Divine Intervention has remained not only my favorite slayer album, but my favorite album of all time since I heard it in my freshman year of high school, 2010. Not that it immediately became my favorite album upon first listen – no, this is a slow grower, but a very easy album to come back to. And come back to it I did, many times; I’m sure this is in my top 10 most listened albums of all time, and a certain contender for the #1 spot.
But, why Divine Intervention?
Why the album AFTER Slayer stopped being the greatest Thrash band in the world? After the lineup change and the death of metal in the 90’s? The album with troubled production and almost no live representation?
Quite frankly, because I don’t give a damn about any of that stuff.
I speak with utmost sincerity when I say I think this album is absolutely as great in every department as the 5 preceding it. The only exception being that the production is lower quality, but you know what? That higher class sheen on Seasons in the Abyss never did it for me as much as the raw, honest sound that we get here. The complaints about the production quality are completely unfounded if one enjoys Show No Mercy, or Kill ‘Em All, or basically any Black Metal.
With sufficient clarity on why none of this album’s “weaknesses” bother me, let me now express why I love it so much.
The mood. The atmosphere. The writing. Slayer were always that too evil band that were somehow mainstream. From day one they were writing about Satan, demons and infernal hellfire, and they remained consistent in that approach throughout the 80’s, with growing themes of real horrors as well, including war and mental illness. However, on Divine Intervention, hell froze over. The hell fire faded and the demons gave way to a much more terrifying being – humanity. Strongly influenced by literature about serial killers as well as newspaper articles, Tom Araya took a stronger writing role here and focused almost exclusively on real world evil and suffering. Songs took a deeper look into the psych of serial killers, criminals, and even drug abuse on the closing “Mind Control.” The riffs followed suit, and as such, this album isn’t as flashy as their previous material, and I think that gets lost on a lot of people. The riffs here are cold and calculated, evoking sincere darkness and an unrelenting bleakness that remains consistent throughout the entire album.
Which leads to an immense strength of this album; the songwriting. Hints of Tech Thrash break through in many of the tracks here, with less conventional rhythms courtesy of Paul Bostaph taking the songs into twisting territory that deviates far from their simpler punk roots. The guitar solos on this album are actually good, and more often than not add to the song with more thoughtful melodies as opposed to pure chaos. The title track and closing track both have perhaps the best solos by the band, and truly these songs felt like they had gained a level of maturity and depth in their structure. Tom’s vocals are also the most aggressive, manic and eclectic he has ever laid to record; in title track “Divine Intervention” he pushes his yelling to its limit, and haunting “Serenity in Murder” allows his lower registry to croon wickedly between more thrash roars. Divine Intervention could easily be argued to be Slayer’s heaviest album, which cannot be said for most metal releases from bands that were “declining” in the 90’s.
At the risk of sounding crazy, I’ll also confess that the insanely dark lyricism and mood on this album, particularly on tracks like “Killing Fields,” were immensely helpful for me emotionally. Since I discovered it, Metal has always been an extremely cathartic way for me to deal with negative emotions. Divine Intervention did that better than any other album I’d heard, and still remains one of my weapons of choice when I need it. People don’t usually label Slayer as being emotional music, but they probably forget that anger is an emotion. Some people have their OK Computers, some people have their Dark Side of the Moons, and I’ve got my Divine Intervention.
Genres: Thrash Metal
A volte-face to anyone who thinks Doom Metal can’t be energetic and exciting, and a great lesson in what makes true Doom a completely different beast from Trad Doom. Wish I Could Dream It Again is one of the earliest true Doom albums, having zero Sabbathian influence, none of the 80’s Doom groove, and a total focus on somber, melancholic atmospheres. And unlike most prior Doom bands, it doesn’t rely on being consistently slow to achieve this. Lethargic, doomy sections still run through the compositions, but a lot of this material is lively, especially the rhythm section. Simple melodies and morose chords permeate the songwriting, but that drumming ensures a complex and ever-changing foundation to the music.
Novembre also have very melancholic lyrical themes, sticking to the introspective and poetic, drawing upon aquatic, summery and warm imagery across the album in another first for Doom Metal. The sentimental mood here was pretty unique at the time, but the general melancholy on display became a staple for the genre. Doom bands had already begun adopting this focus on gloomy atmospheres, which is how true Doom was born in the early 90’s, but Novembre here upped the ante. This was probably the most melancholic metal album at the time of its release.
As debuts can be, it’s a bit rough around the edges in some places; the clean vocals in particular are quite amateur, though they don’t bother me at all because they perfectly encapsulate that morose feeling of Doom. Either way, a landmark release for the genre, and a great learning experience for those who aren’t privy to the great variation that can be found in Doom Metal.
Genres: Doom Metal
If I had to pick one song, not as my personal favorite, but as the best piece of music – one that pulled from all aspects of what makes music such an mazing and beautiful art – it would be Art of Life. As pretentious as that sounds, and as pretentious as writing a 30 minute epic about life may be, this song can actually back up such a monumental title. Am I biased as a metalhead, a fan of X Japan? You bet. But I only love these things because of what they offer me. Metal, to me, is ultimately an incredibly raw, even bestial display of human art. The harshness and aggression of it feels like a death throe. When one is in a life-or-death situation, or pushed to their limit, or faced with overwhelming emotion or psychological trauma, the ugliest, yet purest expressions surface. This is what Metal is to me.
X Japan do a fantastic job of mixing into that Metal foundation the sonic embodiments of young love, of beach sunrises, city-lit snowfall, a tear of joy. They have mastered both the ugly aggression and the passionate beauty, each in excruciatingly pure form. “Art of Life” is their magnum opus that displays every talent they’ve mastered. At times the music gets insanely fast as the guitars and drums exercise every last shred of pain, and at others slows to let the piano and strings cover you like a gentle rain. The song goes to all extremes and everywhere in between.
The lyrics are poetic, evocative, and hold an immense amount of depth especially for a band writing in a second language. Band leader and main writer Yoshiki was going through the grief of losing his father, among other things in his life, and in his words, tried to draw from every emotion he had when writing the song. And yeah, he succeeded, without a doubt. This is conveyed both in the music and the words, which tell of an existential crisis of love, longing, and loss. The lyrics are not specific enough to pigeonhole the song, and therefore almost anyone could listen to this and attach a very personal meaning to it.
Lastly, I’ll talk about that piano solo. That god damned piano solo. Originally, I hated it. I didn’t get it, I didn’t respect it, I didn’t think it contributed to the rest of the song, nothing. I went out of my way to make an edit of the song that cut it out so I could listen without having to fast forward through it. I didn’t get it.
I do not like when people chalk someone’s dislike of something up to them “just not getting it.” As if a song is so transcendental that a human cannot understand it. As if one has to be “in” on something to judge it correctly. As much as I do not like that and do not think it is a good response to any sort of opinion, I will allow myself to say it just once, for this piano solo. I get it now. After going through a psychological and emotional low, I got it. It became so clear what Yoshiki was feeling as he hit that cacophony of keys, how it played into the rest of the song, what it represented, everything. And magically, I immediately started enjoying it. I absolutely cannot listen to the song without it now. It took an experience and a perspective I did not have before to grasp it. And while this is no fault of any listener and I would not wish it on anyone, if you haven’t had that sort of experience, you just might not get it.
Genres: Power Metal Progressive Metal Symphonic Metal
Images and Words is kind of the first Progressive Metal album of the blue collar, semi-symphonic ballad heavy variant. While Dream Theater’s debut was a pretty generic slice of first wave Prog Metal, here Dream Theater take a cue from the likes of Queensryche and Fates Warning, adding strong, anthemic choruses and near-Pop commercial sensibilities, though retaining the later band’s complex songwriting and musicianship. More interestingly, they borrow Savatage’s melodramatic balladry, and bring a strong ensemble of keys, strings, sax, and probably a bunch of other instruments to the mix.
New (and now long-time) Vocalist James LaBrie adds a signature charisma to the vocal delivery, with an impressive range and strong lyrical chops. Instrumentally, it’s not in the overtly technical territory of prog wankery, and rather the band does a great job of servicing the song as needed, and showing off when appropriate. There’s also a huge variety to the songs here, and they pull off just about everything they try their hand at. There’s epic songs, somber songs, sappy songs, serious songs… and tons of different styles, all wrapped in that signature Prog Metal package. The band is so instrumentally entertaining that they actually make a cheerfully cheesy wankfest in “Take the Time” that manages to be a total delight from start to finish.
There really isn’t a wasted minute here, and the penultimate track “Wait for Sleep” is proof of that. Normally, 2 minute non-metal interludes on Metal albums are terrible wastes of space that just slow things down, but this one is a beautiful piano-vocal duet that not only sets the mood perfectly for the last track, but is a memorable piece of beauty in it’s own right. And that last track, “Learning how to Live,” is definitely the band’s greatest achievement as of release. Perfect closer that goes through a total range of moods and styles in it’s 11 minute runtime, never overstaying it’s welcome.
Genres: Progressive Metal
Bullhead is usually considered Melvin’s first truly great album. The Sludge Metal pioneers are relatively peerless in this era, as you could count the number of notable Sludge bands on one hand when this dropped. These circumstances made Melvins kings of the movement by default, and I think that’s why it doesn’t really appeal to me.
Bullhead is an album that is special by circumstance, because it had no competition and no comparison. It was influential and unique, but those things don’t matter to me when I’m listening to it. The music itself is very basic, monotonous, and droning. These qualities can be fine when done right (or if that is your taste) but I feel this album just doesn’t have enough going on to warrant much entertainment out of that. There aren’t any great riffs, no striking vocal performances, no rhythm grooves, its just a lot of repetitive heavy chords. It’s slow, but it’s certainly not doomy, because there’s no atmosphere and no strong mood aside from kind of anxious.
Unfortunately I have yet to find much enjoyment out of early Sludge, and this album was not the one to change my mind. Onward we go.
Genres: Sludge Metal
Sometimes when you listen to one of these acclaimed albums and don’t like them so much, you can still see what makes the album so great. You can recognize what other people see in it and write it off as just not being your thing. But sometimes, you might just be left mystified, wondering “What am I missing?”
Just before Streetcleaner, I had been listening to Peter Gabriel’s Passion, one of his most revered releases and a widely acclaimed New Age/World Music album. The album didn’t do anything for me, mostly because I’m not a fan of the style of music. However, I could still acknowledge the great compositions and brilliant atmospheres crafted in the soundscapes, and it was no mystery to me why it is so well liked.
Streetcleaner is a different case. I love metal. I love dark, misanthropic, heavy music. But listening to Streetcleaner, I struggle to find any appeal at all. The songs are all incredibly simple, and it sounds much less like a performance and much more like each member came up with one loop and just had it repeat for 5 minutes. There’s nothing innately wrong with this, but if you’re gonna repeat something for so long, at least make it good. The riffs are barely there; boring, slow, uninspired guitar that does little other than add a sludgy atmosphere, and ditto for the bass. The drum beats are equally boring and uninspired, and aside from some occasional addition of double bass, never do anything interesting. The vocals are sometimes there, and that’s all I can say about them.
The album is certainly dark, but the problem is that it is not active in achieving this. All the music is incredibly passive, and by that I mean there’s a lot of nothing going on aside from sounding heavy and dissonant, and it becomes the listener’s job to project any actual mood to it. The music doesn’t invoke anything on its own, but rather acts as a pool to collect such projected feelings. Unique at the time, and influential for everything that came after… but I’d say this is another case of influenced far surpassing the influencer.
Genres: Industrial Metal
South of Heaven was my first favorite album. The first one I ever listened to while thinking “god damn, this is music for me.” I had never heard sincerely dark or heavy music before that, and I never looked back.
It all started with my first videogame, DOOM. I played that game when I was just 2 years old – I worked the gun while my father did everything else, but it was still an incredibly memorable experience that was burned into my memory. I didn’t play the game for a long span of time because we had to get rid of it after Columbine happened, and then it became kind of a pipe dream to be able to play it again.
It was actually right as I was entering public school in 8th grade (I was homeschooled prior) that we managed to get the game again. Man that was a triumphant moment, and the game was just as great as I remembered. However, one thing that struck me was the music – holy hell, that music kicked ass.
I wasn’t even into music yet at this age. I listened to The Beatles, I listened to whatever the parents had, and I didn’t really listen too intently. I didn’t even know what metal really was, other than hearsay. But I LOVED this game’s music. I went to shady websites to download mp3s of the game tracks, and naturally, I started reading up about it more. Well it turns out a ton of the tracks are based on real songs by real bands – all metal bands I had never heard of save Metallica. I had to get this stuff.
I actually downloaded all of the original songs without listening to any of them first, bought my first mp3 player, and then listened to them all at once. It was a rite of passage of sorts. I loved everything I heard, even the gruff stuff like Pantera, who’s vocals were too much for me but the riffs were good enough to get through it. This new form of dark, aggressive music was striking all my chords, even though I had no experience with it. But at the end of the list – as the bands were in alphabetical order and there were only 10 or so – was Slayer.
Slayer hit different.
The three songs from DOOM were “South of Heaven” “Silent Scream” and “Behind the Crooked Cross” and they instantly became my favorite songs (barring “The Long and Winding Road", which will never not be one of the most beautiful songs ever). Such condensed aggression and evil had never struck me in aural form like that before. I mean, even Pantera, who were just as heavy, didn’t sound nearly as dark and evil as this. And the lyrics! Holy hell, they were actually disturbing at that age. A song about abortion – what the hell was that. And I loved them.
Finding that the songs were all from the same album, I got it immediately – digitally, physically, everything. I didn’t even know what riffs were before this! This was insane to me. The whole album was just as good as the few songs I’d heard. I easily listened to it at least once everyday for probably the rest of that school semester. And it ended up being really important in me finding my identity in a crucial period of life – I now knew that metal was my passion. I knew what kind of music I liked, I could talk about it, I met people through it, and I searched for more.
The funny thing is, though Slayer remains my favorite band, their other material didn’t click with me at first. Turns out this album was Slayer at their slowest and most melodic; if I started with any other album, I may not have been infected so easily. But yes, it was South of Heaven that turned me into a full-time metalhead, and it was the first album I could confidently say was my favorite. Listening to it while writing this review, I’m not surprised in the slightest that it gives me the same feeling of intense bliss as it did nearly 10 years ago, still comfortably sitting among my favorite albums of all time.
Genres: Thrash Metal
I’ve always loved Slayer, this album being among my favorite releases by them, but it becomes so much more amazing when compared to the contemporaries at the time. Absolutely nothing was this insane – not even close.
Speed? We had Metallica, but they’d only go into overdrive on a couple songs – and even then, it never matched Slayer. Tremolo guitar picking has never been this fast. And Dave’s drumming was something else. The speed and technique of the drumming here had never been seen in metal before. I’d guess only some Jazz and the best Prog Rock drummers had the level of chops Dave put on this album back in 1983.
Riffs? Hell no. You think Paranoid had great riffs? Number of the Beast? They were all lacking something. Slayer doesn’t just deliver riffs – they deliver evil riffs. Wailing, screaming guitars walked the line between melodic and chaotic, bringing a perfect harmony of very catchy riffs and a dark, harrowing mood. No music sounded this dark and melodic at this time; any other bands attempting the evil schtick relied on purely being noisy and chaotic with little technique (Venom, Hellhammer).
And then there’s the vocals. Not just the style, but the delivery. Tom’s trademark yelling here has become something often imitated, and I daresay it was many people’s introduction to harsher vocal styles. Tom was not the first to employ a harsh vocal style (Venom, Black Flag), but he absolutely did it better than anyone else at the time. He brought just the right amount of melody to the table; he can hit notes, and his words are very intelligible. Despite that – or perhaps, because of it – his bark comes off as much more convincing. As opposed to the flat screaming or growling of bands like Hellhammer and Venom, you could discern emotion in Tom’s voice, and that emotion was anger, hatred, a general misanthropy and dedication to the dark arts. That delivery carries over to the lyrics – again, Slayer were not the first to write Satanic lyrics. Venom mostly started that, but they didn’t take it too seriously. Slayer, along with King Diamond, were really the first band to convince you that those lyrics about Satan, murder, and black magic were genuine. Of course they weren’t, but damn was Tom’s fierce, rabid bark convincing.
Back in 1983, there were absolutely no albums that matched this. Any other album that had traits of what makes this great was missing something else, whether it be the speed, aggression, technique, or mood. Slayer was the first band to unite these qualities in a way that would spawn a staple style of dark metal carried on by thousands of bands.
Even after listening to hundreds of albums that were released pre-1983, Show No Mercy remains chronologically my earliest 5-star release, and nothing up until that point in music has come even close to instilling in me the sense of awe as Slayer did with their debut.
Genres: Speed Metal Thrash Metal
This is one of those albums I’d had on my radar for years, but only just gotten around to. As Death Doom, particularly Melodic Death Doom, is my favorite music genre, I had a lot of expectations for this thing.
Well, 30 seconds into track one, my face contorted into a disharmoniously gleeful smile while listening to the aural form of melodic depression, and halfway through track two I prematurely judged this to be a masterpiece, completely meeting all expectations and more. The incredible part is that the album only grew stronger, the main riffs of “Sightless” and “Blue Gallery” in particular absolutely blowing my mind. THIS was the BIRTH of Melodic Death Doom. This was the origin of the brand of music that had come to be my absolute favorite.
Quite immediately, I began thinking “Damn, these guys really listened to Brave Murder Day and just worshipped the hell out of it.” This was less shoegaze-y and more melodic, but the overall style was uncannily similar. I mean hell, the first track was “12 Days of Rain”… you cannot convince me that isn’t a Brave Murder Day reference! Not that it mattered to me. More of something great = a win for me. I later felt stupid, after 17 listens, upon reading that this was composed by the vocalist/drummer and guitarist of Katatonia. And then I was in awe, because the whole thing was done by JUST those two people. Insane how two people crafted an album better than what full bands can do.
Anyway, to talk of the musical merit… some of the best, most melancholic guitar leads ever crafted. Doomy, yet full of energy and power. Ditto to the drumming, simple but perfectly serving the music, generous amount of double bass. Vocals are harrowing and beautiful. Sparse keys/synths round out the atmosphere perfectly. Lyrics are morose, slightly symbolic and poetic. Perfect album, absolutely flawless.
Genres: Doom Metal
Although Intestine Baalism were one of the first significant Death Metal bands from Japan, they sound more like something straight out of Sweden. Dismember and Entombed influence runs rampant in this unholy union of brilliant Melodeath leads and pummeling OSDM riffage. Combining the best of both worlds, the band ensures every track has some fantastic leads that make them memorable and discernable from each other, without ever sacrificing brutality or darkness.
The vast majority of this album is straight up Death Metal, and the lyrics check out. Occultic ramblings of sacrifice and violation paint a picture of a twisted and godforsaken underworld, and the music similarly oozes an evil urgency. Even the melodic aspects of this album are much further towards the “evil” end of the spectrum than Melodeath tends to be. It’s clear here that the band enjoyed and was influenced by OSDM more than anything, but their penchant for writing melodic, memorable leads just happened to be smacked right into the middle of it. Which is actually typical of Japanese-style music; which tend to be on the more melodic side, when not going into full blown Avant-Garde territory.
Everything the album sets out to do, it achieves and does well. Even the acoustic interlude is nicely done. Not a weak moment here, no songs that aren’t amazing.
Genres: Death Metal
Thrash Metal was in a sorry state in the late 90’s. Most prominent Thrash bands got infected by the Groove virus or fizzled out into softer styles, and not many new bands were popping up. More extreme and experimental styles of Metal were running both the underground and the mainstream.
But of course, you still got bands like Deceased, who played unrelenting Deathrash in an undisguised love letter to the 80’s. The album is absolutely ripping, full of fantastic riffs and very well composed, lengthy songs. It’s got a Heavy Metal influence, and integrates slower, more melodic portions between the aggression, making the songs varied and effective at maintaining intrigue despite the lengths.
It’s also a concept album about zombies based on the Night of the Living Dead series. How fun is that? I’m also gonna shout out the vocalist Fowley, who not only has a perfect hybrid Thrash yell/Deathgrowl, but is also the drummer! And the drums kick ass! This was pretty much as good as the genre got at that point in time. Never given enough credit or limelight, Deceased remain an underground treasure, but they deserve much more because this is up there with the best of the Deathrash bands.
Genres: Death Metal Thrash Metal
Land of the Free was a great album, but I feel this one right here is where Gamma Ray finally proved they were one of the greatest Power Metal bands of the 90’s, and an even rival to Helloween. Seriously, all the musicianship here is phenomenal. Incredibly powerful drumming, absolutely loaded with double bass and giving Thrash Metal a run for it’s money at times. The guitars are, of course, a melodic current of catchy tunes and technical prowess. Vocally, Kai has improved yet again, and is in top form here. Even the bass is laying down some nice groove. It’s worth mentioning that this is definitely a bit heavier than the past Gamma Ray album, thanks in no small part to those pummeling drums.
This one has a loose focus on space and sci-fi, but it’s not really integral to the listening experience. At the end of the day, this is just prime Power Metal music. Even the interludes here are good, featuring an awesome drum solo and a nice piano piece. The ballad is strong as well, and even the bonus tracks were worthy of inclusion. The band were just pumping out pure quality at this time. I consider this one a classic.
Genres: Power Metal
Much like the debut, Anthems is a crowning achievement of Symphonic Black Metal. Incredibly talented musicians play extreme music with much more competence and ability than most Black Metal players, and the compositions are complex and layered. Every instrument is ever busy, a cacophony of epic darkness assaulting the listener with nonstop force. This thing is dense with complex arrangements, and despite all instruments staying at overdrive territory much of the time, the songs are written well (and production is strong too) so that no piece overpowers the other.
All of the main songs here are fantastic. Never a wasted moment with these compositions, full of unique riffing and deliciously icy keys, ominous choirs, and an insane rhythm section. The vocalist commands presence as well – really getting into some crazed dark fantasy persona in some of these tracks. We get classic Black Metal shrieks, but also some good operatic, layered cleans.
The non-Metal/filler tracks are a weakness. The intro is an offensive example that goes on almost 4 and a half minutes before letting us get to the meat, and the outro is good, but still the weakest real track to end on. Never understood why bands insisted on sandwiching albums between tracks like these. Still a fantastic album, but it hurts the listening experience.
Genres: Black Metal
Empyrium continue their unique sound of Folk Doom Metal, with tons of Symphonic elements and a medieval touch for good measure. This one is an improvement over the debut on all fronts, having a good amount of variety in sound and dense, lush soundscapes of flute, keys, acoustics… all manner of folky instrumentation.
Melancholy permeates this release, but it’s not the depressive kind. This is an almost peaceful, romantic gloom, poetically painting beautiful nature scenery with admiration of love lost or unattainable. Vocals have a nice range of somewhat epic, deep cleans and Black Metal shrieks. The occasional double bass drumming adds great energy to this release as well, the band knowing when to kick things into doomy overdrive.
The music occasionally borders on boring, but most of the time, the rich orchestrations and gentle melodies are more than enough to carry the release. Very unique for its era, and still pleasant today.
Genres: Doom Metal Folk Metal
After The Gathering finally settled on a unique and strong sound of Ethereal, Progressive Gothic-Doom on their last album, Nighttime Birds is a continuation of this sound with just a few changes. The songs overall are a bit less heavy, with clean instrumentation aplenty, and a bit of psychedelia for good measure.
Atmospheres here are layered and dreamlike, lyrics are similarly abstract, and the multi-layered vocals of Anneke usually take center stage. She’s a crazy good singer, but I will say she “over-sings” a bit for my taste. Does every single line need to be multi layered? Still though, most of the time her voice is wonderfully dreamy and captivating.
It's not as strong as Mandylion and I wish the lyrics were a bit less abstract, but songs like “Kevin’s Telescope” go down as some of the best in this style of Gothic Metal.
Genres: Gothic Metal
People say this album is where Symphony X really found their sound. And what a shame that is! Where the riffs were wild and melodic on the debut, by this album they’ve settled for incredibly boring, rhythmic chugging. Baffles me how everyone hates the debut and prefers this sound.
That aside though, I do like this album quite a bit. The keys/synths ad a great layer of atmosphere and melody here, and the drumming is quite great. The more energetic, Power Metal material and the softer, synth-focused Prog Rock sections are really nice, it’s just the midtempo chuggy sections that don’t sit well with me. The guitar solos are all quite great, regardless.
The songs are all nicely composed, lengthy epics with many different changes in tempo, structure, and heaviness. The vocals are talented, but I will say, none of the verses or choruses really stick with me – I do feel a lack of passion, with the voice being used more as another instrument for hitting notes than for expression or emotion.
Genres: Neoclassical Metal Progressive Metal
God, I really wish you could find the lyrics for this thing somewhere. It’s got all the ingredients of an abhorrently dark well of misanthropy, I would so love to know what they’re saying!
Of the album itself, it’s a strong Post-Hardcore Sludge Metal release. Passionate, shouted vocals spew supposed venom over tracks of mostly midtempo noise and aggression. The band does a great job at incorporating noise and dissonance to create an uneasy atmosphere, but not so far as to make it unlistenable; a good amount of guitar melodies and catchy chords make their home here as well. The rhythm section is surprisingly simple for this style, only occasionally breaking into faster, Punk-like aggression.
Another thing I gotta say… that cover art, along with the album title, do a fantastic job of setting the stage. They are truly unnerving in combination. Despite my earlier praises, the music here isn’t all that unique, nor super memorable, but it’s very consistent and great at what it does. Mostly simple Sludge, but that doesn’t mean it’s not great.
Genres: Sludge Metal
An improvement to be sure, but I do believe its quality has been greatly exaggerated. This is an album full of great heavy Metal tracks, some catchy vocal lines and decent riffs. Songwriting has definitely been expanded from his first three solo albums, and there’s a decent amount of variety to this one.
But does it compare to most of Maiden’s work? Absolutely not. The album is quite reliant on Bruce’s vocals – which do sound great, but even with that said, most of his vocal performance in Maiden was better, and even the song “Tears of a Dragon” on his second solo album tops everything on this. Musically, again, it’s stronger than all his previous solo albums, but about on par with Maiden’s weakest material.
Looking at this album in isolation, not comparing it to Maiden, and not relying on Bruce’s legendary vocalist status, all it is, is a pretty damn solid Heavy Metal album. No more, no less. In my ears it is not the legendary classic many people seem to claim. It does end up being kind of weird when my favorite songs on the album are the softer/more Hard Rock songs (the last three).
Genres: Heavy Metal
Unlike the blistering aggression of perfectly melded Thrash Groove on the debut, Nemesis is a follow up that opts for some slight experimentation. Some of the songs here are quite unique sounding for the time, there are some synths and a lot of unconventional song structures here. The drumming remains the main pull, but everybody is doing a good job.
The unfortunate thing is that this is way less Thrashy than the debut. As such, it suffers from a loss of speed and aggression, and the riffs aren’t as sharp. This release is arguably the more interesting and inventive one, but me personally, I’ll take straightforward and energetic over this any day. War Between One is the only song here where they go all out, and it’s no mistake that song also has the best riff on the album. Grip Inc are better when they’re experimenting less and just pushing the peddle to the metal.
Genres: Groove Metal Thrash Metal
What is there to say about this 15-minute album by Assück? It’s manic, ripping Deathgrind embodying a sense of hopeless chaos. Despite the tiny track lengths in a very flat genre, the band does well at giving each song a little dash of uniqueness to separate them from each other. This makes the short run of 15 tracks feel much more distinguished. Even with that, the album is perfectly consistent front to back.
The riffs are quite good among the genre. Unfortunately, it does suffer from the traditional Grindcore problem of “too chaotic/noisy to really make much out.” The drumming here is a big problem for me. Don’t get me wrong, the drummer is clearly incredible, able to hit insanely fast blast beating while maintaining accuracy. The problem is, there is just too much all out blast beating, and it’s too loud. The guitars get buried, it’s difficult to make things out. I know this is what Grindcore is all about, but that’s one reason I’m just not a fan of the genre.
The vocals are great here as well, but the lyrics are almost ridiculously hopeless word salad. Sounds like someone looked through a thesaurus for every somewhat complex word of or relating to “pessimism.” They don’t make much discernable sense.
Genres: Death Metal Grindcore
This album is a stepping stone of sorts from the old style of pure punky Metalcore into the newer wave of late 90’s-2000’s Alt/Groove Metally Metalcore. Despite its dissonant pessimism and anger, it’s got a bouncy energy to it, and a few catchy guitar leads. Riffs are pretty standard chugs most of the time, but the rhythm section is great – the drumming is the best part of this release.
All of those things said, I must confess I don’t see how this is one of the greatest Metalcore albums of all time. It’s a big improvement over their debut for sure, but this sounds very similar to most of the Metalcore of the time. It’s not very catchy or memorable, just played competently with above-average musicianship. Production is good too. It’s a strong album, but there’s nothing here that could grip me enough to want to return in the future.
And ending your album with a Pee-Wee Herman sample is a pretty goofy thing to do...
And so began Devin Townsend’s solo career. Often hailed as a musical genius with no limits to his creativity, unbound by genres, yet still Metal through and through, the debut is a unique piece in Metal history. That is to say – in 1997, absolutely nothing sounded like this, and it’s not dated one bit. Eclectic, modern, catchy, and willing to throw all ideals of what Metal should be out the window in order to craft whatever the hell he wants it to be.
But, is the album good? It’s certainly good, but is it that good? I don’t think so. Most songs are overlong, lacking any strong musical hooks, and meandering in dense atmosphere that isn’t really sure what it wants to be. Many people will call this melancholic or ethereal; I hear no such thing. The closing song is a fantastic example of the heartfelt melancholy Devin is capable of – nowhere else on the album do I really feel any significant melancholy. Similarly, the first half of Bastard is built on an incredible riff, one of those that are so good you don’t mind hearing it over and over for 5 minutes. Despite that, I can’t recall another riff on the album. Nothing else really captured me.
The album does a great job of displaying Devin’s genius through moments and pieces, highlights that prove his potential. But as for the full album, and even individual songs, they are bloated, filled with insignificant space, and repetitive too often when they have nothing worthwhile to repeat. I can easily see how this could be so lauded among fans, because it is groundbreaking, it’s impressive on many fronts, and there is a lot to love here. For me, it just can’t break through the barrier of being a “good” album. For that, Devin must shed his excess skin.
Genres: Progressive Metal
Around the Fur is hailed as the first truly great Nu Metal album and considered one of (if not) the best in the genre. It was also Deftones’ breakthrough success, and a telling sign of the Metal trend in the late 90’s.
To me, it’s a really plain Nu/Alternative Metal album. Honestly, the production is probably the best part of this, the guitars having a fantastic tone and a perfect amount of reverb and effect on them to create a strong wave of slightly dissonant chords. The music though, is really average. There aren’t many riffs, progressions or leads that stand out, as the best part of the guitars are when they’re used more atmospheric like in “Be Quiet and Drive.” The rhythm section is quite standard, never doing anything too fast or complex. The vocals are at least unique, and I can see an appeal to them, but they don’t do a whole lot for me personally; the lyrics are similarly boring and border on cryptic. For a genre that excels at self-expression, there’s just not a lot of that here, and it hurts the whole thing. Nu Metal should either be full of catchy charisma or painfully emotional vulnerability, and this release doesn’t pack either one.
It’s the same quality as their debut for me. Average Nu Metal. Not bad, but nothing special.
Genres: Alternative Metal
The sophomore album by Strapping Young Lad is a much more concise piece of music with a clear direction. There were many aspects I liked about this album:
- The rhythm section is fantastic. Drums are energetic and aggressive just as I prefer.
- Production is pristine. Every instrument is audible and some interesting Industrial sound effects add layers to the compositions.
- Devin’s voice is awesome. His range is incredible, usually hitting somewhere between melodic singing and screaming, but going every which way up and down that spectrum, and doing it all very well.
Unfortunately, this album has a lot of weakness that really stifle the enjoyment for me.
- The riffs are boring. They are mostly rhythmic, with very little lead guitarwork and nothing at all memorable being crafted with the guitars.
- The lyrics are mostly bad, with too much unnecessary vulgarity that just doesn’t work.
- Devin adopts a “tough guy” persona on the album and whether it’s a joke or not doesn’t matter, it’s really annoying and really cringy.
- Devin is known for being a musical chameleon, but this album is (among his work) quite samey front to back, with most songs being Thrashy/Groovy Industrial Metal. That wouldn’t be a problem, but they all suffer from the same exact weaknesses, which makes the samey-ness that much more offensive.
That leaves this album a really mixed bag for me. It’s a good album, but it has way more potential than it ever reaches, and too many weaknesses that hold it back.
Genres: Industrial Metal
Arcturus went from cold, compelling Symphonic Black Metal soundscapes to… bizarro twisted circus Metal.
This thing is loaded with different influences; the most prominent styles are Symphonic, Progressive, and Avant-Garde Metal, but there are flavors of Dark Cabaret, Symphonic Black Metal, Drum n Bass, Modern Classical, and probably some other stuff. Interestingly, it reminds me of Sigh from Japan stylistically.
Incredibly interesting and ever changing, but at the end of the day, much less enjoyable than their old style. Some of the songs here are quite great, but even those don’t leave any sense of memorability because this album is not focused on riffs or melody. Rather, you’re more likely to remember a song as “the one that has that circus march theme in it for a minute” or “the one where he does those really goofy operatic vocals.” Just doesn’t suit me much, but I respect the innovation and uniqueness.
Genres: Avant-Garde Metal Progressive Metal Symphonic Metal
You put two genres like Drone Metal and Sludge Metal together, you gotta expect something pretty rancid. Dissonant, noisy, repetitive, lethargic… those were some traits that come to mind, and they are also traits I tend not to like when combined.
The short of it is, the album sounds exactly as you might expect (at least, exactly as I did), and it’s just not my thing.
The longer story though, is there were some great details to this album I did appreciate. The density of numerous guitars in the background creating a twisted cacophony with feedback and bent notes was quite great. The atmosphere here is destructive; there’s no real emotion to it, but there is a terrifying emptiness, like the heart of a cold killer, long since surrendered to insanity.
I’m not sure what the lore behind this Japanese band is, but writing the whole album in Spanish is a very odd choice. Google translating it doesn’t make a lick of sense.
Genres: Drone Metal Sludge Metal
Boring, repetitive, boring, heavy, boring, fuzzy, boring, noisy, and boring. Insulting how this is considered a great release in Doom Metal when it is not Doom Metal at all. Droning, Stoner “riffs” caked in enough fuzz that you’re tricked into thinking this is some kind of atmospheric soundscape. Played slow with insane lethargy, not for the sake of emphasizing mood or feeling, but because the band members were probably too burnt to be bothered to play anything else.
I do usually like to see the value in something even if it isn’t for me, but the mass praise this thing gets means I don’t need to cut it any breaks. It doesn’t do anything except layer on guitar fuzz, and I don’t understand what the appeal to that is supposed to be. Rather, I can see how inebriated people are fooled into liking this, but for the album to be so widely beloved and acclaimed? What is going on? How is this appealing to so many people? Albums like this truly make me feel like I’ve lost touch with the world.
Genres: Doom Metal Stoner Metal
There’s so much I could say about this incredible album, and I could never do enough to sing its praises, so instead I’ll relay a personal story.
Many, many years ago now, I lost a very dear friend. Not that they died, no; they chose to go down a dark path I could not follow. And that was almost worse, because there was no closure, no finality to it, and it all ended in a very sad, painful way.
My life after that event was quite dark for quite some time. Hopelessness and lack of trust clouded my view of everything, and once solid goals started to appear meaningless. I continued moving forward simply because.
Enter Brave Murder Day. I had previously heard Katatonia’s debut and their 2 prior EP’s, and while I thought they were good, they were far from incredible releases. I thus put on Brave Murder Day as I was going to sleep one night with no expectations.
Brave immediately captured my attention – no, it would be more appropriate to say that it stole my breath and held it for all 10 of its forlorn minutes. Not only was this nothing like Katatonia’s previous work, it wasn’t like anything I’d heard before (nor have I since). This was the purest form of auditorial depression I’d ever heard. It actually frightened me, as vulnerable as I was at the time. Safe to say my chances of sleep had been murdered.
I kept listening to the album day after day, and it felt awful, in a way. It took me to the darkest depths of the low I was already in and forced me to sit in pitch black. There was no running and no numbing that could escape that dreadful feeling once these twisted chords created that inescapable rainroom.
And yet… comfort. Genuine comfort. Someone else understands this. Someone else captured this feeling. Someone else took this horrible darkness and created art. Someone else felt this and kept going.
And that is why I love Metal, but more importantly why I adore Doom Metal. The genuine darkness and melancholia behind it is so comforting when you just need to know you aren’t alone, and you can survive, and you can make beauty even with your darkness.
Anyway, time passed and I shelved this album for over half of 12 years, simply because it remained incredibly effective at bringing me right back to that place. I’d listen to a track every once in a while when the mood fit, but it had been so long since I have listened to the album in full. Until now, that is, listening as I write this… I can handle it now, but lord, does it remain very effective. One of the greatest albums of all time, or should I say… of Endtime.
Genres: Doom Metal
Eternity is somewhat of a transitional album in Anathema’s discography (though what isn’t, with how often they changed sounds). This one is quite a big shock though, coming from the Death Doom of The Silent Enigma. Here, Anathema have completely fused Doom and Gothic Metal, and added in liberal amounts of Progressive Rock and ethereal ambience. And that last bit is very important; in stark contrast to The Silent Enigma’s deathly, ominous shadow of despair, Eternity is an ethereal, atmospheric, bittersweet cry of passion.
Although still very doomy and quite heavy in places, Eternity is elegant and airy. This is so well displayed in the intro and following track Angelica. Familiar, plodding Doom drumming and chords back an otherwise heavenly, melodic piece of music, as a slow lead guitar melody weaves through its golden air. The vocals are another important part; so poignant, full of passion, grief, and love. The rest of the album follows a similar pattern, combing the familiar Doomy drumming, guitar chords and general atmosphere of melancholia with nearly the polar opposite in graceful synths and gentle lead melodies, always contrasting this bitter sense of loss with unending love and hope. This was really a landmark release in the more melodic strains of Doom and Gothic Metal.
This one doesn’t get as much love as either the album before nor the many after, and I will never understand why. It was such a unique, unforeseen progression of the Gothic Doom genre and remains a unique and beautiful release. The album sounds super dated, especially because of those cheesy synths, and I LOVE it that much more for it. Even the album cover. It just screams this 90’s aesthetic. Wonderful, wonderful album.
Genres: Doom Metal
Pummeling, unrelenting force, brutal and chaotic to the untrained ear, but held together by immense technical prowess. The album that both Brutal Death and Tech Death are now compared against, Cryptopsy set the bar unreachably high with only their second album. None So Vile is a nonstop riff fest that absolutely assaults the listener with dense, twisted guitarwork and some of the wildest drumming I’ve yet heard.
Cryptopsy didn’t exactly name the game here – taking big influence from bands like Death, Suffcation, and a bit of Nespithe perhaps – but they just did it so well. Brutal Death Metal is among my less-liked Death Metal subgenres because of its tendency to forgo focusing on crafting good riffs to instead create a wall of punishment in auditory form. Similarly, Tech Death, while often very good, can lose points in songwriting when getting too stuck on showing off the musician’s technical prowess. Well, this music is certainly every bit as punishing and impressive, but not for one second did the band forget how write an awesome riff. Every song is jam packed with some of the best, and backed by aggressive drumming that never falls into “constant blast beat” boredom. Its loaded with creative fills and different drumming patterns, even slowing down every so often for some added weight. Wonderfully crafted music!
There is a huge issue for me, and that’s the vocals. They don’t sound terrible, but even when reading along to the lyrics, they are indecipherable, they don’t even attempt to speak or follow along. It’s pathetic, embarrassing really. The vocalist just got in the booth and growled without trying? It’s polar opposite to the incredible hard work and dedication shown by every musician on the record. You would think when all you are contributing to an album filled with such incredible songwriting and musicianship is growled vocals, you would make absolutely sure that you nailed that performance and crafted some lyrical quality to boot. The lyrics unfortunately are just okay usually, sometimes similarly bad. These points ensure the album will never be a masterpiece to me.
Genres: Death Metal
A single 40-minute track, that manages to weave through almost every style Edge of Sanity has toyed with thus far. Primarily there is Melodeath and Prog Metal, but also OSDM, Gothic Metal, some Doomy parts, of course acoustics and cleans… It’s the full package. It contains a sprawling concept story about the end of mankind revolving around the inability to breed and a god-born crimson queen who provides the last hope for mankind’s preservation. This is one of those tracks that is wildly entertaining to follow along to, as the lyrics provide a visual spectacle of dark suspense, befitting the music.
But of course, on to the music itself. Crimson strikes the perfect balance between including recurring motifs and jam-packing the thing with as many apocalyptic riffs as possible. The song just never gets boring. It paces itself wonderfully, the infrequent but always pleasant soft sections giving reprieve after many minutes of unrelenting Metal, and the pummeling sections of aggressive speed checked by slower dirges. Every member is in top form.
As far as concept albums go, it’s up there with the best. As far as single track albums go, it’s also up there with the best. Plainly speaking, a legendary moment of Progressive Melodeath that most Extreme Metal epics are now compared to.
Genres: Death Metal Progressive Metal
Helloween’s last album, Master of the Rings, was a comeback album returning to pure Power Metal, featuring line up changes after the maligned yet underrated Pink Bubbles and Chameleon. On The Time of the Oath, Helloween double down on this and deliver (in my opinion) an amazing album that easily rivals the Keeper of the Seven Keys albums.
We Burn is a blistering album opener that is perhaps the best song of their entire career up to that point, and plainly one of the best Power Metal songs period. The guitars are wild, twisting like melodic lightning as the nonstop double bass drumming lays down some intense power. The soaring, layered vocals are not without edge, and the bass has some truly funky noodling of its own. Plainly said, the song is a masterpiece.
Now, every following song doesn’t quite match that astounding opener, but almost all of them feature fantastic work from each member. I know people hold the Seven Keys albums in a very special place as some of the earliest great works in Power Metal, but the fact is that the band have never sounded as good as they do here. This album is the peak of their ability and songwriting so far, and the production is super clear, fantastically mixed so that you can hear those wonderful basslines and each layer of melodic guitar, without sounding overproduced or modern in any way.
Genres: Power Metal
My relationship with Type O Negative has always been troubled. Doom and Gothic Metal are some of my favorite genres, and Type O Negative practically invented the later (despite what people say, I am firmly of the opinion they have NEVER played the former). The thing about these genres is that they are known for being moody, melancholic, sombre, etc. Type O Negative, rather than representing these traits, are more so a parody of them.
Most of their songs are filled with tongue in cheek humor, sarcasm, overly vulgar sexuality, and Peter Steele’s ever so annoying “sensual tough guy” persona. It’s like if gym jocks tried making Gothic Metal. The joke interludes found on many of their albums send a pretty clear message they don’t really take anything too seriously.
Anyway, as for this album… Most of the music is pretty good. Red Water is great, even, with some actually melancholic and doomy atmosphere. Far too often, these songs are overlong and filled with all the annoying tropes of the band I mentioned before. The gothic guitar melodies and echo effects are usually quite nice, and Peter sounds good for the most part, but he still falls into parody territory too often.
It’s just a band that doesn’t sit well with me.
Genres: Gothic Metal
I don’t hate Tool or anything, and they absolutely have some fantastic tracks under their belt (Sober, Schism, etc.) but I find them to be one of the most overrated bands out there. Ænima is a perfect example of everything wrong with Tool in my opinion.
Firstly, there are NO standout tracks. Zero. Nothing on here has a chorus or a riff or anything that is going to stick with you. None of the songs have any strong moods, emotions, atmosphere, etc. It’s all very gray… Just the band playing some technical stuff while Maynard rambles on and on about something. Pretentious doesn’t begin to cover it.
Then there’s the fact that this thing is littered with useless interludes. It’s another shot at being “clever.” And damn they fooled a lot of people. The only time this many interlude tracks are acceptable is on a concept album where the interludes move along the story or connect the themes in some way. Here, we’ve got 6 interlude tracks, about 11 minutes of pointless nonsense that the most rabid Tool fans would defend as showcasing how we make assumptions based on the sound of things, even if the meaning is totally different… The thing is, I don’t care. I don’t care about whatever inside jokes or rabid drug induced revelations compelled them to make over a third of the tracks gimmicks. All I care about is how good the album sounds, and the album sounds like a mess.
The meat of the album is decent, but again, there’s no staying power, no reason to come back to it. The lyrics tread an odd line between humorous sarcasm and total existential pretention… neither of which I enjoy. I’ll stick to their hits, but Tool albums are not well crafted and this is perhaps their worst offender.
Genres: Alternative Metal
Therion finally found the sound they’ve been chasing for a long time and ended up with a full on Symphonic Metal classic with tons of Gothic, Progressive and extreme Metal influence. Tons of guests here, it’s lush with different instruments, vocal styles, and overall styles.
As one of the earliest examples of the genre, Therion were pioneering a sound that would later be super influential in the strain of Symphonic Death Metal bands and the darker, more Gothic tinged side of the genre as well. Most of the guitars are rhythmic in nature, with lead melodies usually being carried by vocals, string instruments and keys. It’s a wildly fun album that just has so much going for it.
Weak points include the aforementioned guitars (about 2 memorable guitar leads here) and an over relying on operatic vocals, which can get grating pretty quickly. Other than that though, it’s a great quality album way ahead of its time.
P.S. The Metal portion of Siren of the Woods is phenomenal, but the song is scalped by having a four minute intro.
Genres: Symphonic Metal
Sabbat is a band who have been at the grind for a long time – never breaking through despite being at the forefront of the first wave of Black Metal. Part of this is probably because they were stuck in Japan, where their raw, Satanic, simple first-wave style never really took hold. They put out many unique, solid albums, but The Dwelling was a bit of a leap in terms of quality and musical depth.
The near hour long, single track of the album has their usual Blackened Thrash with tons of Heavy Metal influence, but it’s also loaded with a bunch of shifts and changes, both in tempo, instruments, and even vocal styles. The only consistency is the evil, occult obsession that permeates all of their material.
The Dwelling is a great collection of what makes Sabbat a strong band. They aren’t the most skilled, nor the fastest or heaviest, hell this is the first time I’d even call them good songwriters, but they just always had so much passion for this style of music. Almost every other band that started in the first-wave scene moved on with the times, but not Sabbat. They continued playing it until they felt comfortable creating what is essentially the only first-wave “epic” that pushes the boundaries of one of the most simple Metal styles into a progressive and multi-dimensional piece.
Genres: Black Metal Thrash Metal
The Great Southern Trendkill. What the heck does that even mean? Pantera had a penchant for album names that almost made sense, and this was the wackiest. Similarly, the music within is some of their most extreme and eclectic. It’s got easily their heaviest song ever in Suicide Note Pt. 2, whereas Pt. 1 is a calm, slow rocker. Floods is one of their longest songs, almost Progressive in nature and containing one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. The album is surprisingly consistent given the varying styles present here.
That being said, there is still a fair amount of “generic 90’s Groove Metal” here that doesn’t really stand out. Not exactly filler, but songs we’ve all heard many times that don’t offer much to people who aren’t die hard Pantera or Groove Metal fans.
The album has a dark, manic quality to it that probably mirrors the alleged turmoil within the band member’s lives at the time. It sounds like a death throe, and nothing against the underrated Reinventing the Steel, but it would have been a perfect swansong to end their career.
Genres: Groove Metal
Ever busy and always experimenting with different musical avenues, Dan Swano’s most avant-garde group Pan.Thy.Monium finally released their magnum opus and swansong in Khaooohs & Kon-Fus-Ion. At around half an hour, this is quite short for a Progressive Avant-Garde Metal epic, and even then, the run time is padded with quite a bit of fluff. The last two tracks aren’t metal at all, and while one offers some nice atmosphere, the other is just silence.
Thankfully, the main tracks on this album make up for the short amount of good material by offering – quite plainly – VERY GOOD Avant-Garde Metal. As someone who is simply not into most of the genre, I can say with total confidence the music on display here is simply so good it transcends genres. Hell, this album makes Avant-Garde Jazz sound listenable… it’s incredible. It’s got a good amount a melody – bordering on melodeath riffage at times – some great atmospheres, and of course classic Death Metal riffing. The vocals are useless gibberish unfortunately, and there’s no real meaning to any of the music here aside from “let’s experiment and create some batshit crazy extreme metal.”
If this were a more straightforward delivery of music found on the main tracks, and had real vocals/lyrics, it would be a monstrous masterpiece. But it’s not and it doesn’t. It loses a lot of points on the many glaring weaknesses.
Genres: Avant-Garde Metal Death Metal
This is an interesting transition from their USPM sound. The Politics of Ecstasy is by far the heaviest album the crew had released at that point, adopting a much chuggier and more rhythmic approach. It’s kind of hard to classify this; while the technicality on show is close to Progressive Metal, it also has a very Tech-Thrash-Lite feel to it. Despite being labeled as Thrash, it sounds quite different from what most people associate with the genre, almost playing like speedy Groove Metal instead, with rhythmic riffs and mid-tempo double bass playing in semi-complex polyrhythms.
Admittedly, I feel mixed about this new direction, as rhythmic riffing usually doesn’t sit well with me as opposed to more melodic Heavy Metal or sharp, twisting conventional Thrash, but the music is still very high quality. The album also has a few great surprises as well; Passenger is a Doom Metal song with a monstrous main riff and great vocals, and 42147 has more conventional Thrashing and near-Melodeath riffing that adds some much needed energy and aggression to the flow of the album.
Overall I can’t say I prefer this to their older Thrash influenced USPM sound, but it’s still great stuff, surprisingly heavy for the band and carrying a decent amount of variety in the approaches to songwriting.
Genres: Heavy Metal Progressive Metal Thrash Metal
To my dismay, Neurosis decided to continue the more Industrial, tribal direction they explored on Enemy of the Sun. Gone are the Doomy leads and emotive atmospheres from Souls at Zero and the songs here employ overly repetitive, sample and industrial based soundscapes that end up boring and numb more than anything. The base rock music is bare and simple, and industrial noises are overlayed to give it the illusion of density and complexity, but a slightly focused mind will notice these same noises repeating over and over and over, gnawing away at one’s patience as they fail to build anything epic or moving.
Each transition basically switches one repeating industrial noise/sample for another, alternating between way-too-boring plodding drums or tribal beats. The guitars do little aside from add fuzzy ambiance in many places, what riffs remain are usually boring and uninspired.
The album is also filled with boring song sections or interludes of just samples and noise, breaking up the boring music with even more boring sections of people talking.
For how long and “varied” the songs are, they never seem to go anymore. What’s more, while it is arguably a very negative and oppressive album, it doesn’t really build any mood or convey emotion very well. It’s just a lot of plodding around, fuzz, and tribal madness that mashes together and comes out a dull gray on the other end.
Genres: Sludge Metal Post-Metal