guy's so d*mn creative! The screams of Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan) later come in, and even though that is exciting, they're actually just OK. The song has an epic buildup towards the end then fades into a Ziltoid-hosted carnival with some funny lyrical sh*t.
"Pandemic" is a stomping song that reminds me of the pandemic we're all currently stuck in. I like the operatic vocals by Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever, Nightwish), but they barely work here. Near the beginning is like an ultra-heavy twist on Ki. The catchy chorus has some discordance. The title track has a hilarious intro, filled with commentary complete with farts, and it made me hungry for a cheeseburger. The rest of the song is absolute insanity, far beyond what Strapping Young Lad could've done. Appearing in this song is Oderus Urungus (Gwar) (who died of a heroin overdose 3 years later, RIP) and not-so-serious guitar soloing by Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah) to keep up the humorous treats served with a main course of a cheeseburger, a side-order of mispronounced happiness, and a drink consisting of a jar of farts. The last two minutes are about what Devin Townsend is about with his tear-jerking vocals to prove his inspiring diverse vocal talent. "Poltergeist", the only solo-sung Devin Townsend song here, starts cool and tough like Strapping Young Lad with a crippling ending to this masterpiece album. Unless you include the bonus track "Ho Krll" that can be the story's true ending.
if you want your soul to disappear up your a** into a dimension that would twist you more than the Gordian Knot 5 billion lightyears away, Deconstruction would be that kind of album. I have nothing else to say about it except.... Next-gen extreme Ayreon!!
Favorites: "Stand", "Planet of the Apes", "Sumeria", "The Mighty Masturbator", "Pandemic"
Devin Townsend really knows how to not play by the conventional music rules. His music knowledge and capabilities make him more unique and boundary-breaking than most other musicians. Having returned from his recording break and already ended Strapping Young Lad, the Canadian maestro came back with Ki, the first album of a new "Project" that was originally conceived as just 4 albums. He shaved off his "skullet", went sober, and recorded soft ambient prog while keeping his desire to break restrictions.
This album is kinda difficult and pointless for a heavier metalhead like me to listen. However, what's interesting the selection of non-heavy musicians Devin hired for this album. Duris Maxwell, the then-62-years-old drummer of classic artists and bands like Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane, performed excellent smooth drumming. Bassist Jean Savoie injected background melody to help emphasize Devin's guitar chords and riffs. And keyboardist Dave Young, who had been part of Devin's bands, gives the album more intriguing atmosphere. Sadly, this doesn't help this metal-less record and kinda slips down in a slope.
The only part of the album I really like are the middle 4, starting with "Heaven's End". The delightful vocals of Che Dorval give the song a Lacuna Coil vibe vocally, especially when together with the rougher vocal side of Devin. He lets go of some of the h*ll he had been through during hiatus. "Ain't Never Gonna Win" has a free jazz groove. That kind of style is more dominant in "Winter", but it's Devin's beautiful guitar playing that shines for bright ambience. His bluesy acoustic soloing is performed in professional grace. "Trainfire" is much different than anything Devin has ever done, sounding more like Elvis in both the instrumentation and the vocals. It's like he's trying to prove that Elvis is still alive (sadly not true). It's good to try to bring back the king!
Despite those 4 positive songs and an interesting band lineup, the quality and lack of metal ultimately mark the album an unfortunate experience. The only people who might love it are ambient/pop/rock listeners and long-time Devin fans who wanna continue hearing unique music from that great genius. However, metalheads and new fans at the time won't find any speed or anything rule-breaking. Not a lot of touring or music videos were around to support the album. Honestly, I think the real metal part of this project is 4 albums, but it's all albums except Ki, Addicted, and Ghost. You can dig up a few good-quality songs from Ki, but you won't find anything classic to blow your mind....
Favorites (only songs I like): "Heaven's End", "Ain't Never Gonna Win", "Winter", "Trainfire"
In just one year, one of my new favorite musicians Devin Townsend released two albums that marked the beginning of the Devin Townsend Project. However, while they both were somewhat pleasant, they alienated his fanbase. Of course I have nothing against Ki, and definitely nothing against this album, Addicted. Well sure, this second album of the project his more familiar trademark sound dating back to Ocean Machine and the more melodic side of Strapping Young Lad, but he has added a twist...
This album can be described more as alt-dance-metal as opposed to the usual progressive metal. There's heavier emphasis on catchy hooks, melodies, and dance elements that is kind of the album's double-edge sword. Surprisingly, the album works well played as a whole, and can be fun to listen to. It's a soundtrack to a party as fun as Attila!
However, many of the songs don't seem that appealing to me, but the ones that do include the powerful crushing "Supercrush!" That one introduces ex-The Gathering singer Anneke van Giersbergen into Devin's material, well complimenting Devin's melody-craft with her soft beauty and otherwise putrid pop choruses. Her rendition of "Hyperdrive!" (originally from the Ziltoid album) is absolutely stunning. So is the chorus of "Numbered!" She doesn't appear in the epic "Awake!!", but that's still a great song all the same.
Another album done in his "Project", Devin Townsend has shown his genuine music knowledge, though only a few songs here are super great. After the intelligent yet dull ambience of Ki and the tunes of Addicted that mix alt-metal with dance-pop, the next album would be the real heavy start of his project, one that your ears will never forget....
Favorites (only songs I like): "Supercrush!", "Hyperdrive!", "Numbered!", "Awake!!"
Devlab was very strange with its ambient noise sound. That album was metaphorical journey of sounds disconnected from all music. With an album like that, it might not be possible to create another journey even after that mixed reaction, right? Logically, this album, The Hummer learns from some mistakes but it has still caused a bit of trouble. Oh the ambient strangeness! Where do I begin?
The actual soundscape has been found to be less metaphorical and more transcendent. You can just sit down and listen to something that was detached from your life and not attached until now, but it's a whole other different level that you just aren't used to.
Trying my best to review as much as I can from this album, the title track is a rough start, yet hinting at some of the deeper aspects. "Arc" is a 23-minute track of otherworldly ambience that is surprisingly not as boring as most of the other tracks. The deep "Consciousness Causes Collapse" does its job of permeating a dark message via soft flute in the intro, but it doesn't help peak my interest any higher. "Equation" is the shortest of this album and the only other song I can stand. It makes me think of the heavenly spheres of space in universal grandeur, yet pulling me back into the reality that's unmatched from my imagination.
I'm just gonna end the track analysis there, but I'll still say my conclusion. The Hummer is another strange ambient trip of mental substance. It is an album where almost the entirety of it is dissociated from the music. The Hummer is a perceptual challenge to the music industry that can be weaved into different ideas for the true nature and point of this record. Yet I still don't understand. I can live without it and find the beauty of actual music. That's still quite a leap for both the artist and the listener to make....
Favorites (only songs that I at least slightly like): "Arc", "Equation"
3 years is quite a long time gap between a band's first two albums. After the first Devin Townsend Band album Accelerated Evolution was released in 2003, he toured through that year in support that album and the third Strapping Young Lad album. Not want to stagnate his recording activity, he released the bizarre ambient/drone album Devlab in 2004, the monstrous Strapping Young Lad album Alien in 2005, and that band's final album The New Black in 2006. But before the latter is one more album under the name The Devin Townsend Band, the masterpiece Synchestra!
I've forgiven him for that Devlab album after those two Strapping Young Lad albums, and the perfection continues with Synchestra, which I f***ing love. It's the best album of The Devin Townsend Band and continues the strong balance between his solo material and the vicious industrial metal of Strapping Young Lad. Those albums mentioned above can't overthrow this album's brilliant reign. And if Devin can do relentless swearing in most of his albums, I can in this review too! (censored of course)
The 3 opening songs flow perfectly as a suite, starting with the two intros, "Let It Roll" and "Hypergeek". These two songs are short but they hint at every trick in the book Devin would later throw to us, and they're so g****mn overwhelmingly strong in both the light and heavy instrumentation. Unbelievable!! The triumphant "Triumph" ("ONE WORD, COLLECTIVE! MANKIND, CONNECTED!!) has a brief backyard country midsection that works beyond. Don't even claim otherwise! "Babysong" is another winner that works through sing-along melodies like a power ballad lullaby. Its midsection is also interesting when the song starts swinging furious rhythm. The light interlude "Vampolka" consists of a melodic polka tune with guitar, organ, and f***ing jaunty tuba. That's quite a leadup to "Vampira", the 6th song of the album that has nearly as much darkness as Moonspell's darker material, but carried through Devin's signature heavy side of metal rage, aggressive riffing, muscular drumming, and f***ing intense howling.
The much lighter "Mental Tan" is a good intermission before the rest of the album. It's not really that tiring, that interlude actually gives a sense fluidity and movement in unified nature before the next song. A great unity fitting with Devin's lyrical themes of becoming one! The more deliberate and thoughtfully paced second half of the album begins with the slightly dull third suite, starting with the two-track 14-minute slightly draggy segment of "Gaia" and "Pixillate". Filling up the place is the melodic effect usage of "Gaia" sounding closer to new wave. "Pixillate" starts with an intro that might remind some of early Sleep in the tonal sense instead of compositional. The synthesizer sounds more similar to a kazoo that has been pitched down that keeps going until kicking in the chorus again. This tune stretches out the nature and stomping pace into almost a dirge. The rest of the album's nature would have a more jubilant contrast, and if you're wondering how I sequenced the album, please wait! We got a few songs left. "Judgement" nearly picks up where the previous track left off, continuing the mournful dirge tone. Starting the second half of the song is great snare-kick marching with deep melody from the bass and piano. Then further near the end, the guitar chimes over ride cymbal whacks. A strong breathtaking moment!
"A Simple Lullaby" works as another intermission but this time as a full long heavy song in which the sequence is all over the place. The baby needs to start having his good sleep even when it's just "Sunset", which is a pleasant interlude before the grand finale... "Notes from Africa" is another change of pace to close the main album with bass chunks in the front. The song has primary modal fashion especially, where the guitar keeps trying to escape that high note but gets dragged back there. The chorus has crazier chord changes, while the song keeps its effective loop to that central note. The song also has a bit of synth tone ready to be followed into radio territory. Then the song ends with sounds of flowing water and animals in Africa where you become one with over-ground nature. Hidden track "Sunshine and Happiness" shuffles through upbeat blues with piano and riffing inspired by the classic hard rock of AC/DC. It's h*lla cheesy, but it works as tour through rock and roll's 60 years before this album that, instead of confusing you in irony, leaves you grinning in f***ing glee.
OK, so here's the sequence of suites for all songs in this album: Suite A - Introduction (tracks 1-3), Suite B - Refinement (track 4-6), Intermission A - Tension ("Mental Tan"), Suite C - Reflection (tracks 8-10), Intermission B - Reaffirmation ("A Simple Lullaby"), Suite D - Valediction (tracks 12-14). An honestly triumphant masterpiece of greatness!
Favorites: "Triumph", "Babysong", "Vampira", "Pixillate", "Judgement", "Notes from Africa", "Sunshine and Happiness"
In the midst of Devin Townsend's journey so far, what came to his mind was the idea of making an album radically different from his other albums. He felt like unleashing his inner madness in a new peculiar way. A strange idea like this may be constructed to try an experiment and find out the caused reaction. Some might like it, others might hate it. And me? Devlab is what I think is a strange challenging delay to the ideal sound that we're used to, and I don't really like the album so much, but I still have my trust.
Now I understand Devin's idea to make his noisescape, but I didn't think it would be literal and non-metal, unlike his unknown first project Noisescapes. One small step into Devlab, and you'll understand its strangeness. It's all just sound, and it would be difficult to review songs that are just...sound. So we'll go with the best songs I could review...
There's the first track, an intro of pure madness. It's just too weird for me to describe. Just hear it for yourself if you really want! Then there's the techno-ish track #8, which isn't too bad but hard to construct its ideal imagery. The one track that I can tolerate is the ambient 10-minute track 9. It's so pleasant yet still meaningless! What is the meaning?? While this song has one of two points of creating Devlab, which is the ambience, it seems to be missing the other goal, meaning. This ideal meaning does exist, but it's hard for us to find to prove its existence. I guess there is a meaning behind all this, right? Right??? Something worth mental thinking...
I'm sorry but I can't go any further in this review. This album is so weird and strange. It's barely even good. Devlab is quite a daring dive for Devin Townsend to take into ambient territory, with results that might seem good or just isn't. It's a hard struggle to overcome. However, it's quite poetic behind the discomfort. Would I recommend this? Sure, but only for ambient listeners who wanna get lost in the abnormal void. Despite this work's strangeness, it does lead a path to finding meanings of music and life....
Favorites (only songs that I at least slightly like): "Track 1", "Track 8", "Track 9"
2002 marked the return of Strapping Young Lad after their 4-year hiatus, but Devin Townsend wanted more than just that band's heaviness. He wanted to start his own band that would connect the line between that band and his progressive solo material. My like for his music all started with that indirect recommendation for me to listen to Terria. Though that wasn't my first time listening to an album from Devy (first being that Ziltoid album), it was love at first listen! That album filled me with joy, and I decided to get the rest of his historical discography. I'm stunned that I've only started listening to Devy's music this month instead of like 6 years ago, but hey, better late than never!
Just like Terria, which was the album before this, the first album as "The Devin Townsend Band", Accelerated Evolution is all about compact depth and amazing atmosphere. Progressive metal newcomers might have to listen to this 10 times to catch up. Sure there are influences from arena rock and pop, but while there are lighter moments, this CD is top-notch progressive metal from Devin Townsend, the extraordinary genius that can do almost no wrong.
The terrific opening track "Depth Charge" starts soft for a few seconds then ascends into heaviness speeding from afar to exploding right near you. The vocals and lyrics are phenomenal that promise an amazing album like this one already is, blending in with the instrumentation. This is as heavy and intense as Strapping Young Lad, binding both sides of his material. "Storm" is actually calmer after that storming opening track. Here you would find lighter moments while still having amazing layered depth, along with emotional vocal cries. "Random Analysis" shines with the mighty genius mind of Devin Townsend right from the start. The progressiveness is crazy smart that would take you on a trip through complex daze. The lyrics can be read casually, yet their meaning is filled with deep insanity.
"Deadhead" is named after that Godflesh song, but Devin's song is more awesome! You can just loop the introduction like in an interrogation and still think it's worth the cost. The depressive lyrics fit well with the impressive music. "Suicide" is catchy yet cold and dark, full of emotional depression. It could be dangerous to listen to this song with no preparation, but you're already deep into this album so you can't turn back. Once we reach the song's outro, everything calms down and segues into the next song that sees less insanity and more genius. "Traveller" is catchy in a lighter upbeat good-vibes way. Near the end, Devy sounds like he's about to cry, and so was I in that emotional part.
"Away" is another long song, but almost completely instrumental. It's so beautiful even with barely any vocals. One of the best! "Sunday Afternoon" is not bad at all, but it sounds like something's a miss. I mean, it is a good song but not as brilliant as other tracks. Probably because it sounds like a heavy sequel to Maroon 5's "Sunday Morning". Finally, "Slow Me Down" closes the album with beautiful romance. The guitar stands out far more than the barely audible bass. That song is light in a very charming way.
Accelerated Evolution is recommendation for any fan of music in general. The album is so original and smart. With that, we shall once again hail Devin Townsend as one of the smarted, most talented musicians of all time!
Favorites: "Depth Charge", "Random Analysis", "Deadhead", "Away", "Slow Me Down"
This is no lie; Physicist is Devin Townsend's "black sheep" album. It's too Strapping Young Lad-like for fans of his solo material and vice-versa. Physicist is pretty much stuck in the middle, trying to sound like both bands at the same time. D*mn sad, man!! They should've listened closely to what a fantastic album this is!
The most notable thing about this album is its intense speed. Gone is the half-mellow half-epic prog-metal of Ocean Machine and Infinity, and its place is short fast catchy pieces of incredible intensity. If people think Devin's goal of uniting the heaviness of Strapping Young Lad with the poppy prog of his solo material was his worst idea, let me tell you, it's one of his best! His smashing goal of unity has been successfully achieved!!
The crushing opening track "Namaste" immediately sets the stage for the drilling bass and drums, the latter by the fantastic Gene Hoglan, along with vocals that range from screaming to emotional, similar to Strapping Young Lad, and surprisingly catchy synth layers. What a great opener for this album! Continuing that trend is "Victim", opening with a great beat and awesome synths. After speeding through the verses comes a great chorus ("I'm ready to go!"). "Material" is a true standout for this album with strong verses and another one of Devin's best choruses ("These are the days, let them roll!"), before ending with fantastic multitracked vocals similar to Queen. Some of the most fun metal I've heard! "Kingdom" is longer than most other songs, with better verses than the chorus, along with fabulous drum kicks and great vocal lines.
This album would've been perfect if not for two letdowns in the middle, starting with "Death", which itself is basically crazy industrial deathgrind. I prefer hearing that song in a Strapping Young Lad album, maybe a separate SYL single, thank you very much! "Devoid" is slightly better but still out of place. It's way too short for a song that epic with lyric-less vocals. Those two ultra-heavy songs should've been put in the beginning, similar to Gaza's I Don't Care Where I Go When I Die, instead of the f***ing middle like Ocean Machine! Putting them in the middle just breaks up the flow and takes down the quality of this otherwise perfect record.
"The Complex" is indeed complex, a more varied song than the rest of the album. A fantastic track with another awesome chorus! "Irish Maiden" is so strange and catchy, the opening riffs really standing out, reminding some a bit of Iron Maiden, the band the song title has parodied. Those drums and bass in that part stick out as well. "Jupiter" isn't as great as the previous two tracks, but the melodies and lyrics are still awesome. Though not as awesome as this final incredible standout...
"Planet Rain" is absolutely one of the best ever songs by Devin Townsend. Breaking out of the pop-ish sound of Infinity and the fastness of Physicist, this song returns to the emotional power of Ocean Machine in this long incredible epic. The riffs and drums are great, but the vocals are some of the best Devin has done. This song should've been put into a separate album/EP! The awesome vocals are more relaxed while having intense background screams in the fantastic chorus. Soon it reaches the emotional climax of both this song and the album, where Devin yells with raging passion over a guitar-drum storm. Then it's back to the opening riff again until it fades into sounds of rain and Devin's softly singing the last lines. Why am I still describing this piece of metal gold?! You have to hear it for yourself! Probably my third-favorite song by Devin Townsend (behind "Earth Day" and "The Death of Music")!!! The hidden track "Forgotten" is a bizarre remake of the Infinity's "Bad Devil" that also shouldn't have been part of this album.
Physicist has accomplished Devin's mission for fast heavy power outside of Strapping Young Lad. I like it in the same level as Infinity, but not as much as my two favorites in the solo era, Ocean Machine and Terria. I recommend this album for the more hardcore/heavy Devin fans. Get this album then get blown away by the planet-shaking chaos!
Favorites: "Namaste", "Material", "Kingdom", "The Complex", "Planet Rain"
Before 1998, Devin Townsend helped out the legendary guitarist Steve Vai with an album supply of vocals, created two albums with Strapping Young Lad, followed by two more albums, each from a one-time project... But could he make his own solo album? Yes he could!
Following the remarkable Ocean Machine album, Infinity is the first solo album released under his real name from this epic progressive metal genius. While his other band. Strapping Young Lad (who just entered hiatus at the time) is basically intense prog-tinged industrial metal aggression, his solo music has more texture and variation. If you're expecting swift pounding, you can get some from the monstrously talented fellow Strapping Young Lad drummer Gene Hoglan, which is one boost from Ocean Machine.
Kicking off the album is "Truth", an epic instrumental overture with building tension until the end when a synth-string tone jumps over a cymbal, which might have people think of Yanni gone f***ing a**. Then the first real song "Christeen" begins, keeping up the "classical-poppy second track" trademark from Ocean Machine. The chorus sounds a little cheesy where the only other repeated lyric is "That's all I ask of you", a little too much like that Phantom of the Opera song. Fortunately, the nice intense bridge is a good lead-in to the final chorus. "Bad Devil" is a f***ing amazing pickup from the previous track with punchy riffing, unlike the diffused tone of other songs, plus some wicked horror synths like in one of those Scooby-Doo chase scenes. The shuffling swing rhythm, jazz bass, and rockabilly trombone in the bridge make the song a killer highlight.
Falling back into the straight camp is "War", with its overlong intro. However, that song has a stomping groove. Same with "Soul-Driven Cadillac", which has solid modal suspension and has foreshadowed the more experimental rest of the album. "Ants" is a short song that can whack your b*lls out with wacky experimentation sounding like Dream Theater gone middle-eastern folk. "Wild Colonial Boy" continues balancing straight-on metal with distinct non-metal experiment. There's a catchy polka section with rising vocal melodies, a great soundtrack for walking on a high tightrope in a circus of melodic drama. That kind of feature is a winner!
Then we have the final two tracks (not including the bonus track), starting with "Life is All Dynamics", one of the best songs in the album with Devin's intense vocal dynamics. You would want to put this song on in full blast and holler along to the song (LIFE! IS!! ALL!!! DYNAMICS!!!!) while stomping like a d*mn dinosaur all over your mother's plant garden (if you get grounded, it's your own fault). Then it transitions to the original closer "Unity" builds classic tension as a soft classy ending. You've had enough prancing around like a Hevisaurus and needed to chill with rich mellow tones, all in closing triumph. After one minute of silence is "Noisy Pink Bubbles", which might be a tribute to the similar-named comedic album by Helloween. On one section, there's childish chorus vocals sounding too much like that musical Annie, and on another, there's clean guitar. The Inside Out reissue has 3 bonus tracks; 2 acoustic versions of songs from the Ocean Machine album, and a demo that might've been recorded in that album's sessions.
Compared to Ocean Machine, Infinity has a broader sound range, but a shorter running time that's missing the three 10-minute epics the previous album had. I still prefer Ocean Machine, but Infinity edges out Devin Townsend's journey from trivial oblivion closer to becoming one of the most outstanding creative musicians in all of metal!
Favorites: "Truth", "Bad Devil", "Soul-Driven Cadillac", "Wild Colonial Boy", "Life is All Dynamics"
"Oh earth, what changes hast thou seen?" You'll find out when you listen to this album that has put an eternal change to music at the time of its release, but Devin Townsend didn't initially win as much commercial fame as in his previous album's story of Punky Bruster transforming from the deathly Cryptic Coroner (which kinda stirs up my own conspiracy theory of tech-thrashers Coroner's 1996 breakup). Both his solo music and Strapping Young Lad push further my metal taste expansion beyond belief!
Ocean Machine: Biotech is Devin Townsend's first solo album (not counting his Punky Bruster album), but it might be confusing for new fans of his music. The sound, melody, structure, and feel are much different than anything else, even other post-/progressive metal artists, except maybe The Ocean who might've been inspired by the album's theme being the ocean and the intensity and power being as deep as The Ocean, the theme descending darker like the music. This album should be handled with open-minded care. Listening to this is as deep and endless as the ocean. You have to absorb it all for the full joy of swimming in the seas of sound.
After that 20-second poem fragment, the album starts straight into the melodic rocking majesty of "Seventh Wave". Then "Life" is a wonderful song about life in this world with artistic expression that is important for the #1 album this is. Next up is "Night", an upbeat song with great vocals, good melodies, and one of the best catchy choruses. "Hide Nowhere" is slower, but it has surprising rhymes and another perfectly catchy chorus. The shorter "Sister" splashes sea waves by the seashore (I think I invented a new tongue-twister). That track portraits the ocean at 3PM. Then "3AM" shows the ocean at that exact time in a calm soothing interlude. In fact, both of those shorter tracks are calm and soothing, compared to what comes next...
I'm not saying "Voices in the Fan" is heavy. I mean it is back to the upbeat part of the album, but more relaxed than the first 4 songs. However, it signifies the darker, more epic part of the journey, which you can hear from the choirs at the end that are still wonderfully peaceful. They lead to the next track, "Greetings", beginning with a guitar soloing intro, showing Devin's brilliant music approach. A prologue to the long epic trilogy of the album, "Regulator" shows the ocean crashing with violent waves of heavy riffing and vocals close to screaming. Chaotic yet beautiful! Devin's unique "sing-screaming" is one of his best vocal styles, and his vocal performance shines there.
The long epic trilogy begins with "Funeral" with strange lyrics that regular Devin Townsend listeners have gotten used to. It starts calm but the soothing majesty slowly builds deeper. The liquid around you flows in beautiful calm majesty that's worth listening to. Then the song fades out into majestic waves of keyboards. For the next track, why is the most complex beautiful majestic epic the one with the title being a swear word!? Either way, "B****rd" shows the ocean at that same night, but this time a heavy hailstorm starts pouring down on you, and you could only count on the ocean to shelter you while in the darkness of hopeless despair. Once the storm reaches its heaviest peak, it stops and the icy hail in water dissolves. Then you literally feel the heavy waves crash down on you for the last few minutes of the song in majestic destructive beauty. You keep screaming for help but the waves keep hitting you. You end up drowning in the cruel ocean, and you and the music die.
"The Death of Music" is probably the most unbelievable progressive piece ever, probably of any music, a powerful brooding dark epic like no other! Your soul ends up in heaven, watching from the high clouds the ocean absorbing the body you left behind and sinks it down to where nobody on Earth could see it. It's mostly electronic with simple beats, dark keyboards, and atmospheric depth. The layers of sound build as Devin sings about "death becoming musical" in emotional despair. Soon you see the waves crashing again, this time causing the world to fall apart. After the climax fades out, there's one more track left, the epilogue, "Things Beyond Things", with beautiful melody and single-chord atmosphere to end this peaceful atmosphere. The very end snaps you back into reality with a horrific scream that would make some think "WT*!?!"
To answer that poetic question once more, Ocean Machine has changed a lot in music forever, and I wish I could've been there for its initial release that took the music world by storm. So what are you waiting for? Get this album and listen to this drowning simulation that would make you appreciate the genius named Devin Townsend!
Favorites: "Night", "Hide Nowhere", "Voices in the Fan", "Regulator", "B****rd", "The Death of Music"
Kentucky gets touted as the "breakthrough" release for Panopticon but I have to say it has taken me a good near decade to get to grips with it and its combination of folk, bluegrass and black metal elements. Without going into too much detail, if the album cover doesn't give it away, the subject matter for the album is the labour struggles in mining in (fittingly) Kentucky with a heavy focus on the film-documentary Harlan County, USA from which many samples are used to great effect.
It is a challenge to get the balance of samples right in record. They all too easily clash in my experience and can quite quickly become a distraction that detracts from the music itself. However, Panopticon give a masterclass in the application of the samples here, using the black metal elements to give them a real sense of drama and the bluegrass and folk elements to underline the real human aspect to the stories also. As such it is an album you feel compelled to listen to in its entirety in order to do both the record itself and the stories real justice.
The styles of music all have a relevant place here and all are firmly placed across the record with 3 tracks being folk covers and 3 being predominantly black metal (Black Waters sits as some ambient track towards the end - again adding depth; some reflection as the album draws to a close). This combination of genres works well overall on the album as a whole but on individual tracks the transitions don't always feel they are executed cleanly and whilst never sounding clunky as such they do keep the record off full marks on the rating.
For such a passionate subject matter there's a feeling that the storytelling is done sensibly and the album feels that more sincere and authentic to the cause as a result. It's sparked an interest in me to go and watch the documentary and learn more which is what good music should do I suppose. My initial reservation some ten years ago upon first hearing this seems nonsensical now and is evident of my lack of musical maturity at the time because overall this works and is one of the few albums in recent years i have truly connected with.
Serpent Column have been experimenting in the last five years with what is possible within the realms of black metal by bringing in the relentless, unconventional nature of mathcore for a hybrid that I am not sure why more bands haven't done it yet. The percussion element is absolutely absurd, complimented by heavy tremolo picking guitars and punishing screeches from the vocals.
And here is the thing: I can see this working in some circles. Most of the early reviews for this record praise it for its unfiltered aggressiveness as well as the moshing mentality, a trait that fans of early Converge records will enjoy, even with its black metal personality. The songs are short and to the point, which for a record such as this is a very good thing. And at some moments, such as both parts of "Wars Waged in Private" as well as the following tune "Antihelical", they actually have some decent (if a little underplayed) tunes to follow.
But let's be real here, I was never going to be apart of this album's primary audience. Something about pure moshing music has never sat well with me because it gives me no reason to return to it unless I am in a mosh pit! And since concerts are on hiatus at the moment, I cannot see much of a lasting impact from this EP, or Serpent Column in general, in the not so distant future. But mosh music has its audience and for what it's worth, it is good moshing music. So have fun everyone!
Having never really cared for Katatonia, I was a little nervous about giving one of their records the fullest of my attention. This is a band that has modulated their sound considerably since the humble beginnings as a death doom metal band, spanning alternative metal, gothic metal, and even progressive metal in later years. It makes checking out a bands discography a daunting task. And if you never grew up with this group, these pivots may not resonate in the same way as they did around the albums initial release window.
Anyways, The Great Cold Distance is perhaps the culmination of the bands first major pivot from death doom metal to more accessible alternative doom. And for what it is worth, I do not think that The Great Cold Distance is a bad album. Certainly if we are comparing this to albums with similar timbres, Katatonia are far more advanced, but I feel like much of the drama is diminished.
Now the comparisons that I am making are to the specific brand of post-grunge revival that came out of the mid 2000s that included groups like Breaking Benjamin, Seether & Shinedown. Breaking Benjamin were always the closest comparison, but Katatonia's compositions and song structures are far more developed than anything from the groups mentioned previously. The typical slower tempos that are reminiscent of Swallow the Sun and (more likely) Trees of Eternity that are complimented with slow double bass percussion and complimentary guitar riffage present a more energetic side of doom metal that is commendable, especially when the vocalist follows suit. Otherwise the mismatch in timbre is unsettling, which may be part of the point.
In addition, the compositions of individual songs is very good. The modulation of ideas through time signature and rhythmic changes is pulled off with proficiency. Whether that be "Consternation" or "The Itch", they do sound quite wonderful together. But even on this record, these sounds were not going to last on their own. You can already start to hear elements of progressive/post-metal creep in during the albums closing moments; almost as if a teaser as to what the next era of Katatonia will bring. Very reminiscent of the post-metal sounds that Tool were experimenting with during the 2000s. And, once again, the mixing of these sounds is executed with precision and grandeur.
But let's talk about drama. Not so far back as Last Fair Deal Gone Down is the band allowed to let their songs resonate and reach the desired conclusion. This album feels rushed, as if some of its main ideas are not allowed to finish. And the album clocks in at a brisk fifty minutes so their would have been plenty of wiggle room to allow "Soil's Song", "The Itch" and especially the closer "Journey Through Pressure" to reach some finality. Instead, the album just....fades away; perhaps reminiscent of the band on their next great journey. If you believe that, then this album will serve you well. For me however, I see it as a cop out. Doom metal inherently implies some sense of completion, whereas this implies that this journey is just beginning. I can appreciate the diversion of expectations, but I have heard it done better.
As someone who never grew up with Katatonia, my opinions may be skewed, so take my conclusion on The Great Cold Distance with a grain of salt. For a time, Katatonia expanded the possibilities of what post-grunge could sound like and arguably did it better than any of their influences or contemporaries. But I have heard many of the sounds on display within this record done better in the years following, including from Katatonia themselves, which makes this an album that I respect, but do not love. The journey that Katatonia speaks of on this record is long and bitter, and that is okay. It's what you find at the end of your adventure that counts.
Of Feather and Bone's unrelenting approach to death metal first crossed my path with their sophomore full-length Bestial Hymns of Perversion back in 2018. Bestial by name and bestial by nature the album felt oppressive but lacked focus; like it was blasting for blasting's sake so to speak. With album number three the trio appear to have managed to better keep a lid on things. The album is still batshit crazy in places but there is also a measured pace to most tracks that allow expansion as well as much needed respite.
With riffs that mine the very ground around them and a percussion section that does a nice job of clearing any debris from their fallout, the band show versatility in being able to chug it out when necessary as opposed to relying on sheer face-shredding intensity to deliver their point. There's grindcore in here for good measure along with a definite blackened edge to proceedings to give the whole sound a swarming yet also at times cavernous delivery.
The vocals are of the sickened, guttural variety that just hint at a black metal style around the edges to mix things up in that department also. Like the album artwork there's a constant sense of activity, of endless depravity and unyielding horror. The lead work when deployed is chaotic and lightning quick, adding just enough sonic input to show these guys have heard their fair share of Morbid Angel records in their time.
It is a furious affair still, despite the obvious effort to pair it back a bit from the previous release but the sense of urgency simply compels you to listen on and learn more. Perhaps one more record away from truly achieving their ultimate balance, Of Feather and Bone are definitely on the right trajectory.
Power Metal was suspiciously absent during most of 2020, with almost no big or upcoming names dropping any sort of outstanding albums. Falconer and DGM had albums that thoroughly impressed me, but I'd consider their styles to be Power Metal adjacent instead of what you'd come to expect from the genre. So as the year wound down, I stumble upon a rather suggestive US Power Metal sophomore offering from Texas' Eternal Champion, a band that showed they are determined to keep 80's Power Metal alive and kicking. From the punchy, gallant galloping riffs to the uniquely controlled vocal performance, and not to forget the well-oiled abs of the cover art, their 2016 debut The Armor of Ire showed immense promise and gave classic Power Metal fans something to sink their teeth into since it was so traditional. While The Armor of Ire is a good album in its own right, 80's Power Metal worship isn't exactly my preferred kind of classic metal, so I was pleased to hear that Ravening Iron wasn't just a repeat of their debut, but a full on evolution of their sound into something that fits my tastes much, much better.
Much of that taste is centered around riffs, and Ravening Iron delivers more than anyone could ask for. A few tracks like "War at the Edge of the End" and "Worms of the Earth" reproduce some of the more classic, galloping triplets that were so prevalent in their previous album, but the rest of the album is just one killer riff after another. Eternal Champion lean into a fuller, louder, and more vigorous production style that really helps to drive home the amazing riff writing in this album. Gone are the faster paced gallops, replaced with chunky, mid-tempo chug riffs that have more extended melodies than the usual Power Metal fare. "A Face in the Glare" immediately gives the listener a taste of the kind of riff style you'll expect throughout the album alongside driving drums and a very warm and rich bass foundation. As I'm sure most metal fans know, there's some sort of intrinsic instinct that lets any listener know how hard a riff goes, even though they couldn't begin to explain the music theory behind why one riff hits harder than another. I sometimes wish I took more music theory to mathematically deduce what makes some riffs rock harder than others, but on the other hand there's something pure about being a fan of music and hearing something that you just know goes extremely hard. For me, I instantly got that feeling on almost every riff in this album, whether it was the scratchy "Ravening Iron", the chug of "Skullseeker", or the epic downtempo "Coward's Keep". This album hits me just right when it comes to chuggy Power Metal riffing thanks to the cleaner and more pushed forward mixing.
Eternal Champion stands out in more than just riffing though, with a unique vocal performance that treads a line between spoken shouts and epic Power Metal delivery that I haven’t really heard before. Jason Tarpey’s higher pitched but rock-solid vocal timbre at first sounds extremely unenthused and not the greatest for something like Power Metal, but as the album progresses it becomes clear that the band knows how to use his vocal style to amazing effect. Even though his delivery can seem lackadaisical during certain sections like the chorus of “Ravening Iron” and portions of “Worms of the Earth”, there’s something about how the reverbed vocal lines work together with the riffs that elevate them away from simple spoken word territory. Once I got more acquainted with the album it became clearer how much personality Tarpey is able to put into his voice, especially with the background screams and flourishes that are hidden behind the riffs. I think Eternal Champion’s formula and vocal choices are some of the best that I’ve heard out of US Power Metal, fitting the more gritty and barbaric fantasy that the subgenre tends to focus on. That classic, more “realistic” fantasy atmosphere is well conveyed too, with small synth flourishes and more dramatic moments like the beginning and end of “Coward’s Keep” thrown in there.
Since I’m not the biggest fan of classic US Power Metal, Ravening Iron impressed me so much more than The Armor of Ire thanks to its chuggy tendencies, improved songwriting, and better album structure. Ravening Iron has the perfect mix of quick, galloping riffs to offset the relentless chug and does a better job placing its instrumental break, with “The Godblade” being a neat atmospheric intro to “Banners of Arhai”. As someone who has always preferred the European style of Power Metal for many, many years, Eternal Champion have managed to win me over with their more classic and down to earth approach. The replay value on this record has been insane, with the progressions and payoffs of each riff never getting old since everything is so well written. Even the solos are concise but memorable and exciting. If anything, Ravening Iron is a bit too short coming in at only 7 tracks and 1 interlude, but at the same time having a filler track or two may have ruined the experience. I can’t imagine what their third album is going to be like if they continue to improve their craft, since I’m going to be returning to Ravening Iron anytime I need my classic Power Metal riff fix.
The ultimate bridge between the filthy goregrind of Symphonies of Sickness and the razor-sharp Melodic Death Metal of Heartwork, 1991 landmark Necroticism is an unparalleled album in these genres, melding Carcass' two sides with bloody aptitude and surgical precision.
Jeff Walker's raspy punctured-lung growls, mortician's vocabulary, and disturbing spoken-word intros maintain the familiar air of demented bloodlust and organic decay from previous records, though there is also significant and noticeable evolution in the band's due to Bill Steer's increasing sophistication as a guitarist and songwriter. While not all the way over the fence into Melodic Death Metal yet, there is undeniably a potent infusion of dynamics and melody - lifeblood into the old Carcass skeleton - primarily in the the guitar work.
This is still a Death/Grind album at its beating heart, but medical signs of the coming transformation are already plainly visible. Just look at the opening track "Inpropagation". It has Carcass' frantic grindy sections and grisly subject matter ("Deteriorated flesh used as top-soil, to replenish and nourish seed"), but the song is multidimensional in a way Carcass had not previously been, with brief slower phrases and melodic guitar leads spliced in to increase the impact of the heavier riffs when they re-enter ("I PROPAGATE, DUST IN THE GRATE!").
This combination works to devastating effect throughout the album. For example, the incredible guitar soloing at the beginning of "Pedigree Butchery" and the end of "Symposium of Sickness" is extremely melodic, played with a level of feel and sensibility that feels more characteristic of progressive or neo-classical metal than Deathgrind. But these moments never overstay their welcome. You never forget on this album that you are still listening to Carcass, the legendary Gore/Deathgrind innovators. Michael Amott and Bill Steer rattle off sickeningly heavy riffs one after the other, just as fast as Jeff Walker can rattle off esoteric medical terminology. Some riffs mid-paced and churning, others nimble and punchy - often in quick succession. Some of them are really unique-sounding, like string-bending ones at the end of "Forensic Clinicism" (you'll know which one I mean as soon as you hear it). Some of them even make the listener think of sounds the narrating mortician's tools might make as he mechanically dismembers his corpses ("Carneous Cacophony").
All in all, if you could only listen to one Carcass album, it should be Necroticism, as it effortlessly captures the best of both worlds of their earlier and later periods. It's just the total package for people who want Metal that has 1) brutal heaviness, 2) excellent musicianship and melodic composition, and 3) a unique atmosphere or feeling. It is rare to find albums that have all three of these qualities. The ones that do, like this album, earn classic status in the genre.
Top 3 Songs: "Inpropagation", "Symposium of Sickness", "Incarnated Solvent Abuse"
Normally I never plan on listening to any metal solo artists because I seem to have more appeal to full-group bands, and solo artists are usually mostly found in other genres besides metal, like...radio pop!! The other Devin Townsend album I've reviewed, Ziltoid the Omniscient, was good but other than that "solo artist" issue, it was far too comedic. Now we're at Terria...which is another one of the best albums created! It's perfectly heavy while being so soothingly atmospheric. Great for a relaxing drive!
This is an album every listener must get, both progressive and open-minded audiences! You can't go your entire lifetime without listening to at least one song from this masterpiece. I could end this review right there, but nope, I don't wanna skip the exciting part (for me anyway), the music!
The first track is "Olives", a slow atmospheric intro with the voice of a robot waiter offering a martini and a olive. No thanks for the martini, but I do like an olive! "Mountain" is track #2 and the first real song. Devin starts singing his clean vocals. He would also do massive growling over heavy guitar and keyboards. An atmospheric medium-paced and medium-length song (6 and a half minutes)! "Earth Day" is a big highlight with intense volume. The guitar and vocals are awesome here! If I was good at guitar, I would find a tab for this and jam on to these walls of sound. A definite album highlight and probably the best of his career, though it's just ONE of the best songs in metal general.
"Deep Peace" is another album highlight, just meters close to beating the previous track as the best song of the album. The song starts with an acoustic intro with dolphin noises. Devin's vocals fit perfectly! The classical-ish instrumental arpeggio is awesomely fun. Another great highlight! "Canada" is another fun and easy song with a good country-like riff. It's a cool song with funny lyrics ("It's beef!!") and perfect atmosphere. Oh Canada! "Down and Under" is an OK interlude with soft guitar and nature sounds.
"The Fluke" is never a fluke, instead an awesome song, starting with cool guitar and other instruments kicking in. Devin's vocals continue to reign supreme with awesome delivery. The ending could be shortened though, it has too much ambient noise. Either way, still awesome, still a perfect album! "Nobody's Here" is another slow song with emotional feeling. A great song with a guitar solo that's not too shabby. "Tiny Tears" is another awesome song, the most emotional! I love both this one and Godflesh's "Tiny Tears". Townsend's song is more unique and personal. Almost as perfect as the first two highlights!! The last track is the awesome "Stagnant". The song never stagnates, sounding happy with cool lyrics and cool riffs. It sounds rock yet stays metal. I gotta show those last 3 songs to my friend whom she likes this uplifting classic kind of rock!
So that marks the end of the actual album, but there are two more "epilogue" tracks, starting with the bonus track "Universal". A cool funny acoustic riff plays, then the song itself has an upbeat happy feel with astonishing vocals for a universal brew. The hidden track "Humble" is a boring pointless track, but why should we include it as part of the album?! It's a hidden outro that you shouldn't let affect the album, like the outro for Between the Buried and Me's Alaska! Just remove it, and the album would be perfect.
So yeah, not including that pointless outro, Terria is a wonderful album and has now been made one of my favorite albums ever. If you wanna start your journey with Devin Townsend's music, this is where you gotta start. Highly recommended!
Favorites: "Earth Day", "Deep Peace", "The Fluke", "Tiny Tears", "Stagnant"
It is extremely difficult for an artist or band to be as eclectic from the word go as Rosetta were in 2005, and not be seen as pretentious. Most artists wait until they are at least three or four records in before saying "you know what? Fuck it, let's break some rules!" The problem with Rosetta is that were not intending on breaking any rules around the time of The Galileans Satellites. In fact, the band actually seems quite contempt with hanging out with the big boys like Cult of Luna and Neurosis in the post-metal mold (or the more dubious title of "atmospheric sludge metal") in creating a heavy, claustrophobic environment that focuses on instrumental texture as opposed to riffage and solos.
And from the word go, you can tell that Rosetta are not changing any rules. In fact, I would say that The Galilean Satellites is one of post-metal's least influential of the genre's most important albums. I had only just recently listened to this record, while bands like Neurosis, ISIS, Cult of Luna, and even The Ocean Collective had already released their first LPs, and Rosetta borrows heavily from all of them. Most notably, The Ocean and Cult of Luna's intense songwriting. These grooves are pummeling and there is very little room for a breather. When you do receive a moment of reprieve, enjoy it for as long as it lasts because that cacophony of sound will be back soon.
Which brings me to a very interesting point about this record's songwriting. It is remarkably simplistic, but immensely captivating by its gargantuan forms, which allow for ideas to develop slowly and methodically. The gradual crescendo that takes place on the track "Absent" is one of the best displays of dynamic development I have ever heard on a metal album. The reason it is "simplistic" is that the main motif rarely changes. It almost reminds me of a minimalist classical piece from a Steve Reich or a John Adams, where the texture builds intensity and emotional drama.
Of course there is a catch, and that is if the tunes don't develop in a reasonable manner, they get very monotonous very quickly. "Itinerant" is the albums longest track and yet it does nothing. I think Rosetta were aware of this as well because right around the ten minute mark, you begin to hear the tune fade away ever so slowly into an ambient feedback loop with quiet sampled vocals overlayed in the mix. If this was the case, why not make the first section shorter? You would not even need to cut down the second half of the track, which would still make the triumphant return of percussion on the closer of disc 1 "Au Pays Natal" hit with dynamic force.
Since this is a metal album, I would feel inclined to stop here, but i would be remised if I didn't at least mention disc 2. This record consists of ambient/drone tracks that are incredibly synth heavy, minimal leads, and lots of distorted feedback as the closing of "Itinerant" did on the first disc. There lone vocals that appear on this disc are on "Beta Aquilae", and those are heavily distorted and compressed as well. It is kind of interesting at least to hear Rosetta use the second disc as an opportunity to flex their atmospheric muscles in a different environment than executed on disc one.
But that brings me to the elephant in the room that I can no longer ignore: The Galilean Satellites is meant to be listened to simultaneously. Both discs contain five tracks that mirror each other in duration and compliment their sister songs. And while this is a cool idea in concept, the execution is lackluster. The ambient synths and distorted feedback loops of disc two are absolutely caved in on themselves when both discs are played at the same time. Disc one is overwhelming and chaotic at its heaviest, and even during its quieter passages, whatever growth/texture that disc two added is immediately shot down. Here is a question: if disc two was so important to the narrative of The Galilean Satellites, why not just overlay disc two from the start? It might have sounded like pure audio hell, but it couldn't sound much worse than listening to two albums simultaneously!
As it stands, The Galilean Satellites is a very good, bordering on great, dose of post-metal that splits the difference very well between claustrophobic and ethereal. And the way Rosetta shows off their chops from a heavier doom/sludge side, to a more meditative ambient/drone side is commendable. But combined, these two ideas do not work together as well as the band may have initially thought. It isn't the best record in this style, and does not resonate with me personally as much as Panopticon or A Dawn to Fear do, but it does show a band using space efficiently and created a new world from it.
Immolation are as I have stated elsewhere one of the more under-appreciated death metal bands of the genre. For nearly three decades they have produced consistent releases, stamped by their unique sound and style that conjures a distinct sense of menace and threat whilst still retaining a high level of accessibility. Taking their entire discography into consideration, their first two albums are the standout releases and there's debate aplenty about whether it is the debut or the sophomore release that is the finer moment. Right now, there's very little in it for me with both releases offering their share of merit to both the band's development and the continued establishment of the genre that was considered to be on the wane by the time Here In After was released.
Taking the elements of the album in singularity inevitably draws you to the angular leads and complex riff patterns of the guitars. But they also deploy clever use of melody to induce cheek-aching depths of melancholy. Check out the wail of the guitar as Christ's Cage seeps into your ears, dripping in despair and despondency but so cleanly killed off by the fastidious riffing that adds urgency to the track as it gets going. The next standout component for me are Dolan's trademark vocals; never quite dropping into bowel resonating guttural growls, they inhabit a gruff and yet intimidating space that offers the lyrics a sense of clarity and therefore a transparency to the levels of hatred being espoused for all things religious (I Feel Nothing).
Sticking with Dolan for a minute, his bass is also really obvious in the mix as it rumbles along in the background without ever becoming intrusive or overly "twangy". At times I feel like we are listening to some Gorguts style structures but the bass never quite runs away with things and as a result there is a real feel of composure to the delivery of most tracks. Finally, the drumming of Smilowski offers a consistent if not altogether that remarkable performance. Amidst the furious blasting there are runs, flurries and fills that should really have me feeling their impact more but unfortunately they do feel to be the one victim of the mixing job and sit just that little bit too far back in the mix.
When you put all these parts together the sum is one that is brimming with compelling and pressing death metal that never feels rushed or hasty but retains an accessibility that makes its synthesis decipherable to most death metal fans.
I've never been a Liturgy fan. I checked out "Aesthetica" back when that album originally came out, surrounded by noise from Hunter's "manifesto". I didn't understand it, didn't enjoy it, and filed this group away as pretentious, unmusical nonsense. But whether it's Liturgy or myself that grew, I found myself intrigued and enamored by this release after an initial curious listen. I love how the music always seems to be building towards something, towards something grand and higher than the music itself. The classical string and brass, and the touches of electronic sounds, never feel out of place amidst the metallic foundation, inhabiting the world of this album as if they've always been there. Some sections don't do as much for me as others, but as a whole, this is a unique and rewarding experience with some transcendent moments.
Thanks to Daniel, I now have the final remaining piece of the post-sludge elemental star, Rosetta! If you wanna know what this album, The Galilean Satellites is about, the nearly blank booklet explains it all in one sentence... "These songs are about a space man."
If you wanna know more than just a simple sentence, just press play and you'll find yourself as an astronaut eternally stranded in space with no other surrounding lifeforce. The Galilean Satellites contains two discs; one filled with monolithic dirges of spacey post-sludge not for the faint-hearted, and the other filled with desperate ambient tracks of strange beauty. And when you time both discs to play at the same time, they fit like a glove! A bit like Neurosis' Times of Grace and its ambient counterpart.
Disc 1 begins this space-doom venture with "Départe" (Departure), starting clean on the guitar and keyboards. Then the buildup comes, warning you that the space adventure is gonna be life-risking. Then the vocals of Michael Armine crashing in with the crushing music of both chaos and grace. "Europa" continues the helplessly great framework.
"Absent" sees you travelling through a space dimension, and midway through, the guitars do a bit of soloing. The vocals are mostly ambient until Armine does some screams in the last-minute climax. "Itinerant" is a 16-minute epic that's mostly piano-based. It's great, but the epic I prefer is "Au Pays Natal" (The Homeland), 13 and a half minutes of the best isolated post-sludge madness ever heard!
Disc 2 is the ambient counterpart where the space-man has already died from lack of food, water, and air as if floating through the infinite universe alone. Both that scenario and the ambient sound sculpture can be enough to give you agoraphobia, which fortunately I don't have. This creepy reverb can give you feelings of loss, and it's a nice effect that would be nice if you're in the mood for that. It's interesting how I, a heavier metalheads who's not usually into ambient music, feel more immersed by this disc than the first. It's an aural adventure well-crafted!
Whether one of the two discs or both at the same time, the listener has to be absolutely determined. Clearly, it wasn't made easy with all tracks going over 8 minutes, but it sure looks like it was. The Galilean Satellites is no easy task. If you're driving while listening to the album on your radio, it's not for a small errand trip, it's for a cross-state road trip made epic. But it's better to listen to the album at home on your computer or MP3 player if you really want a perfect post-sludge trip out of reality!
Favorites: "Europa", "Absent", "Au Pays Natal", the complete Disc 2
Before I ever found this site, I didn't know jack-squat-and-pop about industrial metal and The Sphere. All I knew was a bit of Rammstein and one song from Ministry, and I only heard of Godflesh when people say that's the first band to truly be industrial metal. Now with all these DIS vs. DAT debates going on in The Sphere, I get to try a few industrial metal albums like a cooking show judge. The lyrics still attack politics, but this album is in the Reagan era and is inspired by the "Just Say No to Drugs" campaign.
The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste has left a different impression in my young mind compared to the other album I've reviewed. Back then, electronic madness and guitar aggression were an innovative combo. This album is tied with Godflesh's Streetcleaner as the spawn of industrial, though Godflesh's debut gets more credit.
"Thieves" starts with a hyper guitar riff over a dance beat, then the verse has Al Jourgensen's distorted screams of "THIEVES AND LIARS!! MURDERERS!!! HYPOCRITES AND B****RDS!!!!" Then the chorus stops for a stretched guitar chord until one more scream of "THIEVES!!! LIARS!!!" Then the drums go full-on thrash, but they should used real drums instead of programming. I'm guessing they couldn't find any drummers going that fast. After an ambient intro, "Burning Inside" kicks in a propulsive beat and repetitive guitar to keep you awake. This pounding tune is helped out by the vocals. When I wrote this review after waking up this morning, this song fired me up way more than coffee! "Never Believe" is another industrial machine, this time Chris Connelly on lead vocals for deranged ambient assembly. This is still worth headbanging until your head falls off!
"Cannibal Song" has some laid-back saxophone without ever going mellow. The disturbing vibe is helped out by Chris Connelly doing lead vocals one more time. "Breathe" returns to the Jourgensen-sung madness of the first two tracks, this time deliberately more intense! It takes your detached head and slam-dunks it back between your d*mn shoulders, caused by driving drums and vocals repeatedly telling you to "BREATHE!!! ...YOU F***ER!!" Then the song tears your head off again like a fish in the kitchen. One of the best here! "So What" is more than a 8-minute song, it's an anthem with harmonic guitars and catchy bass as Jourgensen declares, "So what!? it's your own problem to learn to live with. Destroy us! Or make us saints!! WE DON'T CARE!!! IT'S NOT OUR FAULT THAT WE WERE BORN TOO LATE!!!!" This song of the generation's apathy will get you screaming/singing along to an anthem that's unlike any other.
If "Test" was a test on a different style, they failed that one. It's just a weak rap track with uninspired verses and none of Jourgensen's screaming. WHY IS THERE ALWAYS SOMETHING HIP-HOP!?! Fortunately, "Faith Collapsing" is the second anthem of this album with great bass, tribal-ish drums, and the only lyrics besides all those weird soundbites and samples is a repeating chant of "FAITH COLLAPSING!!!!!" Another weak track "Dream Song" which is an awful way to close the album. I'm not even gonna describe it, another than the narration sounding like a wet dream. They should've taken out that sh*tty track and "Test", leaving "Faith Collapsing" as the 7th and last song.
The Mind is a...revolution starter for a different metal genre that is industrial metal, alongside Godflesh's Streetcleaner, to inspire bands like Fear Factory and Rammstein. I suppose I could one day listen to its developing predecessor, but for this album, this is for industrial metal fans who want their head tossed around. Otherwise, look out!
Favorites: "Thieves", "Burning Inside", "Breathe", "So What", "Faith Collapsing"
Album number 1254 on my list of records I really need to spend more time with is the only full-length from diSEMBOWELMENT. It is not that I have struggled to like the album more that I have never felt like I have been able to give it sufficient attention to warrant writing a review. It has been clear from day one that this is a great album but what has always been equally clear is that no half-measures are permitted when trying to appreciate that greatness and acknowledge it in a review. This is not the type of album you get to put on in the background whilst doing anything else, it is a record which dictates that you spend quality time with it. Spending time to focus on it's ethereal, dissonant and destructive energies is after all time well spent.
Normally when I write reviews about albums I like I bang on for a couple of paragraphs and then around paragraph three or four I go "but..." as I point out the one thing about the record that keeps it a half star away from a nice whole number of stars rating. Well, new year, new me and I will get off my chest now that with Transcendence into the Peripheral my only gripe is the production job which on a couple of occasions I find to be a bit lacking and nearing amateurish. That having been said though for the most part I think the production is perfectly fitting for the sound that comes across from the band, just here and there it slips into being too thin on the guitars or too murky on the drums and I just look at the speakers and "tut" loudly like some grumpy parent listening to the radio with his kids.
Gripe aside, this record is a mixed bag of styles and ideas that all come together superbly without clashing or jarring against each other. For an album so very deeply rooted in death/doom I find it has very black metal approach to the vocals at times and amongst some of the less heavier passages. For each drudgerously (made up word) slow section that feels like a boulder on your chest there's also a scathing edge to both the vocals and guitars when the weight is lifted intermittently from your breastplate. Likewise the atmospheres that get created are superb doomy monoliths that drift like ghost ships on the ocean before bashing into coastal towns and reaping havoc with their undead crew. This balance is effortlessly delivered in that no track ever feels like it has veered off completely and instead you get a real sense of exploration of the band's abilities and influences.
I feel this album often gets mentioned more because it was the only album release by the band and there always appears to be a sense of lost potential. I find this argument has some validity as I truly would love to see what these guys cold have delivered next but I do believe that this album is a stunning legacy and one that makes your record collection better just by being there on the shelf.
The thought of a two-hour avant-jazz album had me positively sweating with dread. But this isn't that album at all I'm absolutely thrilled to report. Yes, sure there are avant-jazz elements present, obviously, but I consider them merely icing, the heart and soul of this album is the percussion and it's ritualistic and tribal rhythms that call to something buried deep in the human psyche. I'm a big fan of ritual ambient artists like Draugurinn and Forndom, but this is on a different level completely. I must admit though that I did wonder how it got tagged as metal until the third section at least where it's drone metal credentials kick in. I still have some issue with the solely jazz sections and it is a long album, but these are minor gripes as this is something truly outside my comfort zone that I absolutely love.
Borgne's take on atmospheric black metal as expressed on Y, the Swiss' latest album, is not a paeon to the sweeping majesty of the mountain peaks of his homeland, or to the natural world in any way, but rather it paints a picture of an industrialised dystopia straight out of the nightmares of William Gibson or Phillip K Dick. Borgne's black metal is tranformed by industrial-sounding drum machine and electronics into a menacing and bleak vision, made even more sinister by an overarchingly ominous atmosphere born of doom metal. Coupled with his desparate snarling vocals, this is not a hopeful record, rather one that seeks to come to terms with an industrial and martial future that lacks the human touch and, aptly for current events, feeds on isolation.
ItCoS' fourth full-length is an album of groovy, doomy sludge metal that dabbles in a number of other genres to add a bit of variation, such as the Raining Blood-style thrash riff at the end of ten-minute opener The Fool's Journey, the southern-rock / country influence on The Chasm at the Mouth of the All and the acoustic rock of closing track Prima Materia. The heavy sludge base is suitably dense with thick, cloying riffs and the other influences are integrated well. My chief reservation is with the vocals. There's nothing really wrong with them really, they just don't appeal to me all that much, except on the aforementioned Prima Materia where they are less earnest and more relaxed.
Godflesh was formed by Justin Broadrick after leaving Napalm Death and his own side-project that wasn't going anywhere. If anyone thought Godflesh was just another grind act, they would be surprised by an entirely new sound in their 1989 debut Streetcleaner! However, for listeners of other noisy experimental acts like Fall of Because (earlier incarnation of Godflesh) and Head of David, this pioneering industrial metal sound was already foreshadowed...
Similar to Napalm Death's debut (whom Broadrick was only that debut's first side), each of the two sides were recorded in a different session, with the CD bonus tracks that originally consisted of Tiny Tears EP. This is basically 3 distinctly cohesive EPs compiled into an over-hour-long album that helped define industrial metal!
The first 5-track side is probably the heavier groove-driven side, starting strong with the well-known tune "Like Rats", a furious groove track with a noise-powered bridge ("You breed...like rats!!"). Then we get "Christbait Rising", the track with the most groove and a bit of a hip-hop influence ("Christbait, slugbait!!"). I agree with people who say hip-hop and metal don't mix, but I'm willing to make an exception here. The hip-hop influence is only in the beats with no rapping at all. Instead, the vocals are just shouts of aggression and reverb, the closest connection to Napalm Death. "Pulp" is another favorite here that can pulverize you into a pulp with the bass and drum machine rolling under the burning guitar slashing through vocals in a hopeless crescendo yelling "PULP" repeatedly until the last breath. "Dream Long Dead" is a good song, but not as great as the album's standouts. Another standout includes the awesome "Head Dirt". They continue playing super lower riffs that sometimes hang in the background behind bass and drums, but either way, the guitar can never go unnoticed!
Beginning the colder isolated side is the devastating intro "Devastator"! For this side, stepping in is second guitarist Paul Neville who were also with Broadrick and G.C. Green in Fall of Because. "Mighty Trust Krusher" has some of Godflesh's earliest traces. Same with "Life is Easy", with an approach easily compared to Swans before they moved out of their original industrial-noise sound at that time. Thanks to the dual guitar attack, bands like Pitchshifter would be able to emphasize their discordant lead work and help develop industrial metal. The torturously tremendous title track begins with a disturbing sound sample of suffering, then starts the industrial sludge/doom march as aliens clean the streets free from the corpses of those killed in the invasion, announcing the death of humanity. And finally, into the "Locust Furnace" the corpses of the human race are thrown into for their cremation. In that song, Justin continues his shouts of tortured devastation until the end ("FURNACE!!!").
And now, here we are at the third and final side, the unreleased "Tiny Tears" EP, starting with the title track... "Tiny Tears", probably my favorite song of that EP/side! "Wound" is another standout I would probably revisit if I become more in industrial metal (not likely) with it's main riff bringing down even the tallest and most stable building. "Dead Head" frantically stretches out the vocals in an optimistic way. Last but not least, "Suction" is another short piece. Similar to the rest of the EP, it sounds more like industrial hard rock within the riffs and beats, with the vocals sounding cleaner for an ethereal tone. But it's still worth hearing...
Streetcleaner has cleared the gap between industrial and metal to form a hybrid genre that Godflesh would be known for throughout their career. However, they would later experiment with electro-dance/trip-hop sounds, similar to the new Pain of Salvation album. The main driving force of Godflesh's debut is the instrumentation. This album is the classic of all industrial metal classics and a crucial part of any industrial/metal fan's collection!
Favorites: "Like Rats", "Pulp", "Head Dirt", "Life is Easy", "Streetcleaner", "Tiny Tears", "Wound"
I love Cardinal Wyrm - they are one of the great underappreciated doom metal bands operating currently and I have been a massive supporter of theirs since their early days This, their fourth album, however, is a bit of a letdown and may well be the first of their albums I don't purchase a physical copy of. In an attenpt to expand their sound and stretch out, they have released an album that is certainly more ambitious compositionally, but has ended up sounding a bit confused and less focussed. It's not terrible by any means and tracks like Canticle and Abbess kick all kinds of ass and retain plenty of their bombastic doom sound, but it just doesn't maintain momentum and wanders a bit, especially early on. Not a disaster by any means, but a step down from previous releases. Pity, I was really looking forward to this one.
Atavist are a Mancunian death doom band, formed by Winterfylleth's Chris Naughton, who reformed in 2016 after being on hiatus since 2007. Their latest full-length and first since reforming, contains four lengthy tracks totalling a runtime of 58 minutes of funeral doom-inflected death metal. Opener, Loss, begins in a wistfully melancholic way with a guitar strumming away gently before being joined by a violin, possibly the most mournful-sounding and much-underused weapon in any potential doom metal arsenal. Of course, the weight is increased when the band kick in with some crushing chords and Matt Bartley howls of his unfathomable loss, only to return to gentle melancholy as the violin refrain takes over once more. This contrast between the wistful introspection of the gentler sections, whether expressed via lone strummed guitar, violin or piano and the heavier, angrier doom-laden sections is what lies at the heart of the track and is handled superbly as the emotional resonance rises and falls over the whole sixteen and a half minutes.
Second track, Struggle, is unremittingly grim with suitably weighty riffs, the contrasts in mood here expressed via the tracks' tempos which vary from slow to spine-crawlingly ultra-slow. Self-realisation opens with a riff that anyone who is familiar with Chris Naughton's work in Winterfylleth should recognise, the black metal style of the riff is offset by the plodding drumwork for a menacingly effective atmosphere as Matt Bartley unleashes a black metal-inspired howl. The track then grinds to a funereal crawl after a few minutes as the doom-laden depression reasserts it control over the proceedings.
Final track, Absolution, is the albums longest and is the album's catharsis, sounding less desperate and almost as if there is some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. Even though the tempo is still slow, the guitar melody overlaying the track sounds almost hopeful and despite a certain deep-grained melancholy, the track gives the album a somewhat upbeat finale.
Say what you will about Overkill, there is no denying that group are some fast learners! After what I consider a very poorly executed debut record Feel the Fire in 1985, Overkill quickly made some adjustments on their follow up LP, Taking Over, and have been releasing some very solid thrash metal for the better part of over three decades. Of course, Overkill were at their best right around the time the big four "sold out" and is best remembered for albums like The Years of Decay and Horrorscope.
First and foremost, the production of the band's subsequent records has greatly improved. I have been very critical of some well regraded thrash metal debuts in the past for focusing more on the garage jam session, DIY approach as opposed to the ruthlessness of the grooves, tempos, blistering solos and soaring vocals. With Horrorscope, Overkill give us some of the cleanest sounding thrash metal at this time, and I could see why some metal purists may scold at the idea. Rest assured. the guitar riffage on "Infections", "Blood Money", "New Machine" and "Live Young, Die Free" is still crunchy, and Blitz's vocals are refined to an extent; very few shrieks that plagued the debut, but more attention to diction and flow. I will say that the lack of a dominant bass presence is a little disappointing, mostly near the final third of the album, but there is still a low end which gives the song the needed drive.
Of course, tight production as well as an overall tighter band can only get you so far. The real challenge is in the hooks and how well does this record linger after its conclusion. Well Overkill have always had a knack for some impressive thrash metal songwriting, even as far back as the debut LP, and Horrorscope is no exception. The traditional speed metal cuts like "Blood Money" and "Live Young, Die Free" still have great foundations to build off, while "Thanx for Nothin'" and "Bare Bones" are a very good one two punch before the album takes a breather for the title track. To go along with the final two songs on the album "Nice Day...For a Funeral" and "Solitude", the album has a good variety of styles; tempos, keys, modulation, as well as overall song formats, which keeps the album fresh and never feeling too long.
To be completely honest, I do not have much else to say about Horrorscope. In terms of the thrash metal aesthetic, Overkill managed to make something that was fun, heavy, mosh worthy, and recognizable; a feat very seldom achieved in thrash metal, even today. Unfortunately, Overkill seemed to milk this routine for the next thirty years and they have done very little to innovate. And at this point, I'm not sure they need to! Overkill deserve a seat at the table with Testament as one of thrash metal's most consistent outlet's, even if the music has become rather stale in recent years. For me, I still have to go with The Years of Decay as being a slightly more polished record, but Horrorscope is no slouch.
Yatra's second album of the year is basically a classic stoner doom/heavy metal hybrid that sounds more extreme than it is due to guitarist/vocalist Dana Helmuth's blackened shrieking vocal delivery. Don't be fooled, this isn't blackened doom that sounds like the doors to hell have opened, it is more old-school metal than that, One for the Mountain even has a bluesy groove going on! It's still mighty heavy though and a damn good listen.
When Hamish Hamilton Glencross left My Dying Bride due to "irreconcilable differences" he hardly dropped off the metal music radar altogether. Continuing with his guitar (and bass) duties in Vallenfyre the former Solstice man first pitched up with Godthrymm in 2018. Picking up vocals along with his more renowned guitar work the band Hamish has started to forge yet another quality death/doom act which currently has fellow MDB and Solstice skinsman Shaun Taylor-Steels and the superbly named Sasquatch Bob in the ranks also.
Reflections might be the best doom record of the year for me. The caveat being that I listen to very little doom so this isn't as bold a statement as it initially may sound. With me having played the record three or four times so far in the past week I think it is fair to say that I still have some way to go with it before I can say I have unlocked all of the nuances and devilish detail contained over the eight tracks on offer. What I can say however is that Hamish and co's ability to write infectious, epic and expansive doom passages is clear from the word go with this record and the main quality that comes off from the experience of listening to it is how consistent it is. Worth noting also how memorable the tracks are, with We Are The Dead, The Sea As My Grave and Cursed Are The Many already ringing in my head after the limited listens I have had thus far.
There's a strong and binding groove to the riffs also that hook you in superbly and seem to surge and swell with the dark atmosphere that the album is shrouded in but they also have a stoner element to them that gives just a tad of warmth also. There's very little if in fact any death metal elements here with all the vocals being clean sung and the weight of the riffs avoiding to much of a raw edge to allow the record to be heard as anything other than an epic doom record in the main. Bob and Shaun do a superb job of simply pounding away in the background making the low end heavy as possible and underpinning the vocals brilliantly.
Despite its obvious epic nature the album is not overly-theatrical or gratuitous with it. Everything is built on really solid, heavy foundations that allow the robust structures to be built upon them and develop into established and accessible songs you want to revisit.
DGM is a band that's been having quite the run over the past 15 years after a pretty rocky history. Although the band is named after the three founding members (Diego, Gianfranco, and Maurizio), it turns out none of them are a part of the group anymore, with Maurizio Pariotti being the last to leave in 2003. I always found it strange how the DGM name continued to live on through the initial exodus, but the band has been tightly knit since, sporting the same lineup since their 2009 release Frame. Although they're far from a household name in Progressive Metal, their consistently solid output since Frame caught my attention and they eventually made me into a fan with their 2016 album The Passage. It goes to show that having a consistent lineup can really do wonders for a band's output, considering DGM's 1990's and early 2000's material was considerably rough. Tragic Separation shows that the band wasn't done with what they started in The Passage, with it mostly being a direct continuation of similar sounds and ideas from 4 years ago.
Even though I'd consider DGM to be a Progressive Metal act, their last two albums have shown them opting for an energetic, Power Metal-esque backdrop to all of their technical playing. Even though the tracks have more extended song structures and more complex riffing than your average Power Metal fare, their music stays grounded enough to not feel randomly disjointed. This straightforward approach works wonders for someone like me who, even though I enjoy a great deal of Progressive Metal, got tired of the tangential and aimless transitions that can plague the genre. Tragic Separation gets straight to the point with fast and precise riffing, great vocals and hooks, and impressive features from the band as a whole. They've really perfected The Passage's style on this one, making each song sound so aggressive in a lively way rather than a dark way. It was seriously apparent how much better their songwriting has gotten after I went back to The Passage after enjoying this album so much. Even though I still really enjoy their previous release, it's obvious how much more comfortable they are in Tragic Separation as the song lengths are more drawn out without losing any amount of energy or spice.
In many ways DGM fill a niche of Progressive Metal that has been getting lost over the years with bands like Symphony X and modern Fates Warning slowing down in recent years or losing some of their quality. Full steam ahead songwriting without any of the progressive fluff is something that I keep coming back to about this band, but it can't be overstated how well I think it works for them. Vocalist Mark Basile is able to belt out some seriously catchy melodies that keep up with the rest of the intricate playing but never overshadows what's going on in the background. While the instruments have some heft to their tone, everything feels light, precise, and feel-good, which is pretty unique for this kind of style. The solos are well performed too, being impressive but never drag on for too long. The shorter orchestral interludes like in the beginning of "Tragic Separation" are a welcome addition to add some much needed variety and sound great, fitting right in place with the overall feel of the album.
As much as I enjoyed this album, I have to admit that that you really have to like DGM's style to get the most out of Tragic Separation. In many ways the album is ten renditions of the same track, with their formula not deviating all too much. That being said, I dig their formula so this time around that it didn't matter much for me, but I can see it being a bit of a slog if this isn't the exact style that you're looking for. DGM are a talented group of musicians that struck gold with their repetitive ideas this time around, with great riff after great riff and a multitude of catchy choruses to choose from, but if you're looking for something challenging or overly complex, you'll probably have to look elsewhere. For me, though, Tragic Separation is an insanely fun album with its free-wheeling melodies and never-ending energy.
The Void Of Purgatory
I can't think of another band that has managed to have this massive of a redemption arc as Esoctrilium has had this year for me. Asthâghul, Esoctrilihum's sole member, has made quite the name for himself in the depths of the more surreal Death and Black Metal world, but something didn't click for me at first. I first heard of this project in the middle of 2019 and after checking out The Telluric Ashes of the Ö Vrth Immemorial Gods, I can't say it grabbed me in any sort of meaningful way. I wasn't sure what I was missing at the time; maybe it was a bit too drawn out? Maybe I wasn't paying enough attention? In any case, I can't say that I was clamoring for another Esoctrilihum release in 2020, so I wasn't exactly thrilled when I saw Eternity of Shaog pop up around the same time of year as his 2019 release. How much could have possibly changed within one short year?
A whole lot, turns out, because I obviously wrote off Esoctrilihum way too soon back in 2019. Eternity of Shaog is a massive, cavernous, dismal, and truly epic album that incorporates the chunky riffing of Death Metal with insanely bleak Black Metal elements interwoven to create a sort of complexity that blew my mind the more I listened to it. As Black Metal has evolved over the years it's gotten more and more intricate with what these talented solo artists are able to create, but I always feel like they lose some of the evil energy that some of the 1990's classics seemed to have. Eternity of Shaog resummons that evilness with no holds barred, delivering a set of tracks that sound genuinely emotionally painful and full of despair while maintaining an epic aggression through the use of well-written riffs and properly utilized orchestral elements. As the crunchy Death and Black Metal riffs and precise, forceful drumming push each of these tracks ahead, the winding, sometimes delicate touch of violins and synths weave effortlessly into the melodies. The melody and riff progressions on the album are incredibly gripping, with the "2nd Passage" having violin melodies that come out of nowhere and completely take over the track in the best possible way. The synths in the "5th Passage" have the same sort of effect, providing especially memorable melodies and moments amidst all the muck and chaos Eternity of Shaog is veiled in. I still can't believe how much of this album I can recall from memory at random times throughout my day, and that's a huge accomplishment when it comes to complex extreme metal like this. Even the vile vocals on the "7th Passage" got ingrained in my mind, showing that Asthâghul provides some seriously strong songwriting all while having some of the most disgusting riffs I've heard this year.
Esoctrilihum plays full and thick riffs that swap between having the punchy chug of Death Metal and the full-out aggression and structure of Black Metal without sacrificing any of the heft. The riff after the first transition in "Eternity Of Shaog" may be my favorite Black Metal riff and the beefy chug riffs towards the end of the "1st Passage" and the entirety of the "7th Passage" may be some of my favorite Death Metal riffs from this year. The fact that these two types of riffs can coexist in a style that doesn't take anything away from either of them shows how much Eternity of Shaog succeeds at its hybrid style. The transitions between these styles area so smooth since each riff and section is just that good, whether it's the chug or the tremolo taking the spotlight. Even though this album can be pretty dense at times, I think it's structured in a way that gives it just enough breathing room, with the "4th Passage" giving the listener a much needed break with a beautifully evil and echo-y piano section that eventually transitions into some remarkably poignant spoken word that really captures the essence of what this album conveys, at least for me. The last few tracks slowly become more and more heavy as the album progresses, eventually culminating with the almost Death Doom Metal like closing track, with Asthâghul intensifying the despairing atmosphere even more as the album comes to a close.
Eternity of Shaog is one of the most complete album experiences of 2020 since it takes advantage of its concept so well. Even without looking at the album notes about what the story is supposed to outline, I could tell that there was some serious stuff happening in here given the names of the songs and the way the album structured itself. After looking at the lyrics I assumed that it was depicting a man's fall into an eternal purgatory as he is faced with the horrors of endless torment for acts he committed before his death. After doing a bit more research I wasn't too far off, but it gets even stranger than that, with each passage being some sort of demonic possession by Shaog, a Lovecraftian style god who seeks to break free from his infinite existence in a void of nothingness. Cool. I just find it crazy that the music is actually evil and dark enough to support that kind of crazy plotline, which is probably why this album grew on me so much throughout the year. There's so much unpack here that I never got tired of listening to it.
My favorite part about Eternity of Shaog is how it manages to be so epic in scale thanks to the smallest of flourishes here and there by other instruments. The riffs are fantastic, sure, but how those riffs interact with the violins and other strings is incredibly cohesive, making the album feel grand and epic in scale despite the pounding of the drums and the aggression of the riffs. Asthâghul even makes his vocals fit into the performance extremely well, switching between deeper, clearer growls and painful sounding Black Metal shrieks. He even switches it up and goes for some background spoken word here and there too, even though I think that these parts are the weakest of his performance.
Esoctrilihum proved me so, so wrong this year as Eternity of Shaog is a massive accomplishment for the solitary Asthâghul. The riffs hit hard, the scale is immense, the concept is portrayed magnificently, and it's catchy in all the ways extreme metal should be. The progression from the beginning of the album to the end feels deserving at almost every step, with there only being one or two sections that feel drawn out or unnecessary, like the string melody in the "3rd Passage" not exactly stacking up to the others and the "6th Passage" not offering anything spectacular until the synth melody at the very end. That being said, I have nothing but praise for this epic slab of blackened Death Metal that excels at stepping outside the boxes of its genres and I can't wait to hear more about this strange, void chained horror.
Carrying on the stellar work from 2015's The Dreaming I, Naas Alcameth (aka Kyle Spanswick) has produced another album of challenging, yet still immensely listenable, atmospheric black metal. Compositionally exceptional and atmospherically menacing, this is exactly the kind of modern black metal I enjoy the most. Ambient passages in BM albums usually provide some respite from the blasting, but here they just serve to ramp up the menace to even higher levels - for proof hear how Succubare builds the demonic haunting vibe up until all hell is let loose on Ephialtes. The blasting, such as on standout Pnigalion, takes the (demonic) form of huge, great walls of sound that you don't merely listen to - they invade your ears and swarm your brain like the infestation of flies in The Amityville Horror that so put the shits up Rod Steiger! For me the only album that has created a comparable, albeit very different, black metal atmosphere this year is Paysage d'Hiver's Im Wald and that is pretty good company to be in I can assure you. In common with The Dreaming I this also has one scary-looking cover that perfectly illustrates what you are about to hear within the enclosed grooves and the overall package is a superb exercise in creating a great horror movie experience in music form.
As a proviso, I know and understand that their are ideological questions surrounding the beliefs of Akhlys and I get it that people are turned off their music as a result, but this is often the case in black metal and I have learned to separate artist from art so this is purely a judgement based on the music alone.
This relatively underground late 80's release offers some very raw Colombian black metal that draws influence from Parabellum, early Bathory & "In The Sign Of Evil" era Sodom. I seem to recall receiving this & fellow Colombians Parabellum's "Sacrilegio" E.P. on the same side of a cassette from a Peruvian tape trader way back in the day. Neither release did much for me if I'm honest but if pushed I'd suggest that I have a slight preference for the insanity-ridden Parabellum sound. Interestingly, Blasfemia share some band members with Parabellum & if you like "Sacrilegio" then you'll probably dig "Guerra total" as well.
Two of the four songs presented on "Guerra total" are really pretty good & those inevitably line up with the moments when the band can keep their shit together (see " Presagio" & "Más allá de la ignorancia"). The other two songs show promise but end up falling in a bit of a heap due to the band's technical & compositional limitations. The band can't play for shit obviously but that's par for the course with early South American extreme metal. I really love the Quorthon style vocals on three of the four tracks. They're evil as fuck & suit the primitive nature of the instrumentation beautifully. The other track "Postmortem" has more of a blackened thrash sound than the rest of the material which is pure black metal.
It's so easy to hear where a band like Mayhem may have pulled the pieces of their genre-defining second wave black metal sound from when you hear a release like this as all the ingredients are already there, only they're presented in a much cruder format. The hardcore influenced sections are invariably the most relevant & over the years I've built a strong opinion that hardcore punk was the critical element in the creation of the modern black metal sound. I don't think the South Americans get enough credit for the role they played in that regard to be honest but that doesn't immediately mean that I have to like their music.
Sounding like Mütiilation had a baby with Ved Buens Ende and produced an offspring that somehow captures the best of both parents, Onirik occupies quite a unique space in black metal. The Portuguese one man bm project sticks with largely familiar themes on album number five treating us to seven tracks of constantly shifting evil. However common the topics of evil, darkness and the occult maybe in black metal, I don't believe there are many artists out there expressing their devotion to such subjects as well as Mr. Gonius Rex is.
The Fire Cult Beyond Eternity is a chaotic, urgent, busy, progressive and melodic affair that offers more than enough kvlt content to appease the most trve of bm fans yet at the same time is able to branch out effortless into territories that would have most die-hards hiding behind their corpse-paint and brass candlestick holders as they try to process just where the fuck each track actually ends up.
An obviously experienced artist, Gonius excels himself here, building complex and arcane structures that morph before your very ears. There's a constant sense of Onirik running with the very boundaries of black metal cradled in arms not caring where he ends up with it just going gung-ho to push it far and hard. Better yet, there's no wankery here, no gazey influence to try and turn the heads of the less orthodox crowd. Only a deaf person (or a complete fucking buffoon) could miss the inherent and intrinsic traits of black metal literally coursing through the veins of this record, yet equally as obvious are the expansive and spacious heights that the melodies of the album soar to and the dizzying spirals of the guitars as they loop like incantated notes through the air.
Come bathe in the glorious darkness (bring your own towels).
I quite enjoyed former S.O.D. front man Billy Milano's 1987 comeback album "U.S.A. For M.O.D.". It may have lacked the overall impact of S.O.D.'s legendary "Speak English Or Die" album but M.O.D. certainly offered enough quality New York crossover thrash to keep me interested at that point. The same unfortunately can't be said for Billy's follow-up release from the following year with the novelty E.P. "Surfin' M.O.D." not only showcasing an entirely new lineup but also being a complete piss-take which is not really what I look for in my metal.
"Surfin' M.O.D." is based around a surfing concept with the A-side taking the form of a single 23 minute piece referred to as "The Movie". This epic work compiles a collection of six genuine songs (three of them disappointing cover versions of 60's & 70's pop songs) interspersed with humorous samples from the surfing movie "Back To the Beach". The B-side simply isolates the six songs & adds an additional cover version so it's hardly worth listening to other than for the added cover version of Scream's "New Song" which is one of the best things about the release to be honest.
In fairness, the samples are legitimately quite funny & I do find myself with a smile on my face a lot of the time however it has to be said that most of the cover versions are nothing more than novelties & offer very little replay value. The clear highlight is the original piece "Surf's Up" which has a truck load of infectious punk rock energy about it & sees me singing along to the gang vocals in no time at all. The production is generally very good which makes the E.P. a lot easier on the ear than it could have been & the band seem to having an absolute ball throughout which certainly helps too. The last couple of cover versions are fairly dire though & this sees the "The Movie" petering out when it could have gone out on a high with the inclusion of the previously mentioned "New Song". Strangely though, I can't seem to draw a terrible score out of this release. It's got just enough quirky fun about it to border on the endearing & to avoid suffering any major humiliations here.
For fans of S.O.D., Carnivore & Scatterbrain.