Daniel's Forum Replies

February 27, 2024 06:59 PM

This morning's track is Judas Priest's "Genocide" &, at the risk of retaliation, I'm gonna have to suggest that you have to wait until right at the end for the climax & fade-out section before you get any legitimate metal on this one. It sounds much closer to AC/DC than it does to Iron Maiden for mine so I have go with my heart & say that it's predominantly a hard rock tune.

For the record, I don't consider any of those band's classic releases to be technical death metal. They're all progressive death metal records in my opinion. The incorrect use of the tech death & tech thrash tags has long been a source of annoyance for me & is one that I'd like to clear up in the Academy database at some point but have had to simply accept until such time as we have an avenue to make the required changes.

February 26, 2024 08:41 PM

I'm sure I'll annoy a few of you with this morning's hot take but I believe Judas Priest's "Tyrant" offers as much in the way of hard rock as it does heavy metal so I'm going with a dual tagging. The verses & guitar solo section are clearly metal but the rest is decidedly grey, particularly the intro, choruses & bridge along with the performance of the rhythm section being predominantly rock based.


February 26, 2024 08:10 PM

Pestilence - "Testimony of the Ancients" (1991)

Dutch legends Pestilence first came to my attention back in 1990 through their classic death metal anthem "Out Of The Body" which was played on late-night metal radio & saw me quickly exploring Pestilence's first couple of albums. I found both of them to be very solid examples of the early death metal scene too & have returned to them quite often over the years but it would be their 1991 "Testimony of the Ancients" third full-length that would really set my world on fire after I picked up a cassette copy of the album upon release. It would be by far Pestilence's most ambitious effort to date as it would see them expanding their musical palette significantly with a more progressive approach that sat very well with my taste profile at the time. For some reason though, I've managed to never get a firm rating down on Metal Academy & I'd like to change that today.

1988's excellent death/thrash debut album "Malleus Maleficarum" & 1989's widely praised death metal classic "Consuming Impulse" were both classy affairs that showcased a band that was willing to push themselves as musicians but were still comparitively straight forward in their structure & composition. The loss of influential front man Martin van Drunen would see a reshuffle in the ranks with guitarist Patrick Mameli stepping up to the microphone & the super-talented Tony Choy taking over Mameli's bass duties which were both extremely positive moves in my opinion. While I do enjoy van Drunen's psychotic howls, I've always found Mameli's more controlled & traditionally deathly vocals to be far more to my taste while Choy's undeniable chops & impeccable tone would see Pestilence reaching a new level of technical proficiency that would no doubt play a role in the musical direction they'd take.

"Testimony of the Ancients" sees Pestilence offering eight full songs in combination with eight short interludes of various styles for a wonderfully expansive take on the death metal model that wouldn't totally isolate old-school fans but would open Pestilence up to a whole new audience of open-minded metal fans. It's still very much a death metal album at its core but the incorporation of more complex song-structures, the wide use of octaves & dissonance within the chord structures & the integration of jazz fusion concepts within the guitar solos would see Pestilence starting to play in spaces previously only traversed by bands like Atheist & Cynic but maintaining a darkness & intensity that neither of those seminal acts could match. The influence of Teutonic thrash heavy-weights Kreator's classic 1988 "Extreme Aggression" album is obvious throughout without the record ever feeling like thrash while the contribution of death metal godfathers Death to Pestilence's music is still as clear as day, although it's certainly worth noting that "Testimony of the Ancients" actually came out before Death's wonderful 1991 fourth album "Human" with which it shares so many of its traits. Pestilence had traditionally followed Death's lead but here we see them making the running in no uncertain terms. The tendency for people to want to call both bands "technical death metal" is misguided though in my opinion with neither being particularly technical in the true sense of the term. This music is far better served by a "progressive death metal" tag as it's a lot more adventurous than simply making the riffs & rhythms harder to play. In fact, a lot of the material isn't actually all that hard to reproduce, even Choy's bass lines which are still fairly faithful to the riffs for the most part.

Despite the inclusion of the many interludes which are quite varied in their effectiveness, "Testimony of the Ancients" possesses an outstanding tracklisting that's full of genuine classics. "Twisted Truth" is one of my all-time favourite death metal tracks & lead the way nicely while "Land of Tears", "Prophetic Revelations", "Stigmatized" & particularly the incredible "Testimony" & "Presence of the Dead" present an elite artist that's at the very peak of their creativity. This all amounts to a record that I still consider to be the clear highlight of an impressive four album run that would etch Pestilence into the annals of death metal folklore for all time. Sadly, the band's subsequent reformation & continuous efforts to match their early works hasn't amounted to anything of significance but they'll always be afforded a position amongst the greats of the genre nonetheless, such was the impact of those late 80's/early 90's releases on the global extreme metal scene. If you're a diehard Death, Atheist or Cynic fan then you owe it to yourself to get across this record too.


Here's my updated Top Ten Technical Death Metal Releases of All Time list with Death's "Symbolic" dropping out to make way for "Testimony of the Ancients":

01. 7 Horns 7 Eyes - "Throes Of Absolution" (2012)

02. Death - "Human" (1991)

03. Suffocation - "Pierced From Within" (1995)

04. Suffocation - "Despise The Sun" E.P. (1998)

05. Death – “Individual Thought Patterns” (1993)

06. Pestilence - "Testimony of the Ancients" (1991)

07. Gorguts – “Colored Sands” (2013)

08. Cynic - "Focus" (1993)

09. Ulcerate – “Everything Is Fire” (2009)

10. Ad Nauseam - "Imperative Imperceptible Impulse" (2021)


February 25, 2024 06:56 PM

This morning's track is Judas Priest's "Prelude" which I feel is best served by a dual tag of classical music & art rock.

Swedish melodic blackened death metallers Necrophobic's tenth full-length "In the Twilight Grey" is due for release on 15th March. They've managed to pull together a couple of more than decent albums since 2013's disappointing "Womb of Lilithu" so I'm expecting more of the same here without ever threatening to produce anything of the quality of their mid-90's peak.

Belgian brutal death metal stalwarts Aborted have generally been pretty consistent since a couple of dodgy releases in the late 2000's with their last five albums all being worth a listen so I'll probably get onboard once their brand new twelfth full-length "Vault of Horrors" is released on 15th March.

I'm a big fan of 2021's "Feel" debut album from Los Angeles death metallers Apparition which we featured here at the Academy at some point so I'm planning to be all over the follow-up "Disgraced Emanations From a Tranquil State" which is due to be released on 22nd March.

I haven't minded either of Japanese blackgaze artist Asunojokei's two full-lengths to date with their latest "Island" being the stronger of the two. It looks like the band might don't mind it either as they're about to release a live album that sees them performing "Island" in its entirety.

The news that Judas Priest are releasing a brand new album next month has made me realise that I never even got around to checking out their last one in 2018's highly praised "Firepower". The newie is called "Invincible Shield" & will no doubt get a fair bit of attention. I'm a fan of new-ish guitarist Richie Faulkner so there would have to be a good chance of some more quality heavy metal with this one too.

I first discovered French black metallers Merrimack through their 2006 "Of Entropy & Life Denial" sophomore album a few years after in hit the shelves & have kept track of them ever since. I wasn't much of a fan of 2012's "The Acausal Mass" record but they recovered pretty well with their 2017 follow-up "Omegaphilia" so I'll probably check out next month's sixth full-length "Of Grace & Gravity" at some point.

I've generally enjoyed my experiences with US speed metal solo act Midnight over the years with both their 2011 "Satanic Royalty" debut album & 2022's "Let There Be Witchery" fifth full-length being worthy of a few listens. Next month will see Jamie Walters releasing his follow-up to "Let There Be Witchery", a release entitled "Hellish Expectations". Might be worth a look I would expect too.

Chile's Pentagram have also got a new one out in April. It's their sophomore, released eleven years after their debut, The Malefice, an album I enjoyed a fair bit. They actually date back to the late-80's, releasing two well-thought of demos back in 1987, so I would be interested to hear how their new material sounds.

Quoted Sonny

Is that right? I quite liked "The Malefice" too & was also a big fan one of their 1980's demos back in my tape trading days so I'll definitely check that release out at some point.

Finnish melodic death metallers Before The Dawn have a brand new E.P. coming out in March called "Archaic Flame". I've always found these guys to be worth listening to but they dropped the ball with their last album "Stormbringers" so the jury is out on whether they can recover from that blip.


Here's a new release that I do hold strong hopes for in Chilean thrash metallers Critical Defiance's third full-length "The Search Won't Fall..." which is due to hit the shelves next month. Both of their first two albums have been worth listening to (particularly the last one "No Life Forms" which I thought was really strong) so I'll be checking this one out at some point too.

US industrial metal legends Ministry have yet another new full-length coming out next month under the suggestive title of "Hopiumforthemasses". I believe this will be their gazillionth album if I'm not mistaken. Admittedly the public has generally discarded everything they've done for decades now so I can't see them pulling out an unexpected classic at this point. I think the last Ministry record I actually checked out was 1996's "Filth Pig" though so what would I know.

Swiss death/thrash outfit Messiah have a new album coming out in March. I haven't enjoyed anything they've released since the early 1990's so I'm not holding out hopes of this release offering anything too special.

Underappreciated Aussie black metallers Pestilential Shadows are releasing their brand new seventh full-length "Devil's Hammer" next month which should be worth a few listens. Their last few releases have been pretty decent but have drifted past the public gaze relatively unnoticed. 2011's "Depths" album is a prime example of an undiscovered gem in my opinion.

Swedish trance metal masters Amaranthe have just released their brand new seventh full-length "The Catalyst". I actually didn't mind their last record "Manifest" so I wouldn't be averse to this one passing by my ear holes at some point although I'd suggest that it's unlikely to get too much of my attention.

Emperor front man & progressive metal icon Ihsahn's self-titled eighth solo album is due for release on 16th February. I'm well across his 2008-2012 period but haven't checked out his last few records, potentially because I didn't get on all that well with 2012's "Eremita" at the time. Perhaps it's time to get back in the saddle with this one.

Quoted Daniel

It seems that Ihsahn has released an "orchestral" version of this album too which is interesting. Anyone know what that's all about?

US drone metal duo The Body have just released a new collaboration album with German post-industrial solo artist Dis Fig entitled "Orchards of a Futile Heaven". I've had mixed experiences with The Body over the years but thoroughly enjoyed their more recent 2021 album "I've Seen All I Need to See" to this could be worth a look at some point. I've admittedly never heard of Dis Fig though.

February 24, 2024 09:07 PM

We aren't seriously considering this to be non-metal are we, that would be revisionism gone too far for me to take I think.

Quoted Sonny

Hahahaha.... let's not jump the gun as I never said that.

February 24, 2024 09:03 PM

Asphyx - "The Rack" (1991)

My introduction to Dutch death metallers Asphyx would come through their 1991 debut album "The Rack", a release that was highly praised within underground death metal circles at the time. I enjoyed it too, enough to explore their 1989 demo tape "Crush the Cenotaph" which was also quite good but I can't say that I ever found enough premium quality to see me lumping Asphyx in with the more elite artists in the thriving death metal scene of the early 1990's. Their 1992 follow-up "Last One On Earth" left me feeling fairly similarly & to this day I've always felt that Asphyx was more of a third tier death metal player that's largely built its reputation off the back of the pedigree of their illustrious front man Martin van Drunen whose prior exploits with fellow Dutchmen Pestilence & subsequent contributions to bands like Grand Supreme Blood Court & Hail of Bullets have seen him placed up on a grisly pedestal of blasphemy & decay by many. I can't say that I've ever rated his vocals as highly as some but I've never had a problem with them either so I guess I'm in a good position to make an unbiased judgement on a record like "The Rack" where Martin also plays bass guitar.

"The Rack" comes from the rawer side of the death metal spectrum with the performances being noticeably unpolished & the song-writing pushing the musicians to perform at a higher level than they were capable of delivering at the time. The guitar work of Eric Daniels (Grand Supreme Blood Court/Soulburn) is pretty basic & lacking in subtlety while drummer Bob Bagchus (Grand Supreme Blood Court/Soulburn) stays well within himself for the most part. These technical limitations are perhaps the reason why the slower, doomier parts of the record work best & it may not be a stretch to suggest that the success of those elements on their early releases may have contributed to the musical direction that Asphyx have chosen to take with their music over the decades since. You see, Asphyx have built their reputation around their ability to incorporate crushing doom riffs into their grimy European death metal sound & there are some very clear examples to be found here on "The Rack". In fact, it's the doom component that I find most attractive about Asphyx with my album highlights inevitably being the doomier inclusions.

While I don't think "The Rack" offers anything terribly life-changing in terms of genuine classics, it's also a very consistent record with no obviously weak songs. Most tracks suffer from the occasional dud riff or two which sees all of the band's best intentions brought back to the pack but none of their creative missteps are drastic enough to warrant you reaching for the skip button. "Diabolical Existence" (my personal favourite), "Ode to a Nameless Grave" & "Pages in Blood" are my picks for the stronger examples of Asphyx's sound but I'd suggest that others might pick alternative tracks given how compressed the quality band is across most of the album.

If I was to provide some points of reference for the early Asphyx sound I'd probably reach for acts like Obituary, Morgoth & Celtic Frost who are all obviously crushingly heavy bands who utilize(d) elements of doom metal within the context of extreme metal. The technical limitations of a young Asphyx do cap the potential for them to reach to upper echelons of the death metal pile for me personally but there's definitely enough here to keep me interested nonetheless & I'd have to say that "The Rack" appeals to me slightly more than 1992's "Last One on Earth" does, mainly because I think it offers one or two more highlights. If I'm being completely honest though, I'd actually take Asphyx's last record "Necroceros" over either of them but none of the three are records I reach for all that regularly.


February 24, 2024 08:00 PM

Is the metal status of an album with this, The Ripper, Tyrant and Genocide on it really in doubt?

Quoted Sonny

I would suggest that most of the A side is clear cut with the three of the four songs being clear examples of heavy metal but, upon revisiting the album in great detail over the past week, I've found that the B side is nowhere near as cut & dry.

This nomination has been posted as two entries in the Hall of Judgement.



February 24, 2024 06:08 PM

Today's track is Judas Priest's "Deceiver" which I consider to be heavy metal:

February 23, 2024 08:32 PM

Heavens Gate - "Livin' in Hysteria" (1991)

I've been meaning to get around to Germany's Heavens Gate for some time now as they seem to have built up a pretty reasonable following over the years, particularly off the back of their 1991 sophomore album "Livin' In Hysteria" which is widely known as their finest work. I think the links to power metal & the God-awful cover artwork have put me off a bit but given my recent re-exploration of so many of my musical passions from the period I thought it might be as good a time as any to see what Heavens Gate are all about.

I didn't have any expectations going into my first listen as I hadn't done much prior research but my first impressions would tell me everything I needed to know with Heavens Gate sitting on the cheesier & more cliche-ridden end of metal. Heavens Gate's sound sits right at the mid-point between heavy metal & power metal with "Livin' In Hysteria" including a number of tracks from each genre without opting to blend the two all that often. "The Neverending Fire" is probably the only track that represents a hybrid of the two & is also one of the better tracks on the album. The inclusion of the progressive/neoclassical instrumental piece "Fredless" was most welcome while the other highlights strangely coming in the form of a couple of the cheesier & more chiche-filled heavy metal numbers in "Can't Stop Rockin'" & "Best Days Of My Life". I don't think it'll shock too many people to discover that none of the pure German power metal numbers appeal to me much but neither does the one-off speed metal track "Flashes". Front man Thomas Rettke's vocal histrionics can be grating at times but I feel that he's probably one the main drawcards for fans of the band so it really comes down to your musical preferences. I struggle with him a bit to be honest but he's not a deal breaker as such. The power metal material has clearly been influenced by Helloween which was never gonna be a positive thing for someone like me. I greatly prefer the Judas Priest-inspired heavy metal numbers, even when they take the "arena anthem" format that saw so many fans fall off the Priest train during the 1980's.

Overall, I'd suggest that "Livin' In Hysteria" will offer the most appeal to those with a penchant for bands like Scanner, Rage or Artch that play somewhat of an each-way bet between the heavy metal & power metal sounds but I can't say that it does much for me personally. Records like this one often baffle me as to why people would want to rate them so highly when they're so clearly a representation of the band's influences only not executed with the class of their idols. I guess I'll just have to accept that a record like "Livin' In Hysteria" is simply none of my business as I'm clearly not the target audience.


February 23, 2024 07:53 PM

Ария - "Кровь за кровь" (1991)

I finally got around the investigating highly regarded Russian heavy metallers Ария over the last twelve months with both their 1987 third album "На службе силы зла" & their 1989 fourth album "Игра с огнем" offering me a fair bit of enjoyment. With that in mind, I felt that I'd better complete the trio of the band's most celebrated albums with 1991's "Кровь за кровь" & it's once again proven to be worthy of my time. The production is quite raw but is effective nonetheless with the excellent vocals of Кипелов front man Valery Kipelov soaring over the top. The obvious Iron Maiden worship of the band's previous work is still as clear as day although there are very few who can claim to do it as well as Ария do so I'd be lying if I said that I didn't experience some warm feelings of nostalgia while listening to the Russian's take on what were some pivotal records for me as a teenager. The musicianship is excellent throughout, particularly the guitar work of Vladimir Kholstinin & Sergey Mavrin who both prove themselves to be quite accomplished musicians but it's Kipelov that is the clear focal point here with his tone reminding me a lot of Klaus Meine from Scorpions as usual.

"Кровь за кровь" is predominantly a heavy metal record & a particularly metal one it is too I have to say. There's just the one track that veers away towards hard rock in the excellent Dio-esque "Всё, что было". My other favourite moments can be found in the one-two punch of "Антихрист" & "Не хочешь, не верь мне", both of which are high on Maiden worship but are emphatic in their creative statements nonetheless. As usual, there are a couple of failures included too though with "Бесы" & particularly "Зомби" falling short of the mark but this doesn't ruin the party for "Кровь за кровь" as there's still more than enough quality on offer to keep my attention. In saying that, I do feel that "Кровь за кровь" is perhaps the weaker of the three classic Ария albums with its 1989 predecessor "Игра с огнем" being my pick of the bunch. There's not all that much between them in terms of quality or style though so if you enjoy one then you'll likely find enjoyment in the other two as well, particularly if you're a fan of the classic Iron Maiden/Judas Priest heavy metal sound or Kipelov's other band Кипелов.


February 23, 2024 07:16 PM

This morning's track is Judas Priest's "Dreamer Deceiver" which I'd suggest is progressive rock:

Also, I checked out Rush's 1974 self-titled debut album over the last few days & there's no metal whatsoever there. It's purely a hard rock record in my opinion.

February 23, 2024 07:07 PM

This week's revisit to Mr. Bungle's self-titled debut album has seen me changing my Top Ten Funk Metal Releases of All Time list a little with Ugly Kid Joe's "As Ugly As You Wanna Be" E.P. being the unlucky release to drop out:

01. Faith No More - "The Real Thing" (1989)

02. Primus - "Frizzle Fry" (1990)

03. Mr. Bungle - "Mr. Bungle" (1991)

04. Faith No More - "Introduce Yourself" (1987)

05. Primus - "Sailing The Seas Of Cheese" (1991)

06. Scatterbrain - "Here Comes Trouble" (1990)

07. Living Colour - "Time's Up" (1990)

08. Mordred - "In This Life" (1991)

09. Infectious Grooves - "The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move... It's the Infectious Grooves" (1991)

10. Living Colour - "Vivid" (1988)


February 23, 2024 07:02 PM