Morpheus Kitami's Reviews
I'm not very familiar with South American thrash. Partially its because of Attomica (I blame all of you) and partially because every band outside of Sepultura I don't care for. Apparently every metalhead in that part of the world got together and put down as the 11th commandment to "when thou plays thrash, thou shall play like Sepultura". If I want death metal, I'll listen to death metal, I don't care all that much for those kinds of hybrids, or bands that might as well be hybrids to me. That said, I will give Parkcrest credit for one, very hard thing to do in the genre. They've got a very nice sound to them. This is one of the best produced thrash albums I've heard released this past decade. The guitars have a very nice attack to them that makes them feel short and punchy. But it does feel very obviously South American in origin, down to being a non-stop barrage of aggression and the half-growl style of vocalist Javier Salgado.
That said, this is some pretty nice stuff. Its definitely a grower though. First listen I didn't give these guys enough credit as musicians. Its not technical or progressive, but they have their moments. By the third time through I was enjoying tracks I had dismissed as generic, like Midnight Chasm.
I've heard it said somewhere, that a good guitar solo tells a story all on its own, without words. That is an impression I get from some of the songs on this album, like they tell a story all on their own.
A nice surprise.
Genres: Thrash Metal
From the glorious country of Hungary, comes an unusual take on classic power metal. There's a certain audacity to the band, as this album is based off the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. I vaguely remember how compressed Ralph Bakshi's movie and the Rankin/Bass not-sequel were, completely removing everything not directly related to the actual plot of destroying the one ring.
Well, despite that they've got a good album. It doesn't always work. The lead vocalist has a surprisingly sad voice for power metal. Kind of like if Alfred Romero drank heavily. A poor grasp on the English language and a bit off-key. Its somewhat amateurish. There's a lady vocalist who sometimes appears who's usually Tolkien-filled speech sounds not English.
There's a very medieval feel to the album. The music almost feels like that of a modern version of a group of traveling minstrels. Just with a cheap midi keyboard. Its not so much about the riffs as how each song comes out. There are only a handful of songs that feel straightforward in that regard. Songs are constructed in a very interesting way. The first song, for instance, has some interesting choices in it. Before the first chorus, the band holds off entering it for slightly longer than you would expect, before going into a long solo occupying most of the middle of the song. Then, when you think the song is over, we get a prog rock-ish outro, for over a minute. This doesn't account for their flourishs and constant switching between standard power metal and the more prog rock-ish aspects.
I think despite their audacity to tackle such a landmark novel, it works. There's a tendency to link happy things to fantasy. I'm guilty of this myself, as I tend to find films like Willow to be a quite happy thing to watch. We tend to lose sight that these high fantasy stories about about desperate fights against seemingly neverending hordes of evil beings bent on raping and pillaging.
Despite how it might seem at first listen, a very worthwhile album.
Genres: Power Metal
As is apparent from the first few bars, two things about the US outfit Dream Death are clear. They really, really like Celtic Frost, and despite being a thrash band in theory, they have a very doom inspired sound.
Unfortunately, despite an interesting first couple of songs, this album doesn't have much going for it. They build up a nice atmosphere, but its got nothing behind it. They're not very good song-writers and musicians. At their best, the Celtic Frost sound, which seems like it borders on the scandalous. At their worst, they sound like an aimless doom band. The songs progress in such a way that feels mechanically aping other bands, this is how songs always progress, so this is how we should progress.
I feel like if I want something obviously inspired by Celtic Frost, the next time I'm just going to go back to Bloodstar. I think these guys have a good album in them, or at least the general concept is sound, but this doesn't work very well.
Genres: Thrash Metal
黒い果実 AKA Black Orchid, a compilation of early material from Japanese female led thrash band Jurassic Jade. Their first three EPs. They're a lot like Holy Moses, bit less punky, bit more aggressive. They're probably one of the few Japanese bands people heard in the days before the internet. They've also got a lot of song titles I don't feel comfortable saying.
The first EP is actually the one released just before Gore. Sounds like you would expect, aggressive, sounds like it was recorded in a gas station restroom. Not especially brilliant on the riffs or the guitars in general, but man, Hizumi can sing. Really good on those high-pitched screams. Nice bass sound too. I really wish Jurassic Jade had better material most of the time, and this is no exception. At times they seem to be playing mid-paced material, which doesn't quite work. Really sloppy playing at times.
When the second EP starts, its clear they've upped their game. There are fun solos, they know that the key element of their sound is aggression...hang on, why are they getting worse as time goes on? While the production quality is slowly getting crappier, the songs themselves feel better somehow. Even the mid-paced songs, which would be tedious on the first EP feel interesting on this one. Is it possible for an active band to loose skill at guitar without any obvious reason? If it were Hizumi gradually getting worse, I'd understand, because at times it sounds like she's about to blow her voice out doing these vocals.
The third EP, also similarly impresses me. The direction of increasing in song quality while the production itself sounds worse continues, this one is live, and you can really tell; The drum is way too high in the mix. I almost want to attribute this to the second guitarist leaving, but he was on the first EP, so that doesn't mean anything. There's a nice blend between the more musically interesting intros and interludes, before the inevitable passages where they go for pure aggressive, but its not necessarily that, songs like Hello Darkness feel very progy, or at least like something that shouldn't be on a Jurassic Jade album.
I would suggest just listening to the album starting with 精神病質 if you can. This isn't quite what Jurassic Jade usually sounds like either way, but the first one is not very interesting.
Genres: Thrash Metal
Curiously, the Japanese here is for Witch Legend rather than Messiah's Blessing.
Misako Honjoh is a curious figure, apparently quite famous in her native land, and being a bit of a jack of all trades. Musician, talk show host, and...doctor, apparently. She hasn't had any new albums since the '90s, but continues to tour sporatically. Basically, a sort of Pat Benatar of the east. I remember having the longest trouble tracking these albums down and...well...
One can think of these albums as Loudness, but with a female vocalist. Well, kind of. This one's weird, because half the songs are covers. Including one from Loudness. I've always wondered if it "counts" as a cover if the person who wrote it is on the album. Well, the lyricist isn't on the album, so I guess half a cover? A question for the philosophers. Shame that Plato was dealing with plucked chickens, because he could have gotten some real work done. A point of note on my part. Outside of White Room (Cream), Hell is for Children (Pat Benetar) and Cum on Feel the Noize (Slade) I haven't heard or didn't remember these songs. I also don't care for the bands the songs are based off of besides Riot and Loudness. Just because I can't remember a Loudness track in my head to save my life doesn't mean I don't like them. Also, just by hearing this cover I instantly recognized that Gamma Ray - Trouble, the bonus track on No World Order, owes a lot to Lost in Hollywood.
The problem is that none of this feels really exciting. Its just...eh. You've basically got half proper metal songs, which lack Loudness's virtues, practically no solos, and half all over the map stuff. At times I detect both disco and reggae. The only real virtue is Honjoh, but she's good, but not enough to make the mediocre songs anything more than mediocre. All the original material has nothing to really distinguish it. Only a handful of covers here are good, and that's really why you'd want to listen to it, for the novelty of it.
Genres: Heavy Metal
That title is Kuroi Ketsushou, or Black Crystal. Which isn't as generic as it sounds, there's barely anything that uses the name, and it seems like the most important thing to be named that is a ZX Spectrum adventure game by the same name. I like adventure games of the more obscure sort and even I haven't heard of it. "Fantasy Final Weapon", huh?
I'm not quite sure how After Image managed to get on my radar with just a simple EP. There's nothing to suggest they're anything more than some obscure visual kei band, albeit one that's fairly good. Even the band they would become, Amadeus, seems to have gone over quite poorly. They're not great musicians, the vocalist isn't all that special, but I'd give him a thumbs up. Musically, they play a keyboard heavy blend of power metal, not surprising since the lead songwriter is the keyboardist. Its got a very cheap sound to it, like you're hearing it through a cheap radio.
So despite all that, this 6 song EP is just really nice. I say they're not great musicians, but that applies more on a technical standpoint. There's a really nice flow to it. The keyboard feels like its being used as a second guitar, with the combination of the two works well. There's a frequent sound on the album where both instruments will play some notes at the same time, but one instrument will go for longer than the other. Perhaps that's not unique, but it gave the album a very interesting sound, beyond the usual interplay of keyboard and guitar solos.
All this combines into an album that feels like the band did all they felt they could contribute to metal, and then promptly left afterward.
Genres: Power Metal
For their final album, Mercyful Fate decided to shift gears away from the vaguely progy direction they always had and go for a more stripped down, simple sound. Sort of like how if someone tried to replicate Fate without really understanding why Fate is as beloved as it is. It certainly sounds like them, every single expected element is here, but its like everyone forgot what it was they were supposed to be doing.
Its a bit like eating a block of cheese. Its tasty stuff, but without something to balance it out, cheese gets boring really fast. One wouldn't expect it was those other elements that worked, but as it turns out those missing elements were what made the band. They're just not a band that can really work with a more simple method of playing music.
The lyrics feel like a fever dream, comparable to someone trying to be clever, but English is their second language and they don't understand it all that well. Songs are solely based around whatever the song title is, whatever else be damned. Sometimes its coherent, other times it just feels like something a boomer TV show would put in as the spooky, evil music the villain of the week listens to.
Its not a bad album, its just very disappointing.
Genres: Heavy Metal
From the great Japanese north, its Saber Tiger. A rather unassuming band at first glance. They spent a good 10 years making demos and a few EPs before releasing their debut album. This is a compilation of those songs. Now I didn't really plan on listening to these guys quite so soon, but thanks to a couple of lucky breaks, I did. The second it starts up...hey wait a minute, who mixed up my Joe Satriani CD with Saber Tiger? Its not a mix up? They really sound like that? Holy shit. That's a shock.
Only, that's kind of a lie. Guitarist and only consistent member of the band Akihito Kinoshita is a great guitarist. Brilliant even. I'd go as far as to say he's the Joe Satriani of the north. I clearly have to readjust my ranking of guitars for this guy. He's that good. The thing is, everything else is several degrees below his skill level. None of the others that are on this release would remain with the band for very long. Most of them don't even last the entire album.
This makes me wonder if listening to Joe Satriani so much ruined my ability to enjoy bands that have a really good guitarist doing the solos. I realize they could be doing so much better without the pesky vocals going on. But as I listened to the album more I realized I didn't mind the rest of the instruments...as much as I disliked the vocalist. Perhaps the other musicians aren't as good as Kinoshita, but they're good enough as one cohesive unit for that to not matter. No, the vocalist sounds extremely shrill, as high-pitched as a man can get without being a castrato or doing falsetto. Well, the first one anyway, the second one, while not amazing, I could stand listening to an album full of.
Still there are enough songs on the album that are just guitar pieces or not with the dreaded singer to make this worthwhile.
Genres: Heavy Metal
8 Deadly Sins was the last album I thought of Manticora as having done well on, though going in I couldn't really tell you why, short of me just not listening to their albums after this. Doesn't help that around this time Persuader was taking over their niche of being the "evil Blind Guardian".
This release is a concept album, about a supposedly pure individual committed 8 terrible sins and now has to come to terms with them on his death bed. The problem is this concept is complete bullshit, in the sense that listening to the music none of it comes across. It seemed to me more like a generic evil scientist, probably German, committing evil acts throughout WWII, his wife leaves him and his fall into despair or something. (its not very clear) There's just a complete disconnect here! You cannot have that as a concept and then have a song like Playing God somehow fit into a concept of someone even remotely good! Someone who sings about committing random killings is not a good person! I should not have to explain this.
Its actually funny, for a band known for having someone who sounds like Hansi Kursch they sure take their sweet time getting to the point where he sings. A little over 5 minutes. I'm not complaining, because the album, after the intro, starts with a pretty sweet guitar solo. That undersells it, the leads and solos on this album are all fantastic. I'd love an album just of this stuff. That's not to say the rest of the album is anywhere close to bad, (most of it anyway) just not quite up to the high bar set from the onset from the leads.
In contrast the rhythm guitar feels insultingly boring. They were clearly trying to give a thrashy undertone to things, but on most tracks it drags down the song a bit. I get what they're trying to do, a combination of drums, bass and rhythm guitar as one cohesive unit, but often it just feels boring. For all its attempted aggression and loudness over the typical power metal album, it just didn't work. I attribute this solely at the writing level, because at a production and mixing level, this sounds fantastic. Each element of the music feels like its in a different layer, which you can easily focus on individually, but together create an excellent cohesive unit.
Despite its flaws, a great album.
Genres: Power Metal
I don't know what first drew me to Lord Vigo. Modern albums aren't usually what I listen to, I have several lifetimes of old albums to listen to. But I'm really glad I did. Lord Vigo are some of the more interesting doom metal musicians I've heard over the years. Danse de Noir is based off Blade Runner, or is a sort of sequel. You wouldn't be able to tell that by the lyrics, as this apparently important information is hidden in the album's booklet.
What's on offer here is an unusually synth-heavy album. Its not overpowering like in so many cases. They're used quite wisely, appearing most when the rest of the instruments are not demanding most of one's attention. Its done in such a way that you can always hear the bassist is playing. An accent to the music that sometimes reaches for more attention. It completes the package of the dark, moody sci-fi they were attempting to make, and succeeds.
The other unusual aspect of this album is how bass-heavy it is. Often it feels like the bass drives the riffs as much as the guitars. This along with the lead vocalist also being the drummer creates an unusually strong rhythm section. Perhaps this is my only complaint, with such focus on other parts, the guitars often feel left behind. They're not bad guitarists, but they're not spectacular in a world of spectacular guitarists. There are a few standout moments here, but overall its just average, merely contributions to a bigger whole.
Of special interest is lead vocalist Vinz Clortho. A mid-ranged vocalist who flucuates between a sorrowful wail, and a lot of tricks that wouldn't be too out of place on a Maiden album. I believe he's applying some kind of echo effect to his voice, which does a good job at making his voice feel commanding when he wants it to. It creates quite a driving effect on the choruses, making them memorable, but slightly repetitive. While there are parts of his voice that are familiar, to me, he's unique as a vocalist.
Standout tracks are Shoulder of Orion, Between Despair and Ecstasy, and Memento Mori.
Genres: Doom Metal Heavy Metal
Back in the day Loudness enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity for the era, other bands who attempted to worm their way into American circles, like Doom and EZO...failed. You probably don't even know who those guys are, so that goes to show it. Unfortunately for Loudness, that American success came with the usual motley of executives who like sticking their finger in every pie, and don't like being told no. So starting with Soldier of Fortune, they had an American singer, Michael Vescera, formerly of Obsession, who I remember being okay. There was also their being forced to fit their sound into that of a hair metal band.
I'm not really sure how well either of those worked. Vescera is aggressively mediocre and doesn't seem to have a much better grasp of the English language than Niihara. There's very little in this that makes it stand out from the rest of the glam bands out at the time. Yeah, Takasaki is still a great guitarist, but outside of the solos you would not know it here. The one-two combination of Vescera's voice along with the the slow-pace for metal creates a rather boring musical landscape.
This for the most part feels so lifeless. Its the sort of thing where there's nothing about it that screams at me for being bad, but there's very little about it I find worth mentioning. I liked Soldier of Fortune and Demon Disease, but surely my distaste of the album cannot simply be boiled down to "slow song bad, fast song good"...can it?
Genres: Heavy Metal
Machine Head is a band I've constantly found to be one of the most annoying in metal. Time and time again Robb Flynn (plus whatever poor schmucks he's working with now) has managed to find a way to annoy me, sell out, and do so in such a way that he's still firmly within the realm of metal. As such, you can find whatever Machine Head does on an album to be a minor time capsule of what was popular around that time.
Let's see, Bush is in office, so we can pencil in war bad. Hmm, long pretentious songs. Oh, is that a section taken from a classical piece? I think Dream Theater was in the charts again. (actually, they always are, but I guess they had staying power then) I'd probably attribute some of this to trends in mainstream rock at the time, if I didn't find myself recoiling like a vampire from trends at that time. Let's add a little controversy and throw in some racial slurs, but let's make sure we aren't courting real controversy by making sure the audience knows we're condemning them. It all seems cynically constructed so that at least one metalhead in a group of people considers it legit.
I don't particularly care for what the actual music sounds like, either. Just as it is carefully constructed to feel legit, it also feels like it was made specifically to annoy me. Maybe some song or another actually is good, but I'd never know it. Flynn has a voice that annoys me. The guitar seems to be a wide variety of tones I find ear-grating. What an awful drum sound. Where's the bassist? I can't hear the bass. I'd forgive some aspects of this in other albums, but it all seems so annoying here. So juvenile. Even discounting all this, I don't think these guys have the talent to keep a song going for 6 minutes, let alone 10.
Basically, I just hate Machine Head, and find them to be annoyingly commercial.
Genres: Groove Metal Thrash Metal
Throughout the 2010s there have been an overwhelming number of symphonic metal albums that were just completely indistinguishable from each other unless you really, really liked the concept. Guitars that are just there to give the whole package a metal aura while a keyboard player plays generic "symphonic" sounds behind a failed opera singer. Crematory, long before anyone had done this, decided that instead of being a gut-tearing death metal band, they were going to be a "symphonic" death metal band that sounds just like one of them fancy symphonic albums.
Yeah, basically the only thing this album has going for it is that its apparently a death metal album with a keyboard. A question for the philosophers. Is it death metal? Is it symphonic metal? Is it gothic metal? I don't know, it doesn't really sound aggressive enough for death, it isn't symphonic enough and it has the barest trappings of gothic. If its any of those things its the most lackluster, milquetoast releases anyone has ever put out in those genres.
I Saw the Angels and The Instruction have some decent keyboard riffs, everything else, just one ear in and out ear out.
Genres: Death Metal Gothic Metal
Helloween's attempt at recapturing the magic of The Dark Ride. One might say that Gambling With the Devil was that, but it fits more with Better Than Raw than The Dark Ride. The earlier two dark, but somewhat hopeful. The latter two, mostly not. Its not an understatement to say that this album is by far Helloween's darker album, with their trademark German humor disappearing almost entirely, outside of Who is Mr. Madman?
The album starts off quite nicely, with a couple of real bangers. Which indicates a nice level of aggression, darkness, and heaviness one expects from an album that screams dark, evil and heavy. Except that isn't quite the direction the album goes. While it is true that its dark, its sort of hard to reconcile that when most of the songs have the typical Helloween kind of guitar solo, and you might not even realize it was taken off a dark album, taken in isolation. The second is that with this album, it feels like their idea of a dark sound is to have a mediocre modern guitar tone with generic riffs that are just about sounding heavy. Curious considering this album is clearly focusing on those guitars.
Another big problem with the album, is that excluding bonus tracks, this album is over a hour long, and I'm not sure why. None of the tracks are necessarily bad, but the album doesn't have enough to say for its running time. The base album could have been cut down to 10/11 tracks and nothing would be lost, and the album's pacing would be all the better for it. Tracks like Raise the Noise and If A Mountain Could Talk are decent, but could have been excised. Meanwhile, with the bonus tracks, they're all vaguely along the vein of As Long As I Fall, vaguely happy tracks to break up the absolute darkness. I feel like having one of these in the middle of the actual album as opposed to being a random bonus track would do the album a world of good. Misery without end loses its feeling.
Despite my complaints, I appreciate what the album did and wish more people would try out the approach Helloween took here.
Genres: Power Metal
The 7th major (albums and EPs) release of Japanese...metal band D. Supposedly very popular in its native Japan, what I do know is that they're not too popular outside of it. Understatement of the century, I know. The gist is that they're a (supposedly) symphonic gothic metal with a focus on theatrics. Musically, on stage, and very much so in their dress. The last category makes even the worst of the glam era look like a tasteful understatement.
But its that musical component that's important, and they're a mixed bag. Not in the quality sense, but in what kind of music they play. People have labeled them everything from folk rock to melodic metalcore. Yeah, that's probably true. Broadly speaking, here they have an alternative metal sound. If you don't like that wrapping around the various ways the songs you might have a bad time here. The appeal is hearing what they do next. There's a lot of dynamism in their sound. Rather than dozens of riffs a song, the song has a dozen different ideas going on through it. They're good musicians and not necessarily in the virtuoso sense.
The key aspect of D is the lead vocalist Asagi, who is every bit as dynamic as everything else. Dude has a range equaled by few, ranging from growls to falsettos. That's not very common, assuming it wasn't unique at the time. I also get the feeling I'm missing something in this guy's lyrics. I don't get that feeling from a lot of Japanese lyrics, that by not knowing what he's saying I'm missing something important, and I feel this very strongly on Independent Queen. Dark, yet hopeful.
It feels like a time capsule of '00s J-rock and J-metal at times. A greatest hits of the era. Ultimately, its not something that's going to satisfy people looking for something firmly in the metal camp, but those of you looking for something a little outside the typical bounds will find 7th Rose a worthwhile album.
Pagan Altar never really captured my imagination the way some of the other classic doom metal bands did. Their debut album went in one ear and out the other and I couldn't tell you if they were NWOBHM or if they were before that. (yes, they are, but I looked it up, if I didn't I couldn't tell you) Wasn't exactly thrilled to see this as a feature release, especially since this month's Fallen feature release was so...dark.
When the album starts off, I had to check to see if I didn't play a Pink Floyd album by mistake. It doesn't really sound like a doom metal release as much as some forgotten prog rock album that wandered into doom metal. Its a very unusual sound for a metal album. Like some Pink Floyd album released around A Momentary Lapse of Reason, where they had someone nasally, like Ozzy and Ace Frehley is on guitars for some reason. Which sounds like an insult, combined with my rating. But the thing is I like those things...outside of bootleg Ozzys (Ozzies?), no, the problem is this guy's voice. I don't care for the style outside of the big man himself, and the guy singing doesn't give me any reason to change my mind.
Now that's not saying that the rest of the music is without any problems. The music on this album is not easily digested in one sitting, you definitely need to spin it a few times before it sticks. Doesn't help that the first half of the album is boring. From Samhein's metal-infused Pink Floyd-isms to The Sorcerer sounding akin to Rainbow's mellower tracks, there's nothing interesting going on. Even the out of place folk interlude Sharnie does more to make the album memorable than the first half of the album. And I think I know why. Its not even the quality of the material, its the strange production, making it all sound worse than it really is!
That said, this does feel like it should be more popular than it is. It'd feel very much at home in a stack of CDs along with Eric Clapton and Bad Company. Good, but not something I really feel like listening to.
Genres: Heavy Metal
Type O Negative's darkest hour, at least according to the band. Lyrically, I guess that might be true, but it doesn't feel that out of place from their usual melodic sound. I guess the first few tracks are heavier than usual, but it doesn't really come off as quite as dramatic as it apparently is supposed to be. Of course, an album being a traumatic thing to make is an entirely different thing. Perhaps because the band is missing a lot of their usual dark humor, outside of an intro track, implying that the CD is skipping. Which has kind of lost its effect in the year of our lord 2022, when only losers and morons listen to albums on CD. Or maybe not, I hear conflicting things.
That said the album starts off with one of the darker tracks, White Slavery, which I didn't realize until now was about cocaine. I liked it better when I thought he was just being miserable. Its in these first couple of songs that the album gets close to succeeding in that misery. Its at the title track when the album shifts into a more typical "happy if you like doom" kind of sound. Its hard to treat it as all that grim when someone's playing a sitar. Lot of little touches like that which make the album not sound quite as harsh or heavy as it was intended. Everything Dies, which despite the grim subject matter, feels straight-up happy half the song. With a few modifications, someone like Stratovarius could make a pretty good power metal version of it.
The album could have benefited from quite a bit of cutting. Most songs outstay their welcome by at least a minute, and a lot of the middle of the album blends together for me. Which is a shame because the two best tracks are on opposite ends of the album. Curiously, I think I liked this album a lot more the first couple times I listened to it than the later listens.
Genres: Doom Metal Gothic Metal
Labyrinth is probably the biggest power metal band that I missed out on hearing for the longest time. I was sort of trying to get away from Europower by the time that I became aware of them, and by the time I didn't, I just wasn't really listening to metal anymore. Now, its time to change that. Except that this isn't Labyrinth being Europower, this is Labyrinth selling out...in 2007 terms. I don't know what selling out today is like, but it probably involves Tiktok and stupid dance moves. Cue Cracker - I Hate My Generation and whining about how much of a cool dude I am for liking Led Zeppelin, or The Beatles as opposed to whatever rapper died this week.
The problem here is that as sellouts, Labyrinth suck. Their idea of selling out is dropping any energy they have. This record feels lifeless. That's not necessarily something that works against you in the mainstream considering that most mainstream songs I end up being exposed to sound like they were recorded just before the band all killed themselves. Like they just wanted to stop living.
I feel like a couple of good examples of this are in the two tracks that aren't the original versions. We have a cover of The Beatles - Come Together. Frankly, this song was awful and boring when The Beatles did it, and this doesn't do the song any favors. Feels like a bland metal song you'd put in the background of a movie to show how hardcore some guy is. I swear to god you could stick this song in the middle of a funeral doom album and most people couldn't tell the difference. Then we have a cover of Piece of Time, which was done by the band back when one of the two guitarists was different, and some guy named Joe Terry on vocals. Simply put, despite having not heard the original before now either, and not really being faster or anything, its just that much better. Even discounting that Joe Terry (really Fabio Leone, don't @ me) is ten times the singer, it just feels like a more energetic and musically interesting track.
Which basically cuts into my final point. There are things about this album that are good, clearly these people are good musicians with interesting ideas...its just that these interesting ideas are hidden under several layers of incompetence. Honestly, this feels like a bad attempt at doing J-metal, if you know what I mean by that. Basically, while people generally use J-rock or J-metal to describe well, Japanese music, but there is a sound to it. This sounds vaguely like that at times.
Not worth your time, unless you need to explain boredom to someone.
Genres: Power Metal Progressive Metal
As you might know, after the release of Don't Break the Oath, Mercyful Fate sort of broke up. Sort of, because everyone except Shermann and Kim Ruzz decided to continue under King Diamond's name, while Shermann played some sort of AOR-type music under the name Fate. Fate apparently didn't go too well, and I can imagine Shermann calling up his old friends with some subtle hints about getting the old band back together. Its hard to think about how someone in 1993 might have reacted to that considering now its been 20 years since a Mercyful Fate album and...about as long since King Diamond did anything good. I think I might be somewhat negative were I around at the time, calling Shermann the least important ingredient to the mix.
The album starts off with Egypt, which tells you right away how this album is going to go. Dramatic intro, kickass solo, then an aggressive and dynamic song. In particular there are a bit more solos here than the typical Mercyful Fate album, and I like this choice of direction. The album has a mostly good flow to it and these solos contribute a lot to the aggression. popping off quick ones between verses or after the first chorus. If everything was like this, I'd say this was the best of their albums.
However, the longer tracks here really drag things out. The Old Oak Tree in particular feels like it outwore its welcome by the middle of it. The early sections of the song have this annoying vocal line where the end of every line is done in such a way to be shrill. For a long song, unforgiveable. In contrast, the other lengthy song, Legend of the Headless Rider, grew on me.
I also didn't care for Thirteen Invitations, which just sounds silly at times. A good chunk of the middle of the song is some Beatles-like soft rock which wouldn't sound out of place on The Ed Sullivan Show, before going into this over the top, clearly supposed to be creepy "BUT FIRST WE MUST PLAY A GAME; THE GAME OF SoUlS". I don't know what it was supposed to be, but I find it laughable.
On basically all copies of the album there's a redone version of Return of the Vampire. Its pretty good, but then it was a good song to begin with. Apparently Lars Ulrich is doing the drumming, which I didn't realize until I saw it mentioned somewhere. Didn't think much about the drums before then, but yeah, Lars are a bit out of place. I feel like its inclusion ruins the effect of what was supposed to end the album, Is That You, Melissa, a tender return to the song that named their debut. The end of this song feels like a natural conclusion compared to the triumphant intro of Return of the Vampire. Could have placed it earlier, even if Lars wanted to play with his heroes...
A mixed bag, the best songs are some of the best of their career, but the rest leave something to be desired.
Genres: Heavy Metal
Oh, god, I didn't see that cover on first listening to this album. Most pictures of it online show the accursed thing considerably darker than it really is, so it doesn't look like...that. And by that I mean someone severed two people's heads while they were in the middle of just the most horrendous dump possible. Done in 20th century photoshop. I know its supposed to be Lovecraftian, but that is not an appealing cover.
A'arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming is a sort of compilation album, consisting of a bunch of varied songs, some new, some rerecorded, and something unusual. The two new songs start the album off, and they are very nice. Sort of dark, quasi-symphonic, but mostly just some catchy metal. I like electric keyboard sound here, somewhere between one that accurately emulates the instrument and one that produces a very obviously midi sound.
Then we get a bunch of covers. Four of them. Of these, I can only make a fair comparison to the original in Under Jolly Roger, an excellent song as it was originally done. Here, boring, plodding. Which is basically what all four of the covers sound like. Because the original of Under Jolly Roger was exciting, FIRE THE CANNONS! HOIST THE SAILS! PAINT THEIR DECKS RED WITH BLOOD AND TAKE THEIR PRECIOUS TREASURE UN-DER JOLLY ROGER! Here, eh, fire the cannons, under Jolly Roger.
The album finishes with the soundtrack to some short film known for having music written by the guy from Therion. There are a few rerecorded tracks from Therion proper, but we get the entire soundtrack as just done by Johnsson. Apparently it might as well have been a Therion music video. Its very nice stuff, but leans more towards a fantasy RPG OST than what Therion is known for. And that makes me sad because there isn't a game with a soundtrack written by Therion.
Between the new original tracks and the soundtrack, its a nice album, but there's nothing much here for people who aren't Therion fans.
Genres: Symphonic Metal
Sabbat is a weird band for me. I as a rule am generally a sucker for anything Japanese, give me two titles which seem relatively close in quality and I will gravitate more towards the Japanese one any time. Even if they're both crap I'll give the Japanese one a chance. Its not so much true these days, but its something I've generally done. So its all the more curious I never really gave Sabbat a chance. Its possible I never gave it a chance owing to my high fondness of the other Sabbat, whom I love the first two albums of very much, but I also enjoyed the American Gargoyle, even though the Japanese one is very near and dear to my heart. Well, its a feature release, let's give it a shot!
The Dwelling is an unusual release, since the very Venom-infused style Sabbat is known for and a hour long song are not exactly a match made in heaven. The Dwelling going to an extreme here, the song isn't even broken up into individual parts on the CD listing, even though it quite clearly has different sections to it. This sounds like a minor complaint, but even ye olde prog rock and classical albums separate the different sections, and often times those are very well hidden. This is not well-hidden, this is obviously shifting.
You can basically divide the album up into two different kinds of sections, the standard, presumably typical Sabbat sound. The vocalist screaming gibberish over an aggressive, but surprisingly atypical of the kind of music its inspired by. The harshness of the sound is less because it was mixed to be as evil as possible, and more because the high notes on the guitar are entering the shrill section. When the guitar isn't hitting that section it is quite pleasant. Curiously, during these sections there's someone singing in the background in a slightly high-pitched, but not quite King Diamond way.
What the lyrics are said to be and what the lyrics come out as seem to be two entirely different things.
Stated lyrics: "Infernal harmony of the Evilist is released..."
What the lyrics sound like: "Infernal harmony of the blehblehblehbleh!"
And basically quite a lot of "blebleblehbleh". Growling, singing fast in a foreign language I suspect the vocalist doesn't quite understand, I'm shocked anything is coherant.
The other section is a quite different kind of sound, a very melodic, more pleasant sort of prog interlude. Unfortunately, these guys are not quite talented enough musicians to pull that off. (I could play one particular section here on a guitar myself, without having much idea of how to play a guitar, because they're the sounds a guitar make when no strings are pressed) Its quite nice, but a bit repetitive. Shades of Gargoyle in some sections, I wonder if there was any inspiration there. To further the sense of inferiority, there's the sense at times that they don't even know where they want to go with the song, and while it does have a satisfactory conclusion, one wonders when we're going to get there.
Its a good album, but I'm not entirely certain who the album was intended to appeal to. The two different sections don't entirely work together and appeal to two different groups of people, who aren't going to like the other section very much.
Genres: Black Metal Thrash Metal
Once upon a time, I used to really like Death SS, or at least the Black Mass/Heavy Demons era. Its not even really something I consciously stopped liking, I just starting listening to other things. And even when I listened to the band I didn't listen to this, their debut, often. Now, if you don't know, Death SS is an Italian band who are at least in theory, named after the lead singer's stage name. Pictured on the album cover, naked, looking like the kind of dude who makes ten thousand black metal albums in his basement. (I may regret joining this website based on the high quality album art alone, see Type O Negative) They share the image, but are instead a very theatrical doom metal band.
The obvious sticking point for any would-be listener are the vocals. Sylvester has a sort of nasally style that sounds somewhere between a demon and an alien, its unique and not necessarily bad, but it is as unlistenable at first. Later on he would prove capable of singing normally, but here even his normal voice sounds off-putting. Good luck deciphering the lyrics without the use of the lyrical sheet. Not that you need to understand much, he's usually singing about how he's a horror monster and how much he's going to kill you. Less satanic and more Tales from the Crypt...or one of the numerous Italian horror comics that I assume exist.
The music itself is fairly generic. There's just nothing much to it beyond the very theatrical arrangements. There is a great deal of meandering, like they aren't quite sure where they want to go with the song. The theatrical flourishes switch between being nice and going on for a bit too long. Its not really something that sticks with you. Its a concept in dire need of refinement. You can even detect the evolution I mention in the demos included with some versions of the album, which remove the theatrical pomp and just feel boring.
My favorite parts of the album are on those bonus tracks too. There are two covers from British prog rock band Black Widow, In Ancient Days and Come to the Sabbat. The difference is night and day. Sylvester actually knows how to sing here and the theatrical touches are on songs that are already well-made. The gradually building up chorus on Come to the Sabbat was practically made for the band. Its the sort of thing that makes one wish that was the direction Death SS went in.
All in all, entertaining, but more memorable as a feeling than anything concrete.
Genres: Heavy Metal