Morpheus Kitami's Reviews
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.
Genres: Death Metal Thrash Metal
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.
Genres: Doom Metal Stoner Metal
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.
Genres: Black Metal Heavy Metal
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.
Genres: Progressive Metal
What if Mercyful Fate were Brazillian and Christian? Its uncanny hearing Dark Night because of how exactly it nails that sound, right down to vocalist Roberto Castro's perfect imitation of King Diamond falsetto and clean vocals. It comes off as the good version of the band from some mirror universe or another.
While there are those obvious Mercyful Fate influences, it's not quite as strong as the rest of the music. Dark Night tries to maintain some of the dynamicism, they lack the prog influences. They try to make up for this with sheer aggression. It does work, but between the noticeably different songwriting and the cheap-sounding midi keyboard, it's an odd effect. As three members of the band are also in a few death and black metal bands, this explains the vast change.
There's this Doom-esque usage of lyrics, which seems unintentional, where the lyrics are repeated like some kind of strange pattern, less like conveying something to the listener and more surrealistic insanity. So called because the Japanese band Doom used this almost constantly in their songs. I'm not so sure that's intentional here as much as accidental. More like they took 9's overuse of choruses to it's logical extent, add in songs with lyrics that often sound similar to one from King Diamond, and they accidentally created some fever dream of music.
Despite their problems, I found myself enjoying the album. Most of it, anyway. Gotta say the last track, In the Dark Side so strange and questionable on so many levels it boggles belief. It starts with a bizarre intro reminding me of Scarborough Fair, before alternating between out of place blast beats and then a musical cover of Temple of Love by Sisters of Mercy. No part of which is done competently. It'd be a demo track if it weren't as high quality a production as everything else.
This is very much just an album for people who feel disappointed in the lack of new material from King Diamond or just want such an album that isn't childishly edgy. If you're satisfied with what exists or didn't care for their inspiration, you'll hardly find much worth listening to here. Unless you always felt sheer aggression was what was lacking.
Genres: Heavy Metal
Now we get to Deep Purple with Ian Gillian, the vocalist that's all anyone knows. Where Deep Purple is usually considered to be a metal band. I don't know about other albums, but this ones strikes me as something metal enough to get a metal/hard rock label so many lesser bands end up with. A lot of bands wish they had the energy these guys have. This isn't like a lot of their radio hits where it feels like a lot of the band is phoning it in. I don't think this would be nearly as controversial if it weren't for the band's status as more of a classic rock band.
The weirdest thing about this album to me is how good Ian Gillian sounds to me. I've hear a lot of stuff on the radio and despite what you might think, I kind of loathe hearing Deep Purple. There's a very phoned in quality to his voice. Like some exaggerated method of how a "rocker" should sound; barely following along and barely singing in tune.
Which makes it feel strange that the whole album has more of a rawer quality than I'd expect. And there's this weird contrast between epic organ intros and solos with the raw regular stuff. Practically like two different albums at some points. I suspect a lot of people were influenced by the harsh jump between the intro and the first time Gillian opens his mouth on Speed King. This all implies it doesn't work, but it does. Certainly, the songs which maintain a more consistent tone like Flight of the Rat or radio favorite Child in Time are better, the more varied ones still feel connected despite their deep contrast.
I liked this one. We'll see how the band does in the future because a lot of those albums are kind of meh and not really metal.
Before I realized this was Darkthrone, I at first assumed this was some weird-ass Venom-style black/speed outfit, then a This is Spinal Tap-style parody of black metal. That's the kind of album cover a parody band would use. Then I noticed the band name.
Well, like politics, black metal is impossible to lampoon.
This is a very weird album. Were atmospheric black metal not taken for stuff like The Summoning, this feels like it would fit that name well. Black metal production and techniques used at a much slower pace. Where tremolo picking would be used, one single note is used instead. This makes it very noticeable when the album does use tremolo picking. At no point does the drumming go above a walking pace. The growling has an almost ethereal quality to it, unlike any kind I've heard before.
The writing is kind of bland. It seems aimless, possibly by intention. It starts off okay, with the kind of atmosphere you'd expect, but then we get the first solo of the album. I don't know who played it, but it's not good. A half-hearted attempt at regaining the kvlt faction, perhaps with it's strange aggressiveness. Then after another long verse, close enough in sound to the first as to make no difference, there's another solo, closer in tone to what you'd expect, but at this point feels meandering. The song finally ends with what can only be described as a very slow series of tremolos. While the album has more interesting songs on it, like Impeccable Caverns of Satan, most seem to follow this template.
I found this didn't really appeal to me, much in the same reason a lot of melodeath doesn't. If you're going to combine extreme metal with heavy or power metal, it's better to do something like Satan's Host where far less hostile sounding music with clean vocals gets hostile sounding music. Mundane sounding music makes growly vocals goofy.
Genres: Black Metal Doom Metal Heavy Metal
You have to admire the balls of a band to straight up just go for what kind of music they're going to go, no build-up of any possible confusion. Deep breath, then out comes the J-pop-esque singress of which I'm sure many reviews would describe as nails on a blackboard and full power metal sound. Sort of Nightwish, but with the keyboardist as the unquestionably second most important part of the sound.
It honestly should be something I hate, because this kind of saccharine power metal isn't my speed. Maybe it's the combination of overtly cutsy vocals and happy nostalgic, ethereal synths that work where a normal combo wouldn't. At least that's how I interpret it. I've heard some synth lines used here that I suspect it's some kind of Japanese folk song that landed outside of the Land of the Rising Sun with all the meaningful impact of a jelly donut.
The drums sound quite strange, not in a good way. For some reason it sounds like a real drum kit somehow altered to sound like something out of an Adlib sound card. It doesn't always sound like that. and there is an actual drummer here, but I just have to wonder if the keyboard player didn't do some of these. A lot of the synths sound straight off a PSX, which is funny because I'm pretty sure that's a real piano.
Which does get away from how the band is pretty good at constructing a song. There are bands who wish they could do as much in one album that these guys do in one song. Just not necessarily in a metal way, singer guitarist and keyboardist in perfect harmony.
If I were to nitpick, Rain, which is a genuinely nice song except for the parts she's trying to be Tarja Turunen. She's genuinely trying, but she just can't do it right. Far too high for her voice. There are also a lot of songs with weird-sounding backing singers. It's a bit too varied at times practically half the songs are some kind of ballad.
Unlike the band's hairstyles, Tales of Almanac is and timeless and unique piece of power metal, and well worth a listen.
Genres: Power Metal
I don't understand how Warrior, having been good friends with the late great H.R. Giger, somehow managed to get his worst painting as the interior and second worst as the exterior. He'd have been better off with that weird cat drawing. It's just so goofy, as Giger's artwork doesn't work here outside of pure shock value, of which there is none in 2023. It's like saying you're pro-Napoleon, nobody cares.
To Mega Therion is a very weird album, unique in sound and spirit. For instance, The Usurper is on a surface level just a fairly typical proto-black metal song. Yet, beyond that surface it's structured like a new wave song, has a triumphant feeling that black metal rarely captures. Yet, despite nominally being thrash, it feels unlike any real thrash song it's hard to believe it's part of the genre.
Now of course there are the straightforward bits. That aggressive, even in the slow bits, guitar creating the kind of atmosphere that would be every black metallers dream. Despite an arguable lack of talent, Smoothly gliding to where it needs to be, only stopping when a stop is absolutely needed. Even solos that should rightly be absolutely terrible, work. Beyond the North Winds is basically the bare minimum of what a solo is, yet works incredibly in the context of the song.
Vocalist Tom G. Warrior is also something that shouldn't work, because he has a voice that brings to mind Sylvester Stallone; a voice that could never be confused for something harmonious and lovely. The mystical lyrics that are pretty interesting just come out as gibberish, sometimes even falsetto gibberish. Still, as that comparison implies, there's a charm to him, and his little grunts he does. Something so distinct that it only works for him, and everyone else using it is so obviously imitating him as to be hard to take seriously.
It's mind-boggling that an album that seems to be so completely amateurish and devoid of any qualities that should be positive is as good as it is. Yet, I and many others think of this very fondly, and sometimes it even transcends it's niche as one of the first black metal albums.
Genres: Thrash Metal
Grand Magus is basically what you'd get if you took Gene Simmons led KISS and they tried to be a stoner metal band. Unfortunately, this resulted in quite the musically unadventureous album. It's not a bad idea, just done badly.
When I say badly, I really mean boring. Each song feels like it was made with a template. A bit below mid-paced, a series of riffs that often feel indistinguishable, and adhering to a strict song format. Yet, somehow songs vary in length by as much as 1 and a half minute. Songs are not very distinguishable from one another.
Ultimately, I found this album hard to describe with any adjective except boring. It's boring, so boring it defies belief. There's nothing about it that's incompetent on the surface, every aspect of it is technically proficient. It's just that no part of this seems to have produced an interesting song.
Genres: Doom Metal Stoner Metal
There's this stereotype in my head of Sodom whose playing style is to fire off a bunch of dark songs machine gun-style. This worked well in the '80s and the early '90s, but then the rest of the '90s happened and unless you were playing to 5 people in Hungary, you stopped playing thrash. Sodom were not a band who could do anything but thrash well, and thus everyone pretends that the '90s never happened. M-16 is a return to form for all those people who missed Code Red.
Modern production does Sodom no favors, I've gotten a couple of headaches while listening to this album. It's not the worst such album, but the guy's voice along with the guitar tone and the driving sound of the drums does not make for a good mix. Which is funny, because the obvious comparison is to the soundtrack of Doom. It basically sounds like a hi-res version of those classic midis. A nice, dark sound that should be punctuated by the rhythmatic sound of a shotgun blasting away hundreds of pinkies.
So, the album lives or dies by the quality of the riffs. It's not terrible by any means, but it isn't exciting either. None of these songs are memorable, and if played in isolation, one would assume it was a nice imitator of Sodom rather than the real deal. Perhaps it is that nice in context bit that makes Sodom Sodom, and I just never noticed it until now.
I do find the choice to end the album on the incredibly annoying Bird is the Word annoying. Why a completely serious band would all of a sudden include a novelty song on one of their albums is beyond me.
Genres: Thrash Metal
Anthrax is to me, the proto-pizza thrash band, something I tend to associate with competent at best thrash bands with lyrics mostly about TMNT, violence and Rick and Morty-level humor. This is both unfair and fair. Anthrax is like, one of the two thrash bands I can think of off-hand who have written songs about actual books. Any humor on this album is subtle enough that I didn't really notice it, and certainly not truly awful.
On the other hand, it's hard not to argue that Anthrax, if not the originator of the trend of thrash bands being merely competent at their chosen instruments, certainly proved it to be a winning formula to many. A vaguely punk ethos, lacking the aggression of someone like Slayer or Kreator, the technicality of Coroner or Doom. But unlike the endless knock-offs, who's failures more or less live or die on their merits as thrash bands, Anthrax has had something of a connection to speed metal, albeit one that makes the band feel like they don't quite fit in anywhere. Before the clan challenge, I would have dismissed Anthrax on this, and more or less continued on. I still more or less feel that way about their first two albums.
Something about Among the Living actually works despite this. I guess that makes Anthrax the soul of thrash metal, something that's far more than the sum of it's parts. (or if you prefer something more concrete, chemistry between band members) Individually, each musician brings nothing really interesting about the album. For instance, the drums should bring the album down, being that sort of annoying drumming that would really drag down an album, the kind with the most basic skills. Yet, here it works.
Despite their reputation, both overall and to me, I think Anthrax did something worth listening to. Discounting the soul argument, songs like the title track and Imitation of Life are genuinely nice. Even if you're not the spiritually 14 audience this was designed to attract, it's worth giving it a few spins despite that, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised like I was.
Genres: Thrash Metal
Following up the first of many Scottish albums, Knights of the Cross is about the Crusades. Kind of, because Grave Digger manages to sneak in a reference to Scotland again. It's not the most accurate portrayal of the conflicts, but that's not surprising. It's rather heavy towards the post-war inquisition stuff which suggests to me they originally thought they would make something about that.
Knights is a broadly typical Grave Digger album. Aggressive power metal. Definitely not like your Sonata Arcticas and Rhapsodys, but still distinctly within the realm of power metal. On the whole not quite typical. There are riffs under the vocal lines and sometimes you can hear the bassist! While there are your typical power metal material lying around, Grave Digger primarily does either very heavy stuff or very moody, not really ballad type of stuff.
Chris Boltendahl has a very distinct, hard to get used to vocal style. At first you have a very gruff, 10 pack a day vocal style, which aren't really growls, and sort of defy comparisons. On the other, you have a very clean, very melodic style which one would be surprised came from the same person. Boltendahl doesn't really do much of the latter here, at best doing a quiet version of his usual shtick. Choruses are often done in a very thrashy shout style.
The problem with how Knights of the Cross does this is that it kind of flows awkwardly. Grave Digger has this really unfortunate habit of having two songs on an album that sound very samey, here, Monks of War is that to the title track, and they're the first two tracks. Followed by Heroes of this Time, which isn't a great song to begin with, it has a very awkward transition between the verses and the chorus, but worst of all, Monks of War uses "Heroes of this Time" as one of it's lyrics. Could we not have had, instead, say, a song about some minor Muslim commander whom even the Christians respected instead of one of these two? After all he was one of the few people everyone respected at the time. While Fanatic Assassins is a fantastic song, it does feel somewhat strange as the only Arab-centered song.
Like all Grave Digger albums, it takes a while to get used to, and despite the awkward flow, has more than enough good material on the album to make up for it.
Genres: Heavy Metal Power Metal
I've never really gotten Annihilator. They're not a bad band, they're not a Meliah Rage tier band, where where they're just sort of there. It's just in the years since I first listened to their albums I rarely ever get the urge to revisit them. I remember that the only consistent member of the band is guitarist and occasional singer Jeff Waters, and this is generally the most liked album they released.
For a technical thrash band, they sure don't sound like it. I mean, it's bassy, quite a few riffs on some songs, but for the most part it just sounds like a mundane thrash album. Jeff Waters seems like he's trying to have a more jazzy kind of solo style than you typically get at times with thrash. I think, anyway, it doesn't really sound like anything I've heard from a jazz album but that could just be because the albums I listen to don't mesh with what Waters heard.
The album flows weirdly. The intro track is a non-metal instrumental, followed by a song with an intro that isn't terribly metal either. This is something of a theme, the technical and even thrash aspects of the album feel like something of an informed genre, as often the way the songs go off has more in line with prog. One thing is for certain, with this track order the band wanted to get across that this isn't your typical thrash album. Which does work...until the album becomes something of a typical thrash album.
The vocals are similarly hard to pin down. On a basic level, he's a refugee from a USPM band, maybe a bit more on the thrashy side. Apparently he did more with punk bands than with metal ones. He can do a few interesting tricks, but mostly seems to stick to a not really USPM kind of vocal style, which isn't necessarily bad, but contributes to how this album feels out of whack. Not helping are somewhat limp lyrics concerning abuse and a ill-chosen Poe tale.
That's all not to say that this is a bad album, merely that Alice in Hell doesn't really know what it wants to do. It feels too ingrained in normal thrash to make much use of Waters's abilities, but too out of normal thrash to be a straight thrasher. The music is all good, just with an awkward track listing.
Genres: Thrash Metal
Darkmoon Blade is a band trying to really imitate that first wave of black metal spirit, with mixed success. There's all the stuff you'd expect from that description, crappy production, not really growling but not clean vocals. This influence includes Mercyful Fate, a band with which doesn't quite fit in with those other first wave BM bands. Indeed, at moments they try to channel that Mercyful Fate spirit, it doesn't work, which unfortunately culminates in a Fate-eqsue romantic ballad.
I'm not really sure the band captures the right production for what they're going for. There's less an outright raw production in the black metal sense and more a raw production in a modern demo kind of sense. There are parts where I expected a song to build up more than it did, or vocal lines not quite meshing with the rest of the music. Something that you would expect to be fixed on a commercial album as opposed to a demo, yet aren't.
Which isn't to say it's a bad album. When the album works, it really works. The guitarist, when he isn't being lazy, has a really nice style. It's got the obvious black metal trappings, but it feels all over the place in terms of influences. In short, succeeding at their intentions, but with a more wistful, mysterious style characteristic of later bands. This is no clearer than in the solos, not some technical masterwork, but feels beautiful and melodic within the confines of the band's style.
I have mixed feelings on the vocals, he's trying to go somewhere between a not quite growling vocalist and a Warrior-style, but doesn't quite commit to either. It never really felt like he was all that special, but I didn't dislike it. His attempts at clean vocals badly imitate King Diamond, in that ballad I immensely dislike. It just reminds me how King Diamond gets away with all the shit he does because he just has that good a range, and this guy just doesn't.
I look forward to seeing what these guys do in the future. Whenever they aren't just rerecording the same album again. As I wrote this they released a new version of this album. They're new versions of these songs, they sound different, but I'm not really sure I'd say they sound worse or better.
Genres: Heavy Metal
One of the reasons why I don't care for Accept despite them basically writing half the material of 90% of power metal bands is the legendary Udo. He has a certain voice that I enjoy about as much as I enjoy hearing gunshots in the middle of the night. Blood of the Nations doesn't have Udo, as he has a successful enough solo career and apparently enough animosity with Wolf Hoffmann to not wish to appear for their big reunion album. So, now they got the much less annoying and much less German Mark Tornillo, out of TT Quick. Which is something I didn't really know ever. He's not some younger fellow that the old man bosses around, though considering who he is I don't doubt Tornillo didn't want to rock the boat now that he was in his dream role.
Unfortunately, I don't really care for this anymore than I do their classic period. I have a lot of minor issues but nothing really major. Andy Sneap did the production, but it's not one of his more annoying works. Doesn't fall into most modern metal production pitfalls. It's good, but nothing really feels like it excels. Nothing I would necessarily object to if forced to listen to, but I would hardly listen to it randomly myself.
Hoffmann is good at writing riffs, but he was never the best soloist. In fact, now, he's downright boring. At least I assume it's Hoffmann. I feel like I sort of gave up on the quality of these when I recognized a solo from not only an earlier album, but the same solo repeated twice, practically note for note. Also not helping, the bizarre insistence on writing long songs, very few of the tracks last as long as they should, some going on for a tedious 7 minutes. Brevity is the soul of wit as far as the kind of music Accept is going for, and this is so not brevity.
Ultimately, I don't think the positive work out too well for the album. It feels somewhat like a focus tested version of what a metal album should be like.
Genres: Heavy Metal