Shadowdoom9 (Andi)'s Reviews
Seeing a review for this album appear in this site made me wonder, "I've reviewed all of my metal milestone bands, but can I review the metal albums of a rock band that would eventually shape my taste into 'true' metal, beyond this nu metal sh*t?" Answer: I CAN!! Linkin Park is probably the most successful 21st century rock band, yet metal fans call them "sellouts for kids". Some say they've expanded on the nu metal atrocity started by Korn and Limp Bizkit, others say they're a boy band with guitars. It's sad to see all this hate towards a super successful band. I might not enjoy this band as much as the metal bands I listen to now, but I won't take them for granted, that's for sure.
Linkin Park released their debut album Hybrid Theory (taken from their earlier band name) in October 2000, just a few months shy of what people think is technically the start of a new millennium (2001), and the technical new millennium started in a bang for this band. Excellent reviews and gigantic sales skyrocketed, hence making this a genuine well-sold platinum album. There may not be a big improvement in the popular music industry but Linkin Park's debut would remain one of the best-selling albums of nu metal and all time. Yep, there are 12 heavy industrial-infused nu metal tracks in this album produced by Don Gilmore. In fact, would you call nu metal "metal"?? It's cleaner and less edgy (in the music anyway)! Well whatever you want them to be called, Linkin Park have their best skills of heavy metal guitars, hip-hop rapping, and pop hooks.
It starts with...the rap rock hit "Papercut", where the rapping verses by Mike Shinoda make a great blend with the melodic vocal chorus by Chester Bennington (RIP). "One Step Closer" is their breakthrough single worth checking out for both metalheads and radio listeners. The riffing is both heavy and kid-friendly, the latter adjective maybe not the killer screaming bridge ("SHUT UP WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU! SHUT UP!!"). This is metal for Sesame Street-level beginners and that song is probably the heaviest one allowed in karaoke (I know because I've been there). The low-toned loops in "With You" are performed by the Dust Brothers in a rap metal track where its gravitation center strikes your jaw off. "Points of Authority" sounds as if Bennington and Shinoda are each reading their own poetry written in a lyric sheet, acting as a lyrical exchange. That song is kinda killer though.
The emotional hit "Crawling" is where icy synths and bass crawl through the intro before getting mudded out by the guitar heaviness and Bennington's cries. The more industrial fans might compare the song to Nine Inch Nails. The lyrical subject matter deals with Bennington's teenage years of torture and meth addiction, and he's so upset about it that he needs help from the crowd when performing the song live. More of the band's skyrocketing hooks appear in "Runaway", where the primitive tune's melodies can probably get the song into alternative radio. The fairly appalling "By Myself" is a weak track that is a real example of nu metal's bad side. The hip-hop smash-hit "In the End" has piano performed prominently by Mike Shinoda as he raps along. I don't know if that's what made that song the most popular of the album, but it is what it is.
"A Place for My Head" continues the poetic lyrical exchange between Bennington and Shinoda. This is again used in "Forgotten" but more apparent with the vocal battle between the two vocalists in the pre-chorus. That song is probably another real example of nu metal tainting the second word of the genre's name. The two and a half minute experimental jungle track "Cure for The Itch" is probably the weakest point of the album, but it's where turntablist Joe Hahn really shines. The perfect formula of the singles continue once more in the closing song "Pushing Me Away", which I still like since first listening 9 years ago. Oh how I wish that was a single...
What remains of this review is the conclusion, and that is this; Linkin Park's debut album is excellent, at least compared to what the heavier metalheads think. Surprisingly, the songs I like are perfect choices for all 4 singles and two promo singles, all that's missing is that final song. The only weak songs are the remaining 5. Seems as if my like for Linkin Park before switching to real metal has infected my mind. Sure it's mainstream, but I couldn't skip to where I am today without this band, right?! Thanks a ton, LP....
Favorites: "One Step Closer", "Points of Authority", "Crawling", "Runaway", "In the End", "Pushing Me Away"
Genres: Alternative Metal
Celtic Frost was one of the most diversely stylistic metal bands to start in the 80s. First was their black/death-influencing thrasher To Mega Therion, then they released the avant-garde Into the Pandemonium, followed by the glam-infected Cold Lake. They released a gothic-influenced thrash album Vanity/Nemesis before splitting up, and later reformed for one more extreme doom album Monotheist. Since I'm listening to Mega Therion to settle a DIS vs DAT debate, let's get right into the review!
Heading right to the point, To Mega Therion (The Great Beast) is actually one of the best 80s metal albums I've heard. I'm still not very tolerant to albums that old nor that obscenely extreme, but I can see why people consider this the most fascinating Celtic Frost album. However, there are some things to argue about...
The pompous intro "Innocence and Wrath" starts the album with a doom-ish march with background brass, specifically french horns. Perhaps that part of the inspiration for Therion, the band who got their name from this album. Then kicks off the sinister fast pace of "The Usurper". That song and its aforementioned intro very well beat other openings of albums like Into the Pandemonium. Next track "Jewel Throne" has chord patterns to reflect the balance of primal composition against riffs of thrash energy and muscular drum groove intensity. I'm sure there are many other great thrash examples throughout the decades that followed, but a true thrashy metalhead would bang their head and swing their fists to those interestingly brutal riffs. I'm not even a fan old-school dark thrash metal and I'm already doing that!
With a song title like "Dawn of Megiddo", you know how well Celtic Frost would attack. The song itself once again has the strange french horns. "Eternal Summer" continues the chord balance between primal and despair. "Circle of the Tyrants" pumps you up with apocalyptic heaviness. "(Beyond the) North Winds" needs a little time for you to really see its full potential as mid-tempo-ish piece that's absolutely underrated compared to Metallica. The upbeat ghost-like guitar leads in the bridge give the song its special scent that would inspire later extreme metal bands.
"Fainted Eyes" is an aggressive piece of heavy shock that works as a black metal prototype song, once again having its apocalyptic heaviness. "Tears in a Prophet's Dream" is an extravagant yet incomprehensible sound collage that wouldn't blow any minds. Finally we come to the gigantic closer "Necromantical Screams" complete with horns, timpani, and female vocals without neglecting the morbid heavy black thrash. OK, that has to be what inspired Therion!
Was this review convincing enough for anyone who hasn't listened to this 1985 classic to do so? Either way, you definitely don't wanna miss out on its highlights (see below) for their best extreme delivery. This important album needs more attention! Sadly, Celtic Frost would never reach the brilliance of this album ever again.... AAAARRRGGH!!!!
Favorites: "The Usurper", "Jewel Throne", "(Beyond the) North Winds", "Necromantical Screams"
Genres: Thrash Metal
A few people might think Vektor is a Voivod ripoff, but...BOY WERE THEY WRONG!! They just don't see how much of a difference this band makes! First off, the instruments really work well together with precise drumming, tight riffing, and bass with more than one note per bar. The instrumentation is really cool, but what's really amazing is the vocals by David DiSanto. Forget about his domestic violence present for a while and check out his vocal range that's beyond belief. His vocals are in the same kind of level as Destruction's Schmier, but his high soaring screams are near-impossible! I bet he does what Michael Jackson used to do, grabs his own b*lls hard.
The guitars are so unique and really stick out in this album. One unique thing that marks a different approach is the F-tuning (a half-step higher than standard E tuning). I think more bands should start tuning their guitars up to F or F# 6-string, or even C or C# 7-string. When they play a riff that sounds familiar (other than the higher tuning), suddenly a different never-before-heard riff smashes into your face, while keeping constantly high quality. What's also pleasant is, the solos are magically placed in fields where you would never expect. But in the parts where you do expect a solo, they are short and end up coming out anti-climatic. However, the guitarists are really skilled, and despite those solo setbacks, they can master them as super well as DragonForce.
The title opener is probably the best track of the album. They really balance the thrash and progressive styles perfectly without having to copy anything. "This song won't write itself," rushy people say, but it's as if that song did! "Oblivion" is another great song, but it gets a little dull. It's late-Emperor-esque intro is actually the "Spiral Galaxy" intro from their demo Demolition. After that, it's on to the actual old-school speed metal intro before the Destruction-like shrieking comes in. Also, the end is a bit rushy, another good reason why I prefer its Demolition version. "Destroying the Cosmos" is another song that was re-recorded from the Demolition demo, and while I like this one better than the demo version, it doesn't quite reach the standards of the other songs besides "Oblivion". However, that solo-riff combo throughout literally the last minute is one of the most epic song endings I've ever heard! Great strength in an otherwise "meh" song!
"Forests of Legend" is an absolute highlight and the first of three 10+ minute epics. It begins with an eerie acoustic intro that sounds like the progressive thrash "Bard's Song (In the Forest)", before the heaviness begins building up before crashing safely into early-Megadeth-style speedy thrash. After that, it's back to the eerie acoustic section before another glorious outro! "Hunger for Violence" is a Voivod-like composition, opening with strange symmetric chords before heading into Theory in Practice-like violent heaviness. "Deoxyribonucleic Acid" which is what "DNA" stands for, opens with a speedy version of an Iron Maiden riff before its scientific thrash ascension.
"Asteroid" is less technical and more rock-ish in the first few minutes, and while not quite reaching the climax, an incredible charge thunders in with solid bass, sounding like when Lemmy's bands Hawkwind and Motorhead collide and travel into the future. The second 10+ minute epic "Dark Nebula" is probably the least superior of the epic trio, but it's still great. It shows a bit more of a Pink Floyd influence than Voivod while keeping the technical thrash virtuosos. "Accelerating Universe" is the 13 minute true diverse crowning highlight, initially starting with Metallica hammering thrash, it gets more epic and heavier throughout, even developing an amazing psychedelic atmosphere in the halfway point, before building back up into a heavy speedy ending.
Black Future is an almost flawless work of progressive thrash metal art, despite a couple weak points. But those weak points are really tiny flaws and they don't bring down this 5-star rating. With this album, Vektor has reached for the progressive thrash metal stars!
Favorites: Black Future, Forests of Legend, Hunger for Violence, Accelerating Universe
Genres: Progressive Metal Thrash Metal
Have you ever wondered if there are any bands you believe the new harsher extreme-core bands like Lorna Shore can't do without? One band almost has the potential of standing their historical ground, Spread the Disease! Their sophomore finale album The Sheer Force of Inertia has an interesting idea of adding black metal elements to metalcore/early deathcore, a bit like what Underoath did at that time. However, ambient/electronic elements have been added into the cauldron that can be frustrating...
Now while I have no problem with different sounds added in a metal style, the problem is the album's inconsistent structure. Only slightly over half of the album is real metal, and each of the 4 songs is surrounded by interludes, and killing off the intense energy. If it was up to me, I would edit the album so that only the songs would be in, while the interludes are taken out, but all we would have is an over 20-minute EP, because of that annoying Dead World Collusion-like sequence. That aside, the songs here have an awesome extreme progressive metalcore sound with black/death metal/hardcore triumph. Riff destruction, harsh vocals, and extreme production are all in violent chaos!
After the first sh*tty interlude, "The Electron Compulsion Theory" starts the action as a 9 and a half minute extreme metalcore epic highlight. Halfway through, things go soft and calm with didgeridoo and a background choir. Then we have an inevitable buildup back to the extreme. Honestly, the second interlude that follows should've been part of the end instead of separated. Never mind, at least "Responding to a Current Lack of Heat" continues the sound as heavy as This Day Forward at that time, maybe heavier.
The next couple full songs are good but don't reach the greatness of the first two. The final track would certainly be a laughingstock ending for this band, "Jesus Hotline Phone Call", an 8-minute series of prank calls.
OK, let me just clarify that the interludes are pleasant and calm at times, and can often be glitchy, but it's terrible that they're placed between each and every song, making even the open-minded confused. This band should've just released the 4 real songs as an EP. I would've loved their extreme progressive metalcore sound much more. I just hope the members of the band who have moved on to other bands realized would think of how they could've made this album better. It's f***ing clear what it is....
Favorites: "The Electron Compulsion Theory", "Responding to a Current Lack of Heat"
When that YouTube commenter recommended to me some albums by Zao, one of those releases was a split between that band and Training for Utopia. The commenter especially enjoys one song from the EP that was re-recorded in their next album Liberate Te Ex Inferis, but to be honest, I didn't really like that version, I prefer the album version much more. I'll tell you what that song is soon...
Despite that, this EP is quite fun to listen to. Not only do you get to hear a little more of Zao besides the albums, but also a different band with vocalist Ryan Clark who would later form Demon Hunter and release that band's debut in 2002.
Training for Utopia would appear first in the EP with the fun opener "Modus Operandi". The aforementioned Zao song, "Skin Like Winter", I honestly think is a poorly done demo, and once again, the later album version does better justice. There should've been some proper time and budget to work on that version in my opinion. However, this is made up for by Training for Utopia's nearly 8-minute epic "Police John, Police Red". That's some of the strongest content and length I've heard from late 90s metalcore. It starts with a beautiful guitar intro complete with soft vocals, then everything gets heavier and more chaotic, leading up to an epic climax with thunderous roars of "COME ARMAGEDDON!!!" The short yet heavy Zao song "Walk On By, Walk On Me" has a bit of Clark's roars alongside the screaming of Dan Weyandt. A much better song from Zao!
All in all, the split's quality is kind of half-and-half in the songs. I think I can find the best vocals from Ryan Clark and the best drums from Jesse Smith, with the bassists and guitarists of both bands shining well. While this EP isn't at an excellent level for me, Christian metalheads who want to see both bands in a release would be like "Hallelujah!"
Favorites: "Police John, Police Red", "Walk On By, Walk On Me"
Excessive Force's debut album Conquer Your World was nothing but an industrial rock/dance album I couldn't really get into. However, with one more album Gentle Death, they seemed to have taken a better step, metallic enough to be metal. There are a few good tunes worth commenting on, but is it worth money for buyers? I don't know... Also, why am I getting Minecraft vibes from that album cover?
Once again, this is a side-project by KMFDM's Sascha Konietzko. However, Buzz McCoy had already left the project before this album, and KMFDM bandmate Günter Schulz added guitar to some tracks. Well there seems to be less guitar than in that KMFDM album Nihil, but at least it's more than Excessive Force's debut.
Let's just talk about the few highlights here: "Blitzkrieg (Sturzkampf)" rocks with the riffing that KMFDM would have in Nihil, with some sick kicks and licks from Schulz and great industrial power from the rest of the crew. You'll especially find greatness in "Divebomb" that at one point makes a subtle brief turn into the "Hall of the Mountain King", almost like what Savatage did in their 1987 album. I love it! Fast forward to "Queen B***h" where one of the vocalists Liz Torres shines through fast techno rage. Silly yet fun!
While many of the songs aren't as great those 3, the worst is "Leather Clad Dub", one of the most sh*tty remixes I've heard! I'll spare you the dreaded details. Just skip that stinker and other tiresome tracks, and enjoy the highlights of the final album from an average spin-off of KMFDM. Nihil would have these guys' talent much stronger than this....
Favorites: "Blitzkrieg (Sturzkampf)", "Divebomb", "Queen B***h"
Genres: Industrial Metal
I think I've mentioned this before, but I enjoy these transitional kinds of releases between two of a band's eras. This EP works as the missing piece of the stylistic puzzle, between the industrial rock/dance of that Excessive Force album and industrial death-doom of that Dead World album. And this Pitchshifter release is much better than those two, kinda like a "Guess That Baby" bulletin board with one cute kid sandwiched between two having really bad hair days...
In truth though, this EP Submit can be considered the transitional release between Pitchshifter's sludge-ish debut and the later material's catchiness. There are different eras that the band have covered and foreshadowed in this release, doing it all with confidence. There's beat in the music and purpose in the writing!
"Gritter" is a brilliant favorite of mine from this EP. It brings in some groove momentum and their earlier deathly vibe, the latter caused by crushing downtuned riffing and deep growling vocals. However, it sounds closer to Godflesh than the more deathly Dead World. JS Clayden took over on vocals after his brother MD put his sole focus on bass. "Deconstruction" is a different highlight with gravelly vocals and repetitive guitar, hinting at their next album. A sure sign of leaving behind their Godflesh influences.
The next track "New Flesh P.S.I." is an early-Godflesh-infused remix of a song from their debut Industrial. "B****rdiser" levels things up a bit, but the chorus sounds like a rip-off of Godflesh's "Like Rats". Those two remixes appeared in their earlier single "Death Industrial" to show the band's earlier evolution.
"Dry Riser Inlet" is another highlight that continues the band's later hints from "Deconstruction". The last song before the hidden track "Tendrill" once again drills through with the band's deathly industrial metal statement. "Silo" is the instrumental hidden track that is quite repetitive and doesn't add much greatness. I won't say it's too much of a stinker, but it's probably best to just stop during the long silence before the hidden track.
"Submit" is a pretty great step up compared to those other two early 90s industrial metal releases I've just reviewed. It's as heavy and crushing as Godflesh at that time, like A LOT, though I would argue about how Pitchshifter used their influences. While not as super-memorable as classics within the genre, Submit is something you can't overlook...
Favorites: "Gritter", "Deconstruction", "Dry Riser Inlet", "Tendrill"
Genres: Industrial Metal
Industrial metal can be quite a hit-and-miss for me, despite my passion in The Sphere clan, whether you find bands from America or Europe or wherever else. There are some project that mix the genre with others, such as deathgrind/hardcore for Meathook Seed. Not a lot of bands can take that mix seriously, like this band, Dead World. Led by art director for Relapse Records, Jonathan Canady, the band's debut album Collusion is basically a collection of 5 industrial metal/death-doom tracks and 5 ambient interludes. They can play something unique yet not working out as much as it should...
In a cyclical monotone attempt at industrial death-doom, they slow down the death metal riffing and rhythm and ditched the bass drums. While the riffing drifts slowly, there's occasional speed in the drive. Something interesting is, Collusion is the band's only one of their albums to have a real drummer instead of a drum machine, which detracts the cold power of industrial metal while packing some small punches into the percussion. The guitar is rough while being brought forward by the bass, the latter not bursting out as much as European industrial metal bands who know one of their signature features. It's quite lose in the reverb that soaks down the growling and percussion. With barely a lot of groove, we have kind of a treacherous result.
Only two tracks work as highlights; one of my favorite songs of this style "El Shaddi Sanctimony" and one of the interludes "Regina Confessorum", the latter having just guitar and bass in a stream of samples. Other than that, Dead World was, in 1992, just in an intermediate level of dark industrial metal, not yet building up to experienced heights. You can consider Collusion a historical blend of genres, but just not worth listening pleasure. Just take my word for this poor sh*t....
Favorites (only songs I like): "El Shaddi Sanctimony", "Regina Confessorum"
Genres: Industrial Metal
Excessive Force was a side project created by KMFDM's Sascha Konietzko and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult's Buzz McCoy. It should be noted that is before KMFDM started added more prominent metal elements, so all you can find from Excessive Force's debut is industrial rock/dance, sometimes close to house music, and it's only good hands of less heavy industrial fans. However, there's some of the heavy guitar groove and vocal distortion to go with the repetitive dance, and the best highlight for that is "Ride the Bomb". A decently great track from a sh*tty dance album that has blown me off instead of blown me away....
Favorites (only one song I like): "Ride the Bomb"
Genres: Industrial Metal
To be honest, I wasn't sure about giving this Strife album In This Defiance a listen and a review because their debut One Truth wasn't all that great and I even thought it was too hardcore to be metal, hence that judgement submission. But when I put this album on play, boy was I blown away! This is a higher, more metallic step from their debut, and it has just what I'm looking for from this band.
Yep, everything is at the right tone for Strife. This is a full tight metallic hardcore sound with brisk tempos. Rick Rodney has his hardcore bellowing skills that are often hard to understand, but at the same time, so compelling.
Beginning the album is a 3-minute "Intro" of horror movie sound effects that almost makes the album a soundtrack for such a film. Then after that, the wait is over, with "Waiting" blasting off with its metal/hardcore sound that bands such as All That Remains, 36 Crazyfists, Eighteen Visions, and Cave In can't do without. The hardcore force continues in "Force of Change", which actually has a bit of a Winds of Plague vibe in the riffing, though obviously not deathly or symphonic.
"Stand as One (Redemption)" has vague yet powerful lyrics in emotional focus ("Search inside and you will find the answers lie within the reach of those who try"). Same with "Grey", not identifiable but quite adamant ("The future is dead for many of those who have fallen refusing to let it go"). The amazing highlight "Will to Die" has a bit of a Black Sabbath kind of soundscape, with a few prominent guests assisting in the action; ex-Sepultura drummer Igor Cavalera, Fear Factory guitarist Igor Cavalera, and most notably, Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno. Another compelling song here is "Blistered". Then "Forgotten One" adds a bit of mid-80s Voivod speed into their sound.
"Wish I Knew" has reminded me that I need a break from the modern poppy metalcore of Issues and We Came as Romans, so I can dive into more hardcore stuff like this. "To an End" is one of the most remarkable hardcore bursts ever. "Overthrow" would once again help the hardcore side of my metalcore taste overthrow the modern side of bands like Veil of Maya. The "Outro" is just 16 minutes of horror movie sounds just like the intro. I think they only added their so the album wouldn't be so short like just a half-hour.
Those pointless interludes don't affect the rest of this album perfection that makes In This Defiance an astonishing stunner. This is standard E-tuned thrashy metal/hardcore at its best. I'm glad to find the greatness of Strife!
Favorites: "Waiting", "Force of Change", "Stand as One (Redemption)", "Will to Die", "Wish I Knew", "To an End"
If there's one album that sealed the deal for a band's stylistic direction, it would be 1997's stunning brutal metalcore in Living Sacrifice's career, Reborn! The cathartic power of this genre was shining for the band ever since guitarist Bruce Fitzhugh started doing growling vocals.
Apparently, the band wanted to make an album with a unique sound unlike any other bands. The band released 3 albums before this with original vocalist Darren Johnson, the Big 4-inspired thrash self-titled debut and two Malevolent Creation-esque death metal albums Nonexistent and Inhabit. Reborn can indeed be considered Living Sacrifice's rebirth, taking on strong metalcore with a bit of their earlier thrash rhythm. Yeah, there is a bit of the Sepultura-like dark insanity within the uniqueness...
"Reborn Empowered" starts simple in the drumming, then sudden switches into blazing fast progressive-ish metalcore. Those growls and lyrics are just top notch, "Reborn empowered, all strongholds broken, old ways have died, given new life, boldness engulfs my every word, strength empowered by God, Jesus, the strength in Christ's name". Beginning the next track "Truth Solution" is another groove-ish verse and empowering lyrics, "Breath of God released faith, creates all life". Another track "Threatened" has acoustic strumming in different parts of the song while maintaining the heaviness throughout. "Awakening" is memorable in the groove and lyrical images, "Our spirits no longer reek of sleep, through prayer we've entered in the throne room".
"180" once again shows the band's 180-turn away from their earlier death metal while keeping a bit of the much earlier thrash rhythm. While the album has the groove-ish metalcore sound done in perfection, "No Longer" is the closest we have to a half-baked idea. "Something More" kind of give me a thrash-ish metalcore vibe of Annihilator meets Hatebreed. Introducing the next track "Sellout" is an acoustic intro that can make you think of Opeth.
"Spirit Fall" adds a little more progressiveness into their metalcore, though obviously it's a closer level to early August Burns Red than, say, ERRA. The classical-sounding (in terms of guitar) "Presence of God" is a simple interlude of improvisation to perform in worship. The most well-known track by Living Sacrifice that they still play in encores is "Reject", with lyrics about deception against the Lord, "Half truths, deceit, forced in, not God, reject all lies, reject all of the lies." Closing the album is "Liar", a song for Christ's battle against Satan, "Worthless, want to be God, loser imitation, fallen from grace, deceitful lying beast your bound, lord of maggots, we rebuke you."
It's sad that even one furious blast of metal can be considered Satanic. Some people need to be enlightened and realize that there is holy glory in metal, despite the brutality. Living Sacrifice should really has much fame as P.O.D., and this album Reborn is the reason!
Favorites: "Reborn Empowered", "Awakening", "180", "Something More", "Spirit Fall", "Reject"
In the 90s, Burst was in the metallic hardcore realm. The primal riff delivery laid the groundwork for the band's later sound. In a way, you can consider the band's 5 albums like the first 5 of Neurosis in terms of their stylistic evolution, starting hardcore before a more Infinite sound, except Burst's sound has a dissonant metalcore backbone throughout. This perfect offering stands out with a hardcore stampede of drumming, riffs, and shouts, all in a unique drive to level up my rediscovery journey!
Two Faced and their next album Conquest Writhe were made before bands Cult of Luna and Andromeda released their debuts, so they still didn't have yet the elements of those bands. With that said, Burst made grand progress in their debut with their songwriting and performing in unison. The quality is tight while in top-notch production, with solid crispy support of the bass and that metalcore backbone. Patrik Hultin might very well be a new favorite drummer of mine with his eclectic skills. His drumming is wilder than the guitars, in calculating alignment with the riff groove.
Once again, talking about many of these awesome songs here won't do them justice, so I'll just note the highlights such as the title track, which has a simpler direction than what they would have later, while more adventurous than many of the more traditional hardcore bands out there. There's some melody in the music while having the usual vocal aggression that would be lessened as the band progresses. "Callous" has a catchy formula that would be foreshadowed in the other album I've reviewed, Lazarus Bird.
"Crossbreed" has almost the same pace as the band Crossbreed (minus the industrial elements) but then evolves into the usual metallic hardcore that's almost as chaotic as Cave In and The Dillinger Escape Plan. I can also hear a slight taste of early August Burns Red in "Lifeline".
"Repentance" has a bit of the dark-ish melodic metalcore instrumentation that Prayer for Cleansing would have two years later. After 10 short songs, the final track "Cadence of the Faithless" is a 5-minute metallic hardcore monster epic. But if you stick around after 3 minutes of silence, you get a raw punky hardcore demo recording that seems like a waste after a real stable closer. It detracts from the album's momentum, but I can ignore it and just stay with the perfect 5-star rest of the album.
Two-Faced is the hardcore one out for this band's material, and they would start heading towards a different direction from Conquest Writhe onwards. This debut is a h*lla great beast, probably more metallic than Strife's debut. The enclosed tightness is dusted off by Burst in their most hardcore bloom!
Favorites: "Two-Faced", "Callous", "Crossbreed", "Lifeline", "Repentance", "Cadence of the Faithless"
Upon realizing that I've haven't listened to and reviewed this release from State Craft, I decided to do so, and... TO F***ING H*LL WITH THIS!!! This is just too weak for my metalcore standards, with only one decently good song here, "After This Morning", probably of how short it is. This sh*t ain't worth my journey. State Craft is so not for me....
Favorites (only one I remotely like because of length): "After This Morning"
Here we are again with State Craft, with me reviewing the first EP from perhaps the first Japanese metallic hardcore band. There's never any greatness in the vocals, choruses, and lyrics. To me, it just feels like an Unbroken ripoff that sucks a**, but at least they don't have yet the cheesy symphonics Temperance would have two decades later. Though the song "Break the Cycle" sounds good in the intro, which I like. F*** it, I have better metallic hardcore to listen to. Also that Windows XP wallpaper-like cover art is laughable....
Favorites (only one I even remotely like): "Break the Cycle"
Oh wow! This is a huge positive twist in my rediscovery journey. After a couple sh*tty demo EPs from other metalcore bands, here we have a perfect compilation of demos from this band Morning Again, worth money from the buyer. There are 7 songs in 30 minutes, and I almost think of Hand of Hope as a full mini-album. So great with lots of heavy tracks! So where I do begin?...
Morning Again are legends in the metal/hardcore scene. At that time, their frontman was Damien Moyal, a straight-edge vocalist who was also in Shai Hulud at that time. It's thanks to those two bands that the Floridian music scene has expanded to more than just death metal and *shudder* Backstreet Boys and Disney, paving the way for other metalcore bands like Trivium. Morning Again broke up after one official album, but they've since reunited multiple times and released a couple more EPs. However, Moyal moved on to melodic hardcore band As Friends Rust, and he remained vocalist for that band except for those 6 years when the other members performed as Salem.
Now back to this Morning Again release... The first song "Turning Over" rockets towards you with a metalcore blast. I think talking about many of these awesome songs here won't do them justice, so I'll just note the highlights such as the aforementioned opener. And oh yeah, we have the grand 6-minute epic "Minus One" that marks the perfect blend of beautiful and heavy. The last of the 7 tracks, "God Framed Me" continues the hardcore intensity of blending violence with melody.
I think I just found a new favorite vocalist in Damien Moyal, almost rivaling Converge's Jacob Bannon. Props to Morning Again for this incredible work! If you enjoy Shai Hulud and other metallic hardcore, surely you wouldn't wanna miss this. It's an album of hardcore insanity!
Favorites: "Turning Over", "Minus One", "God Framed Me"
As I continue my rediscovery journey, I've realized that I like the full albums more than most of the demo EPs. The Absolve EP sounds nice, but the production is jacked up in a bad way, which along with the overuse of samples in the beginning, doesn't make me up for it so much. "Bleeding" is the brutal highlight here, having a brutal Suffocation-like slam death metal breakdown. A f***ing crusher in a mostly f***ing bland trash-fest....
Favorites (only one I like): "Bleeding"
This EP is really old, and while I have no trouble with the metalcore oldies, which is why I'm doing my earlier metalcore rediscovery journey, it's the quality that matters. This EP is pretty difficult to listen to. In my opinion, most of the metalcore demos aren't exactly well-produced, with this one from Breach being one example. If you think I'm only up for the new complex style of metalcore, you would be wrong, I do like the rock-out hardcore songs, such as this EP's title track, a hard classic that's pretty much the only highlight here. However, there are much better releases than this poor sh*t, if you wanna please your metallic hardcore soul....
Favorites (only one I like): "Outlines"
The first 3 albums of Dead to Fall were known as a personal struggle for the band, especially vocalist Jon Hunt. They weren't really up for the serious image of the deathly metalcore sound they had. Of course I know what fans of their original sound would say to me, "ARE YOU SERIOUS?! You're gonna start with their wackiest album?" And the answer is yes I am, and it works! Are You Serious has humor in the album, songs, and cover art where they're the most comfortable while as enjoyable as the grand classics.
Well it's not entirely a drastic change in the metal sound, but there's more flavor, and I mean bong-party flavor, almost as much as Attila at that time. What also reminds me of that band is how they add in riffing reminiscent of A Life Once Lost and Carnage.
An experimental intro "IQ Test" starts the album. Then "Stupid?" unleashes mighty in-your-face deathly metalcore to make fun of the genre in the lyrics, with Hunt bellowing about how "F***ING STUPID!!!" this song is, mentioning the "OH SH*T!!" At the Gates-like thrashy death metal riff while it's playing, and finally ending it all "WITH A F***ING BREAKDOWN!!!" There's more eclectic programming to come later in this album. "The Future" takes us through atonal space and A Life Once Lost-like riff-wrath. "Sleeping Bag" injects some thrashy guitar into their metalcore in a highlight that shows how much they've evolved.
"Major Rager" is another highlight of strong adrenaline and has practically invented party-core before Attila later that year. This is deathly metalcore with a humorous twist as Jon Hunt bellows about "doing another shot" and "staying up all f***ing night". Another highlight, "Loch Ness" shows some more shredding and vocal growling, this time in a mellower pace, almost like stoner doom, along with delicate programming. "Brainmelter" is faster but still mid-paced, a bit like death 'n' roll in the riffing.
This humorous direction once again has a bit of the band's roots in "Cropgrower". Then "Robo-Destro" has destructive power almost as chaotic as The Dillinger Escape Plan. "Doombox" is another Hatebreed/Bring Me the Horizon-sounding metalcore monster. "Astral Projection/Dream J(ourney)" has trippy weirdness to end the journey nicely.
In a strange yet awesome way, Dead to Fall turned into a more natural and organic band of Darkest Hour-infused metalcore, with the guitarist of that band, Mike Schleibaum manning the production, all while painting the metalcore walls with humor. In the end, you can still hear something more deadly than a mosh-pit ninja, alongside the humor that the earlier, more serious fans, might not approve of. Dead to Fall had the confidence to make that move, and I'm super glad to find the tone balanced out. Seriously!
Favorites: "Stupid?", "Sleeping Bad", "Major Rager", "Loch Ness", "Doombox"
So what have I checked out so far in my Zao journey? First was their second album The Splinter Shards the Birth of Separation which was their last original lineup, then was their third album Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest where they started a new era. Both of those albums are some of the best metalcore albums I've listened. Would their next album continue their perfect streak?...
Way right! Liberate Te Ex Inferis is one of the heaviest albums from the late 90s. It was time for the band take their sound from Blood and Fire to a new level of metalcore. There are 10 songs here, with every two songs placed in one of Hell's circles: Limbo, The Lustful, The Gluttonous, The Hoarders and The Spendthrifts, The Wrathful.
The album's opening "Intro" starts slow before rising in the climax. In the end, an Event Horizon sample lets the listener know that "Hell is just a word, the reality is much, much worse." The first real song "Savannah" continues the band's recurring theme of Christianity's hypocrisy. A porn star suffers a deadly wound and the people who believe in God just let her die, "They can't believe the machine was alive but we saw it bleed, The machine falls apart and when it's cut it bleeds, The machine bleeds, She was alive." The more positively-written "Autopsy" is where Dan Weyandt asks for help from the Lord, "I can't see it but I feel the light, Someone tell us we are loved, Someone take the pain away, Someone fill up the void, Someone fix my broken heart, Are you that someone?" However, some of the other verses are lost and forgotten, even by Dan himself.
"If These Scars Could Speak" tells another story, this one of a woman whom his date raped her. While you can consider this release a concept album because of the Circles of Hell, I'm not sure about that because the songs tell different stories instead of one. "The Ghost Psalm" is another great highlight. My only complaint that doesn't detract the song and album's perfection is about the unnecessary Event Horizon sample in the beginning, "Do you want to make a deal? Cut a deal with the devil?" Another notable track is "Desire The End" with lyrics about Christianity's end of all things and a new beginning, "I desire the end, The touch of Armageddon, This world encased in flames, I desire the end, I desire the new beginning." Segueing out of another strange movie sample, "Dark Cold Sound" has some more introspective poetry in the lyrics. The listener can understand what Weyandt wants and interpret.
"Skin Like Winter" is a better phenomenal highlight, and what helps is, no strange movie samples around! Now this next track, "Kathleen Barbra", who is that? I have no clue, but we do have another great song, and the last one before the outro... "Man in Cage Jack Wilson", I'm sure there are over a dozen notable people with that name. It starts with another Event Horizon sample that includes the album's eponymous phrase. It's the same sample as the one heard in the beginning of "Prom Song" from Every Time I Die's debut EP released a few months after this album. But instead of chaotic metalcore, we have a dark yet beautiful 7-minute sludgy metalcore Crusade.
An album mandatory for Zao fans, Liberate Te Ex Inferis has a lot smile-inducing surprises. The band has continued their quest since Blood and Fire go beyond the limits for a refined metalcore sound. You don't wanna miss out on this punishing yet rewarding metalcore glory!
Favorites: "Savannah", "If These Scars Could Speak", "Desire The End", "Skin Like Winter", "Man in Cage Jack Wilson"
The perfection of Zao's second and last album with the original lineup carries on to a new one. 1998 marked a new era for the band who have been grateful to God for where their ongoing lives took them. The remaining founding member Jesse Smith continued with new members Daniel Weyandt, Russ Cogdell, and Brett Detar, the latter from rock band The Juliana Theory for a dark turning point in hardcore/metal. Where would bands like Underoath and Haste the Day be without this offering?
Let me just say, Dan Weyandt's screaming is perfect! Besides that, the two guitarists have heavy guitar riffs that would surely blow your minds. While they maintain the Christian lyrical themes, they focused less on the spiritual side and the topics are more about Weyandt's fallen loved ones.
You can immediately hear what's different as "Lies of Serpents, A River of Tears" opens the album. They switched from the hardcore tone of Earth Crisis to a more metallic Converge-like direction, especially in the guitar duo's atonal riffing. "To Think of You is to Treasure An Absent Memory" has vicious drumming. That song was written in memory of a friend of the band who committed suicide. Those lyrics pay great tribute to the fallen, "When you shut your eyes and fell asleep, Dark clouds descended on the souls of the ones who held you close to their hearts." Continuing that tragic theme is "A Fall Farewell", for Weyandt's late relative, in which the message is basically his faith shining to keep him alive after all the losses he and the band suffered. Its heavy impact has caused many Christians and non-Christians to relate.
Once again, guidance from the Lord is prayed for in "March" without having to use the name in vain, "A single quiet voice and the breath of His words consumed the night and brought strength I have never felt on my own, He held me up until I could walk again and promised to stay by my side forever". Next up, "Ember" has heavy riffing that reminds me of early Trivium. "Ravage Ritual" shows a bit of forlorn pain in the vocals as the lyrics fight against the judgmental. Once again, where would bands like Eighteen Visions, Bleeding Through, and Bring Me the Horizon without a song like "Fifteen Rhema"!?
Only one song threatens the perfection of this release and that's "For A Fair Desire". There just isn't as much lyrical passion as the rest of the album, but I think the song might work well as just a separate single or something. "The Latter Rain" is a greater improvement from that slight misstep, a 6-and-a-half-minute epic! Though it's not the end yet... "Violet" is a beautiful 7-minute piano outro to wrap up the album pleasantly.
All in all, Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest marks a different transition from The Splinter Shards The Birth Of Separation, including shorter songs, though both albums are the best. You like As I Lay Dying and all those bands I've mentioned earlier? Pick this up! Whether you're Christian or not, this is for the heavier metalcore fans. Zao is still alive!
Favorites: "Lies of Serpents, A River of Tears", "To Think of You is to Treasure An Absent Memory", "Ember", "Fifteen Rhema", "The Latter Rain"
I've listened to many bands during my nearly 5 years of listening to metalcore, and I'm currently exploring more of the classic groups such as Cave In, Coalesce, Converge and Botch, and obscure bands like This Day Forward. But there's one band that is, alongside Converge, one of the earliest metalcore bands to still be active today... Zao! Named after the Greek word for "Alive", this band made a solid mark in the metalcore and Christian metal scenes.
The Splinter Shards the Birth of Separation is the second album by the band and shows the band traveling through hardcore roads to add more than just simplicity. There's complex music, with phenomenal drummer Jesse Smith taking the band to battle, and defiant screams by ex-vocalist Shawn Jonas that perfectly match the instrumentation.
The first of those many songs is "Times of Separation", and considering how similar the intro is to that of Every Time I Die's Radical, you might think the latter made a tribute. Anyway, Shawn's long screaming is often what levels up the quality. In "Surrounds Me", he continues to be surrounded by the killer music. "Exchange" is one of 3 songs re-recorded from their earlier material. Not highly different, but it highlights Zao's creativity.
The Christian lyrical message in particle has a bit of a worship vibe, "I will lift You up, I will praise Your awesome name, For what it's worth and nothing less." However, they've done it better than Underoath at that time. "Repressed" is one of my favorites here, sounding quite heavy at times. And another standout is "In Loving Kindness", starting with a short bass intro before some of the best rapid drumming to be found in 90s metalcore. There are great lyrics in "Endure" telling about the surviving truth of Christianity, "It has been proven, It shall remain, This faith has stood the test, It persists through conflict, Through the revolts against its ways, Nothing has held true like this."
"The Children Cry for Help" starts off with a good speedy intro for 20 seconds, and continues into the fast metalcore style you would expect from Zao. However, it just slows down to midtempo for most of the 5-minute length. I still like it though. One other re-recorded song (besides "Exchange" and "Endure") is "Resistance" which once again has some of the best vocals here. "Song 1" is OK, but the silence and hidden experimental outro is slightly pointless, though it's still fine and much better than Blur's "Song 2".
I've made the right call of following that YouTube commenter's recommendation, and I'm glad to receive this rewarding masterpiece. My next stop is their 3rd album Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest, but for now, any metalcore fans around can hold on to this album and play it to their heart's content. Never separate!
Favorites: "Times of Separation, "Exchange", "Repressed", "In Loving Kindness", "Resistance"
A beautiful journey begins with soothing acoustics and gentle delight from the vocals of Jim Grey. An Ebow can be heard as gentle as those vocals and slowly building up in an emotional solo by Sam Vallen. And just when you think the intro is over... "Wake up!" The band's wake-up call for the listener (definitely nowhere close to as aggressive as Lamb of God's self-titled album) finally gives them the soft-loud dynamics expected from the classic progressive metal revival!
From the last minute of that title intro itself, you already know what Bloom has to offer, the enjoyable force of Caligula's Horse! Guitar melodies and riffs are all around in a less technical light. With that and the bass support, drumming assault, and angelic vocals, this is a perfectly balanced reminder of my own earlier days of yore!
So continuing out of that intro, the first full track "Marigold" begins with some Opeth inspiration in the drums and riffs. This shall please the ears as the drums and rhythms kick up the groove. They've made their evolution through clean verses and anthemic choruses that make sure they're highly different from those heavier rising bands like Tesseract. "Take heart, it's all fool's gold" is a satisfying lyric guaranteed to motivate the live crowd. A stellar progressive highlight and one of two tracks that got me hooked into checking out this album! "Firelight" is not that other track. It's a touching ode to a lost friend of Grey's, and it actually fits well for my situation of losing one of my outside-world friends. It's so gentle with moving bass and rhythmic chords in the chorus. What keeps things interesting in this track is the fast dynamic soloing, balanced with the slower part of the soloing that adds more variety. It's actually one of the most commercial-sounding songs in the album and by the band, with another such song to come later. A simple yet fun way to cope with a bit of grief.
"Dragonfly" shows the band playing their most adventurous in the album, in stellar link with the melodic themes the band is known for. Though a minute and a half in, the band can impress the heavier fans with an immense djent-ish riff. And a minute later comes my favorite part of the song and possibly the album, with masterful falsetto vocals that can remind some of Jeff Buckley. Even during my move to heavier styles vocally and musically, those vocals have really touched my heart. Fast forward another two and a half minutes, and you can hear Vallen shredding away with his solo lines. The instrumentation layers all add harmony like the melodic prog-metal symphony epic it is. Next up is the other track that got me hooked into this album, "Rust", almost like Karnivool and Leprous combined. Nice tremolos and riffs keep you on your seat awaiting a clean rocking chorus. It's one of my favorite tracks, though I feel like there should be a jazzy harmony. Never mind, we have a smashing djenty groove in its place.
"Turntail" is the other commercial-sounding song here, sounding like a Plini/Polyphia track with lyrics and vocals added in. This is an interesting track that almost makes me think this is Caligula's Horse's take on Linkin Park's "Numb", at least in the verses and chorus. "Daughter of the Mountain" is more progressive, sounding close to the extreme side while staying in the melodic side, having a bit of a Pain of Salvation-esque aura of creativity. Lots of beautiful artistic fire here! The technical groove and delicate melody is the reason why this band deserves its place in the peak of the melodic prog-metal mountain. "Undergrowth" is the outro with beautiful acoustics throughout in variant drama. It's a nice breather after the monstrous progressiveness of the previous track, with melodic emotion in the writing, "Catch me weightless, by her side she breathes".
It's masterful art like in this album Bloom that inevitably makes me realize that there's still hope in bringing back some melody into what I prefer in progressive metal, and I might certainly be up to checking out the other Caligula's Horse albums and witnessing some jazzy harmonies. This band has climbed upwards to reach the summit of the mountain of greatness that several other bands have trouble climbing. While there are masterpieces from other metal genres that I enjoy, Bloom is perhaps my newfound favorite of progressive metal's melodic side, that I would recommend to fans of the genre who want something modern but not as heavy as Tesseract. The horse shall ride!
Favorites: "Marigold", "Dragonfly", "Rust", "Daughter of the Mountain"
Genres: Progressive Metal
There's barely any band that could change their sound in each album as immensely as OLD. Starting off as humorous metallic grindcore in their debut, they took on more of a psychedelic industrial metal style in Lo Flux Tube. Album #3, The Musical Dimensions of Sleastak is filled with experimental madness! Basically a weird yet awesome mix of metal and electronics from the brilliant James Plotkin and the shrieking Alan Dubin. Some who find this unlistenable don't know what they're missing in this wild adventure...
This is another original album ahead of time. They experiment with different styles, more than just metal, letting go of restrictive conventions and patterns so what they create can run free. I don't need the thrashy industrial metal of Ministry when I have this cool weirdness that actually suits me!
"A Beginning" is an astonishing way to begin this offering. Then leveling up high is the apparently two-part "Two of Me". More of the experimentation commences in the freaky highlight "Freak Now". That song was used in the soundtrack for the film Brainscan. Another song featured in that movie is "Peri Cynthion", one h*ll of a 10-minute experimental industrial metal epic. Listen for yourself if you like this sound!
"Happy Tantrum" sounds like an outtake from Lo Flux Tube, but a great improvement from there. It's another one of my favorite tracks in this album, with absolutely no filler. The experimentation actually sounds catchier than that of the mathy metalcore of Coalesce. "Creyap'nilla" can sound a little creepy at times.
"Glitch" is really great but can be a bit glitchy in some parts. "Ebb" allows the experimental instrumentation to flow nice and smoothly, while staying surreal. "Backwards Through the Greddo Compressor" is the 11-minute finale that almost sounds like the album is shortened and compressed. It's so different yet listenable! However, it probably won't help those people who put down the album change their minds.
Yeah, those unbelievers are better off elsewhere. The only people I would recommend this to are those up for a challenge through experimental noise-powered industrial metal, like I am now. Enjoy the weirdness!
Favorites: "Freak Now", "Peri Cynthion", "Happy Tantrum", "Backwards Through the Greddo Compressor"
Genres: Avant-Garde Metal Industrial Metal
Having started listening to Psyclon Nine, one other band with a similar industrial/black metal approach is Dawn of Ashes, whom I've only heard via a few tracks from the Sphere playlists that I've assembled. However, Dawn of Ashes has really put more focus into black/death metal in some of their albums, probably more than Samael from the second half of the 90s onwards. In saying that, this EP has made sure that this band wouldn't peak my interest as much as Psyclon Nine...
Farewell to the Flesh continues the band's phase of electro-industrial black metal with high emphasis on black metal, which they've had since 2008. Most of the tracks are remixes of songs from Genocide Chapters, the band's first full-length entryway into extreme metal.
The title track begins with the industrial drumming of Fear Factory along the symphonics of Dimmu Borgir, followed by odd riffing. Then the verses enter with the vocals and atmospheric keyboards of Agathodaimon. A wicked piece of industrial-infused symphonic black metal! Next up is the K. Bathory mix of "Transformation Within Fictional Mutation". It's a little confusing hearing the eerie atmosphere, guitar, and vocal distortion, sounding like a dubstep DJ trying to mix some albums from the band Bathory.
Then we have 3 remixes of "Carnal Consummation in the Empty Space", starting with the bizarre Falling Skies remix that can work as a video game soundtrack. The re-vocalized Die Sektor remix is more suitable for the dance-floor. The To Mega Therion remix sounds to me like early Psyclon Nine with Therion symphonics. I like that one!
There's one more remix left, and that's Juggernaut's take on "Seething the Flesh in the River ov Phlegethon", which is very much as confusing as most of the other remixes and never really close to the best. Back into the industrial-infused symphonic black metal sound, the highlight "Torture Device Part 2" is a sequel to a song from the band's last purely aggrotech album The Crypt Infection. "Blood-Shed with the 3rd Eye" is an eerie atmospheric outro that sounds like it came from a gothic horror movie.
Farewell to the Flesh is basically an electro-industrial remix EP with two surrounding symphonic black metal tracks. I actually like the black metal tracks here and might start rebuilding my tolerance for that genre, but most of the remixes are so odd and confusing. The heavier fans can find dark enjoyment from the two heavier tracks alone....
Favorites (only ones I like here): "Farewell to the Flesh", "Carnal Consummation in the Empty Space (To Mega Therion Mix)", "Torture Device Part 2"
Genres: Black Metal
If you're about to listen to this album and read my review, let me say, congratulations on having the bravery of continuing your epic deathcore exploration after the incredible starter pack that is Lorna Shore's EP And I Return to Nothingness. If you decide to listen to their new album Pain Remains, while sleeping and absorbing it subconsciously, here's a quick warning. You're gonna witness, in your dream, change that has never happened in reality, so intense, that when you wake up, your pain remains. In the dream, you're the sleeping dreamer. The scenario I've made throughout this review will be your dream!
Lorna Shore had their own painful situation over two years ago that they have overcome. It started just a month before the release of their previous full album Immortal, when vocalist CJ McCreery was fired due to a scandal of abuse allegations (not clickbait), then most of their touring was cancelled due to the rising virus. However, the following year, the band wrote and release the EP And I Return to Nothingness with a new frontman Will Ramos, and for the first time in their over decade-long tenure, they've hit the stratosphere of global success! Fast forward to late 2022, their epic new album Pain Remains showed the band pushing their deathcore boundaries further. Keeping up the addition of symphonic black metal darkness and technical sludge-ish breakdown aggression into their epic deathcore sound, the anticipation is all worth it.
"Welcome Back, O’ Sleeping Dreamer" begins with an ominous intro, where symphonic orchestra rises as if you were expecting Two Steps From Hell. Then at the top, the band strikes in a devastating touchdown, as the guitarists conjuring a searing riff storm raining down on you. A brutal breakdown chops you down to size, then sharp riffing once again decimates you while fitting well with the brilliant cinematics. The Sleeping Dreamer finds himself in a world that has been, and can be, designed using his own imagination. However, he falls into a world of nightmares that always changes to become worse than before and cannot be changed by the Dreamer himself until he can succumb to the possession, which he refuses to do. Driving further is "Into the Earth", with its frantic verses and dramatic chorus. The Dreamer has to shine like the sun, with the rays touching the dream Earth. However, he grows cold and crashes into the dream Earth, with vivid nightmarish hallucinations surrounding him and projecting into his mind, leaving him immobilized. "Sun//Eater" is the first single released for the album, and has psyched fans up with its furious fret force and mythological lyric themes. A young choir of angels appear, chanting "Kyrie eleison" ("Lord Have Mercy"), giving the Dreamer wings and the unlimited power to fight back the hallucinations. He flies back into space and, like Icarus, heads towards the sun, this time conquering and consuming it, regaining his shining power, now shining a colorless black-and-white light, a hint at his possession of evil slowly beginning.
One epic shining highlight is "Cursed to Die", in which the speed and precision from the band's rhythm section work like a charm. The breakdown fits well right in the middle of this epic glory without being abrupt. Despite all that power, the Dreamer starts to feel weaker and more fearful, believing that he might lose his legacy and be cursed to die. However, the evil within possesses him to continue what he was doing before, building up its legacy to the point where it still hasn't reached enough, decaying his soul greatly. The breakdowns in "Soulless Existence" have the same greatness as the previous track, invited in by the Lord of the Rings-like epicness and emotion. At this point, the Dreamer has lost 90% of his soul. The evil has greater control in him than before and begins melting the tundra and ice of the blackened dream Earth, flooding the whole world. The Dreamer's weak soul could only question the existence of himself and the world. Without showing off, in "Apotheosis", the technical speed in the drumming is so insanely impressive, keeping up the band's heavy fury. The evil within the Dreamer is now powerful enough to leave his body to continue its destruction of the dream Earth. The evil spirit boils the water and burns a hole into the dream Earth. The weak Dreamer falls into the hole and finds himself in the Labyrinth of Hell, which he must go through into the center to find the altar of power to regain his power, though at the risk of having his soul decay again. "Wrath" has more of this visceral fire from the rhythm section and is a f***ing heavy highlight overall, like probably the heaviest of the year! After praying at the altar, the Dreamer regains his infinite power and the missing part of his soul, and zooms back up to the surface to unleash his wrath on the evil spirit who's already burning the Dream Earth with his fire powers. As the battle goes on, the flames expand and cover more of the land, and the Dreamer is unaware of his soul decaying until he is struck down by the evil spirit.
At last, we've come to the coldest blizzard of this dark snowy journey, the 3-part title trilogy suite of grieving sorrow. The first part "Dancing Like Flames" is so d*mn beautiful. It's been referred to as a "deathcore ballad", and I kinda agree in the emotional sense. The Dreamer finds himself lying down in the flaming ground, in never-ending pain from the flames and the earlier strike-down from the evil spirit. All he could see is a ghostly image of a passed lover from the past. With little strength he has, he dances with the ghost in the flames before finally collapsing once more. He sees one last hallucination, the Grim Reaper telling him that it's his time to die. The suite continues seamlessly into the second part "After All I've Done, I'll Disappear", expanding the emotionality and adding in a little more intensity. The hammering instrumentation and vocals allow the band to shine in the symphonic black-deathcore realm. With only minutes left before the Dreamer's time to die, he realizes that after all he has done in his desperate attempt to protect the dream Earth, he will have to disappear, leaving behind what he failed to save, now having no meaning. His soul leaves his body and transcends out of the world that has reached its heating point and begins to disintegrate. He transcends through the astral plane. The climatic final part "In a Sea of Fire" is a highlight you can never skip. It shows the band at their most epic, then wraps it all up with a soft outro of ethereal atmosphere. Suddenly, the evil spirit grabs the transcending soul of the Dreamer, possesses him once more, and burns him away into nothingness. The evil spirit then burns away the remains of the Earth out of existence. With its own infinite power, he then proceeds to burn away the rest of the galaxy and the rest of the universe. In the end though, it all turns out to be a dream for the main character who then wakes up.
Pain Remains can be described as a lot of adjectives, more than just the decently overused "epic". With an intense production of complex instrumentation, dynamic vocals, and brilliant lyrics, all to marvel at, you're in for a fun remarkable deathcore treat. The early 2020s can be pretty much a new rising era for deathcore, all thanks to Lorna Shore taking out their pain on an immaculate masterpiece of a lifetime!
Favorites: "Welcome Back, O’ Sleeping Dreamer", "Cursed to Die", "Soulless Existence", "Wrath", the complete "Pain Remains" trilogy ("Dancing Like Flames", "After All I've Done, I'll Disappear", "In a Sea of Fire")
I love this blend of progressive metal and thrashy technical speed metal. I can get the fun wackiness of prog and speed metal's eponymous aspect without having too much of either side. This album was made by an innovative group of talented musicians, wearing their sound with pride but not too much pride, and it's really impressive. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a serious start to the technical side of metal that we know today!
The bassist and guitarist work well like a duo, a possible inspiration for that kind of aspect in later bands. The thrash-like guitar riffing and bass tones fit like a glove, despite the difference in octave, and even more so in the interplay between searing leads and bass harmonies. I'm not super into Halford-like falsetto vocals so much right now, but the ones here have spot-on beauty. Barely any other vocal style can fit into this kind of album. And MAN, these are some mighty drum skills. I wish my family didn't give away an electronic drum kit I once had, so I can continue learning that instrument. You never have to rewind because all those instruments can be engraved in your mind.
The tracklisting is different in some editions, but for this one I'm reviewing, "Violent Change" starts off with a thrashy riff of violent energy. It's different from what you would expect in the mid-80s, with the drums and vocals sounding punky before rising close to classic heavy metal. It's insane how groundbreaking this album was when it was released in 1985, and you can understand the NWOBHM elements they've had there. And there's a lot of vocal power in that chorus! "Asylum" has one of the best solos here, near the two-minute mark, and would make you wanna repeat that part. It's those instrumental sections where the guitar and bass jam all over the place, and the drums tag along for the ride. That can also occur in the beginning of one of two 6-minute epics, "Tyrants of Distress", another one of the best here with great verses and chorus.
"Social Fears" has thunders in with an ominous bass line and a riff that's catchy as h*ll. More of the amazing bass comes in a short solo after the chorus. The title track picks up the speed, and it has the best of all the instruments and vocals. Seriously, these guys have done a splendid job keeping up the expectations required for an album's title track. Prepare to get blown away by the bass solo near the 3-minute point! The following track "Argonne Forest" slows down the pace a bit, and tells a story about the Forest of Argonne's role in the first World War. A catchy bridge shows the guitar heading high into frantic soloing, bringing back some of the speed.
Next up, "Cimmerian Shadows" has a slower pace and lower vocals than the rest. While the aforementioned title track is the highest point, this one is the lowest and almost comes out as bland. Still it doesn't affect the album's perfect glory. "Meltdown" makes up for that by a ton as perhaps the second-best of the album, with fast tempo, an unforgettable chorus, and incredible soloing. It's probably one of the first ever songs by the band, recorded a couple years prior for a compilation.
It's many progressive/technical metalheads' dream to have this band as teachers for music lessons. Energetic Disassembly is an album that's so ahead of our time and showed the band assembling the genres we know as progressive metal and technical speed metal. Consider your mind blown!
Favorites: "Violent Change", "Tyrants of Distress", "Energetic Disassembly", "Meltdown"
Genres: Progressive Metal Thrash Metal
A lot happened in the months between the recording and release of this album. While waiting for its release date to be decided, Lorna Shore began touring with other bands in support of the album with ex-Signs of the Swarm vocalist CJ McCreery. He recorded vocals for the album, and the band released 5 singles in advance. Then when a scandal of abuse allegations involving McCreery occurred, caused by the Weinstein effect, he was fired. The band wasn't sure about releasing the album at first, but I'm glad they done so. All drama aside, Immortal is the start of Lorna Shore's perfect streak, and one of the greatest deathcore releases on Earth! The best of their previous releases have been given deeper personality and a more atmospheric background, so sinister and ethereal. With that along with the brutal breakdowns and symphonic black metal influences, this would give the band a spot in the deathcore hall of fame (there is one now!).
Deathcore has crucial aspects for records of that genre. You need technical atmosphere and heavy aggression in careful balance so the heavier listeners can praise it. Lorna Shore have proceeded in the perfecting that mix for Immortal, and it's no secret. They were slowly building up symphonic black/melodeath elements into their deathcore throughout their powerful tenure, and this release has marked the perfect prominent point for those elements, leaving their earlier releases to lower their heads in regret.
Unleashing that aspect right off the bat, the epic powerful title opener is a surefire deathcore highlight! McCreery lets out every vocal style he could possibly do throughout a thick sea of brutal glory. "Death Portrait" is a brutal work of splendor to fit well with a dangerous battle against demons on top of a snow mountain under a solar eclipse. An excellent mental masterpiece! "This Is Hell" is a heavy onslaught bursting through the gates of Hell, unleashing more demons, running as fast as the immaculate insanity of drummer Austin Archey. His amazing skill has grown since Flesh Coffin, shining in many songs like that one, alongside breakdowns bursting through in full force. McCreery's brutal vocals can get you hooked from start to finish.
Next track "Hollow Sentence" is a brilliant vocal battle between the growling of the one-man army that is McCreery vs. a multi-person choir, almost like a vocal exchange. There are huge dramatic theatrics while staying menacing. The riffing is also impressive, alternating between the slow breakdown and sledgehammering sections. "Warpath of Disease" continues that vocal technique, alongside brilliant fretwork and riff immolation from the two guitarists. The vocals once again have catchy hellfire. "Misery System" has the most impressive technicality in the album.
In "Obsession", the guitars sound so ethereal that the brutality is mostly in the drumming. At this point, you might find a bit of repetition in the album, especially in the vocals, with all this savagery leaving you numb, but honestly, that's just what the genre wants to convince you to think. I can still find a heavy amount of creativity here and face the enemy head-on despite what can be considered too similar. McCreery keeps up his regurgitating-like vocals in "King ov Deception" (again with the black metal "v" spelling), and I mean that in a great way. "Darkest Spawn" is another epic highlight with vocals pulverizing like a motherf***er. That song along with the earlier "This is Hell" were the first two singles for the album and with McCreery as vocalist, so those tracks make a great heavy starter duo. "Relentless Torment" shows the band going out in skillful fury. You get to hear the last of McCreery's catchy yet brutal vocals in this offering. Honestly, I'm the kind of person who doesn't directly associate art with artist, so I prefer to enjoy his vocals without thinking too much about the atrocious things he had done.
Lorna Shore has made an impressive leap into a different era, beginning with Immortal, a bleak brutal journey. This is Lorna Shore's way of starting the new decade in a bang, an immolating offering relentless heaviness and gloom. Despite being a decade later than Oceano and Whitechapel, this band shall be immortal in the deathcore realm!
Favorites: "Immortal", "Death Portrait", "Hollow Sentence", "Misery System", "Darkest Spawn"
Lorna Shore has shown a lot of potential that I can finally witness thanks to my brother recommending this band to me. Straight outta New Jersey, this band unleashed some of the most immensely talented deathcore around beginning with 2015's Psalms, and while that album is superb, a couple tracks were dragged down by the cliche overthinking of breakdowns. Would they make their next album solid and in a greater level?...
H*ll yeah, they did! Flesh Coffin continues the technical atmosphere and furious groove of Psalms with slight cleanup and enhancement. Of course, they were the same band that they were in their debut, while slowly building up their greatness.
"Offering of Fire" already proves the band's strength that has never withered, including vocalist Tom Barber, straight from the first verse. After all that crushing aggression in the first track, shining more with shredding soloing is "Denounce the Light". Next up, "The Astral Wake of Time" shows non-stop decimating speed in the drumming skill. Absolute blistering technicality in that one!
The rhythm section of bass and drums continues to dominate in the complex "Desolate Veil". Up next is "Fvneral Moon" (looks like they're using the black metal "v" spelling), which is such a great highlight. There are two breakdowns that would burst out of nowhere and crush your bones, then you're pulled back into speedy soloing and fantastic riffing. A much better balance than that small fraction of their debut! "Void" shows the guitar duo hammering their skills hard. Adam De Micco and Connor Deffley reign as one of the best duos in deathcore, though Deffley's time with the band would end after this album. Some of the catchiest lyrics and verses appear in "Infernum".
"The//Watcher" (what's with those slashes?!?) expands on the band's symphonic black metal influences that they would have more of in subsequent albums while keeping the "-core" part of their sound in mind. A fantastic highlight with wonderful background melody! "Black Hollow" displays more of Barber's incredible vocal range, enduring more professional energy than many of the more famous heavy bands. The brutal title closing anthem can cut you to the bone, all the way to the last of Barber's growls.
There's no doubt than Flesh Coffin has shown the band reigning as one of the best blackened-ish deathcore bands in the late 2010s, probably more than Carnifex, with technicality and melody added to the darkness. There's almost nothing disappointing about Lorna Shore, and even then they can improve. Here's to more of their excellence!
Favorites: "Offering of Fire", "The Astral Wake of Time", "Fvneral Moon", "The//Watcher", "Flesh Coffin"
Life falls apart, death is your only way, your fate lies in higher power, and no matter how much divine salvation you pray for, you can't escape the brutal intense apocalypse... This is Hell! Psalms is a crushing deathcore offering of infinite power unleashed by Lorna Shore to the world. Only those brave enough to dive into the deepest darkest depths of heaviness can access all that deathcore has to offer.
Anyone who has followed the band since their EP trio of Triumph, Bone Kingdom, and Maleficium knows the heaviness to come. Psalms is perhaps the heaviest start of the band's true adventure, adding brutal breakdowns with technical twists. Drummer Austin Archey has pretty much the ultimate death metal/core weapon.
Archey is already dominating with his arsenal in "Grimoire", boldly kicking through drum patterns and cymbals. An excellent opener! And you can hear the shouts and growls from vocalist Tim Barber from the start. "Harvest Realms" is another excellent dynamic track containing shredding soloing balanced with aggressive breakdowns. "Throne of Worms" has some slight filler, but it's still quite good.
The vicious "White Noise" is an anthem of deathcore devastation, with drums kicking and smashing skulls like cannonballs launched into the face. Guiding Archey along in the assault is founding bassist Gary Herrera, providing heavy patterns in synchronization. More of the wonderful drum kicking is included in "From the Pale Mist". Punishing death metal riffing are in a brilliant mix with brutal breakdowns. "Infernal Haunting" continues that excellent combo, though the breakdown lacks its need buildup. "Death Gowns" has some relevant moments, while sounding noticeably similar to Thy Art is Murder at that time.
"Wretching in Torment" unleashes its might in its 30-second intro than drops into a breakdown like a car screeching into a brutal crash. Although it's a great track, it might work better live. "Traces of Supremacy" makes amends for those slight mistakes in sinister fury. "Eternally Oblivion" is the 5-minute epic where the guitarists roam and Barber lets out his echoing yelling and growling that can almost rival The Black Dahlia Murder's Trevor Strnad (RIP).
Lorna Shore has made some of the heaviest deathcore magic-craft that is learnable for the new generation of music. With dark atmosphere, technical melodeath-like riffing, and sludge-ish breakdowns, the heavier fans can gather around for a moshing party filled with this punishing aggression. You can't be spared from the deathcore inferno!
Favorites: "Grimoire", "Harvest Realms", "White Noise", "From the Pale Mist", "Eternally Oblivion"
Skillet is part of the league of alt-rock/metal bands my brother likes and I used to before starting my TRUE metal interest. Little did I know until now, frontman John Cooper and guitarist Seth Morrison started their own spin-off project Fight the Fury!
As those Christian rockers continue to rise in mainstream fame, the fans wanted to hear more of the sonic heavy compositions from their golden mid-/late 2000s. There's no chance of returning to that kind of power those earlier followers really want, but this project formed by Mr. Cooper and Morrison provided a more metallic alternative. Their debut EP, and so far only release, Still Breathing has some mixed results; a bit of a letdown while still enjoyable in a couple songs.
The opener "My Demons" is very energetic. This is probably the heaviest to come from any of John Cooper's bands since Skillet's Collide. However, the lyrics have too much embarrassing drama, "I go to sleep with my demons, creep in my head every night. They come to shred all my dreams, why why why is this my life? I can't, I can't close my eyes". Fortunately, the heaviness makes up for that. "Dominate Me" is just intolerable with the lyrics too overwhelming, "This is how you dominate every part of me, yeah, it's okay, dominate me! Teach me not to misbehave, I can be a slave".
The fantastic "Still Burning" restores grace for the EP, once again reminding me of Collide and the heavier direction Skillet should've taken after that album. The lyrics in the song are a great improvement compared to the earlier weakness. "I Cannot" satisfies me once again. However, the "I cannot live, I cannot breathe" chorus is an unoriginal flashback to Skillet's Comatose musically and its title track lyrically. There's too much similarity between the final "Lose Hold Of It All" and Skillet's Awake single "Monster".
Honestly, Still Breathing sounds too awkward in the lyrics and occasional throwbacks to the earlier Skillet songs. Other than that, it's a short fun listen for Skillet fans wanting more of what John Cooper has to offer. And if you're new to his works, only a couple songs are worth your entrance. Still I gotta show this my Skillet-fan brother....
Favorites (only ones I like here): "My Demons", "Still Burning"
Genres: Alternative Metal
After finding out that today (as of this review) is the 25th anniversary of two obscure yet relevant Revolution releases with one of them being that Damaged album I've reviewed, here's the other release, Crisis' The Hollowing! Their fanbase is divided by female vocalist Karyn Crisis. She can go all over over the place with her vocal range, from operatic highs to tough rasps to brutal death growls. Add in some pig-squealing and this album would be in deathcore territory, though fortunately that's not the case.
Her voice is a d*mn essential element for Crisis that helped them stand out, but what about the other aspects? The lyrics are written in multiple perspectives guided by her vocals. As for the music, f***ing h*ll, this is more than just metalcore! It's mixed with the sludge metal that you might find in bands like Eyehategod, along with pieces of thrash/death/doom/hard rock here and there. All of this has shown the band at its best; not too accessible, yet not too repetitive or bizarre. And it's a great step up in my ongoing metalcore search, despite not having this band in plan before finding this release in the Anniversaries page.
First track "Mechanical Man" opens the heaviness for business, a fast kick-A standout! "In the Shadow of the Sun" almost has the melodic death-doom vibe of Insomnium, while mainly standing by the sludge metalcore sound. Same thing for "Fires of Sorrow", though more sinister. "The Vision and the Verity" has good lyrics, "I cut out my heart, just the other day, held it in my hand, said it doesn't work that well anyway". See, nothing gory or satanic, despite what outsiders might believe. There's also cool guitar here.
One of the best songs here, "Kingdom's End" is amazing, especially the one-minute outro. Cool guitar distortion interplaying with the vocals repeating a f***ing brilliant lyric, "when this chemical lung gives out, I'll be living at my body's mercy". After that is the soothing intermission, "After the Flood", with construction-like background sounds. "Sleeping the Wicked" has helped put the band neck in neck with Candiria as the most experimental standard metalcore band of the late 90s. But if you think the band sounds awesome there, check out the next track...
"Surviving the Siren" is the greatest of the bunch, with every one of Karyn's vocal styles here; operatic singing, monstrous growling, and banshee-like shrieking. The lyrics seem to twist around The Odyssey, specifically the part with the sirens, in which lust can lead to doom. The drumming gets crazier and descends into chaos as the song progresses, and the only light in the darkness is the beautiful chorus sung by Karyn. You really gotta stick around for that song and have it stick to you! "Take the Low Road" is the last total highlight, having solid death/thrash elements, especially in the drumming. Another underrated track! "Discipline of Degradation" continues the slow metalcore sound similar to the more groove-ish side of Earth Crisis. "Come to Light" is the instrumental finale, then it's followed by a pointless hidden track of studio outtakes.
All in all, I say the only reason this band had a bad rep is because of those 80s metal/grind purists out there. Don't believe them! The Hollowing is filled with great music and evocative atmosphere. Karyn Crisis can almost surpass Julie Christmas as the best female vocalist in the heavier side of metal!
Favorites: "Mechanical Man", "In the Shadow of the Sun", "Kingdom's End", "Sleeping the Wicked", "Surviving the Siren", "Take the Low Road"
Genres: Metalcore Sludge Metal
As an ex-fan of Between the Buried and Me and fan of Prayer for Cleansing, I knew I had to give this band/EP a good listen and review, since two members of both bands were in this one; guitarist Paul Waggoner and vocalist Tommy Rogers. From Here On had more noise in their deathly metalcore than the technicality of those other two bands. The harsh vocals from Rogers roar over the heavy riffing/shredding of Waggoner. There are occasional acoustic/narration passages between parts of the onslaught.
However, there are only two great highlights here, one of which is "Shards of Glass", a total spine-chiller. The other highlight, "Further Away" has the best breakdown I've heard in any of the Rogers/Waggoner bands. Other than those two, it's all mostly just uninspired deathly metal/hardcore, and I'm relieved that the EP only has a 25-minute length....
Favorites (only two for this album): "Shards of Glass", "Further Away"
Ah, here we go! A 1990s metalcore/deathcore release that has greater playing value than that other Abnegation release, along with the Napalm Death/Coalesce split and Downcast album. This oughta add a small bit of goodness to my search...
The 90s was a different time for our world. For one thing, thrash/death metal was withering after their golden age of the 1980s, and in its place was the newly developing metalcore scene on the rise. The two bands here, Abnegation and Chapter, both of whom would have a more deathly sound later, were highly influential back then but faded down into obscurity. This split EP was a very important display of adding metal into hardcore. They didn't need to be known by the whole world, just the right audience!
Abnegation began their transition from hardcore to metal around that time, and what helped out is one of their songs here, "Blanket of Black". This highlight shows more of a speedy deathly metalcore sound. This was considered the most metallic/Slayer-sounding any hardcore band has gone before. It was thanks to this band and that song that every metalcore band would start emphasizing the metal part of their template. "Behind the White Walls", on the other hand, continues the chaos, yet the shorter length kind of decimates its memorability. Still a great song to like!
Chapter is not really interesting enough for me to describe the songs in detail. All I'll say is, they play wild dissonant metalcore that would also take over the late 90s, yet more in the Rorschach style than Slayer. I mean, they sound more metal than Rorschach, but not as powerful when crashing in different angles. I prefer my noise-metalcore from the more popular Converge who would release the amazing Petitioning the Empty Sky. While Chapter is likeable, Abnegation has much better Slayer-inspired metalcore.
All in all, this split EP is an interesting example of metalcore beginning to rise, straight from two nearly-elusive bands. Abnegation's side is a more amazing offering from that band than the ultra-deathly 1998 album. If you're going through metalcore's early age, start with Rorschach then work your way to this split, then you know what matters....
Favorites (only from Abnegation's side): "Blanket of Black", "Behind the White Walls" (despite its short length)
I'm sorry, but NO. My search for the earliest bands in non-melodic metalcore subgenres ended up getting imploded by 90s f***ing proto-emo-core. I'm glad this is much lesser-known than the real fantastic metalcore inventors like Rorschach, Integrity, and Starkweather! The only reason I gave this at least 1.5 stars at all is for the song "System" that has helped in the band's attempt to create metalcore that is better off made by those bands. No words can explain how weird the outcome of trying to expand my ongoing search for metalcore can be, when it comes to these sh*tty oddballs....
Favorites (only one I even slightly like): "System"
Abnegation was one of the very first bands to connect the bridge between metalcore and death metal in the 90s, plus adding in a bit of Slayer riffing. It wasn't until their 1996 split EP with Chapter when they've gone from obscure to influential. They were following the common straight-edge lifestyle with their views of veganism and pro-life. But with this different sound, they've become very divisive within the scene...
Verses of the Bleeding is more weird than good in some ways. It's different from what the more hardcore fans might expect. The earlier fans might be in dismay by the fact that 3 of the founding members already left, and the switch from hardcore to evil death metal. On top of that, they were still in Goodlife, a Belgian record label for hardcore bands and hardcore fans, and those fans were vegans and activists. The band went from holy to unholy, not giving a f*** about their longtime audience. And I bet the sh*tty gruesome cover art was a dead giveaway for all this. Personally, I have more of this deathcore/metal album to judge than ideology changes, so let's dig right in!
It starts promising with my favorite song here, "When the Smoke Clears", the shortest while having guitar aggression. The title track has that lo-fi death metal sound going on to remind you of Morbid Angel and Deicide. However, the lo-fi is too low, that first minute of film-samples has tired me out, and the riffing is decent but not interesting enough for me. "Hopes of Harmony", has some slight redemption in fine significance with their earlier hardcore, but the only thing truly heavy is the so-so death growling.
"Bury the Needle" is another short favorite here, having the guitar and vocals reminiscent of early Cannibal Corpse. I think I like the shorter songs best. "Stones That Strike the Cedar" was recorded from an earlier demo, though subject to destructive criticism. Same with "Drowning in Halo's Water", also fast but doesn't mean it's ever powerful.
"A Kiss Before Dying" is one of the most brutal songs I've heard, and it's hard to believe that my metal interest slowly evolved from the epic melodic progressive metal of Symphony X to the brutal deathcore/metal of this album. "Cry of the Ezurate" is a vicious ending track that I enjoy, and it's not as short as the other two highlights. There's also, apparently, a bonus cover of Venom's "Welcome to Hell", but I couldn't find that one. Fine with me, because I've had enough here.
It's no surprise how overwhelming the album's resulting controversy was for the band. They broke up at the end of the year, and not much is known about the members since. I prefer to get my early deathcore from a more hardcore band like Day of Suffering, and I should dive into Abnegation's earlier hardcore stuff too. Yeah, I probably should....
Favorites (only ones I really like): "When the Smoke Clears", "Bury the Needle", "Cry of the Ezurate"
Genres: Death Metal Metalcore
Until now, I honestly wasn't really up to giving this split EP a listen and review because of how rotten I treated the Coalesce EPs, and the band in the other side of split is English grindcore pioneers Napalm Death. Y'know, the band with the one-second "You Suffer". This split was made around the time of Napalm Death's experimental death metal phase, and Coalesce was making their transition from their poor demos to their more superior albums. While those different directions sound promising...
...What was the point of this split!? I get they were trying to promote both bands, but if each band released their side separately, there would be just a couple two-sided singles. While the music is OK, the length isn't. I could listen to a progressive metal epic as long as that entire split! Really not necessarily worth purchasing.
The Napalm Death tracks are actually quite interesting, specifically "Food Chains", continuing the groove-laden death metal of Diatribes, almost leaning into early nu metal, as you can hear in the Korn-like chords and Sepultura-like drumming. The vocals by Barney (NOT the dinosaur) make it obvious that this is the band's usual death metal. A demo version of "Upwards and Uninterested" (from Utopia Banished) is an aggressive beast. While that song is from their earlier grindcore era, it sounds closer to the band's return to that style in Words From The Exit Wound, especially when the riffing and drumming sound smooth while staying as chaotic as mathcore. The best of that side!
And now for the Coalesce tracks, with their technical hardcore/mathcore sound starting to be more comfortable while still not reaching its brilliance, starting with "A Safe Place". Shifty rhythms dominate over strange riffs, all in front of guttural vocal barks. The drumming is interesting, yet it's not highly listenable. "Harvest Of Maturity" has more relaxed maturity with midpaced riff variation to be explored along with more of the technical drumming. That's what I prefer!
All in all, the EP is quite decent in quality but at the same time unnecessary. I don't know who to recommend this entire EP to, fans of death metal, mathcore, or both genres, and even then there's not a lot of point. If this were to cost anything, it would probably just be dollar or less, any more than that and it's a rip-off. Easy split, but skippable....
Favorites (one from each side): "Upwards and Uninterested", "Harvest Of Maturity"
Genres: Death Metal Metalcore
After staying in the modern metalcore scene firmly in the first 10 years, Parkway Drive stunned them all with their 2015 album Ire, evolving into a more expansive part of their journey. Then their following album Reverence took out most of their metalcore roots for emotional experimentation. So what's next in this Byron Bay band's 7th offering Darker Still? Another small step forward into their melodic path, but a good leap in quality compared to the previous album...
This album is as dark as the title would suggest! Apparently, the theme is confront a destructive event and standing up against it with your beliefs as you make your journey through this dark world. In other words, instead of living in nightmarish misery, let this metal tale motivate you to rise in resistance against what life has to threaten you.
Twinkling into the opener "Ground Zero", vocalist Winston McCall starts off sounding fragile, before rising in defiance and shouting "Drop the beat!", as if he commanded the band to begin their anthemic attack. The riffing and chorus would have you pumping your fist in joy. Add in a moshing breakdown and a big choir-like bridge, and it's pretty much Parkway Drive's ultimate anthem! Next track diving in "Like Napalm", destined to make a furious mosh pit when the band can perform it live, complete with a chorus to shout along to amongst the dangerous chaos. The album's first single "Glitch" adds a bit of speed while in a mid-paced march through insomniac depression, alongside guitar and gang-style vocals to remind me of While She Sleeps.
"The Greatest Fear" shows a different, more epic direction for the band, beginning with a church organ and an angelic choir. Then melodic riffing marches in to make you think of Iron Maiden then it's twisted into the groove of Rob Zombie in the verses. In the bridge, we hear a Gregorian-like choir singing the "hymns of nevermore" and then they're replaced with a moshing breakdown. Probably one of the best of the album for me and my brother whose listening to the song reminded me that I needed to get into the action. However, the title-track centerpiece, surpassing the previous album's "Chronos" as the longest and probably most epic song by the band, is a prime example of reinvention for the band. It's basically filled with pieces of acoustic balladry and whistling, with Winston singing some Nick Cave-like cleans. It's obviously not as heavy as the more metal tracks, but there's deeper texture glory than before! However, "Imperial Heretic" doesn't sound really inspired. Neither does the minimalistic "If a God Can Bleed".
Fortunately, "Soul Bleach" puts us back on track with rapid pacing in the riffs. Then cleaning this up in a brief one-minute interlude is "Stranger" with a post-apocalyptic vibe in only two repeated lines, "We are all but strangers, in a stranger world" and "Pixelate, isolate, filter out the human... We become the future". It leads to "Land of the Lost", with one of the most infectious refrains, telling you to "Keep digging the hole down deeper". The headbanging closer "From the Heart of the Darkness" gets you ready in the intro for a final battle started by a mighty guitar riff and Winston grunting "I took a walk last night through the valley of death". The heaviness pounds in rebellious resistance!
Parkway Drive has given you a journey through Hell that you can pleasantly battle through and come out with as many scars as the band had making this powerful offering. The songs with the most strength come from the first half, though a couple ones in the second half are great too. All part of this test of promised survival....
Favorites: "Ground Zero", "Glitch", "The Greatest Fear", "Darker Still", "From the Heart of the Darkness"
Genres: Alternative Metal Heavy Metal
Let's make it clear that as much as potential as these high screaming vocals and guitars have, they don't have enough meat in the bone. It's very much just another early underwhelming attempt at deathcore/metalcore. I'm glad this got added to site so I could give it a try and find out it's just sh*t not worth trying for. The best track here is "Falling Into Ashes", but that's pretty much it....
Favorites (only one in this album): "Falling Into Ashes"
Remember when I mentioned that one of the songs in my August Sphere playlist ended up in the soundtrack for Bad Boys? Well that movie came on TV earlier today (as of this review) and that was the incentive needed for me to give this album a listen and a review. How did it go? Well, where do I begin...
Album #8 from KMFDM, Nihil is where the band started adding a bit of that metal groove into their industrial sound. They've also become more of a collective than a band, with En Esch and Sascha Konietzko gathering many guests throughout the years. Even their image has become powerful, thanks to the visual marketing that includes comic-style cover artwork from Brute. Except this album's cover art was made by guest drummer Bill Rieflin's wife Francesca Sundsten (both passed from cancer at age 59, RIP).
Busting through is the nearly flawless opener, "Ultra". After that is the anthem "Juke Joint Jezebel", the most popular song from KMFDM, selling over a million single copies, and the aforementioned song that appeared in the Bad Boys. A remix version is also in the Mortal Kombat movie. You can really dance along to some parts, much more than Nine Inch Nails, especially the disco-sounding choir led by guest vocalist Jennifer Ginsberg. "Flesh" is slower in the verses, but speeds up in the chorus and definitely towards the end. "Beast" has choruses you can sing along to.
The political-sounding highlight "Terror" thunders through with industrial metal guitar. "Search & Destroy" is one of the more destructive songs here, while having some of the catchiness infecting the album. "Disobedience" is perhaps what really stands out the most in the album. It's not a ballad, but it sounds the closest to one. In saying that, it's one of the greatest highlights here.
"Revolution" cranks up the heavy power once again, but not before things get heavier... "Brute", named after the cover artist of almost every other KMFDM album, is more brutal while staying melodic. "Trust" has another female sung chorus by Dorona Alberti, "Do what you can, what you want, what you must, feel the hunger inside, don't lose your trust", which has a funny similarity to Steely Dan, and is ironic during the battle for idealism that ends up getting lost. The hidden title outro is rather pointless, but I guess it helps makes sure the album doesn't end too abruptly.
Nihil can be considered the core of KMFDM's industrial intelligence that has helped the band fly in the mainstream realm, far beyond their peers. Alongside founders Esch and Konietzko shining throughout, vocalist Raymond Watts and guitarist Gunter Schulz make colorful contributions above the artful production. Compared to industrial metal's usual abrasiveness, KMFDM have a more polished sound, proving that they can be more than just noise. Still they know how to control their striking impact....
Favorites: "Ultra", "Juke Joint Jezebel", "Terror", "Disobedience", "Brute"
Genres: Industrial Metal
Self Inflicted is known as one of the cult albums deep in the underground metalcore/early deathcore mines. However, there's not much in common with what I'm used to when it comes to this style...
I mean, there are some moments to beat you into damnation, but I was hoping for more in this mix of Hatebreed-style metalcore and slight Crowbar-ish groove. Maybe a bit of experimentation from fellow New York-core band Candiria would've spiced things up, but nope, nothing like that here, other than a few audio samples. One track, "Step Back" is pretty good, but everything else is mediocre and boring (I hate using that latter word to describe anything metal). I got much better bands to access than this poor sh*t...
Favorites (only one for this album): "Step Back"