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
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
An amalgamation of Black, Folk, Viking, and even some Symphonic Metal, Falkenbach’s debut is a unique piece of art that spans many fields. The eclectic collection of music is well written, produced and preformed, making it a very solid if varied package.
The opening track is a blistering assault of pure Black Metal, and it might give you the wrong impression opening with such fast aggression. In stark contrast, the second track is folky, slow, mostly clean-sung and full of medieval, traditional instrumentation. You never quite know what you’re gonna get after that, with every track falling somewhere in between here. It keeps the entire listen interesting and ever changing, full of possibility. Each style is quite well done too.
Personally, I prefer the more Black-Metal styled songs here. The “epic” Viking/Folk tracks too often fall into goofy territory. I’ve no problem with cheese, in fact I usually adore it, but some of the flutes and vocals here and there sound like silly cartoon castle music, and since I don’t believe they were going for that, it’s a bit of a miss. Still innovative and impressive by all means.
Genres: Black Metal Folk Metal Viking Metal
I respect this, and I am glad even Metalheads can appreciate it, but I unfortunately don’t really enjoy it. Also… this is not a Metal album. There is some electric guitar, yes, but the Neoclassical label is a misnomer and likely only attached due to Becker’s past.
What we have instead is a New Age Modern Classical album, full of synthed instruments that still sound a bit cheap, but are composed nicely. I do actually like myself some nice New Age, but only when it is emotionally provocative. This is more like… putting notes together for the sake of it. It doesn’t achieve any nice moods or atmospheres. Which was exactly like his guitar playing, and I wasn’t a fan for the same reason. I like the song Blue, but that’s it.
It's at least consistent in quality, there aren’t any bad tracks per say, it’s just a style that doesn't much appeal to me. Props to its development though.
Genres: Neoclassical Metal Progressive Metal
Converge’s debut album was a rough, underwhelming and poorly mixed mess that had some good ideas on display, but just wasn’t executed well. The sophomore Petitioning the Empty Sky is much more favorably received and fixes some of the issues from before, namely the terrible production.
The album is much more concise and consistent, and delivers a great show of energy found both in the rhythm section and the dissonant riffs. It’s got an odd mix of short Punk-length songs and Prog-length compositions, and displays a good amount of variation and growth throughout. The vocals unfortunately remain terrible and I can’t make out a word here.
It’s fine, but it doesn’t grip me as much as others I’m afraid. No memorable riffs on top of a gruelingly bad vocal performance makes the relisten factor very low.
Stoner Metal remains one of the least compelling Metal subgenres to me. The slower stuff lacks the emotion and atmosphere of Doom, for example, while the more energetic takes can’t match the riffs of tried-and-true Heavy Metal. And far too often, it just sounds like Hard Rock/Grunge with just a bit of extra heaviness. The vocals are uncompelling, though not nearly as much as the lyrics, and the instrumentation ranges from boring to serviceable.
Corrosion of Conformity fall into the statement I’d have to make “good, for a Stoner band.” They’ve got good energy and decent riffs… for a Stoner band. Wiseblood is pretty by the numbers for them. A large number of tracks that could easily be found on a Grunge album or heard on Classic Rock radio and no one would think anything of it. Every track good enough, but never standing out or packing anything memorable.
I guess the demographic is… people driving trucks, lifting weights, or getting turnt on the substance of the day. Not me.
Genres: Heavy Metal Stoner Metal
This may be a bit brash, but I expected a lauded album made by a once nazi, church burning murderer to be a bit more exciting.
I wasn’t a big fan of Burzum’s other albums, but some tracks sat very well with me, and I could see the evolution of the heavily Ambient/Dungeon Synth-leaning Atmoblack developing. The problem was, the styles weren’t being mixed very well, we’d more so get one and then the other. I was expecting Filosofem – considered Burzum’s masterpiece and one of the greatest Atmospheric Black Metal albums of all time – to finally nail that style he’d been developing.
Aaaand no, he drops the ball for me. The tracks are incredibly boring and repetitive, no riffs to speak of, the guitar fuzz being so abrasive and poorly mixed that actual notes are mostly indiscernible. The ambient part has barely been incorporated into the music, with minimal, repetitive synthed notes playing a very minor background role. Once again, the only track that fully incorporates Ambient is devoid of any Metal at all, making this another failure to truly integrate both styles full and well into a single song.
The vocals, are atrocious, in fact the mixing on every front is so bad that nothing really sounds good, and this coming from someone who can enjoy artists like Bathory with no issue. This is considered depressive, melancholic, music… doesn’t really sound that way to me, it’s mostly just droning on and on without evoking much at all.
However, that’s not to say it’s truly a bad album, it’s just immensely disappointing. The compositions are decent, and the Ambient melodies that can be heard are quite nice. The repetitiveness is not so much an issue and does work well with the atmospheric soundscapes created. It’s decent background music if the horrible production isn’t enough to ruin the experience. But that’s where my compliments end.
Genres: Black Metal
Godflesh remains one of those bands I just don’t “get.” Each song is more or less one rhythmic pattern repeated nonstop and a handful of boring, repetitive riffs. Back on their debut, at least this style was novel, though I liked it no more then than I do now. By Songs of Love and Hate, there were already a few other Industrial Metal bands offering a lot more than Godflesh, and I still fail to see the acclaim given here. Honestly, I actually dug this more on the first listen, not paying too much attention to it and enjoying the rhythmic aggression. Unfortunately, more focused listened revealed just how boring it is, with almost no memorable moments whatsoever.
That aside, there is one accolade I will give this album. The track Frail is legitimately good musically, it sounds quite different from the rest, with a bit more energy, melody and emotion.
I would love to see them explore more sounds like on their Cold World EP, or like the track Frail here, but alas…
Genres: Industrial Metal
You can get an idea for what this album is about based on the name and album cover. Well, probably, I don’t actually know – the lyrics are impossible to find and entirely indiscernible, but the track titles all check out. The electronic drums give this thing a unique flavor (for its time) and the guitars are actually pretty slow and groovy despite the blast beating drums.
This release is definitely influenced by the Japanese Ero Guro Nansensu movement (erotic grotesque nonsense), which is a really interesting artistic phenomenon that was about exactly as it says. It started back in the first half of the 20th century and for some reason has endured in Japanese art and pop culture up to the modern day (that’s why you see so much gratuitous violence in even mainstream anime). You can bet when Japan caught wind of goregrind and pornogrind, this immediately fit the bill, and was taken to more bizarre extremes with innovative bands like this one pushing the genre further.
Other than all that though, it’s not that great of an album. The vocals are horrible, and the guitars are quite mundane. It’s more fun for the novelty of it. It’s not Cybergrind in itself either, but likely had an influence on the development of the genre, especially seeing as this was easily the biggest Grindcore album to come from Asia at the time.
Boris is actually one of the most notable Metal bands to come out of Japan, and one of the biggest names in Drone Metal overall. Their debut is, maybe unsurprisingly for a still rather new and unexplored genre, underwhelming. The single hour-long track is just guitar fuzz and feedback for the majority of it. Nothing resembling riffs or even rhythms – really, it’s just feedback noise (in my opinion, this doesn’t qualify as Metal, but, that’s neither here nor there). There is a midsection where drumming and vocals come in, and that’s really the only Metal part of it, hell it’s the only part that resembles music at all, but it still ain’t good. And it’s over soon enough, back to just noise.
Drone Metal – at least THIS type of Drone Metal, with no mood or rhythm or anything resembling a melody – is like a niche fetish. One that disgusts me, that I cannot and will not ever be into. But for anyone who enjoys it – I’m happy for you, get your rocks off to some wack fuzz.
Genres: Drone Metal
Much like it took some time for Death Metal to shed its Thrash roots, and Doom Metal to evolve out of Trad Doom, so too did Death Doom undergo a lengthy transitional phase. In the late 80’s into the early 90’s, Death Doom was, more or less, slow Death Metal, and many of the early releases no longer represent what the genre would become. In time, Death Doom added its signature focus on atmosphere and melancholia, and became something completely separate from Death Metal, named more so for the inclusion of harsh vocals and other extreme metal tropes.
The Silent Enigma is one of the earliest examples of Death Doom in its fully fleshed out form, completely forgoing any hint of Death Metal stylistically and taking a full focus on crafting melodic yet crushing pieces of dark atmosphere and morose despair. A surprising amount of energy is found here, with the opening track aggressively assaulting you with poetic shrapnel of hopelessness. A great deal of variety is found in the following tracks, with classic plodding Doom full of panic-attack inducing atmospheres, gentle gothic style interludes, and a few that sit somewhere in between. The penultimate track, A Dying Wish, remains a crowning achievement of Death Doom, the 8-minute track delivering an uncompromising death throe of mourning and regret.
Genres: Doom Metal
Symbolic is considered to be not only the magnum opus of Death, but perhaps the greatest Death Metal record of all time, and by extension among the best releases in extreme music. Death not only managed to up their game and change styles ever so slightly between albums, but also consistently release nothing but the highest quality material.
Symbolic is an album I have been anticipating for some time now, knowing its reputation well, and it managed to meet every expectation. The songs here are probably the most identifiable in Death’s catalogue, each having insanely memorable guitar leads and mind blowing solos that do not sacrifice a strong melody for technical prowess. Musically, it is near-perfect as far as Tech-Death goes, placing the emphasis on brilliant songwriting and fantastic riffage first and foremost, and weaving their intricate technical abilities within the songs rather than using the songs as a means to show off. Production is great, rhythm section is great, vocals are intelligible… it’s the total package.
One weakness to me; the lyrics go a bit too far. By that, I mean at this point in his career, it seems Chuck was obsessed with the spiritual and abstract, and honestly half the songs don’t even sound like they are about anything, just philosophical ramblings without explicit meaning. Not for me, in any case…
Barring that, it’s about as great as Tech Death gets, which is kind of a sad thought in itself. To think that the genre would never pass a release from its early inception is a pity, but you would be incredibly hard pressed to find anything better than this in its entirety. Deservedly reigns as possibly the best Extreme Metal record of all time.
Genres: Death Metal
On their 5th album, Blind Guardian released what I consider to be their best work up to that point. I’m one of the few who preferred their aggressive Thrash/Speed days on their first two albums to the more polished and melodic albums that followed (though this is mostly because they always had useless interludes bloating them). Well, Imaginations still has one of those in the way of acoustic ballad “A Past and Future Secret,” but the rest of the material is just about as perfect as Power Metal gets.
Blind Guardian stated themselves that the new producer for this album took them to new levels, and it shows here. The choruses are insane, the vocal performance in general just sends shivers down your spine in a perfect mix of gruff yell-singing and epic, multilayered cleans. The guitar melodies sound a bit darker than before, which is always welcome, but of course they remain just as catchy. The rhythm section is just superb, so much speed and aggression on display here, definitely matching their Thrash days in that department.
The album isn’t a true concept album, but themes of lost innocence run rampant throughout the album. Letting go of better imaginary worlds, living under a suppressive political system, and learning to cope with inner demons and even childhood trauma are all alluded to in ways that still sound fantastical. I absolutely have to mention the track “Bright Eyes” as the best thing they have done yet, and by god it will be hard for them to surpass it. The chorus in the song is one of the most immense I’ve ever heard, and the riffs are passionate and dark. It’s quite a moody song for the band, and supposedly about a child struggling with abuse from his parents. It’s as powerful thematically as it is musically, an instant standout from the moment I heard it and only growing stronger the more I listened to it.
Genres: Power Metal
On their third album, My Dying Bride pretty much perfected the Gothic Doom style, leaving all of their Death Doom roots behind for a melodic and mournful masterpiece. Seeing as how the growls are gone, vocalist Aaron had to really find his cleans here, and they are pleasantly somber and melodramatic throughout.
The opening track is an easy highlight, with a roaring wall of guitar lead by marching piano scales that add a great urgency to the song, while Aaron’s vocals on the other hand sound entirely devoid of life. The album remains quality throughout, with more standard Gothic Doom songs making up the meat of the album. It ends on another fantastic note, “Your Shameful Heaven,” easily the most energetic and aggressive song here. The band goes from depressive to disturbing as both riffs and lyricism take on a more evil atmosphere, finishing the album off in triumphant darkness.
This thing became the standard against which Gothic Doom was measured, and for good reason. Every track here is of great quality, but there’s still decent variation running throughout. A fantastic run through negative emotion in a mature and poetic package.
Genres: Doom Metal
Virgin Steele’s last album (Pt. 1) was a huge triumph and where they finally found their signature sound. It was also miles ahead of anything they’d done prior. Pt. 2 is amazingly on par with Pt. 1 and jam packed with some of the best USPM that has ever graced the globe. Virgin Steele have a generous amount of true/euro Power Metal and Symphonic Metal in their sound, and the album is laden with synthed strings, horns, and general fanfare.
Really, this thing just doesn’t miss. 13 tracks and almost all of them rip, even the interlude/outro tracks are still good. The drumming here is definitely better than anything prior, showcased well on Crown of Glory, and everything else is the same peak quality as the prior album. Each track does a great job distinguishing itself, be it by a razor sharp riff, some epic key melodies, or memorable vocals (or all of the above on a few!). The album is just amazing fun.
I’ve got no complaints on this one. I don’t know how USPM could get any better than this in terms of a full hour long album. Also, Strawgirl is beautiful, the haters can get clapped.
Genres: Heavy Metal Power Metal
The legendary Storm of the Light’s Bane is considered perhaps the greatest Meloblack album ever put to record, and for good reason. Every track is chock full of dark and icy riffs, thanks in part to its heavy Melodeath influence. You see that beautiful cover art with the reaper on horseback amongst a nocturnal tundra mountain scape? Yeah, this album just sounds like that. The beauty of cold, night, and death are all emanating from the electrifying songwriting here.
Black Metal tends to be a bit one note, and Meloblack is a much more purposeful aversion of that, but even among Meloblack, Dissection give us progressive, complicated, ever changing songwriting with weaves and turns up and down the mountains and through the evergreens. Even some acoustic passages give reprieve from that arctic assault. The vocals are fantastic, quite intelligible and death-touched shrieks. Drumming is lightning quick, but flows like a stream, full of smooth transitions and interesting fills, liberal use of double bass, a perfect mix of interesting and challenging. I need not go on about the guitars; awe-inspiring.
Dissection seem to love sandwiching their masterpiece compositions between useless intros and outros, so unfortunately bookending the album with the weakest and most boring tracks damages its listenability. Other than that, no flaws.
Genres: Black Metal
Might be controversial, but I’m of the opinion that Ved Buens Ende…’s best material was on their EP, Those Who Caress the Pale, and the tracks from there that made it here are the best. I’m usually not a huge fan of overly Avant-Garde stuff, but that EP was pretty much a perfect mix of Blackened Prog Metal with insanely quirky and disturbing Avant-Garde touches.
As to be expected, this album goes further into the Avant-Garde, focusing more on incredibly ominous and bizarre atmospheres, and the Black Metal plays second fiddle to the Avant-Garde Prog Metal. Songs change around in style, and interestingly there’s a lot of vocal variation here as well. The atmosphere is pretty great, a culmination of all things bad and ugly, captured very well in that unnerving album art. Don’t let my opening statement fool you; this is still an awesome record, and one of the best Avant-Garde releases of its time. However, it’s not as consistent as the EP, and the softer moments (like track 7) just don’t work as well as the heavy, ominous oppression. The hidden track is a weak way to end the album as well, though no weaker than the overlong outro on penultimate Remembrance of Things Past would have been.
The album did manage to give me actual chills and make me think I was hearing things on track 3 (when that human dog howl noise echoes in the background…) so they get credit for making some legitimately creepy, ominous music that still IS music. This is another one of those one album wonders where a band came in, did something rather incredible, and peaced out. Even if the album isn’t an absolute favorite for me, it’s still an impressive and magnificent piece of work.
Genres: Avant-Garde Metal Progressive Metal
“The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea” marks the 4th album in a row Skyclad have taken the spot for best Folk Metal album. Despite creating the genre on their sophomore album years prior, not many other bands really contributed much to the scene! And so Skyclad are still reigning at the top with their tried-and-true Thrash-influenced Folky Heavy Metal.
This album has a little progress and change from their last effort, mostly in the fact that each song has a bit of a distinctive style, with different instruments contributing to them, albeit minimally. Opening track “Still Spinning Shrapnel” has one of their catchiest choruses yet, and the violin is quite prominent here. I was hoping most of the album would follow that style, but unfortunately this album kicks off with what is easily the best song. Still, there are fascinating lyrics all over this thing, almost every track has some unique identifiers, and it’s a bit more varied than their previous releases.
The stronger variation here leaves room for lower lows than their more consistent material. Slightly Ambient “A Stranger in the Garden” is a really unique song, but doesn’t do much for me and ends up being kind of boring, and closer “The Dance of the Dandy Hound” is a goofy bluegrass number that ends the album as weakly as possible. “Desperanto” is a great nod to their thrashier roots, but overall the lows of this album make it possibly their weakest so far in my opinion.
Genres: Folk Metal Heavy Metal
A blast of an album, a very early example of the Sympho Neoclassical style of Metal. This is the band’s third album, and it’s got a very professional sheen to it. Despite Royal Hunt never gaining much popularity, they were at the forefront of catchy, poppy, bombastic Metal, a scene that eventually became the main style in Japan.
This album has a ton of stylistic influences that keep it varied and interesting. There’s enough Power Metal speed to pack a proper punch to the more energetic tracks, and plenty of AOR cheese adding poppy melodies and hooks all over the place. Of course the Neoclassical lead work is evident in both the guitars and keys, and tons of great melodies are scattered throughout. It sounds a bit too much like Malmsteen’s lesser works at times, but I think this band is overall much more consistent than Malmsteen.
As someone who generally loves cheesy Metal ballads, “Far Away” is not the best one, and the band made a mistake including this song twice on the album (an acoustic version as the last track). Otherwise the album is quite consistent and great fun front to back.
Genres: Neoclassical Metal Progressive Metal Symphonic Metal
So this is where Dave Lombardo went after leaving Slayer, huh? It certainly shows, as the drumming here is bar none the best I’ve heard on anything that could be called Groove Metal. Dave is still thrashing like a maniac here and thankfully it ensures the album is always in the energetic, aggressive realm of Grove even when it does slow down, and never stuck in dull, one-note repetitive rhythms.
The amount of Thrash riffage on this album is another pleasant surprise, with Polish guitarist Waldemar Sorychta churning out melodic yet ripping Thrash riffs one after another. The soloing also leaves nothing to be desired, again being somewhat melodic for Thrash/Groove but still with a twisted chaotic edge. Bass is surprisingly good as well, doing a fair amount of riffing itself instead of pure rhythm. Vocals are strong, aggressive, and full of social disgust lyrically.
The album unfortunately opens with an unbearable intro featuring what sound like monkey noises repeated over tribal drums. I will never understand why bands feel the need to put offensively bad intros/interludes/outros on their albums but you can bet this one loses points for that. Otherwise, fantastic, one of the best Groove album I’ve heard as of yet thanks to its generous amount of Thrash.
Genres: Groove Metal Thrash Metal
This one was a little goofy to me. The riffs and vocals attempted to emulate the “epic” feel as captured by Bathory’s Viking Metal material, but unfortunately, they didn’t pull it off. Doesn’t sound dark, instead a bit silly. The music is alright in most places, but nothing really gripping or memorable.
To make matters worse, it has overlong vocal interlude tracks that again, are trying to be epic or whatever, and they just don’t work. It’s not that the vocalist is bad, just that execution is hammy and cartoonlike and I really don’t think that’s what they were going for.
The tracks that go for straight Black Metal like Thornspawn Chalice are better, but nothing mind-blowing. Overall I find it overrated and forgettable.
Genres: Black Metal Folk Metal