I’d not heard an Isole record before diving head-first into this month’s “The Fallen” clan feature release but had always heard & read good things about them so I was hopeful of a positive outcome. Ben’s tick of approval provided additional cause for enthusiasm & the fruits of my labour have ended up well & truly justifying the effort too, despite easily being able to see why members like Ben & Sonny might get a touch more out of a release like “Bliss of Solitude” than I do.
Let’s start by saying that the production job on this record is nothing short of exceptional & that element is a very big part of its appeal. This album sounds as heavy as an overweight black hole with every component achieving complete clarity. The bass guitar tone is particularly powerful & makes me wish that more bands were lucky enough to benefit from such a weighty bottom-end. The vocals are quite tame & melodic in comparison & I’d suggest that the depth in the instrumentation allows Isole to get away with it more easily than they may otherwise have. In truth, it took me a couple of listens to come around to the vocals but there are definitely some impressive hooks there once you give them the time to dig themselves into your ears.
It's interesting that Isole seems to be unanimously claimed as an epic doom metal band as I don’t think it’s as cut & dry as that. In fact, I found more of “Bliss of Solitude” to sit in conventional doom metal space with only the two most significant tracks (i.e. the title track & closer “Shadowstone”) possessing enough epicness to warrant the tag. Perhaps this is just an example of why I don’t see the justification for adding the epic doom metal subgenre to the Metal Academy database just yet as I don’t think a record like this one is screaming out to be differentiated from the more pure variety of doom, despite being fairly easily compared to bands like Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus & early Ereb Altor. There’s a definite case for comparisons with My Dying Bride here at times too though, particularly through the start of the record with the guitar tone being fairly similar while the more epic moments inevitably see Isole borrowing from Viking-era Bathory as their source for sheer epicness, particularly in the strong use of reverb on the lumbering drumbeats.
“Bliss of Solitude” is a very consistent & professionally executed release from a band that’s already refined their sound & knows exactly what they’re trying to achieve. It doesn’t tick all of my boxes from a stylistic point of view but has still managed to draw me in through its relentless pursuit of quality doom riffage presented in the purest packaging available. I’ll definitely be returning to this album at some point & will be placing the rest of the Isole discography in my “To Be Investigated” list for the future too.
Ben’s “The Horde” clan feature release nomination is an interesting one this month. I’d heard just one of the German death metallers eleven studio albums prior to going into it & I’m guessing it would have been around 13 or 14 years ago so I haven’t got the strongest recollection of what it was like. I do recall finding 2003’s “Spreading The Rage” to be generally pretty enjoyable but the fact that I haven’t returned to it in the many years since perhaps gives us an indication that it didn’t blow me away. Ben has a pretty amazing track record at identifying underground releases that’ll appeal to me though so I was hopeful of Disbelief’s 2001 third album “Worst Enemy” leaving me similarly impressed & I’m pleased to say that he’s once again been successful in that cause.
It's kinda strange that Disbelief seem to be universally tagged as a death metal band because I can honestly say that I found very little death metal in “Worst Enemy”. In fact, “Assassinate The Scars” is the only track that I feel satisfies the criteria adequately enough. The rest of the proper songs fit into two categories. On the one hand we have a fairly extreme version of alternative metal that sounds a fair bit like Deftones on steroids. Then on the other we have a darker sludge metal sound that suits front man Karsten "Jagger" Jäger’s vocals nicely given that his angry hardcore tone fits the mould for the sludge model very comfortably. It’s a potent combination actually & it gives Disbelief a sound of their own. Despite the hybrid sound though, there’s a consistency to Disbelief’s approach & it can also be their Achilles Heal at times given that “Worst Enemy” can sound a little samey until you’ve made the investment of time required for the song-writing to open up a bit.
“Worst Enemy” possesses a completely blemish-free tracklisting that’s scattered with genuine highlights, the best of which are the sublime pairing of alternative metal opener “Misery” & heavy-weight sludge affair “Recession” but “Believer” & “All Or Nothing” are no slouches either. I’d probably suggest that the dark ambient outro piece is the weaker inclusion but it’s still fairly enjoyable nonetheless. The passionate vocals of Jäger are Disbelief’s strength as he absolutely screams his fucking head off here & I’d suggest would have needed quite a bit of recovery time afterwards. He commands the listener’s attention at all times & gives the band the edge they needed to see them maximizing their appeal so it’s really hard to see why “Worst Enemy” is still so underappreciated given that it’s so clearly a high quality metal release that still sounds really fresh & relevant even 22 years later.
Ben’s taste in metal is impeccable & he’s once again identified a record that has burst through my defenses to breach the walls of my Hall of Metal Glory. I’d encourage you all to check it out, whether you’re a member of The Gateway, The Fallen, The Horde or even The Revolution.
I don't know what it is about Earthside, but I have not been able to fully get into them despite many attempts at the 2015 album A Dream In Static. They are certainly well versed in their craft and know damn well how to make long songs that sound epic and all sorts of similar descriptors. But on Let the Truth Speak, Earthside are just going full balls to the wall with their pretentious progressive tendencies. It's impossible to call Let the Truth Speak a bad album, but something about it just does not sit well with me. Perhaps its the songwriting, which sits somewhere between technical progressive metal and atmospheric post-metal. Maybe it's the compositions, which are too self-indulgent for their own sake, and far too frequently.
Even still, the complexity of the forms and the way in which the album modulates between styles is impressive. It calls upon a very diverse cast of feature artists to play large roles. Most notably, Larry Braggs on "The Lesser Evil", which can be best described as a progressive jazz/funk rock opus with a heavy incorporation of strings and horn instruments. It may be the most unique song you hear all year, and I respect the hell out of that. But the album is way too long and does not do nearly enough to warrant it, and so much of this records "payoffs" feel less like a euphoric release and rather a "thank god they finally did something!" There is genuine quality here, no doubt about it. However, I won't deny that I was sonically exhausted when Let the Truth Speak was over.
Best Songs: We Who Lament, The Lesser Evil, Let The Truth Speak
Manilla Road is a band I like but always just on the outlier of artists that I've delved into. This may be a turning point on that since this was so good and catchy. Crystal Logic is still in my head, and i'm definitely looking for me. This isn't quite as epic as other heavy metal of the era but it has a slightly darker tone to it which is a nice change of pace. It still has the memorable chorus to sing with and guitar solos to imitate with your favorite air guitar but there's just a bit of a more serious or devious tone to it. Not quite sure what it is about this record that gives me that vibe, but maybe its from listening to other more high octave and energy and this not quite hitting those similar levels. Absolutely worth the listen especially if you're tired of the more bigger hits of the early generation of metal.
This was truly heavy, and head bangable. Nothing extraordinary though, just metal. Better than generic, but also not overly rememberable. This isn't a bad thing, as I had a truly good time listening to this however it's not going to be a go-to album. There's some really heavy moments and I can even hear some thrash and speed in here. If anything, i get a good opener feel here where it gets me hyped up to listen to the next band or album like Maiden or Dio. Some really fun riffs, and good songwriting here.
Doing my general Iron Maiden playthrough, after listening and enjoying my time with Powerslave I needed more Maiden. Went back to this gem. Solid album through and through, however I don't get lost into the music like I did on Powerslave. Did a little toe tapping and head bobbing with a bit of sing-a-long. This may be the best of Iron Maiden when it comes to the singing along with, though nobody can match Bruce. You can't help but go 6. 6. 6 or RUNNN TO THE HILLS. But otherwise this one doesn't stand out, it might be because it may be my most listened to Maiden album and the hits are some of my most listened to songs and it doesn't hit the same now. Still great and will continue to put it on when I'm in the mood but it will be a further back choice than it used to be. Still great and any metal nerd should still listen to this and get those guitar riffs stuck in their head all day.
So many solid riffs. In my long journey with Iron Maiden I know I have listened to many if not all of their albums at one point or another but this time with Powerslave hit different and it just might be my new favorite one of theirs. I think the extended instrumental parts and melodies really worked here. I found myself in a trance enjoying it so much. Aces High, 2 minutes to midnight, Losfer Words are such a great 3 track opening sequence. Starts of High (pun intended) and just doesn't stop but takes little detours to show what Maiden is capable of. These are also some of Bruce's best performances of in my opinion too, I think he really knew what he wanted here. Number of the Beast is where he came in and fit in right away, and followed up with Piece of Mind, but Powerslave is where it really feels cohesive an they were taking Iron Maiden to the legendary status we will still and always embrace. If I have any minor nitpicks, is that Rime of The Ancient Mariner. I don't like that song, unlike other people who love it.
Deceased's seemingly legendary concept album based on Romero's zombie movies, as they existed in the late '90s. The dead walk the Earth again, killing and eating everyone they can get their hands on. Something that humanity would easily be able to bounce back from if we could stop arguing about pointless crap for 5 minutes.
These guys are not the kind of band who should make long concept albums. Firstly, we get several interludes which add nothing to the music. I'm not really sure there IS an album improved by some dude talking for 2 minutes in the middle of it. Further, I'm not really sure that what death metal was missing was songs with about 8 riffs going on for 8 minutes. There's a very tedious aspect to this album because of it. Growly choruses that go on forever are not my favorite thing in the world.
While the album gets a lot better as it goes on, I can't help but think of this album as not knowing what it wants to do. The band jumps all over the place from drop and gritty death metal to Maiden-worship with some growls. There's some good stuff in here, but I got some serious tonal whiplash at times.
Speaking of tonal whiplash, the lyrics. These get weird. It's not quite the full tonal whiplash Romero's films would eventually get with zombies are actually the good guys, but it is out there. It goes through the expected arc of a zombie story, fleeing from zombies, fighting them, and eventually scientists trying to figure out how to cure it...and then the protagonist gets bitten and dies in Unhuman Drama. The final two songs involve him becoming part of some kind of zombie hive mind. It's a trip.
I'm not really sure how I feel about the album in the end. It's very all over the place.
SubRosa is an old favorite band of mine. I don't know how I found them, but I found the whole whole female-fronted sludge/stoner metal with violins idea a lot more intriguing than I normally would. While they used the violins on their debut album, it was far more sparingly than they would use starting here.
They really sought to make this album as crushingly heavy and depressing as possible. Usually when one thinks of metal and violins, one thinks of the later providing some contrast. Not so here, here it's just another element adding to the sorrow. There's a very on-edge effect the violins add. Without it, the band would be quite mundane, with it, a tension atypical of such bands.
While I like the EP, it's only after trying to figure out what the albums before and after it have that this lacks that I figured out what was missing. Two of the three tracks were remade for the follow-up, No Help for the Mighty Ones, and those versions of the songs are just better in every way.
Sabaton was one of the most energetic power metal bands I've heard back when I was a full-time listener of that metal genre. They stand out with their historically themed lyrics as opposed to the fantasy fiction other bands of the genre are known for. However, when I check out one of their albums today, I've realized they're not as memorable now as they were back then. The Last Stand was my last Sabaton album before I made my switch from power metal to heavier modern genres, and I thought it was a great follow-up to the excellent duo of Carolus Rex and Heroes. Today, not so much. Though I do like the concept of "last stand" battles...
That's right, history class students! I, Mr. Andi, will teach you about all the different ancient battles in Greece, Scotland, Japan, and worldwide (haven't forgotten about the World Wars). Your homework is to study for a history test, but not by reading all those boring textbooks, instead by listening to Sabaton's albums. This test covers "last stand" battles, so make sure you memorize all you need to know from this album, all while enjoying the music... Well, half of the music, anyway.
The epic bombastic "Sparta" has all to expect from a historical metal anthem that includes catchy keyboards and an epic chorus filled with chants of "SPARTA! HELLAS!" You definitely wanna become a horse-riding Spartan warrior and charge into a battle, though some of the later songs aren't that exciting... Exhibit A being the horribly cheesy "Last Dying Breath". There's some more cheese in "Blood of Bannockburn" but it's a much better, tastier cheese that makes this one of the best songs here. Adding bagpipes and hammond organ to heavy/power metal and lyrics encouraging you to "rally all the clans" and "join the Scottish Revolution"?! H*ll yes!
"Diary of an Unknown Soldier" is a short interlude about the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, with Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer narrating in the perspective of a soldier in the war. It sounded like a promising buildup to "The Lost Battalion", but that song ends up sounds too much like it was recorded in the Heroes sessions. "Rorke's Drift" is a better highlight, having a couple alternating tempos and energetic momentum to keep things going. That song and the title track have more well-thought lyrics.
"Hill 3234" is just plain bad. For starters, it ends up sounding too much like a Metallica song. Absolutely unfitting! This band seems to have trouble trying something different and the idea ends up sounding weird or forced. However, the catchy "Shiroyama" makes up for these earlier problems with its mighty chorus, "It's the last stand of the Samurai!" I might actually be up to researching samurai battles much further, thanks to that highlight. "Winged Hussars" is a song I remember because of its cool structure, chorus, riffing, keyboards, and lyrics related to Polish history. But then another thing I remember is... It's just like "Uprising" from Coat of Arms! Still pretty solid though. "The Last Battle" has catchy triumph to close the album, showing that simple rhythms can easily prevail.
All in all, The Last Stand is quite decent. However, the ideas seem forced and recycled at times, despite this cool unique concept of historical last stands. There's just so much similar to the 4 albums before this one while blending it all with new aspects. The highlights work well though and are worth traveling through history....
Favorites: "Sparta", "Blood of Bannockburn", "Rorke's Drift", "Shiroyama", "The Last Battle"
I think fair to say that the sole release from Gothenburg death metallers Grotesque set the underground tape trading scene alight back in the early-to-mid 1990's & it was that buzz that saw me picking up on the "Incantation" E.P. at the time. I was involved with an Aussie trader that was utterly obsessed with the Swedish death metal scene & he virtually insisted that I get onboard records like this one, although I think it's fair to say that I was usually not as convinced as he was given my stronger penchant for Florida. Grotesque certainly had their moments though & there's no doubt that they were onto something when you take the first three tracks of this E.P. in isolation. There's a grimy, down-tuned layer of filth caked on this stuff that will no doubt appeal to the Autopsy/Incantation crowd only the vocals of future At The Gates/Lock Up/The Lurking Fear front man Tomas Lindberg have a psychotic blackened edge to them that gives Grotesque a unique personality. He really does sound very different to the raspy melodeath tone he'd make a name for himself with several years later & I wouldn't have recognised him had I not already known of his involvement. Strangely though, the last two tracks see the band going in a completely different & nowhere near as compelling direction, this time opting for a blackened thrash sound in a more traditional tuning that sounds much more dime-a-dozen than the earlier material. It's a really unusual change-up & I wasn't surprised to learn that the two sounds were recorded in different sessions with almost a year between them. I can't help but think that the band would have been better off releasing these two sessions separately as they sound so out of sync when packaged together. Still... there's easily enough quality in the later death metal material to justify giving "Incantation" a few spins.
The debut album from this Florida tech death outfit was a really big record for Ben & I back in the day after I picked it up on cassette shortly after release. I was absolutely blown away by the lead guitar wizardry while the unique use of keyboards & sci-fi- themes was also a major drawcard. I've been wondering whether I'd appreciate it as much in modern days though so I was a little hesitant going into my first revisit in many years. That hesitation proved to have some merit too because there's no doubt that some parts of the album sound less complete than others.
"The Key" opens in stunning fashion with the first three cuts all being genuine death metal classics in their own right, particularly "Standing In Blood" which is an all-timer for me. There's definitely a bit of a dip in quality after that though, even though there's nothing I'd say is weak as such. "Neolithic" & "Undead Journey" see me labelling the middle of the album as merely decent before things pick up in the back end with closer "Empire Of The Sands" being another wonderful representation of the Nocturnus sound.
I absolutely adore the super-shreddy lead guitar tone of Mike Davis & Sean McNenney. It's about as metal as it gets really. The keyboards can get a touch overblown during that middle section but most of the time they tend to stay away from anything too cheesy. Band leader Mike Browning is the clear weak point though, particularly his vocals but also his drumming to a lesser extent. Nocturnus' music is meant to be ridiculously over the top & some of Browning's beats feel a little underwhelming if I'm being completely honest. Still... there's no doubt that "The Key" is a very strong record that borders on my higher scores. You can hear Browning's former band Morbid Angel in not only the vocals & drums but also some of the riff structures. There's a similarly thrashy influence to the "Abominations of Desolation" album too only in the context of a much more overtly technical outlook with some of the riffs essentially being light-speed dual-guitar lead solos. It's amazing how Florida was coming up with so many forward-thinking & talented death metal bands at the time with Nocturnus standing toe to toe with artists like Death & Atheist. "The Key" doesn't seem out of place next to that company either although I'd suggest that, unlike those two acts that went on to greater things, Nocturnus peaked early &, as a result, are probably better suited to being a leader amongst the second tier of the Florida death metal hierarchy.
I feel dirty rating this so low. I do not like Cirith Ungol, and I never have even after trying so many times over the years with this band. But I can't in good conscience rate this better than I truly feel. The vocals don't work for me. The instrumentation seems lacking, and this is all my opinion and you can entirely disagree with me if you want, but the guitar sound is generic to me and when I do find a good lick or riff in there it changes or gets drowned out by the vocals or drumming or something else. Drums don't stand out, but I also tend to not always notice drums unless they're really good. This is not what I want to listen to, but I respect those that do. Variety is the spice of life, and we need this to bring out others to use this and take the style and run with it. I'm not trying to be down on this too hard, but it's not for me but I also think there always does need to be a counterpoint when necessary. I would perfectly accept someone taking one of my favorite albums and rating it low because it didn't work for them. Your opinion is still valid, and if you are also one that will still try Cirith Ungol and not like it either know you are not alone.
This is solid heavy metal. New Wave of British Heavy Metal if you will. Angel Witch is not a band I'm super familiar with but going back and listening through the classics with way more experience and history of metal under my belt now this is a quintessential album for the beginnings of this style and even as the turn of the 80's decade. Angel Witch the song is such an ear worm that I've been humming it all day. Memorable riffs and signature styles that has that NWOBHM style blowing up at but still absolutely stands out. At this point, i'll admit to having a hard time figuring out why I can't do a higher rating but I just don't feel it's quite a 4 1/2 or more record. It is a really good solid record that also doesn't overstay it's welcome at a perfect runtime of 38:10.
Having had a good experience in checking out Limp Bizkit's Significant Other, I thought I would skip ahead to another one of their albums with a song that I'm familiar with. Now before we get to that, let me just say that a lot has happened since between those two albums. The funk/hip-hop/punk/rock/metal cauldron known as nu metal was on the rise during the start of the new millennium. You can mosh through simple song structures and offensive rants (though Linkin Park's lyrics were clean in their two nu metal albums), though metal purists certainly won't. After a few years, the genre faded out, and Limp Bizkit went on hiatus, until they made their return to form in the early 2010s....
Limp Bizkit showed the world that it's never too late to revive what to love or hate about nu metal. With Gold Cobra, they can still strike like that giant cobra behind 3 bikini babes in the cover art, unleashing their loud abrasive violence suitable for my brother to listen to in one of his car drives. Though it's more like a half-baked resurrection that at least never gets highly experimental, unlike the electro-rock of Linkin Park's A Thousand Suns or Korn's dive into dubstep in The Path of Totality released later that year.
"Introbra" is an ominous intro with a distorted siren in the background of Durst announcing the band's return. It's definitely a different start compared to Significant Other and having a similar vibe to Slipknot's album intros. However, things start off anticlimactic with the annoying "Bring It Back" that would work better in a club than a metal concert. The title track is a much better single, having their typical modern nu/rap metal/rock sound. I'm familiar with that one because I've seen its music video on TV when I was younger. "Shark Attack" continues their nu metal attack. The choruses in "Get a Life" has more rage, though the verses have gone back to simple hip-hop.
My favorite track here "Shotgun" attacks with the band's earlier humor and heaviness of Significant Other. Anyone here caught off-guard by the awesome rare guitar soloing? There's more rapping present in "D****e Bag", "I'mma f*** you up! F*** you, f*** you, f*** you up!" Then "Walking Away" has more of a modern rock sound that actually works well. Same with "Loser" that also has some rapping in proper use.
Attempting to parody an aspect often thought atrocious in music, "Autotunage" has Durst singing in autotune, and that never really suits him well at all. "90.2.10" is almost at the brink of being a waste of time similar to the previous track, but the awesome drumming by John Otto's acts as the song's saving grace. "Why Try" displays Durst's lyrics advancing into admirable territory. "Killer in You" shows Wes Borland performing some riffing similarly to Black Sabbath but more grinding. With that and the song's immense kick-A midsection, this track is a total closing highlight.
Gold Cobra is a decent offering with songs to entertain you and make you nostalgic, all in a pleasant comeback. Still it's slightly behind Significant Other in quality, and it doesn't change the fact that they're one of the most hated bands around. It might make you glad that nu metal was dying out. Nonetheless, you can definitely rock out to the highlights. No matter how much the band might f*** things up, Limp Bizkit will have at least several open-minded listeners to please....
Favorites: "Gold Cobra", "Shark Attack", "Shotgun", "Walking Away", "Loser", "Killer in You"
Our prayers for the masters of underground deathly thrash metal Sadus to return have been answered! Many fans of the band can deem their beginning trio of Illusions, Swallowed in Black, A Vision of Misery true classics. While they lost their earlier spark in Elements of Anger and Out for Blood, their music has never disappointed me.
After going on hiatus sometime in the 2010s, the band began recording their first album since 2006. However, their trio is down to two. Talented bassist Steve Di Giorgio left to focus on Testament. Vocalist/guitarist Darren Travis is still determined in keeping Sadus alive, taking over bass duties, while still having longtime drummer Jon Allen by his side. The duo continue ripping through their highly praised extreme sound in The Shadow Inside, bringing back their earlier fury while having some technicality.
The headbanging "First Blood" starts ominous in the ambient intro before the feral riffing and tight speedy drumming is unleashed in hellfire. Travis still has his skin-shredding shrieks staying as strong as he had 35 years ago with the band's first two albums. An extreme start for the band's comeback offering! Leveling up the fury is "Scorched and Burnt". That song and "It's the Sickness" greatly display the band's dark thrash riots. The latter is the album's first single and a true gem. This will certainly have the band competing with Kreator for some of the most vicious thrash possible. Insane dark riffing and percussion will get you hooked to the band's talented passion.
Attacking again is "Ride the Knife", another intense single that shall make an instant classic. "Anarchy" is a hellbent two and a half minute blaster with the closest they have here to the death metal of Vader. On the flipside of brutality, "The Devil in Me" explores mid-paced territory with a catchy chorus through Travis' tortured-ish screams.
Slowing down further is "Pain" which has more sinister atmosphere. "No Peace" brings back the speed and tempo changes that continue to show the genius minds of this duo. Travis' guitar lead melodies thunder through in harmonic rage. "New Beginnings" is a mysterious instrumental to set you up for the grand finale... The closing title track builds up in slow doom before letting out the last of their earlier velocity, melodic soloing, and vocal ferocity.
The older fans of Sadus who have heard of this band for over 30 years will have a delightful dose of nostalgia in The Shadow Inside. A new era has begun for the masters of deathly thrash. Maybe the thrash scene too if bands like Coroner, Dark Angel, Demolition Hammer, and Sabbat have their comeback albums ready. For the future of thrash!
Favorites: "First Blood", "It's the Sickness", "Ride the Knife", "No Peace", "The Shadow Inside"
Limp Bizkit is a band that has gained quite some hate over the years. From their name, to their nu/rap metal/rock sound, to the scathing vocal anger of vocalist Fred Durst, to their live performances causing violence in crowds (one show causing the death of a teenage girl)... The band even covered a George Michael single as their entry into fame. Basically they're like an extra-cheese-coated biscuit, and I can bite down on that biscuit more than those who give up after a nibble.
Their debut Three Dollar Bill Y'all first came out as overlooked, but they entered the late 90s nu metal scene after touring with their earlier peers Korn and Deftones. As much as album #2 Significant Other may repel many music listeners, I actually find it pretty good. Almost like a Korn/Eminem collaboration but with more interesting creativity.
In the "Intro", a deep distorted voice says, "You wanted the worst, you got the worst: the one, the only, Limp Bizkit." Then "Just Like This" kicks off with the guitar attack of Wes Borland and the rapping of Fred Durst, alongside melodic groove and harmonic singing. This dynamic range can be listened to in cool excitement. Bouncing in is "Nookie", the album's first single, less mature but still catchy in the mix of beats, guitar, and turntables. Full-on haters can take their hate and stick it up their (yeah!). "It's just one of those days when you don't wanna wake up, everything is f***ed, everything sucks", raps Durst in "Break Stuff", an angry anthem that really shows how rap metal should be done. This song, and the rest of the album, is inspired by Durst ending a longtime relationship with a girlfriend, showing him taking his aggression out on his ex, "I pack a chainsaw, I'll skin your a** raw". A couple more things about that song: 1. It's notorious for being the cause of a violent revolution in Woodstock 1999 when Durst encouraged the crowd to not mellow out, which is "what Alanis Morissette had you motherf***ers do", and even telling them not to let anyone get hurt only caused them to get hurt in the chaos. 2. The song is my brother's new ringtone. Then we switch to the ballad-ish "Rearranged", which almost made me sleepy like a lullaby, but it's still a great highlight.
"I'm Broke" battles against "friends" who borrow money without paying back. "Nobody Like You" is filled with dark nu metal with guest vocals from Korn vocalist Jonathan Davis and Stone Temple Pilots vocalist Scott Weiland (RIP). Weiland sings his pained vocals while Davis creeps in, and the music has a bit of an industrial vibe from Nine Inch Nails. That definitely shows the better side of Limp Bizkit. "Don't Go Off Wandering" seems to wander off a bit despite continuing the darkness and heaviness. "9 Teen 90 Nine" is another killer track, reminding me of the album's release year and my birthyear. Another one of the best here is surprisingly "N2gether Now", a more hip-hop-fueled track. I find the "Shut the f*** up" loop over the harp amusing, and Method Man's rapping is nice and smooth, "It ain't easy being greezy in a world full of cleanliness".
Hypocrisy of "friends" is what "Trust" warns you about. The weird "No Sex", featuring Aaron Lewis of Staind, shows Durst confessing his recreational sex past that he felt ashamed of, "Shoulda left my pants on this time, but instead you had to let me dive right in". After that, "Show Me What You Got" is just a lame attempt at thanking cities, bands, and fans in a rap metal song. "A Lesson Learned" doesn't bring back much metal, but it really strikes me well with its emotion. The "Outro" is just a pointless extension of the intro. The hidden tracks featuring Matt Pinfield and Primus' Les Claypool are a bit interesting, especially the former's ironic rant against chart-toppers.
Significant Other is a bit problematic towards the end, so I can understand the hate. But as obnoxious as this band may seem, some of their rap metal tracks are quite pleasant. Even I hesitated to call this album good, but I have to tell my true opinion. And what can I say? I'm an open-minded person....
Favorites: "Just Like This", "Break Stuff", "Rearranged", "Nobody Like You", "9 Teen 90 Nine", "N2gether Now", "A Lesson Learned"
I was first introduced to Bay Area thrashers Forbidden through their very solid 1988 debut album "Forbidden Evil", a record that I really enjoyed due to its combination of raw intensity of general professionalism. The experience would see me quickly investigating their follow-up album "Twisted Into Form" (which was their brand newie at the time) & I recall my feelings being just impressed. This revisit has only further accentuated those memories & has forced me to realise that I perhaps haven't given Forbidden as much attention as they deserve over the years.
"Twisted Into Form" saw Forbidden dropping a little of that raw intensity I mentioned in exchange for a touch more melody, clarity & creativity. It's a beautifully executed & produced record from a band that was clearly very talented at their chosen craft & time has been very kind to it as it doesn't sound dated in the slightest. What we have here is a very pure brand of Bay Area thrash metal with a touch of technicality that never loses sight of the ultimate goal i.e. mosh pit shenanigans. There are no weak tracks included with the most commercially accessible track & video clip "Step By Step" being the only song that hints at filler. As with any great album, there are also a couple of real belters here too in the driving thrasher "Out of Body" & the classic tech thrash masterpiece "Tossed Away" which I regard as being possibly Forbidden's career highlight. The thing that sees "Twisted Into Form" slightly surpassing its elder sibling "Forbidden Evil" though is its general consistency as I think Forbidden have raised the bar a touch from their debut &, in doing so, have created their best work.
Forbidden are often compared to fellow Bay Area thrashers Testament & that's a fair comparison but, unlike most thrashers, I'd suggest that they're fairly close in terms of their general standard. Forbidden have the upper hand in the vocal department as Russ Anderson has a wonderfully masculine & powerful set of pipes on him & also manages to cope with the more melodic stuff better than Chuck Billy ever could. Forbidden also have a big advantage in the drumming department with future Slayer/Exodus/Testament skinsman Paul Bostaph smashing Louie Clemente out of the park. Testament of course have an ace up their sleeve in lead guitarist Alex Skolnick but Craig Locicero & Tim Calvert (who would join Nevermore in the future) are no slouches & pull off some very flashy lead solos with relative ease here. You know what? I'd actually suggest that "Twisted Into Form" is a better record than anything Testament have come up with over the years which I know is a big call. It should be compulsary listening for any thrasher worth their salt in my opinion & has emphatically cemented Forbidden's credentials as a high quality second tier thrash player.
This was the featured release for The Horde for November 2023. I am not a part of the horde, but I am of clan The North which this is supposedly a part of. It just sounds like noise. It's generic death metal riffs and noise. I like my metal chaotic, but I just hear tv static put in a metal box. This isn't for me, and from the looks of it seems fairly low rated for even metal academy, but maybe somebody enjoys this. There is talent here underlying it all to even be able to make this project, but there needs to be a bit more direction.
Of all the life-changing musical experiences I can remember from my youth, my first listen to the self-titled debut album from notoriously Satanic Florida death metaller Deicide would be right up there with the most significant. You see, not only was it one of the earlier death metal records to fully capture my thrash-obsessed mind after I'd only recently been converted to the genre the previous year but it was arguably the most downright scary & imposing piece of music I'd ever heard to the time or likely have since to tell you the truth. It's my honest opinion that "Deicide" presents the most accurate musical depiction of Hell that you'll find in this God-forsaken world & not only it left me feeling exhilarated but it also caused me to feel slightly shaken as well. Front man Glen Benton's vocals are utterly monstrous & as angry & aggressive as any in the scene, Steve Asheim's double kick work is relentlessly driving & pummeling, the guitar solos of the Hoffmann brothers are wildly over-the-top & face-meltingly shredtastic & the lyrical content is as blatant & in your face as a day out at Charles Manson's place. Throw in some wonderful production ideas from Morrisound Studios main man Scott Burns & you have pretty much the perfect death metal record in my opinion.
I've actually been a little frightened by the prospect of rating "Deicide" in the modern day, mainly because I simply couldn't bare to find that my childhood illusions weren't all they were cracked up to be. I needn't have worried though because this album is a succession of one gold tune after another. There's nothing that comes close to seeing the intensity drop with the chuggier "Oblivious To Evil" perhaps being a touch less impressive than the remainder of the album which is made of wall to wall classics. "Sacrifical Suicide"... "Dead By Dawn"... "Blaspherereion"... "Deicide"... Day Of Darkness"... "Crucifixation"... They're all here in all their blasphemous glory but it's the utter devastation of "Carnage In The Temple Of The Damned" that takes the cake for mine & it still sits at the absolute pinnacle of the genre more than three decades later. "Deicide" isn't just essential listening for all death metal fans. It's a right of passage & one of the foundations that the genre is built upon. I only dish out full marks a couple of times per year at most but it was a very easy call with a record of this caliber.
My relationship with Canadian thrash metal outfit Sacrifice began in very strong fashion when I discovered their 1987 "Forward to Termination" back in the late 80's/early 90's & I quickly headed back to their 1986 debut album "Torment in Fire" which I also loved. Both possessed an excitingly raw & energetic brand of thrash that offered significant appeal for me when I was still very much in the middle of my thrash metal heyday. 1990's "Soldiers of Misfortune" third album wasn't quite as successful in its quest to embed itself into regular rotation on my early 90's playlist though for one reason or another. It's certainly a professionally produced & executed thrash record but it sounds a little less exciting than its predecessors, perhaps losing some of its steam in the quest for a more mature & refined sound. I still love the snarly vocals of front man Rob Urbinati but there a quite a few chuggy riffs that I consider to be a little bit flat & indicating that there may not have been enough time put into quality control with "Soldiers of Misfortune". The best tracks are when the band simply go for it like they do on the classic album highlight "A Storm In The Silence" but those moments are simply too scarce with the bulk of the record feeling decent & acceptable more than it does invigorating. The lengthy progressive metal piece that closes out the album "Truth (After the Rain)" is a prime example as there are plenty of ideas there but it doesn't a result in a truly compelling experience in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, I do quite like "Soldiers of Misfortune" with only the lacklustre heavy metal number "Existence Within Eternity" failing to hit a par score but I do find the album to be a little disappointing after receiving such joy from Sacrifice's first two efforts.
Still exploring deathcore is the phrase that will probably be on my gravestone, such is the infrequency with which I bother to visit the sub-genre. This record stands out due to the “breakdown factory” that I have heard the previous release from Black Tongue being described as has seen a downturn in its output based on my few listens through this, their third release. Whilst the conveyer belts have not completely ground to a halt, there is a lot to be said for repeat visits to Nadir to truly understand the depth of the ten tracks on offer.
Only Ultima Necat seems to dwell in that truly generic deathcore space. The rest of the track listing is more of an expansive experience. Incorporating grindcore and black metal alongside the slower and abysmally heavy sections of other tracks. The album has a narrative and is therefore told as a story, each track focusing on a life being forced to answer for all the wrongdoings it has undertaken. This cruel judgement is emphasized on tracks such as Parting Soliloquy with its begging and pleading lyrics making as equal a splash as the start-stop percussion and menacing atmospheres. This is by far the most obviously descriptive track in terms of the vocals, but it never strays towards being boring or mundane. Instead, the instrumentation weaves into the space the usually more rapid vocals would fill to pace the track well.
The addition of the Celtic Frost cover is unexpected, yet it works well with the rest of tracks of the album and the cleaner singing that punctuates the track also helps it to stand out from the pack at the same time. Nadir then lives up to the promise of the crawling darkness that the album artwork offers. In parts it is terrifying, resonating with the darker edges of my psyche far too well for my comfort in places. An epic exploration of suffering, judgement and execution, Nadir is a triumph of an album that gets further under your skin with successive listens. In my brief experience of deathcore, it is one of the more mature offerings and one that is perhaps moving the farthest away from that generic sound that so easily lands so much criticism.
I was introduced to the sole full-length from Swedish death metal legends Carnage through late-night underground metal radio programs in the very early 1990's & quite enjoyed it without ever coming close to reaching the levels of adoration that many extreme metal fans seem to for it. But then I can say the same for Entombed's "Left Hand Path", Dismember's "Like An Ever Flowing Stream" & many of the other major landmarks in the Swedish death metal story because that particular sound doesn't appeal to me as much as the cleaner & more sophisticated US model. "Dark Recollections" is a pretty consistent record from four musicians that have all gone on to have long-term music careers in their own right but I can't say that there's anything here that I regard as being particularly classic. "Malignant Epitaph" has always been the one track that I struggle with & my favourite moments come at the extreme ends of the tracklisting through the opening title track & the doomy outro piece which highlights a sound that I would have liked to hear a little more of to be honest. The musicianship is fairly primitive but Carnage certainly hit on the classic Swedish HM-2 guitar tone & unsurprisingly sound a hell of a lot like Dismember. It's worth remembering that "Like An Ever Flowing Stream" hadn't seen the light of day as yet though so that can be forgiven, especially considering the presence of three of their members in the Carnage lineup. If you're a diehard fan of bands like Entombed & Grave then you'll no doubt love "Dark Recollections" too & it's somewhat of a feather in Carnage's caps that I consider it to be just as good as Entombed's 1990 classic "Left Hand Path". It's just that I don't return to either of them all that often.
New Zealand one-man black metal project that themes Celtic history within their songs, Olde Throne were a winner for me before I even ventured into their debut full-length. Thankfully An Gorta Mór matches up to my high expectations of both historic and mythological intrigue as well as ticking all the boxes in the atmospheric black metal stakes also. The album title translates as “The Great Hunger” (or “The Famine” more commonly referred to outside of Ireland as the “Irish Potato Famine”) which was a tragic period of Irish history in the mid-eighteen hundreds that saw over 1 million people starve to death or die from disease over seven years and hundreds of thousands of people emigrate overseas to get away from the starvation and rampant disease of the time.
Olde Throne then, choose a suitably grim and macabre medium in black metal in which to tell this story and the music is appropriately harsh and abrasive to underline the horrific suffering of the time. Equally, the atmospherics emphasize the futility of the situation as whole families literally wasted away whilst staring into a fathomless void of hopelessness and despair. These atmospheres are dense and possess a catastrophic depth to them that is embalmed perfectly by the ghastly vocals and relentless urgency of the riffs. Moments like the melodic guitar work on Connla’s Fate, stay with you long after the album has finished and as such An Gorta Mór is successful for making this representation of such abject misery such a memorable experience.
The temptation would be to expect multiple intro/outro/interlude tracks, yet An Gorta Mór uses a straightforward approach to the song structures, simply letting the harsh impact of the subject matter drive the emotion of the album. Rarely have I heard such an expressive and complete black metal track as A Dying Land, a track that simply plays out the desolation of the events in a stunning tremolo and spoken word/chant combination alongside some more familiar ghastly vocals. The intensity of this track alone is worth the visit to the album.
It is hard to find much in the way of criticism as my only real challenge with the album has been that it requires many visits to truly get the impact of the record. However, I do not often go in search of atmospheric black metal to gratify any need for immediacy of connection. The album most definitely rewards these repeated visits and is an album that will personally stick with me for some time to come.
I have been toiling with Epitaphs for a couple of weeks now. Drawn by the combination of the ethereal post-metal sections alongside the chunky sludge riffing, the album did a great job from the off in terms of conveying the fathomless depths of sorrow whilst also successfully iterating the harsher realities of pain. Ironically it has been this combination of styles that has led me to take so long writing this review. For the most part they work well in creating both present space as well as at the same time filling the space yet to come. However, there are times when the song structures just have an air of predictability about them and as a result the album comes off as having a lack of ideas around transitions.
More on that later though as I would like to concentrate on the positive in the first instance. Vocalist Zofia Fraś is top of the shop in this section. Possessing a voice that could never be described as serene (not by my ears at least), she instead carries a volatile power in her voice that does not always rely on the softer edges you would associate with post-metal. Often, she simply adopts tuneful yet not overly precious tone to her vocals in the slower sections, even deploying simple chants for the first part of Memories of Falling Down. In the heavier sections she chooses a heavier but not guttural style that provides aridity almost without ever coming across as sounding brittle. She is clearly supported by some excellent musicians, all of whom can play and are afforded lots of clarity in the mix also. The rhythm and percussion sections all have a chunky feel to them with the riffs often reverberating off the bass lines nicely whilst the busy but not at all intrusive drums land an assured footprint across proceedings.
Obscure Sphinx clearly have a connection going on throughout the band and their music reflects this depth of mutual respect with each of the component parts being allowed a real sense of presence but never at the expense of anything else. That having been said, there is still a little bit of work to be done to ensure that this marriage of styles sits a little more comfortably alongside one another. I would argue that there are tracks here that do not necessarily need a combination of post-metal and sludge with some of this clunkiness also being down to things just running a bit too long in some regards. As an overall album, fifty-seven minutes feels a little bloated and the previously mentioned Memories of Falling Down arguably could have done with a trim. In terms of consistency, it is the middle three tracks here (Nieprawota, Memorare and Sepulchre) that linger better on the ear as shorter tracks that just seem to choose a direction and get on with it.
I am still impressed by Epitaphs though, even taking into consideration my struggles, as it is an album with a depth that needs a few visits to it to really get to know the space in more detail. With strong Neurosis, Cult of Luna and Isis vibes going on, these Poles have quite a kit bag with them already. It just needs a bit more accomplishment and better arrangement (two opening tracks more than thirteen and twelve minutes respectively is a tough starting point) but I have every belief they will get there sooner rather than later.
This is very impressive technical death/thrash metal that isn't ashamed to share a thoughtful melodic side. It reminds me compositionally of what you might expect out of a band like Allegaeon, but with the heavier technical elements that make it sound more sonically like Vektor or Revocation. The albums individual songs are relatively short for this type of metal, which is beneficial for its replayable factor. I will say that that the vocals are likely the least developed part of the record as they don't really reach the same potential. I'm not asking for Xoth to have clean singing in their music, but a little bit more variety in the delivery would have been nice, and no I don't mean the half spoken/half screamed vocals that sporadically appear because they don't fit the intensity at all; almost makes it feel closer to pretentious art rock, which I've been blissfully ignoring these last two years. If you can forgive the sonic discrepancies, then Exogalactic is a very interesting and close to great technical metal album whose greatest asset is the melodic songwriting. If technical metal sounded more like this, I would likely enjoy it more.
Best Songs: Manuscripts of Madness, The Parasitic Orchestra, Sporecraft Zero, Battlesphere
Very interesting release, I kinda get the black metal vibe but I get more of a space vibe. But than against, what is space but the most black? I am really surprised that this is not a style done more often as it does really fit well. This is a genuine innovative and fascinating record. After doing a bit more of a dive into things I know this isn't the first of it's kind but it's not like there's a line out the door of bands trying this. I should hope to get a chance to dive deeper into this style as it's something new that I was unaware of before and believe it could be done better but this is still a unique perspective that I want more of.
I really enjoyed this album. I listened to this before in expectations of reviewing it and never got around to putting my thoughts in then life distracted me, now I listen again and remember why I had a hard time writing a review. You ever have a meal where afterwards your full and satisfied but have to be reminded what you ate and all it was is some chips and a sandwich? Like it hit everything you needed that day in giving you substance, and you can be like that was a good sandwich, but what kind of sandwich was it? What were the chips? Oh actually it was French fries. Hopefully that makes sense to you, because that's how I feel here. I've listened to it, and I immediately go that was a good time, with some black metal riffs and melodies but I can't recall any specific moments or riffs but as a whole I'm already looking forward to the next cold rainy day like it is here today and listening again. Even the last time I listened, I still remembered going that was really good but I could've swore this was an album that I had already reviewed and talked about but can't recall what I said so here I am doing it immediately after I listened again and all I can think of is the pleasant trance that I was in to get my mind off of other dumb things going in my life right now. A solid good time, maybe after another bunch of relistens I will come back to this review and really be swayed one way or another in a definitive thought direction. I will say, the album cover is a bit misleading to me as I keep thinking this is a folk/black metal record and there really isn't any of that here so that could add to my disconnect to what this album really is.
Ocean of Grief are a Greek six-piece who play a melodic style of death doom that aims for a sombre, melancholy mood rather than attempting to crush the air from the listener's lungs or infecting them with the charnel odours of some deep, dark abyss. Pale Existence is the band's second full-length following 2018's debut, Nightfall's Lament, of which I was quite a fan. Pale Existence also marks the swansong of vocalist Charalabos Oikonomopoulos who has since been replaced by Shattered Hope's Nick Vlachakis.
What leaps out at you the most about Ocean of Grief is their melodic and soaring, yet mournful-sounding guitar lines that have a clear and clean air about them which contrast exceedingly well with the gruff growling vocals and the heavier riffs. The band concentrate on generating atmosphere and strive for a more nuanced approach than sheer weight to achieve their aims, which to a certain extent they achieve quite admirably. I won't pretend that this is my preferred style of death doom because I love that crushing, sulphurous style perpetuated by the likes of early Autopsy or Coffins, but Ocean of Grief's version of a lighter, more melancholy style holds an appeal for me over some of the more theatrical-leaning death doom practitioners who smother thair attempts at projecting mourning and melancholy in keyboards and overwrought vocal shenanigans. Less seems to be more where these Greeks are concerned.
Of course, the issue with a lot of metal that concentrates on atmosphere and of which Oceans of Grief are also guilty is that the riffs aren't especially memorable, although some are very good indeed, but I didn't really find any of them worming their way into my hindbrain and sticking with me long after the album has ceased playing. Imprisoned Between Worlds is my favourite here and is probably the track that comes closest to staying with me, helped of course by the fact that it is the heaviest of the album's seven tracks. For me this is an album that is a very strong example of a style that I quite enjoy, but don't really love, so it scores well, even though it doesn't especially set my world afire. I know that sounds like damning with faint praise a little, but it is definitely worth your time and someone more inclined to it's melodic nature may rate it very highly indeed.
Any warrior can make a journey through fields, forests, and mountains. Embarking on adventurous treks is a warrior's most essential objective besides combat. And it comes with the privileges of visiting villages, dining in taverns, and rescue those in need of help. However, the farther north you go, the deadlier it becomes. In extreme conditions, a storm would come to wipe you out. That was the sad unfortunate fate of Windir founder Valfar, his life taken in a blizzard during a trek to his family cabin in his homeland of Norway. RIP... This fact also warned me about how I should stop my melodic black metal exploration. I know how dangerous The North is for me, but I won't die, I just don't want to get highly committed to a genre still out of bounds from my moral comfort. But that's not to say I have anything against this Windir album...
See, Windir isn't a band that can be considered just black metal. This is epic melodic/symphonic black metal with colorful leads and mythological lyrics. All that and the genre's usual vocal screams and blast-beats make this sound a unique combo. Valfar was one of the more talented members of the Norwegian black metal scene. He could do everything except drums and clean vocals, which two other band members have done for him. He had an idea to make a black metal band that didn't follow the usual the genre's stereotypes, and he succeeded! There's powerful melodic riffing without sounding too cheesy, and the vocals are less aggressive while staying sinister.
You already know the incoming epicness straight from the 3-minute intro "Byrjing" (Beginning). After that, "Arntor, Ein Windir" (Arntor, A Warrior) blasts off as a flawless classic in the melodic black metal realm. Then "Kong Hydnes Haug" (The Burial Mound of King Hydnes), which is pretty great. While not as much of a gem in the crown as the previous track, there's still some solid black metal right there.
"Svartesmeden Og Lundamyrstrollet" (The Blacksmith and the Troll of Lundamyri), throughout it's 9-minute length, has only a few separate riffs under guitar leads and can still come out as one of the best songs I've heard in the genre. "Kampen" (The Struggle) isn't too struggling, but not very appealing either.
The 10-minute epic "Saknet" (The Longing) continues the technique of alternating between only a few riffs throughout the track. The instruments make the most change, taking turns playing each riff, whether adding more or less heaviness or harmony. That's the epic effect more black metal bands should have! "Ending" is a great way to go out, but it could've been better when closing a near-perfect classic of an album.
All in all, this atmospheric emotion, mythological lyrics, and melodic power are what make this album stand out in Norwegian black metal. It's much different from the more satanic bands of the scene. An excellent unique journey!
Favorites: "Arntor, Ein Windir", "Svartesmeden Og Lundamyrstrollet", "Saknet"
An experimental electronic band named Ulver started off as folk-black metal in their debut Bergtatt. Then they took out all of their metal in their folk album Kveldssanger. And where did they put all their leftover black metal? In this album, Nattens madrigal! They also spent all their recording money on drugs and a Corvette just so they could record the album in a forest using a tape recorder. Of course, that's just a rumor, but with this harsh raw production, you might think that was real...
Try to find any acoustic folk in this album. Spoiler: There's almost none. This is raw punishing black metal with vicious guitar and shrieks. Though within the chaos is some great melody, and the lyrics are centered around wolves in the dark night, with each track being deemed a "Wolf Hymne".
The opening track "Fear" explodes into the harsh raw extremeness throughout the first minute. Then the second minute is a nice beautiful acoustic section. You might think they would have more to bring back the Bergtatt sound, but that's not the case here. The chaos returns at the start of the 3rd minute and is like that for the rest of the album, minus some brief ambient intermissions between tracks. The soloing gets totally ripped in "The Devil". With speedy tremolo in "Hatred", another furious composition is made!
"Man" has emotional atmosphere in the raw black metal sound, leading up to a fierce ending. Another notable highlight for me is "The Moon" which has given me an effect where I'm happy about this even though the sound that already summarizes this album is far from what I'm used to.
I can say the same about "Passion" which is my personal favorite of the album, in which the searing madness is surrounded by the melodic beginning and end. The ending riff of "Destiny" works brilliantly with this lo-fi production and aggressive drumming. "The Night" has the last of this incredible guitar, and I'm both sad and glad that the band would discard their extreme sound in subsequent albums.
Nattens Madrigal is one of the fiercest albums I've heard in black metal while having some melody in those raw sinister tremolos. Garm was also in Arcturus and Borknagar at the time, but this Ulver album shows him unleashing the most of his snarling rage. Probably one of the best examples of the heavier side of black metal for me!
Favorites: "Fear", "The Moon", "Passion", "The Night"
Emperor is known as the band that pioneered symphonic black metal and a once forbidden aspect adding keyboards to black metal, with their 1994 debut In the Nightside Eclipse. I've actually checked out that album a few years ago, but backed out from there, because I wasn't ready to go down that route, and all members of the band who recorded that album except Ihsahn were arrested and jailed for murder, assault, arson, etc. So let's go 3 years later (both the past and present) to their second album!
Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk continues to shape up the band's symphonic black metal. Here the songs are more anthemic and the keyboards have much more prominence instead of being left in the background. With synthesized string crescendos and mystical lyrical themes, the vibe is more medieval than satanic. Also to add into the sound of extreme chaos, the imprisoned murderer drummer Faust was replaced with the guy from Enslaved's Frost, Trym. His crazy blast-beat drumming was what made the first two Enslaved albums stand out in pummeling fury with his super strength, and he has encouraged other extreme metal drummers to break the ground to the Earth's core.
"Alsvartr (The Oath)" is the album's long intro. The nocturnal atmosphere slowly builds until reaching its epic climax in the time for the next track... "Ye Entrancemperium" begins the devastating blackening earthquake. The relentless drumming barely gives out, staying as a fast stampede and only slowing down when necessary before ending the song in a total bang. "Thus Spake the Nightspirit" has more chaotic speed and technical riffing from the guitar duo of Ihsahn and Samoth, and their tremendous writing shows their true genius. Dissonant harmonies and tremolos add more to the sound that's already cinematic as it is. The epic fury shows the direction the band wanted to take, heading for glory while having some of their earlier brutality.
"Ensorcelled by Khaos" displays Trym's blast-beat chaos with so much heaviness that I'm surprised his snare never broke at all during recording. However, this constant raging stream can be a bit repetitive and get old fast. As much as I enjoy this speedy chaos, it's not as essential as everything else in the instrumentation. Trym and Hellhammer are two amazing drummers, but... Yeah, we get it! You can drum like a madman. Still they're true forces of chaos in the genre. "The Loss and Curse of Reverence" has more of the epic intensity. Wonderful classic sound there! Though the lyrics are a bit cheesy, especially in the spoken passage.
"The Acclamation of Bonds" resembles their debut the most, in which the bass, drums, and guitars pick up furious speed. The guitars still stay behind the keyboards for its needed atmosphere. "With Strength I Burn" is the perfect way to summarize symphonic black metal here. The keyboards stick around until the end, and the lyrics have grand mystical narrative. Ihsahn's clean singing sounds the best here. "The Wanderer" is a short inspiring outro with guitars and keyboards expanding in a desolate soundscape.
Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk may be different from their debut, but it's an essential part of the band's evolution that would continue into their next two albums. Apart from a bit of repetition and cheesiness, this is epic furious symphonic black metal that any of the more extreme metalheads should listen to!
Favorites: "Ye Entrancemperium", "Thus Spake the Nightspirit", "The Loss and Curse of Reverence", "With Strength I Burn"
I picked the Birmingham grind godfathers third album up on cassette upon release after quite liking all of Napalm Death's previous material. They'd started to incorporate elements of death metal into their sound for 1989's "Mentally Murdered" E.P. but took those influences much further here. In fact, most people seem to agree that "Harmony Corruption" is a death metal release but I'm gonna have to question that theory. To my ears there's still easily enough grindcore in their sound for it to qualify as deathgrind. I'd actually suggest that it's a better example of the deathgrind subgenre than "Mentally Murdered" was because that record was basically grindcore with death metal vocals whereas "Harmony Corruption" sees them playing genuine death metal riffs mixed in with blasts of grindcore. The influence of bands like Death, Obituary & Deicide is really obvious.
I don't have too many issues with the infamous production job other than the strange pitch-shifted guitar solos & Barney's monstrous vocals are a definite improvement on Lee Dorian's efforts. There are some great moments across the album too, particularly when they go to the two extremes with chuggy half-time death metal sections & frantic blast-beat driven grindcore savagery. I do struggle a touch with the groovier hardcore riffs at times though so "Harmony Corruption" has never seemed like an essential release even if it was as good as anything Napalm Death had released to the time. These days I'd probably put it on par with 1988's "From Enslavement To Obliteration" sophomore album but would take the elder sibling if pushed.
My first experiences with Phoenix-based thrash metallers Sacred Reich came through late-night underground metal radio programs in the very late 1980's with both their 1987 debut album "Ignorance" & 1988 "Surf Nicaragua" E.P. offering me plenty of appeal & commanding further attention. The first Sacred Reich record I'd purchase though would be their 1990 sophomore album "The American Way". It'd come in the form of a cassette copy that Ben & I would give a good hard flogging over the next year or so. The highlight tracks had received plenty of radio play in the weeks leading up to the purchase so I was pretty pumped when we finally picked it up & in some ways this revisit has indicated that perhaps I let that excitement cloud my judgement a touch.
"The American Way" sees Sacred Reich slowing things down from the approach they took on their more frantic debut album, this time opting for more of a mid-paced, groove-oriented sound that still highlighted their politically & socially motivated themes very well. It's a heavily riff-based record that's built around a unified sound & tight performances. Listening back now, I'd have to suggest that the drum sound wasn't ideal but it's not a deal breaker by any means. Front man Phil Rind's vocals are strong & clear which helps him to get his powerful messages across very well & there are some absolutely belting riffs on offer here too.
The tracklisting kicks off with the true classic of the album in "Love... Hate" which was very much an anthem for my late teenage years. Every time Sacred Reich kick back into the main riff after the chorus is a masterstroke & sees me thrashing around like a madman. I have to admit that some of the other tracks that I loved so much as a kid have lost a bit of their gloss if I'm being honest though. "Crimes Against Humanity" & "State of Emergency" are certainly very strong inclusions but neither reached the classic status I thought they might whereas the title track now seems to fall well short of the pedestal I've always placed it on. The album fades significantly in the back end too with "Who's to Blame" being pretty flat & the pointless funk rock novelty track "31 Flavors" tainting what had the potential to be a really strong thrash record.
Look, there's still easily enough great material to warrant your attention here but I can't say that I consider "The American Way" to be essential thrash metal listening any longer. It's more the type of album where I'd pull out the best few tracks for a gym playlist as some of this stuff (like the chorus of "The Way It Is" for example) hasn't stood the test of time as well as I'd hoped, potentially due to the relative simplicity & reduction in aggression from previous efforts. Despite the obvious production issues Sacred Reich experienced with "Ignorance", I consider it to be a step up from this record. "Surf Nicaragua" too actually.
I first became aware of Teutonic thrash heavy-weights Sodom through their classic 1988 third full-length "Agent Orange" which I purchased on cassette in the very late 1980's or early 1990's & it impressed me enough to see me very rapidly purchasing the remainder of their back catalogue (also on cassette). I wouldn't say that I ever regarded them as a tier one thrash outfit but they certainly offered enough energy & menace to keep this ol' thrasher satisfied & sat comfortably at the top of my tier two bucket. The main issue for Sodom throughout the 1980's was always their ability to write freely flowing songs. They were masters of writing fantastic riffs but the song structures often sounded really jerky & pasted together to my ears which saw them lagging behind their superior local peers Kreator the majority of the time. 1990 would see Sodom releasing their fourth album & it'd be the first that I'd purchase on release (on cassette again -go figure). The better tracks had already been flogged on late-night underground metal radio programs so I was pretty pumped for what I hoped would be the record to see me finally elevate Sodom to the top tier where they belonged.
So, did they manage to do it? Well... not quite but they gave it a damn good crack. "Better Off Dead" is a beautifully conceived & composed thrash record that saw Sodom finally overcoming the song-writing challenges of the past to present some fully-developed & naturally flowing song structures. Of the twelve tracks, two are cover versions but they're both well executed & work as nice change-ups (particularly the Tank one which is really very good & suits their sound nicely). Stylistically, the majority of the record takes a familiar but highly professional German thrash direction but the band regularly change things up with not only a couple of those Motorhead-style speed metal numbers they're so good at but also a few genuine heavy metal tunes. They're damn entertaining too & easily trigger the ear worms to take control of your body for the remainder of the day to reflect on.
The highlight tracks on "Better Off Dead" are sublime. Elite thrash numbers like opener "An Eye For An Eye" & album highlight "Bloodtrails" are crushingly heavy & never fail to get my head banging but the surprise packet comes in the form of a stunningly ambitious track like "Resurrection" which is a much more controlled heavy metal number that utilizes some unique choir sections & features Motorhead's Lemmy on backing vocals. The consistency of the tracklisting is another major selling point as there's not a weak track included with only the Thin Lizzy cover of "Cold Sweat" sounding inessential. New guitarist Michael Hoffmann's bluesy Fast Eddie Clarke-inspired guitar solos fit Sodom's dirty sound like a glove too which isn't something I thought I'd be saying going in. I guess it goes without saying then that "Better Off Dead" is an essential Sodom album, isn't it? But I'll go one step further by claiming that I'm now comfortable to voice the internalized feelings I've always harbored that "Better Off Dead" was Sodom's best release to the time. Yep! I went there & I'm holding my ground too.
I purchased the 1990 sophomore album from Bay Area thrashers Vio-lence on cassette pretty close to its release date after really digging the dubbed copy of their thrashtastic 1988 debut album "Eternal Nightmare" I'd picked up from a school mate the previous year. "Oppressing The Masses" isn't as consistently relentless in its high tempo assault on the senses but it's no less effective in my opinion. The song-writing & riff structures are highly professional with the musical talent of the instrumentalists being very impressive indeed. I particularly enjoy the shredding guitar solos but the riffs are all of a high quality too. Front man Sean Killian will once again be a sticking point for some listeners but I think he sounds a little more natural when compared to the debut & I actually quite enjoy the psychotic edge he brings to things which reminds me a lot of former Exodus madman Paul Baloff. The tracklisting is extremely consistent with a solid quality level being maintained throughout. "World In A World" is the only genuine Bay Area classic in my opinion though which is a shame because there was so much potential to make this an even more significant release in the annals of thrash metal history. As it is though, I'd still recommend "Oppressing The Masses" to all of our The Pit clan members & rate it just behind “Eternal Nightmare” in terms of Vio-lence’s back catalogue overall.
I haven't listened to In This Moment in years and if the bands recent outing, Godmode is any indicator, it does not seem like I have missed much in the years since The Dream. The band have migrated out of the melodic metalcore sphere and fully embraced their mainstream rock/metal stripes. Maria Brink is far more expressive on this album than on the last album Mother, however, despite this more drastic change in timbre toward industrial, Maria is not able to fully embrace that wilder side of her delivery because the songs themselves are pretty lazily put together.
Speaking of lazy, this production is horrible! The albums main promo single "The Purge" feels like it should explode into a massive chorus or breakdown, but instead, Maria's timbre flip-flops from hushed whispers to harsh screaming, only for the flaccid electronic percussion and weak synths to return as if this huge buildup didn't just happen. The guitars sound really tinny and compressed, while any bass presence is thoroughly gutted throughout the album. The kicker for me was the Spencer Charnas feature on "Damaged" where the two vocalist build up to this huge climax and where you would expect a release, the guitar re-entry is muted and any sense of payoff is thwarted within seconds.
Which is kind of a shame because the record does have some okay melodic ideas. They aren't as flushed out as The Dream was, but "Army of Me", "Everything Starts and Ends With You" and "I Would Die For You" can be deceptively tuneful. On the other hand, the constant vocal swapping during the verses on "The Purge" sound really stupid and neuter the actual buildup/breakdown of that songs chorus even more so than the production on its own.
I don't think that the industrial and electronic elements sound bad, but their incorporation feels muted because In This Moment has laid a very weak foundation for this newer sound. Something tells me that if Godmode was remastered with less compression, it would be a lot better. This bands attempts at going mainstream is a bit of a Beautiful Tragedy because it relinquishes the bands personality and leaves them as a empty shell. All they have left is Maria's vocals and this production is not emphasizing her strengths.
Best Songs: Army of Me, Everything Starts and Ends With You
The atmosphere on À l'aube will be the true selling point as to whether or not you enjoy this. Something about its slow, brooding tempo reminds me a lot of doom or sludge metal, but the dynamics feel painstakingly reserved which I do not hear very often in the more direct styles of those two genres. This record uses space very well, since most of its most intense moments only appear for a short while before returning back to its very comfortable, whimsical post-rock/metal style. The record does feel like it's saying a lot over just five songs (5) and just under forty minutes (40), but it was difficult for me to remember what it was trying to say afterward. Something about the timbre of this album feels almost too comfortable. Nothing surrounding À l'aube really snaps me out of the sway that I found myself in while listening to it. As a result, the record turns into background noise after a while. Perhaps the vocals might be your spark, but when they are introduced on the opening track, their sporadic usage throughout the rest of the record was less surprising. All things considered, this album is pleasant enough and a welcome detour from the pummeling death and black metal that I have been going through recently, but compared to other post-metal bands like Holy Fawn or Dreadnought, it's lacking in something, and I can't quite put my finger on it.
Best Songs: Il sera déjà trop tard, Prêchant la mauvaise nouvelle, Nous sommes disparus
I got heavily into Buffalo death metallers Cannibal Corpse in the early 1990's & they'd become a major influence on the early works of my own death metal band Neuropath. Despite my getting a fair bit of enjoyment out of it, their debut album "Eaten Back To Life" never seemed to be quite as appealing as their subsequent records though. This revisit hasn't seen that opinion changing much. The band hadn't quite hit on their more brutal signature sound as yet & there's still a decent thrash influence on display but I don't think too many people would be claiming this as a thrash release with front man Chris Barnes now attempting an admittedly fairly crude death growl that is definitely the weak point of the album.
The tracklisting is pretty consistent though with only "Scattered Remains, Splattered Brains" failing to hit the mark. There's a naive innocence about the rest of the record that is hard not to enjoy with Cannibal Corpse throwing the kitchen sink at you with a multitude of memorable riffs. Drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz's performance is a little loose but is almost refreshing to hear him still feeling the freedom to try new things given his fairly repetitive approach on Cannibal Corpse's later material. I think it's fair to say that songs like "Shredded Humans", "Born In A Casket" & "Buried In The Backyard" have a right to be tagged as death metal anthems for a teenage me & I still connect with them very easily so "Eaten Back To Life" has maintained a similar level of appeal to what it offered me all those years ago, despite being comfortably the weakest Barnes-fronted Cannibal Corpse record.
Arcturus' widely-praised debut album Aspera Hiems Symfonia marked a new symphonic ascension for black metal. After that, the band switched gears to a different avant-garde style. I love La Masquerade Infernale (The Infernal Masquerade) as much as their debut, here because they didn't repeat their earlier sound unlike most other symphonic black metal bands. You can still hear the great keyboard melodies and guitar leads that they can play without going too extreme.
As with Garm's other project Ulver, he was starting to move away from the black metal aggression and having more focus on expanding his singing variety. His vocals can range from electronic to operatic. And that's an epic aspect that makes this offering worth your time!
The guitar skills by Knut Magne Valle provide atmosphere for "Master of Disguise". Vocalist Kristoffer "Garm" Rygg can sing well in low beauty. There are some samples here, but I think Garm could've easily sung them. Simen "ICS Vortex" Hestnaes (guest vocalist who would later replace Garm full-time) sings in higher contrast with his operatic tenor. All in all, one of my favorite tracks here and the best opener! The neo-classical instrumental "Ad Astra" fits well in the album, but not as early as being the second track.
The more circus-y "The Chaos Path" has excellent vocals by Vortex. The title interlude has mysterious sound effects used as percussion to go alongside the somber piano melody. Blast-beats kick off "Alone" with a great boost.
"The Throne of Tragedy" has melodic bliss before jumping into melodic caverns. "Painting My Horror" is a true highlight, surpassing the opening track by a notch. Garm's vocals are awesome, even sounding eerie towards the end. "Of Nails and Sinners" is a killer closing track. Garm starts off with low operatic vocals, before rising into a nice chorus. A cool way out of the inferno!
All in all, any metalhead who wants to explore a more diverse, clean, classical side of the genre should get this release. It is an infernal carnival show not to be missed. A high recommendation for the open-minded!
Favorites: "Master of Disguise", "The Chaos Path", "The Throne of Tragedy", "Painting My Horror"
14 minutes is a short amount of time, and you can do anything during that amount of time. You can write something, do a small drawing, maybe have a call with someone, OR... Listen to music! See, I can spend 14 minutes of free time listening to music, but it's mostly just a progressive epic that long. I prefer to indulge in a journey rather than one of those grindcore speed-runs. Though I find great enjoyment in the Killwhitneydead debut release Inhaling the Breath of a Bullet, speeding through exactly 833 seconds.
See, I'm not usually a fan of this metalcore/deathgrind kind of sound, nor the grindcore aspect of really short songs. However, this release is an enjoyable exception, along with Daughter's Canada Songs. Something unique here is the amount of film samples they use, which is more of an industrial metal aspect. But d*mn it's quite interesting, and with up to a few samples in each song, that can almost outshine industrial metal bands when it comes to that aspect. Now I have a positive feeling about how well they perform the instrumentation. You can really hear those virtuoso guitar bursts!
"If It Ain't Johnny Cash, It Ain't Country" opens with well-done riffing brutality, complete with catchy speed. "I Already Have Enough Friends" have pretty much the same thing, quickly moving through your skull and brain faster than a bullet. "Hold Me Closer Tony Danza" starts with the same American Psycho quote as the one used by Children of Bodom between "Bodom Beach Terror" and "Angels Don't Kill" in Hate Crew Deathroll a year later.
"Another Tragic Case of the Rock Star Syndrome" strikes with blast-beats, vocals, and riffs, filled with bloody carnage. The structure isn't too complex or too simple but just right. The dark disturbing atmosphere works well for those riffs and samples. And there's a lot more in the two and a half minute highlight "Starring Robert Downey Jr. As 'The Addict'". Also standing out is "It's Like Eating a Little Piece of Jesus (A Murder's Communion)" that continues the crazy riffing/vocal brutality that summarizes the band's sound. Much of their talent appears again in "Is That My Blood or Hers?", with great vocals and guitars not too far off from Psyopus.
Even "Why Smile When I Am Carrying This Gun?" can have a similar amount of complex brutality to Within the Ruins. "Mikey and the Apartment of Misfit Porn" has some slight earlier standard metalcore of Hatebreed and Earth Crisis. "Killwhitneydead vs. The River Bottom Nightmare Band" has great sublime groove. "My Favorite Two Shades on You Are Black and Blue" ends the album with the last bit of crazy blasts and riffs and some last words from Patrick Bateman, "I think my mask of sanity is about to slip."
The sanity of this band has already slipped from the start, as they let their mad metalcore/deathgrind sound run wild and free. This is the kind of the madness worth 14 minutes of your life, if you're truly ready!
Favorites: "If It Ain't Johnny Cash, It Ain't Country", "Another Tragic Case of the Rock Star Syndrome", "Starring Robert Downey Jr. As 'The Addict'", "It's Like Eating a Little Piece of Jesus (A Murder's Communion)", "Is That My Blood or Hers?", "Mikey and the Apartment of Misfit Porn"
MWC are a relatively recent three-piece from the home of stoner doom, Birmingham, UK. They play mega-fuzzy Sabbathian riffs and sound more than a little like Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, even down to the use of multiple layered lead vocals. Despite being derivative, they are very accomplished and have some good songs, mixing slower, groovy and doomish tracks such as Diabolical Influence or the album's best track, The Witchfinder Comes, with shorter, quicker, stuff like Death Lurks at Every Turn. Five or ten years ago I would have really lapped this shit up, but I have grown a bit inured to the charms of stoner metal over recent years, so while I can appreciate this as a very professional slab of stonerized goodness, I can't go all in on it and award it a higher score. However, if you are an Uncle Acid fanatic then I would urge you to give this a listen.
With their EP A Certain Innate Suffering released in 1997, Withdrawn started off as dark sludgy metalcore/hardcore. Adding in some death metal elements that had yet to solidify the metal/deathcore sound of their 1999 album, you can consider this band a mix of Asphyx and Earth Crisis. Those were the days when UK hardcore had the slower metallic vibe of Deviated Instinct.
You can hear a stunning difference between this EP and Seeds of Inhumanity. Here you have a simpler yet brutal experience as there's more heaviness than variation. And this can actually be more of a struggle for modern listeners like myself...
First track "Lifeless" fits well in the song title. Apart from the aggression, there's not much exciting as it just plods along. The 7-minute epic "Serenity" is much better despite the lack of hardcore gang vocals and melodic hooks. What makes this song stand out is thick guitar reverb (different from the album) and the loose drumming (just like the album). Interesting despite the repetition! "Oceans of Darkness" greatly adds the doomy progressiveness that later Dodheimsgard and Green Carnation would have to the metallic hardcore of later bands like Vision of Disorder and Demon Hunter. "Embalmed" is a little too anticlimactic.
Intending to make a dark impact on UK metallic hardcore, the end result was a somewhat poor EP. After this, two of the members left to form their own bands, which would explain the more melodic sound the drummer and the guitarist would make in their album. Still this EP is worth hearing hardcore/metalcore at its darkest....
Favorites: "Serenity", "Oceans of Darkness"
I've kind of grown tired of melodic death/black metal and such sounds. Often, it feels like an excuse for a bunch of people who can't sing and some guitarists whose only virtue is their speed. How I long for more bands to style themselves after Satan's Host, but alas, I seem to be the only person on the planet to like them. Malkarpatan falls into the former category, but honestly, they aren't half bad.
I can't quite put my finger on what their melodic parts sound like. I wanna say Iron Maiden, but I can't think of a single Iron Maiden song which sounds like something off this. It almost feels like a glam metal inspired riff style. To complicate matters, this is mixed in with at least a dozen instruments and synths. I had my answer on Panstvo Salamandrov, it's black metal ELP. Everything makes sense now.
This isn't necessarily to pin the band into one specific thing, because this album does so many things yet feels very cohesive. They possess the unique talent to do something like play rigid black metal and then follow it up with something that wouldn't fit on 90% of albums that try it. Yet, they make it sound as natural as the calm before the storm.
They're an interesting band, and I look forward to hearing more of them.
I first got into Berkley thrash metallers Testament after blind-purchasing their 1989 third album "Practice What You Preach" shortly after release, having been driven by the comparisons with my beloved Metallica. I'd share my CD with Ben who was just coming to grips with thrash himself & together we'd investigate Testament's earlier albums with Ben perhaps becoming a little more enamored with the band than I was. This would result in Ben purchasing 1990's "Souls of Black" CD as soon as it was released & we'd once again give it a bit of a flogging together over the next month or so. Strangely, I haven't returned to "Souls of Black" as regularly as I have Testament's first three records over the years & I recently realised that I wasn't quite sure as to why so decided to give it a revisit.
"Souls of Black" shares some common traits with Exodus' "Impact Is Imminent" from the same year in that it's a very similar record to its predecessor which inevitably draws like-for-like comparisons, only neither come close to matching their elder siblings for overall quality. The production job is a clear obstacle with the rhythm guitar tone being noticeably thin & tinny, a failing that was always going to hurt a band like Testament which lives & dies by its classy guitar work. The tracklisting begins in muscular fashion with the impressive flamenco intro track "Beginning of the End" leading into my personal favourite "Face In The Sky" but the quality immediately takes a step down from there with only the more technical "Malpractice" seeing it rising to the same heights again. The album is completely devoid of classics & there are a few inclusions that I can only deem to be failures too (see "Absence of Light", "Love to Hate" & particularly the misguided attempt to emulate the ballad from Testament's previous album in "The Legacy"). Front man Chuck Billy does his best to work with the material he's got but the song-writing is simply a little light-weight & isn't helped by the production job. The saviour would be lead guitarist Alex Skolnick as usual & his contribution is once again the clear standout of the release.
Don't get me wrong. "Souls of Black" isn't a poor album as such but it's certainly not the record Testament were looking for at the time. I enjoy 70% of the material but I never really came close to awarding four stars as the production & the few filler tracks were always going to be an insurmountable obstacle. Drummer Louie Clemente is another as I've always said that he has no place in a thrash metal band with his simple, rocky style seemingly fighting to keep Testament from sounding too extreme. I've never felt that Testament were deserving of a tier one thrash metal status & "Souls of Black" does nothing to change that opinion even if it's definitely worth a few listens.
As Winter plans its entrance into next month (as of writing this review), Garm's vocals that has already touched Ulver and Borknagar sends a cold chill in the northern air. Aspera Hiems Symfonia (Harsh Winter Symphony) is an amazing offering of early atmospheric symphonic black metal for any metalhead! My slight issue with this album, other than the fact that I'm not usually up for a lot of black metal, is the production sounding a bit flat. I guess that should be expected in any popular black metal album, but the proof is in the drums here. Now it's impressive hearing how well the drumming fits with the melody, as well as slowing down and speeding up whenever needed, courtesy of Hellhammer (also in Mayhem and formerly the Kovenant). However, the drums sound a bit fake, as does the bass. Still it's an easy minor flaw to brush aside...
The music shows that the album title isn't for nothing. This is cold epic black metal in which the harsh vocals are in grand alignment with the symphonics, highly suitable for the darkest winter night. Even when you're like me, listening to this album in the day in a country that never has snowy winters, you can just close your eyes and imagine the snowy darkness that is depicted. The album cover already shows you what to expect in this depressive nostalgic atmosphere. And the synths play a major role with lots of melodies to level up the atmosphere and overall epicness.
The keyboard experimentation already hits its mark in "To Thou Who Dwellest in the Night", with a section of Hammond organ to be absorbed into your mind. I wasn't really into the clean vocals in "Wintry Grey" during my first time listening to that track, but I love them much more now since my revisit. The singing adds more layers of melody above the instrumentation. Garm's deep singing power is a great contrast to his usual shrieking. He even reversed his vocals in "Whence and Whither Goest the Wind".
"Raudt og Svart" (Red and Black) has archaic Norwegian lyrics, which I actually like. Garm's shrieks rise in powerful aggression during the end, as the cleans sound greater. "The Bodkin and the Quietus (...To Reach the Stars)" starts off slow in the guitars, and there's a synth-filled chorus. The guitar solo speeds up the pace, along with the drums and riffing getting heavier. The synths sound quite odd here. The song continues to slow down and speed up whenever necessary, the former for the riffing and the latter for the soloing. The solo at the end is not much special, just filling up some leads.
"Du Nordavind" (Your Northern Wind) is a more abstract song, starting with creepy carnival-like synths. While the verses don't have special riffing, Garm's singing continues to shine. Then we have an interesting piano solo, harmonized by guitar. Soon only bass and drums are heard, with some keyboard and spoken vocals in the background. Then the perfect carnival-like riffing and clean singing comes on again. Nothing wrong there! The orchestral synth melodies have the most power in "Fall of Man", a true symphonic black metal highlight. The somber synth/piano take the front stage, with the guitars staying behind. Complex skills by keyboardist Steinar Sverd Johnsen (who was also in Ulver and the Kovenant). "Naar Kulda Tar (Frostnettenes Prolog)" (When the Cold Takes Over (Prologue of the Frostnets)) has the last of cold frostiness in the synths.
Aspera Hiems Symfonia is one of the best albums I've heard in symphonic black metal. Although it doesn't reach total perfection, it makes me up to exploring more of this genre via bands like Ulver, Emperor, and Windir. And I know I won't highly convert into the genre, but it's album like this that I won't get tired of. Welcome to the harsh winter!
Favorites: "Wintry Grey", "Raudt og Svart", "Da Nordavind", "Fall of Man"
Back during the early days of Ayreon when it's place was a bit stranger than it was today, there was Actual Fantasy, an album, rather than a concept album, took inspiration from various bits of media. (I struck to say sci-fi, because it's half Lucassen's dreams and half non-genre fiction) While this is wildly considered the worst Ayreon album, Lucassen's desire to explore the same general ideas as on that album, the usual knock-off of fantastical media, and Blake's 7.
There are four vocalists on this album, and they more or less appear on every song. Russell Allen of Symphony X, Dan Swano, Floor Jensen and Damian Wilson of Threshold and Arena. The problem here is that this album is like a later Symphony X album with a different keyboardist for half the songs. Allen dominates the album, sometimes to the detriment of the songs. But I must admit, Symphony X would at least have the guitar serve a purpose beyond half-hearted following along the keyboards. It's mildly annoying/amusing that a prog band treats the guitar as a bass and the bass as mostly non-existent.
This gives the impression I don't like the album, which is fair, but Lucassen rarely has much to criticize in the meat of his work. You either like his skills at the keyboard or you don't. The other three vocalists are impeccably chosen and the little keyboard flourishes are all very nice. There's just a certain amount of laziness that prevents me from fully loving the album. There's even this distinct habit for a bridge/chorus to go, someone singing/keyboard noodling/Floor sings, usually the title of the song. No manner how good the melodies are, once you notice that, you're going to notice it.
Expanded versions of the album add a few tracks, of note is a Hawkwind medley which has vocals from Dave Brock himself. It's a neat thing to hear, but gosh is it ever brief on the songs it covers. All in all a pretty good album.