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 perfect 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 dynamic rap metal track with 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 another weak 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: "Papercut", "One Step Closer", "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
In the dark vast near-Arctic tundra fields, feedback, doses of speed, a gloomy near-psychedelic aura, and ambient traces of post-rock and shoegaze are all mixed into a blizzard of flowing guitar melodies. And in the snowstorm is a beast whose growls are louder than the storm itself. His harrowing growls tell miserable tales of numbing feelings, dissolving love, and fading life. At one point, an ethereal clean voice floats in monotone atmosphere, telling his own tale of past and present life gone wrong. This young man's dreamy voice (Jonas Renkse) wants the beast to remember the happy past of innocence, but he's thrown out by the snowstorm, and the beast (Mikael Åkerfeldt) continues his harsh screams of the unhappy present of anguish. The present day is the Brave Murder Day!
I've tried listening to a few Katatonia songs in my happy melodic past a few years ago, but it was too dark and extreme for me at the time. Their early material is the obscene black-doom and their later albums are just depressing gothic rock/metal. I'm glad Brave Murder Day got recommended to me because this was in their in-between era of death-doom, which was common in the mid-90s for the Peaceville Three; Anathema, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost. Yeah, since I already enjoy those 3 bands, how am I not interested in Katatonia? However, something different about Katatonia at that time is, while the Peaceville Three played a romantic kind of atmospheric doom metal, this band has a raw hard-to-classify soundscape. And what makes it hard to classify is their change of style in each of their few albums. Like I said, Dance of December Souls is depressive black-doom, Brave Murder Day (this album) is death-doom, Discouraged Ones is gothic doom, and since Tonight's Decision, they play dark rock/metal. Normally, genre labels aren't totally necessary but I was making a point there. However, Brave Murder Day is so diverse than anyone can interpret the sound to be anything else, not just death-doom. The diverse music is distorted and dark, sometimes mellow, sometimes aggressive. Mikael Åkerfeldt does most of the lead vocals, growling in abrasive despair to tone down some melody. Jonas Renkse could no longer do any growls because of vocal issues, but he can still do clean singing, which occurs in only one soft song. Yes, there are acoustic passages instead of symphonic gothic metal keyboards and violins. Another uncommon element is the varying rhythms, some a little faster, some slow.
A great example of the slightly faster rhythm is the opening song "Brave", the longest and best song of the album. It starts with a mid-tempo drone-ish section then goes into a melodic doom section, then back again. 10 minutes really fly when you're having a fun yet depressive listen! "Murder" is slightly faster, more upbeat, and just half of the previous song's length. "Day" is a calm dreamy song sounding more like shoegaze. This is where Jonas Renkse uses his clean vocals, and it's the first time anyone has heard them! Even though they sound somewhat amateurish, they still fit well.
"Rainroom" continues the heavy mid-tempo fashion of the first two songs, this time with stronger old-school doom metal riffing and more notable growling vocals. "12" is a darker heavier song that is the closest resembling to the epic black-doom of Dance of December Souls. It's actually a re-recording of a song from that old era called "Black Erotica". I haven't heard the original version, but I assume the original is better for the more brutal metalheads.
The album ends strongly with "Endtime", the darkest heaviest song in the album. It's a little disturbing with strong growls and a haunting guitar riff. That song is definitely much darker than most other death-doom songs I've listened to, and it's more suitable for me in my unhappy present of anguish (NOT that my present is ever unhappy).
Brave Murder Day is, in a word, COLD. Like as cold as those near-Arctic tundra blizzard from earlier, to the point if you end up in that snowstorm, you would feel nothing but the freezing hypothermia in your body that's now in critical sickness. The freezing is an unpleasant sensation, but you would be numb to feel it and that would be much less pleasant. Your body is now empty, you have nothing left to feel, and all you can do is die in the storm. You see what I mean by that metaphor about that album being so dark? If you can't handle the cold darkness like I couldn't when I was younger, stay out of the storm. But if you enjoy all that melancholy, then please stay in. I knew I would have to listen to this album after getting interested in Paradise Lost. Who knows what other bands I might go down their dark paths in the future, like October Tide, Rapture, Swallow the Sun, Opeth, Agalloch... But for now, Katatonia had stirred up a death-doom classic!
Favorites: "Brave", "Murder", "12" (you didn't think I would say "Day", would you?)
Genres: Doom Metal
We interrupt my Horde Death Metal Modern Era challenge journey for a different nice polite review. So please sit down and watch me talk the WORST F***ING ALBUM TO EXIST IN THE WHOLE UNIVERSE!!!!
Much worse than My Dying Bride's "Heroin Chic", much worse than Between the Buried and Me's "The Man Land", much worse than Septicflesh's "Underworld" series... Exterminator's Total Extermination album is a real bag of sh*t that stinks far beyond worse than a skunk with B.O. sleeping in a Rafflesia flower (the largest and smelliest flower, can be found in my country, Malaysia) in a wasteland of garbage and sewage. That's how sucky this album is! I HATE IT!!!
And yes, I know... "Hate" is a strong word. But maybe I should use an even STRONGER word than "hate"!! This is a f***ed attempt to combine all the fast extreme metal genres (black, death, thrash, speed) into a messy stew that furthers proves the old saying, "Too many cooks spoil the broth". Well those "cooks", more like "c*cks", are a bunch of a*****es who can go f*** c**ts with their d*cks!
And if you think I'm gonna hurt their precious little feelings if they find this review, well.... SCR*W THEIR FEELINGS!!! Just like what that serial killer Aileen said, they're an inhuman bunch of f***ing living b****rds and b****es and they got their a**es nuked in the end!
You know how people who don't appreciate metal think it's nothing but highly distorted noise, but that's not true at all? Well that's because they never listened to this d*****bag! The guitar "soloing" is indeed just sh*t that sounds like a chainsaw massacre in a violin orchestra concert. Would you even call that music!? WOULD YOU!?!
And don't even get me started on track 6, "Speed Metal". Fortunately, that crap-track isn't credited for helping pioneer the speed metal sound. It would've given speed metal a bad rap! That's a middle finger for speed metal that can p*ss speed metal fans off. F*** THAT SONG HARD!!!!
Not even the cover artwork can score some points for this garbage. It just looks like an execution happening in a dungeon with that racist Nazi symbol the swastika on the wall! And the drawing is weak as a motherf***er, I can draw so much better when I was in preschool, which by the way, was long before I can even draw. It's not artful, it's just AWFUL AS F*CK!!! The album even sounds like it was recorded in that dungeon, if not one of the so-called "metal warriors"' bedroom!
If you want a conclusion, fine then! This. Is. BULLSH*T!!!! This dirt-wipe of an album is not worth anyone's time, whether you're a metalhead or not! If for some reason, you have a copy of this album on vinyl, cassette, or CD in your old-school metal collection, I highly suggest you either stomp it into pieces, shoot it with a gun if you have one, pour gasoline on it and set it on fire, or throw into a junkyard garbage crusher Lord of the Rings style. As for anyone who has listened it to yet, DON'T F***ING BOTHER!!!!!
Final grade: F--- (triple minus) and an "F--- YOU!!!"
One more time, DO NOT GET THIS SH*TTY ALBUM. PERIOD!!
(heavy panting after all that rude fury, then switches back to polite mode)
And that concludes my nice polite review. Thank you for reading!
Genres: Black Metal 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
Wanna hear what electro-dubstep mutating electro-rap rock from a nu metal sounds like? Look no further to the second full-length remix album from one of the biggest bands of the world! Here you would find remixes of almost every song in the album Living Things, including the greatest hits of the album like "Lost in the Echo" (now with KillSonik), "Powerless" (now with Enferno), and "Until It Breaks" (now with Datsik), and...
ACK, I just turned the first paragraph of this review that's harsh for the greater good into an advertisement! Let's just get the criticism in here; it's all just bleeding 8-bit dancehall 'n' bass that wails a lot, harmful to those with hearing epilepsy. The only great moments of the album are the one new song "A Light That Never Comes (with famous DJ Steve Aoki) and the remix by Linkin Park's album producer in the non-metal era Rick Rubin. But what's really a disaster is, they never remixed "In My Remains". One of my favorite songs of Living Things DOESN'T HAVE A F***ING REMIX!!! For all you metalheads intolerant to music that's strictly EDM, you might wanna avoid a lot of this at all costs....
Favorites (only songs I truly like): "A Light That Never Comes" (both the original and the remix)
At that point in 2012, Linkin Park had quite a problem in their hands. After the showering fanfare in the first half of the 2000s caused by their first two albums of nu metal/rap rock, they tangled themselves up in a plethora of different sounds in Minutes to Midnight, including a few U2-inspired ballads and a laughable political rap, with very little trace of their actual heavier style. A Thousand Suns shows the band joining the rock opera concept album club that includes Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown and My Chemical Romance's Danger Days, and just like that club, they reached for the mainstream stars while falling from rock grace. Then here we are at Living Things, a return to good ol' rap rock with a better balance of rapping and screaming. However, the electronic elements are still there to divide the band's fanbase. Well I didn't mind the electronic elements in their previous album, but let's find out how they turn out in this one...
I gotta admit, there's a decent amount to admire with the better sense for the band to abandon the heavily electronic direction A Thousand Suns would've taken them. It's good that they know to have balance, and they left the rock opera concept album club to continue working on individual themes they last had in Meteora. That was a great move on their part and I respect them for that.
"Lost in the Echo" is the ultimate album opener for a rap rock album. Mike Shinoda performs an incredible rapping verse while the later Chester Bennington performs an aggressive yet melodic chorus, a much better combo than, say, Equilibrium's Renegades. It's not too catchy or as heavy as Hybrid Theory, but definitely more powerful than Minutes to Midnight. "In My Remains" is another memorable track with a mid-tempo beat. "Burn It Down" sounds similar to the previous track and probably should've had a slightly later position in the track listing, but that doesn't matter. That song has Shinoda's best rapping in the album. 3 tracks in, and while not exactly groundbreaking, they're nostalgic highlights that is a step up from anything they have done in their non-metal era. What could go wrong in this album?
After that interesting opening quarter of the album, "Lies Greed Misery" is the worst ever attempt to recreate their earlier nu metal sound. I say it's too heavily electronic for that resurrection attempt! "I’ll Be Gone" lacks anything worth standing out. "Castle of Glass" is OK, but could've been far better. "Victimized" is the closest sounding to the band's nu metal roots and a hint at their heavier next album, but it's constructed as just a lazy sh*t show. The angsty lyrics are just too redundant, and while you can head-bang to the screaming chorus, I would hit my head on the wall to make myself forget that bullsh*t. "Roads Untraveled" is quite a mystery of how Bennington would sing solo in all vocal positions. This wouldn't be bad if he didn't sound so emotionless and sleepy. And if the excellent rapping of Shinoda was around, the song would be leveled up much higher, like a salesman getting demoted to secretary. That's how poorly the album is suffering. However, "Skin to Bone" is a gem that makes up for those forgettable songs with one of the catchiest choruses here, though containing the trite line "ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
"Until It Breaks" has more beautiful glory in the chorus and ending, though the rapping verses are great as well. "Tinfoil" is the experimental prelude to the final track. "Powerless" is a breathtaking ballad that stands out greatly. The most emotional non-metal album ending I've heard since the end of HIM's final album Tears on Tape.
All in all, Living Things is difficult to enjoy at its fullest, and many of their influences that they had in the first two records were replaced with something less heavy and more modern. They tried returning to their earlier form of Hybrid Theory, but they failed miserably to regain the passion in their music and lyrics. Their calmer mature moments and their earlier heavier glory outshine each other in a war where half of each army is slain. Still there are some songs that sound so emotional, including that last track that they should've used Chester's funeral. It's nice for the band to kick up a little more life, but it's not until their next studio album that marks a heavier comeback....
Favorites (the only songs I somewhat or truly enjoy): "Lost in the Echo", "In My Remains", "Burn It Down", "Skin to Bone", "Until It Breaks", "Powerless"
Like many 21st Century metalheads, my metal interest wouldn't have started without Linkin Park, specifically their diamond-selling debut Hybrid Theory and its sequel Meteora. The anger-angst combo stemming from Mike Shinoda's rapping and the late Chester Bennington is what got me hooked. Of course, I've already moved to heavier things, and while their first albums aren't exactly my favorites, they've planted the seed for my interest in bands that I've called favorites, starting with the power metal of DragonForce, then moving on to the modern metal of Trivium and Lamb of God, and currently in the post-/progressive metal of Meshuggah, Isis, and Rosetta. Those two Linkin Park albums really opened my ears to eventually where I am today. However, Minutes to Midnight really let me down in over half of its songs. Most of their nu metal was discarded for cr*ppy U2-ish pop-radio rock. Upon listening to their 4th album A Thousand Suns, I find a few better moments, but they still don't reach greatness...
To put it simply, the album provides 15 tracks of electro-alt-pop-rap-rock. And if you thought there would be a lot from 15 tracks, well... 6 of these tracks are interludes, the same amount as in Reanimation. Two 5ths of the album are interludes!! This leaves only 9 real songs! 9 songs wouldn't be that bad for an album by DragonForce or Isis, two bands that make longer songs, but this is Linkin Park, g****mn it! Most of the interludes are skippable anyway, like who would want robotic versions of famous speeches?
"The Requiem" is pretty good for the opening interlude, sounding like an actual mini-song. Shinoda sings in a pitched-up vocoder a line from a certain near-closing epic that we'll get to soon. "The Radiance" is a pointless interlude, unless you wanna hear a speech by J. Robert Oppenheimer. The real opening song "Burning in the Skies" is a catchy track for the radio that could've easily been a B-side in Minutes to Midnight and/or the "What I've Done" single. This track is actually slightly better executed than that single without ever reaching Killers-level catchiness. Nice one! "Empty Spaces" is a very short pointless interlude with war sound effects. Having curiously waited for a song with Shinoda's rapping anger, "When They Come for Me" is another highlight, completely returning to his true form that was faked in his rap songs in Minutes to Midnight. There's also a bombastic Indian-like percussion as the main beat, and while the song sounds to p*ssed off to be a single, the rap rock/nu metal fans might be most pleased since 10 years before the album's release.
"Robot Boy" continues the catchy radio appeal, but it sounds so bland, structured and sounding like a repetitive boy band. Another interlude "Jornada Del Muerto" (Day of the Dead) does not make anything better. "Waiting for the End" sounds much more optimistic, and I agree with most of the world that this one of the best non-metal tracks and of the album, highlighted by Shinoda doing rapping, but in a great melodic reggae-ish singing kind of way. "Blackout" is the weirdest of the bunch. The instrumentation is almost completely electronic, and Chester's vocals range from rapping to singing to screaming. That's right, the godly screaming of their first two albums! Those vocal styles all sound catchy though. If they added heavy guitars and had Shinoda doing the rapping verses, that would be their old heavier style. The second of the two rapping songs "Wretches and Kings" starts with an unnecessary excerpt Mario Savio's famous "bodies upon the gears" speech, then the song kicks off with a heavy beat and Shinoda's well-done rapping. Bennington sings the chorus more aggressive, and he seems to have adopted an African-like accent that some find annoying or hilarious, but I don't mind that chorus staying in my head for a while. Again, much better than the rap songs in Minutes to Midnight!
"Wisdom, Justice, and Love" is an interlude that I would let slide, because the speech by Martin Luther King Jr. is very historical, but why did the band ruin it with robotic vocal effects?! "Iridescent" is another song that's highly electronic, only this time with more emotional vocals and piano, and I mean some of the best vocals here! And it fits well with the third Transformers movie end credits that it ended up in, an uplifting song compared to "What I've Done" and "New Divide". The 6th and last interlude is a prelude to an almost 6-minute epic, but is it epic though? Sadly, "The Catalyst" is disappointing with barely any climax, just constantly looping an electronic beat. Though that beat and the vocals going strong and fast are good for a hotel stay in your head. And it's a far better closer than the unoriginal acoustic "The Messenger" that's not worth existing.
Despite many flaws and needless interludes, A Thousand Suns contains electronic tones, emotional vocals, and Shinoda's triumphant rapping that pointed the band towards higher hopes of keeping their mainstream streak going. There may be enjoyable memorable moments, but they were still far away from the revolution of Hybrid Theory....
Favorites (the only songs I somewhat or truly enjoy): "Burning in the Skies", "When They Come for Me", "Waiting for the End", "Wretches and Kings", "Iridescent"
Linkin Park has caused adoration and hatred from music fans worldwide. I used to be a Linkin Park super-fan myself when I was like 13, a year before my "real" metal interest. I built my collection with more than just the singles that everyone knows; I collected album tracks and B-sides. They never p*ssed me off...until recently.
When Minutes to Midnight was announced, the band said it would mark their departure from most of their nu metal sound, causing uncertainty from fans. I still appreciate the decent brilliance of both the Hybrid Theory and Meteora albums, but other fans think the latter is straight-up copied. Even the early announcements of their third album are total sh*t-starters when the late Chester Bennington mentioned "a mix of punk, classic rock, and hip-hop standards". That's one way to think of this album, I suppose...
Starting the album is the minute-and-a-half intro "Wake". It builds up slow and steady through promising ambience and a background campfire, but then it soars into alt-rock riffing over dense drumming. A well-done intro that sounds like the prelude to a certain brilliant single... However, this is what get instead as the first real song, "Given Up". It has an edgy punk-ish riff that's pretty cool, along with the unique clapping and key-jingling, both from Brad Delson, but they both don't sound right together as if he's trying to multitask poorly. And as if that wasn't poorly produced enough, Chester's vocals aren't the heavy type I like, more like a whining teenager after having his iPod taken away. All just 3 minutes of misery, except for the interesting moment of Chester's 17-second scream of "MISERYYYYYYY!!!!!!" After that roaring start comes the first ever ballad of the album and by the band, "Leave Out All the Rest". It's all right, but weaker than the previous track. The song shows a bit of the band's U2 influences. Chester sings nice clean vocals over average lyrics. "Bleed It Out" is much worse. Trying to create a "live" soundscape sounds a bit sloppy. Mike Shinoda raps as decently as in the previous albums, but the lyrics are more vulgar and nonsensical. Chester sounds more worn out in his edgy moments, as if that 17-second scream a couple tracks back strained his voice.
Once again following a hard song is another ballad, "Shadow of the Day", with more of their U2 influences. In fact, people have accused this song of being a rip-off of U2's song "With or Without You", and I kinda agree. They slowly build up into a pop rock climax, but it turns out to just be a boring anticlimax. Then the song ends, but not without an ambient prelude to one of Linkin Park's greatest non-metal songs ever... "What I've Done" is heard by practically everyone, especially those who have watched the first Transformers movie up to the end credits. It may sound like plain ol' pop rock, but it's done much better than any other song like that. I have nothing else to say about that beautiful piece. However, "Hands Held High" is something to rudely laugh at. It is the latter of the two rap songs here. Starting with organ and a marching beat like a cheesy march into an 18th/19th Century war, Mike's rapping is once again decent, but the lyrics are inspiring yet too cheesy to take seriously. The ending choir is so LOL-inducing!
After the lightest track of the album comes its heaviest one, "No More Sorrow". A sinister atmospheric intro allows the instruments to build up one by one, leading to a riff as well-done as my favorite type of steak. The lyrics basically graffiti-paint "F*** Bush" on the walls that don't help the poor vocals. However, making up for it is the chorus and instrumentation that is the best of the album. "Valentine’s Day" is where Chester's vocals sound the best, his vulnerable emotion singing nice lyrics that flow over light clean guitar. Then a buildup commences to a rock climax towards the end that might sound a bit cheesy but mostly well-done. "In Between" is another track with Mike taking the lead on the vocals, for the first time trying a clean singing style. However, he sounds so bored, like I am throughout that song. "In Pieces" really stands out, sounding dark and haunting with good vocals by Chester, and Brad's cool rare guitar solo. The final epic "The Little Things Give You Away" was the longest and slowest song by the band at the time with Chester vocals to highlight though sounding a bit annoying. The lyrics are the best here, a nice tribute to victims of Hurricane Katrina. The build-up is a bit bland though, sounding too drawn-out before the solo. However, that solo is worth the wait, and so is the good final part where Shinoda sings the lyrics much better than a couple tracks earlier, with Chester's background wails. What an epic!
Sadly, Minutes to Midnight shows how f***ed up the band had become. They reduced most of their earlier nu metal sound so they wouldn't get slammed for making another similar album in a row, and yet the end result is a pleasant yet sh*tty album. And they were the guys who made Hybrid Theory....
Favorites (the only songs I somewhat or truly enjoy): "Wake", "What I've Done", "No More Sorrow", "Valentine's Day", "In Pieces", "The Little Things Give You Away"
I'm no fan of rap. I'm too metal for rap! Yet I'm so familiar with Linkin Park for almost a decade now. They made waves of success with their coin-flipping hybrid rap/metal sound of the late Chester Bennington singing/screaming and Mike Shinoda rapping, and Shinoda can be quite the MC, far better than most other rappers. Shinoda's rapping skills were shining the most in the remix album Reanimation. They have a middle finger reserved for those who say that rock and hip-hop shouldn't co-exist.
Linkin Park still didn't feel like they had fulfilled their hip-hop/rock fusion vision, but they took things ONE STEP CLOSER with a new project dawning, Collision Course! However, it wasn't Linkin Park's idea to fuse songs by rap legend Jay-Z into their own, nor did Jay-Z come up with the idea by himself. MTV wanted to create the "Ultimate Mash-Up", so they gave Jay-Z the opportunity to do with a mashup album with a group of artist, and it's obviously who he chose... He and Linkin Park recorded their tracks via email exchange for their studio take, then they got together for a live performance of the whole album. The live set is redundant, so let's focus on the studio version...
The 21-minute EP starts with Bennington yelling, "I ordered a Frappuccino, where's my f***ing Frappuccino?!", beginning the "Dirt off Your Shoulder/Lying from You" fusion. The original Jay-Z beat is slowed down with Shinoda rapping his verse. Then Linkin Park's rock/metal music plays as Jay-Z emphasizes the guitar crunch and drums with his verses and chorus. After that, the original "Lying From You" song comes back second verse onwards, busting out those lyrics and music until the end, when the "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" beat returns briefly as Jay-Z shouts "B***H!", laughs with the rest, saying "You're wasting your talent, Randy!" So that first mashup turned out slightly better than the original "Lying From You" song, sounding less annoying and a little more complete, despite the rapping overdose. However, some mashups don't work as well, such as the "Big Pimpin'/Papercut" mashup. It just sounds too odd when the original Jay-Z melody plays throughout with Shinoda rapping over it with none of Linkin Park's rock sound around. You just can't have your cheese and spend it!
"Jigga What/Faint" makes more sense, returning to actually taking both sides of both the music and lyrics. The Jay-Z track blends perfectly with the Linkin Park rock/metal, as the rapping sounds great with the actual drumming and guitar. Jay-Z feels comfortable with this incredible rock crunch/rap beat mix, and so do I. You already heard the "Numb/Encore" mix nearly as many times as the original "Numb" song, being the EP's sole single. That's probably the best mashup here. "Numb" makes everything better!
"This is fun", Shinoda says, which is mostly true, but not so much in "Izzo/In the End". I mean, it is pretty fly, and Shinoda can almost turn you into the Kool-Aid guy, smiling greatly and going "OH YEAH!!", but again they could've used the "In the End" music besides the "Izzo" beat. Another missed opportunity... The ambitious last combination, "Points of Authority/99 Problems/One Step Closer" is a great way to end the EP. However, I still feel a little picky in some places, like when Shinoda awkwardly raps the line, "rap mags try and use my black a**", that he knows is unlike his style. But the nu metal magic of the two LP songs makes up for all that, especially the SHUT UP!! bridge.
This mashup album Collision Course is quite an experiment where the two artists bond well with their collaboration, especially since Shinoda and co. were hip-hop fans from the start. I think MTV mashups work the best when a rock/metal band is involved. A couple mashups might not work well, but the rest of the EP has good entertainment....
Favorites: "Jigga What/Faint", "Numb/Encore", "Points of Authority/99 Problems/One Step Closer"
Genres: Alternative Metal
So by another recommendation, I've checked out this month's feature release, the second Lucid Planet album, and while there are a few other progressive metal albums that have the potential of being the best, Lucid Planet II is still an absolute belter. Why just read? Give it a listen during the reading!
An underrated band from Australia, Lucid Planet play a style of heavy-psych-prog-metal that brings Tool into the minds of their listeners. Before this album, Lucid Planet made a more psychedelic rock debut, and while I haven't listened to that debut, I'm never really a fan of just psychedelia, so I'm not gonna try that one. If the psychedelia is elementally part of a progressive metal sound though, I can't say no to that. The band made an astounding mind-blowing evolution, though a few things seem a bit lumpy.
"Anamnesis", the long 12-minute opening epic, begins with a minute of supernatural-ish ambient music, then the rhythm and vocals kick in. I love the vocals by Luke Turner that have a d*mn lot of melodic expression, in beautiful contrast with the deep riffing from the guitar and bass. You can already hear the versatile genre fusion, heavy-psych-prog-metal with bits of electronic trance, to be enjoyed whether or not you love progressive metal. The name "Anamnesis" can have a few different conceptual meanings of medical history, religion, philosophy, and past recollection. The band has the confidence to move the latter meaning forward as the album goes on. "Entrancement" begins with a more natural ambient intro, using chanting and traditional instrumentation, as if it's an effective shaman mantra to summon a beast of primordial malevolence. As Luke plays the beast, guest vocalist Jade Alice plays the beauty, as the two voices combine for eerie entrancement. Not a lot of complex technicality at all, but still kinda great. Next track "Organic Hard Drive" I really love as it takes a hard trip that slows down before an electronic groove halfway through. It really works!
After a few minute calm-down from the previous track, "Offer" offers a less edgy rush in a new stripped-down offering of peace. Once again, Luke Turner's vocals are great-sounding. The calm dubstep elements work well with the heavy-ish rock/metal sound, probably better than Blindspott. While staying stripped, it still has a climatic powerful crescendo before a beautiful segue into the next track. The very strange yet beautiful "On the Way" shows the vocals by Jade Alice having more harmonic impact before slowing building up to almost a black/folk metal sound that almost makes the song suitable for the North clan, something Lucid Planet had never dared to go before. This aural effect adds to an epic journey with changing textures and sounds. This could very well be suitable for long mountain treks like in the Lord of the Rings movies, and I can feel the tiring side effects even when I'm just sitting down and writing this review, thanks to the strong feeling of movement.
"Digital Ritual" is the modern polar opposite of "Entrancement", sounding much closer to dubstep than before but in glorious light. Symphonic elements build a strange contrast to the surrounding electronic sounds. Then it nicely leads into "Face the Sun" with a modernized Egyptian-like melody you just gotta hear to believe, resuming the old-new contrast of the previous track. At that point, you've already climbed down that Hobbit-like mountain and you're riding a camel in a desert. Then we're leading into the 10-minute grand finale "Zenith", and this Z track is more epic than the A track, know what I mean? This is the right way to close the album, with everything coming together in a glorious revolution. With this conclusion, all these journeys and trips may be over, but there's more to resolve. For now, this is the highest zenith!
Well I hope you've enjoyed this story and album you have transcended through, and while it's not entirely perfect, I would suggest passing it on to many more listeners who would enjoy it. It's up to us where and what the journey would bring....
Favorites: "Anamnesis", "Organic Hard Drive", "On the Way", "Zenith"
Genres: Progressive Metal
Remix albums were once a mainstream artist/band's way of keep their listeners hooked between studio albums, but it can be very rare for metal. A nu/rap metal band who already made a remix album is Limp Bizkit with their album New Old Songs. Elsewhere, a different rivalling band of that style would redefine their sound for credibility in the remixes. They were really hitting their charts with their hip-hop-infused metal sound, but they wanted more respect earned for their hip-hop side...
Linkin Park's Reanimation is a remix album project of 20 tracks; all 12 songs from the Hybrid Theory album, 2 B-sides, a medley, and 5 new interludes. While they still had their fists of alt-metal fury, a number of rappers and DJs were hired to give the sound an edge of dark electronic hip-hop. While I'm not very pleased as a fan of their rock theatrics, I find a few parts of the album more d*mn interesting, once again adding balance to the rap rock torture they're trying to distinguish from. Yes there are many rappers taking over for the remixes, but there are also a few rock/metal singer as well including Korn's Jonathan Davis. I say any non-drastic change is welcome!
The "Opening" hints at a closing remixed epic that we'll talk about when we get there. "Pts.OF.Athrty" (Points of Authority) has been given a more NERD-ish side thanks to Jay Gordon of Orgy. Astounding! "In the End" was remade into "Enth E Nd" by rappers/DJs Kutmasta Kurt and Motion Man, taking it much closer to hip-hop than the original song. Let's stop talking about it there. "[Chali]" is just a pointless voicemail message interlude. I certainly recognize Mike Shinoda as a professional MC, though not a lot of the rap community can, and his MC skills are proven his "Forgotten" remake, "Frgt/10" with rappers Alchemist and Chali 2na, the latter from Jurassic 5. If the original verses and chorus weren't included, I wouldn't the original song there, that's how different the remix is. "P5hng Me A*wy" (Pushing Me Away) adds more beats and scratching, but is redeemed by the bridge sung by Stephen Richards of Taproot. Good highlight, but doesn't do the original song justice. The annoying "Plc.4 Mie Hæd" (A Place for My Head) with Amp Live and Zion is not worth talking about here, let's move on...
"X-Ecutioner Style" is a two-minute medley exclusive to this album, with rappers Sean C, Roc Raida and Black Thought. Besides those new rapping verses, I recognize a few vocal parts from "One Step Closer" (the SHUT UP!! bridge) and "Cure for the Itch" ("Now wasn't that fun? Let's try something else"). Up next, "H! Vltg3" (High Voltage) thumps through hip hop beats and piano notes inspired by a free Dre songs, with vocals performed by Evidence, Pharoahe Monch, and DJ Babu. Sweet highlight, but both the Hybrid Theory B-side and the remix still don't beat the original from the Hybrid Theory EP. Then there's another pointless interlude, "[Riff Raff]", which I thought there was going to be actual riffing but there isn't any. After that, "Wth You" (With You), featuring Aceyalone, adds way more beats and scratching than the original. "Ntr\Mssion" is not as bad as most of the previous interludes, again giving a small hint to the upcoming closing epic.
"Ppr:Kut" (Papercut) adds more twists with a group of rappers that include Cheapshot, Jubacca, Rasco and Planet Asia. The "Runaway" remake "Rnw@y" actually adds more truth to the original, keeping the skyrocketing hooks and primitive melodies of the original to please listeners of the original song. Even the rapping bridge with Backyard Bangers and Phoenix Orion is worth headbanging to. Nice job! "My Dsmbr" is also better than the original "My December", with the otherwise weird hip-hop beats by Mickey P. making it sound more real than just a ballad. Former Sneaker Pimps vocalist Kelli Ali does background vocals in the chorus. Beautiful! "[Stef]" is another a pointless voicemail message interlude. "By_Myslf" (By Myself), produced by Josh Abraham, adds heavier industrial power in the guitars performed by Deftones' Stephen Carpenter, with blazing drum machine insanity. However, the vocals are f***ed up, especially the screams sounding more screechy. "Kyur4 th Ich" is almost the same as the original "Cure for the Itch", other than strange new vocals, so that's kinda lame. The two nearly 6-minute closing remixed epics are by far the best of the entire album, starting with their smash hit "One Step Closer" remade into "1Stp Klosr", with production by The Humble Brothers guest vocals by the aforementioned Korn lead vocalist Jonathan Davis. A great escape from the rappers and MCs from earlier! Further distancing from most of the hip-hop sh*t is what you've all been waiting for, "Krwlng", an epic dramatic revisit of "Crawling", with Staind singer Aaron Lewis, where the beat and brief rapping have earned a greater edge for a crossover with less emphasis on hip-hop. Well done, guys...
So, some of these remixes are well-made, others are kinda ridiculous or just flat-out boring, and some of the instrumentation is unrecognizable from the original. However, Reanimation has taken Linkin Park closer to the rock hall of fame with bands like Radiohead and Flaming Lips, and is the right direction for their next album Meteora....
Favorites: "Pts.OF.Athrty", "P5hng Me A*wy", "H! Vltg3", "Rnw@y", "My Dsmbr", "1Stp Klosr", "Krwlng"
Genres: Alternative Metal
Once upon a time (cheesy opening, I know), 3 high school friends dreamt of starting a famous band. When they graduated, they began their plan to achieve that dream. They hired 3 more members and started a band called Xero, recording a bedroom-produced demo. However, with a name change lack of a record deal, two members left for other projects. Original vocalist Mark Wakefield's replacement, Chester Bennington (RIP) helped revived the band with new chemistry, and their path to fame was only beginning...
So yeah, I'm reviewing the EP Linkin Park released as Hybrid Theory. It's actually part of my own big project involving their discography, so you're gonna see a lot of Linkin Park reviews from me soon. I would've also included the Xero EP, but it's not in the site because that's a demo. The Hybrid Theory EP is a real release though, so let's review!
"Carousel" is a very good way to open both the EP and the band's discography. When Chester's vocals arrive, they really rock along with the instrumentation. A good song for me to like! "Technique" is a very short interlude with not a lot to say, other than having a couple mini-sections. My least favorite part here... Next up, "Step Up" is filled with Mike's rapping, which I actually like in both the verses and chorus, along with the cool guitars and drums. Mike's potential shines there more than any other rapper!
While "And One" is the second song in the EP with Chester's vocals, it is actually the second ever song Linkin Park made with his vocals, first being the then-unknown demo track "Could Have Been". My favorite song in the EP! I love the vocals from both Mike and Chester, the latter especially in the chorus, along with heavy instrumentation.
"High Voltage" is one of my favorite songs with Mike rapping. I'm not lying at all when I say his rapping is perfect, better than any other rapper or rap metal band by far! The vocoder in the chorus ruins its epic vibe, but I don't care. "Part of Me" is the weakest actual song. Chester doesn't sound so great in this song, no matter how hard he tries. At least I can appreciate Mike's anger. After 6 minutes of static, the "Ambient" hidden track shows turntablist Joe Hahn doing a good job solo, but it lacks any redemption value.
The Hybrid Theory EP is very good for a short rap metal release. Sure they would sound much different in the albums to come, but I like the strength of its sound more than I thought I would. My review streak is just starting, but in the meantime, enjoy this EP and the albums that beyond fulfilled a high-school trio of friends' big dream....
Favorites: "Carousel", "And One", "High Voltage"
Genres: Alternative Metal
"WAR!!! DESTROYER!!!" That's what's been going in the first Linkin Park album without producer Rick Rubin and with their earlier metal sound since 2003's Meteora. These ultra-famous rap rockers from California decided to go rogue in a Star Destroyer-like spaceship to shoot missiles at ex-record labels and political rule-makers, equivalent to their rediscovery of savage loud guitars. The Hunting Party can be considered the Rogue One of their global-selling 2000 debut Hybrid Theory. While the electronic synths of their non-metal albums in between are still around, they've regained their earlier pummeling aggression. As the sound attacks, the lyrics defend, working as the band's sword and shield for the fight. Apparently, they were going to make another electronic album like Living Things, but when they decided to go to this furious metal direction, they ditched the electronics, which was the right decision for metalheads like myself.
So what's with all this rage then? Rap metal can be cool (for metalheads who like rap), but this isn't 1999 anymore. As evolution goes on, do you wish to stop and apologize for making a few critics mad? NO!! It's your sound, and while they won't accept it, just go with it so you can please the rest! Fortunately, Linkin Park had done just that. They even had a little more freedom since they self-produced the album. It's not really the highest point, but heaps of copies have been sold, and there are very few lousy songs.
"No control! No surprise!!" Distorted screaming starts the album opener "Keys to the Kingdom". Then the guitars blast off, and what follows is nu metal verses sung/rapped by Mike Shinoda and hardcore choruses screamed by the later Chester Bennington. Back to the basics and then some! "All for Nothing" continues the heavy guitars, but the drums swing slowly for Shinoda's verses of disobedience. As defiant as those verses are, the chorus is sung by Helmet's Page Hamilton (with Bennington's backing shouts) who also does a neat guitar solo. "Guilty All the Same" was pretty much the last ever song I've heard from Linkin Park in my brother's alt-rock/metal footsteps before fading out into my "real" metal interest, and I still love it to this day because of how metal it is! There's a minute-and-a-half intro of dramatic guitar buildup, and in the second half of that intro is a power metal-ish melody similar to Avenged Sevenfold, before Bennington's verses roll in where he really unleashes his rage. There's a rapping bridge, but this is the 3rd track in a row to have rapping, and it could get a bit boring for the heavier metalheads to hear Shinoda rapping in so many songs. How did they prevent that problem? Enter hip-hop legend Rakim who shines with his attack on the industry ("The media, the game, to me you're all the same, you're guilty!"). "The Summoning" is a one-minute static-infused interlude to build tension, waiting for the grenade to explode after the pin is pulled out.
"War" is surprisingly closer sounding to Bad Religion, but the stunning punk attack moves on smoothly. For a two-minute song, guitarist Brad Delson has quite some time to pull a fierce solo with Chester playing rhythm guitar to follow his lead (pun somewhat intended). "Wastelands" continues Shinoda's rapping with "Every phrase a razor blade", to paraphrase one of his verses, as the start-stop guitar is sharpened by electronic ambience. Bennington's choruses timelessly deliver declarations of d*mn discontent. The sonar synth effect from "Numb" returns in "Until It's Gone", opening the song together with a heavy guitar rush as a moody electronic rock piece. The bridge builds up until the bass is dropped and the guitars come back for the final chorus. The cliché-ish lyrics make the track sound a bit like a middle school fight song. "Rebellion" stomps in with a gnarly guitar intro, which along with the background synths, once again give the song a European power metal vibe for a medieval sword war. Assisting the band in the quest is a guest, System of a Down's Daron Malikian performing part of the aforesaid guitar riffing. The song's lyrics speak of anger and urgency, with nothing specific to fight against and just rebelling for the h*ll of it. "Mark the Graves" starts with U2-like atmosphere before they load up the punk pins and needles on the guitars and drums. It's equally naughty and nice, with the lyrics bringing up a scenario of a losing your girlfriend in the wreckage of a bombed city. Those lyrics allow space for deep touching contemplation, and really mark the album's territory.
While the lyrics have been unironic, in "Drawbar" the instrumentation can be considered the opposite. Here we have one more guest, Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, and instead of continuing Linkin Park's rock return, he does not play a single riff or chord, he just provides guitar ambience over a shuffle of piano, synths, and drums in an off-kilter mix. A lame missed opportunity! "Final Masquerade" marks the return of actual guitars, synths, and vocals, through the verses and chorus that carry a mid-tempo hard rock ballad sound. This is basically lyrics of another love affair sung in an epic arena singalong. "A Line in the Sand" is, at 6 and a half minutes long, the longest Linkin Park song, slightly longer than the closing epic of Minutes to Midnight. When I first heard Shinoda's verses, I initially thought it was Page Hamilton again. Anyway, the metal madness continues one more time as the band hop back into their Star Destroyer and bomb the graves of the presidents who did their roles in the World Wars. The intro verse is reprised in the outro, "We laughed at the suns, we laughed at the guns, we laughed at it all," but he just sounds tired. A good rest is needed after that heavy run...
So there you have it, The Hunting Party, the heaviest album by Linkin Park since their nu metal era! Most of the songs are pretty great, but I think some of those could've been done better. The Linkin Park blood still remains within me years after my "real" metal interest took over. Sadly, their metal is gone, and so is Chester Bennington. RIP.....
Favorites: "Keys to the Kingdom", "Guilty All the Same", "War", "Rebellion", "Final Masquerade", "A Line in the Sand"
Genres: Alternative Metal
Once a Japanese Visual Kei/glam rock band, Dir En Grey toned down their earlier imagery and focused on becoming something greater and more modern. Their superb songwriting will surely persuade listeners to enter the Japanese alt-garde metal realm!
Their 7th album Uroboros further establishes the unique genre the band has reinvented, all in emerging triumph. It is an exploration through new territory while staying familiar to earlier fans. They continue to expand on the earlier pop elements but twist it with the metal sound that would dominate this album in sonic talent. And seeing how I can better tolerate both Japanese metal bands and bands in other languages besides English, I should have no problem here...
The album begins with the intro "Sa Bir" with deep drum looping, subterranean synths, cimbalom, bass, and background vocals by lead vocalist Kyo. It is a little risky to open the main action with a 10-minute epic, but "Vinushka" wastes no time getting into the zone with an acoustic intro with soft clean vocals, before crashing into metal riffing and vocal reverb. Dynamic time changes are a stunning addition to this dark gothic-ish tune. Throughout these 10 minutes, the song just walks carefully over a deep pit but keeps staying together thanks to the vocal styles that vary more than Mike Patton. In the middle, you get a killer thrash/death metal section before returning to dark prog-pop from early on, and everything works for a seamless enjoyable experience! "Red Soil" has a bit of Soilwork-like riffing and growls while still having melodic dark pop verses. "Dōkoku to Sarinu" (Gone With Lamentation) can help you identify the vocals from whispering to shrieking in the blink of an eye. They've maintained their harder edge for a few years before this album, living up to their experimental metal motive that was never present in the 90s. "Toguro" (Coil) shows the bass carried out of the bottom of the mix.
"Glass Skin" has a dark ballad vibe closer to some of Dream Theater's ballads. Another standout is warped funk-rocker "Stuck Man" with killer bass. Another great song in that style is "Reiketsu Nariseba" (If I Was Cold Blooded) that blends the jazz and vocals of Mr. Bungle with Schizophrenia-era Sepultura. The elegant layers of "Ware, Yami Tote" (For I Am Darkness) includes Kyo's emotional singing, the breakbeats, and guitars that hook together acoustic and electric.
Before we get to the next track, there are two bonus tracks in the remastered version, the devilish "Hydra -666-" and "Bugaboo Respira", which is an odd prelude to what you were waiting for. But was it worth the wait? "Bugaboo" is as odd as the bonus prelude, but I still like it, and the album's 5-star score remains intact. "Gaika, Chinmoku ga Nemuru Koro" (Paean, the Time When Silence Sleeps) can range from emotional to a rapid headbanger. "Dozing Green" is a further demonstration of the band's sonic talent. "Inconvenient Ideal" is a ballad that seems like an inconvenient way to end the album, but I digress.
I don't know what else to say about Uroboros, other than... Get it right f***ing now! If you enjoy this alt-garde metal kind of style, this would get you hooked, otherwise you would be better off elsewhere. Dir En Grey have made one of the proudest achievements in the history of metal!
Favorites: "Vinushka", "Dōkoku to Sarinu", "Stuck Man", "Reiketsu Nariseba", "Ware, Yami Tote", "Gaika, Chinmoku ga Nemuru Koro", "Dozing Green"
Genres: Alternative Metal Avant-Garde Metal Progressive Metal
I think it's clear what an important metal album this is, and an instant favorite of mine! This is actually my first taste of Virgin Steele, though I first heard vocalist David DeFeis in a few tracks from two "Metal Opera" projects Avantasia and Avalon. Pardon me if I sound like a brown-nosing fanboy in this review, though I'm trying not to be...
This is a much better album that I consider the superb sequel, in a similar vein to the second installments of movie franchises like Terminator, Alien, and the first Star Wars trilogy. While I just gave the incredible Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part II a listen, I have not yet done the same to Part I so I won't say much about that first part. Part II brushes aside anything that's too straight and expands on a wide epic power metal canvas, with stunning lyrics, incredible music, and the excellent majesty of production.
"A Symphony of Steele" proves it all in burning headbanging perfection. Then they think even further in the progressive field of "Crown of Glory" that'll have your jaw dropping in awe. "From Chaos to Creation" is very interesting for an interlude, basically a short epic power metal instrumental. It's best to listen not by itself but as a nice contributing transition... An excellent crushing metal tune is "Twilight of the Gods" that showcases their Helloween/Blind Guardian influences. "Rising Unchained" spiritually continues the calm yet chaotic line of the previous songs in the band's excellent symmetry, with great lyrics to love ("Don’t cry for mercy, for you know there will be none").
"Transfiguration" once again proves what a professional DeFeis. Even at this ballad stage, there's never a dull moment, but instead something special in every bite. Then at the center is "Prometheus the Fallen One", an epic piece of metal art! However, just when you thought they've reached their height of glory there, "Emalaith" shows the finest times of Virgin Steele. The masterful character and dynamic drama would leave you stunned. A true symphonic power metal opera track! "Strawgirl" is another power ballad.
Inspired by Judas Priest, "Devil/Angel" is straight on the heavy riffs while having catchy excellence. While not too sophisticated, an electric aura of magnificent passion lights up the direct riffs and extraordinary leads. DeFeis' vocals in the chorus sound simple yet superb. A fantastic song to love before the rest... "Unholy Water" is commercial-sounding, but the quality stays high. You'll definitely be raising your fists to the victorious "Victory is Mine". Finally, the title outro isn't as good as the other interlude, but ends the album well on a solid tone, like part of the end credits for a movie.
Some might think it would be better to listen to both parts together to open greater context, and probably the album after this one as well, but having just listened to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part II alone, there's a lot to praise. Every song has at least one perfect aspect, with amazing vocals and motifs. This is incredible mastery Virgin Steele has gained. Any fan of heavy/power metal should give this essential album a listen and add to their collection!
Favorites: "A Symphony of Steele", "Crown of Glory", "Rising Unchained", "Prometheus the Fallen One", "Emalaith", "Devil/Angel", "Victory is Mine"
Genres: Heavy Metal Power Metal
Oh man... I was wrong about my assumption about Transcendence being a stronger more powerful album than their self-titled debut. This is a true heavy metal classic! While elsewhere, people may claim that Transcendence is Crimson Glory's finest work, they may be right, but for me, their debut also remains on top and is practically competing with Transcendence for the reign of greatness.
This may be an opinion that might have metalheads from the early half of the 80s yell "Off with his head!!", but this album shows how well Crimson Glory has developed the classic heavy metal in that decade, almost knocking off the reign of the more overrated bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. The riffs shoot like lightning bolts and the vocals come from the voice of a dragon with every falsetto creating a fireball, both of which burn human lands until they're cooked and ready to be devoured. A cheesy power metal-like scenario, but that dragon may f***ing rule! In fact, I'm sure a significant amount of power/progressive metal bands wouldn't have existed without Crimson Glory...
Similarly titled to the first real song by another band Dark Moor, "Valhalla" is an opening track that rivals the openers of some of the albums by Maiden and Priest in the 80s, and I'm not f***ing lying! The chords and harmonies in the intro sends you through a h*lla heavy yet melodic metal frenzy. Next track "Dragon Lady" takes their Iron Maiden influences to a more upbeat level with some prog-ish twists inspired by Black Widow. I just love how the guitar tone and riffing make a catchy match. I enjoy this track and the band's many capabilities on display. "Heart of Steel" is a better example of how epic and grand the chorus can sound. Once again, the impressive vocals by the late Midnight (RIP) add the band's well-known celestial atmosphere.
His stupendous vocal range shines again in "Azrael", especially the ear-piercing scream of "ANGEL OF MERCY!!!" in the chorus. "Mayday" is the heaviest song here, but why the f***ing h*ll wouldn't you love a song like that!? Halford and Dickinson would look up to the heavens where Midnight resides now and give him a thumbs-up. Absolutely perfect vocals that deserves praise from any metalhead that can hear properly or improperly. This is also evident in "Queen Of The Masquerade", specifically the chorus that is must-hear in the metal community.
The ultra-catchy highlight "Angels of War" shows more greatness in the solo and chorus. The Iron Maiden-inspired melodies show up a lot with strong guitar duels, all being as good as what a veteran metalhead would think of Iron Maiden without ripping that band off. Ain't that amazing? H*ll yes!! I also love "Lost Reflection", which is mostly a ballad except for a kick-a** metal section near the end. A d*mn good turnaround to end an outstanding album! Besides the reissue bonus track "Dream Dancer" of course...
I was once a lover of power metal bands like Rhapsody of Fire and DragonForce, and I feel a little like a sh*tty a** for waiting until now before getting to this band that has made a great classic that would inspire those newer bands. This is where a new saga of classic heavy metal began, with this essential album of Crimson Glory!
Favorites: "Valhalla", "Heart of Steel", "Mayday", "Angels of War", "Lost Reflection"
Genres: Heavy Metal
Anyone who has known my Metal Academy time well knows how much I enjoy progressive tech-thrash like Vektor and the late 80s Voivod, and my great attempt to move out of death metal, standing clear from even the cosmic spacey bands in that genre like Gorguts and Blood Incantation. And yet here I am, diving into a hybrid of the two most techy-space-prog sides of those metal genres, combining riffing energy with f***ed up yet foreboding atmosphere. Welcome to the Cryptic Shift!
I've never been fully aware of this band until now, so I might definitely be up to listening to their Beyond the Celestial Realms EP sometime after this review. I sure would wanna hear more of this spacey imagination without it being just a generic stretch. This is where their next release kicks in, their unforgettable full-length debut Visitations from Enceladus! They have reached the quantum air very few bands still have to this day. This is basically a spacey night after a fantasy-ish day of the Guardians albums I have reviewed a few days before this one.
The greatest focus you need to have on this album is during the 26-minute opener "Moonbelt Immolator"! It's a good work of art. No, correct that, it's an INCREDIBLE work of art with dense complexity cycles through intense technical thrash riffing, extensive soloing, atmospheric passages as slow as death-doom, and prog sections throughout all these movements in the song. Not even Dream Theater could open an album with an ambitious track that long, but Cryptic Shift take it to incredible heights. The prog-tech melodeath rolls on in "(Petrified in the) Hypogean Gaol", especially in the climatic second half, along with frantic bass.
Another example to deathly riff-wrath is in "The Arctic Chasm" that might remind some of Gorguts, bringing in killer dissonance. It really strikes through the heart of listeners until they bleed it all out! However, what strikes me even more is the final track "Planetary Hypnosis", where Cryptic Shift really possess their songwriting, earning yet another killer climax to end this album.
Visitations from Enceladus is quite different from any other spacey tech-thrash/prog-death album or band, and I mean in a grand unique way. Where would this album take Cryptic Shift on their journey? No idea, but most likely a promising path. Their immense talents have pretty much made this album a contender for best album of 2020!
Favorites: "Moonbelt Immolator", "(Petrified in the) Hypogean Gaol" (though the other two are awesome as well)
Genres: Death Metal Thrash Metal
Crimson Glory is another band I've heard of a long time ago but wasn't fully interested back then, that one because I didn't have the guts to go down the 80s road...until of course recently. Once again my 80s standard heavy metal interest has skyrocketed with a h*lla d*mn iconic classic to knock off the reign of more popular bands at that time like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Even the artwork is perfect (based on poster art for the movie Lifeforce), despite bizarrely having a bit of nudity.
See the thing about sophomore albums is similar to that of sequel movies. Some fail to be (band - Prayer for Cleansing, film series - Sky High), others aren't as well-received as the debut (band - Disillusion, film series - Mission Impossible), but Crimson Glory's second album is what many people think of the film Daddy's Home 2; more successful than the debut! Transcendence has surpassed pretty much every expectation, and it's probably way more intensely powerful than their debut. I would have to listen to their debut to truly confirm that, but we've already come to this album, so let's get right on it!
The epic fist-pumper "Lady of Winter" starts the journey greatly. The late Midnight (RIP) screams amazing falsetto in the chorus, "LAAADY OF WINTEEER, TUUURNING TO RAAAIN!!". There's also a f***ing catchy opening guitar melody that makes the song instantly a classic from the start. So d*mn addictive that song! The frantic "Red Sharks" shows a more abrasive side while still mostly melodic. "Painted Skies" is a kind song to listen to, an absolutely fine ballad without any unbearable cheesiness.
"Masque of the Red Death" is more mid-paced in a standard heavy metal technique, but its twists help the song and the band stand out. A true prime cut is "In Dark Places". The lyrics are a bit cheesy, but the song is still an excellent highlight. Another prime cut but in a more straight-up sound of heavy metal is "Where Dragons Rule" which has a catchy chorus with an amazing riff. I think I love this one as much DragonForce's "Where Dragons Rule". Dragons rule! Unicorns suck!! "Lonely" adds a more melancholic touch, along with a smashing solo. That ballad once again touches the softer territory of the ballads made by Maiden, Priest, and Queensrÿche.
"Burning Bridges" stretches around with inventive arrangement. The killer riffing in "Eternal World" works out just fine. The soft yet epic closing title track starts off sounding almost oriental in both the electric intro and the acoustic rhythms shortly after. It's really interesting as h*ll, and I can definitely listen to this a second time for a bit of growth. Golden riffs and harmonic leads are what make the amazingness of this classic style of heavy metal!
Anyone who has listened to the more popular classic heavy metal bands like the 3 I mentioned above (Maiden, Priest, and Queensrÿche) and lived under a metal-free rock since 1987 should get out of there and get this album right away. Simply a f***ing classic to be owned by every heavy metal fan!
Favorites: "Lady of Winter", "Masque of the Read Death", "In Dark Places", "Where Dragons Rule", "Transcendence"
Genres: Heavy Metal
I have heard of Lost Horizon since my earlier epic metal taste 7 years ago, but wasn't that interested back then because they made only two albums in the early 2000s and have been nearly inactive ever since. Of course now that I can tolerate poor amount of band's activity even more, I'm definitely up to giving this album a listen and hearing what I might have missed in my earlier power metal age, and boy do I regret not coming here sooner!
Lost Horizon continued with one more graceful full album, standing out despite a few changes. They have their usual philosophical sense of individuality, but in this album, those anthems that spread messages are much less individual...
"Transdimensional Revelation" begins the album with cosmic effect that fits well with the cover art, which isn't too bad and has a David Bowie kind of vibe in the art concept. "Pure" is a very notable start to the power metal action, in which the apparent change range in contrast to the debut is moderate. The song is upbeat with memorable guitar riffing and riveting vocals. "Lost in the Depths of Me" is an over 8-minute epic that changes a lot.
"Again Will the Fire Burn" is shorter and simpler in structure. That and the lyrics could've been done earlier in their debut, struggling for ultimate victory against a cult. Heartful vocal passion and fine leads level up that song. The instrumental "Song of the Earth" can almost be a highlight, the perfect calm before another song storm... Another one of the most powerful songs here, "Cry of a Restless Soul" can really get you pumped up for 8 minutes. Once again moderate in length, "Think Not Forever" adds more drama to the tempo and thought-provoking lyrical scenes.
The superb epic "Highlander (The One)" takes its title from the original band name, and is their longest track at almost 12 minutes. Let's set aside the Highlander memes and talk about the actual song! The song's concept varies through operatic renaissance added alongside the heavier sections, with a different contrast from each category. This normally power metal act has formed a hybrid as complex as prog metal! So glorious!! "Deliverance" is the Pink Floyd-like space-dreamy end of this incredible journey.
In conclusion, this is an amazing album of thought and inspiration, though it would be the band's last album before vanishing into unknown uncertainty. Will we hear more from them in the future? I hope so... Heroes of the traditional power metal fanbase that I've strayed from for the most part, heads up high for this epic glory!
Favorites: "Pure", "Lost in the Depths of Me", "Again Will the Fire Burn", "Cry of a Restless Soul", "Highlander (The One)"
Genres: Power Metal
Whatever "It" is, you definitely don't wanna let it take everything from you. At least keep your computer and music safe. This album is not to be missed if you want some of the best Deftones-inspired metalcore around...
Yep, I said "Deftones-inspired metalcore"! That's the kind of reputation British band Loathe have, and while it's not bad in any way, there's much more than that. Emotional melodies are enveloped in an ambient soundscape that lets in growls and riffs of chaotic fury. The growing concept in I Let It In And It Took Everything has terrific effect. Loathe's diverse sound continues exploring a dissonant yet thoughtful landscape.
An intro to an ambient metalcore album might seem like filler, but the album's opening "Theme" integrates sci-fi emotion to the mood. "Aggressive Evolution" continues the aggressive frenzy apparently found in their debut The Cold Sun, but evolves it further into a new stage. Propelling into an angry punk-ish attitude, "Broken Vision Rhythm" brings solid riffs and breakdowns, disorganized into frantic syncopation. That's more killer metalcore than Norma Jean and Today is the Day combined! However, if you want softer calmer alt-rock than Radiohead and the 1975 combined, look no further to "Two-Way Mirror". The most "easy-listening" song by the band, its otherwise mundane radio-song structure is helped by melodies that are beaten up by extensive rhythm aggression. "451 Days" transitions so well from the previous track as an interlude.
"New Faces In The Dark" once again projects visceral noise and blazing speed into the band's clear progression. Decimating down-tuned riffing synergy fits with the spectral melodies they integrate, creating a murky line between serene atmosphere and caustic extremity. "Red Room" is short but so is the Merzbow-like fuse that ignites from keyboard ambience to hardcore noise. Putting alt-metal riffing at center is "Screaming" which lives up to its name in the chorus. Soothing vocals in "Is It Really You?" play through tightly settled synths that sound clearly inspired by Deftones' Gore. This brings the effect of blissful romance in the otherworldly astral plane.
Loathe's strong vision cuts right into "Gored" with thoughtful diversity. Dissonant guitar intensity chugs through an addictive beat, locking in some of the most killer drums and bass in metalcore in a decade. Battering through heavy synchronization until a drone doom ending, the song is compellingly dynamic, and the ambition really stands out. "Heavy Is the Head That Falls with the Weight of a Thousand Thoughts" is a f***ing killer track that starts with black metal hatred blending early Enslaved with Deafheaven, before the usual alt-metalcore riff stomp. Loathe keeps twisting things up with technical-ish grooves with dynamic drama that are rare to happen in any other song. "A Sad Cartoon" returns to the 90s soft ambient indie rock in the leads before colliding with tasty breakdowns with versatility you never see coming, all in false heavenly security. Its "Reprise" lives up to textured fields instead of just sonic space. The title closer has the band's last victory as an ultimate anthem of violence and melody.
I Let It In And It Took Everything is probably the greatest metalcore album in the first couple months of 2020, released shortly before the virus started ruining everything. The band really pushes their heavy boundaries into a new stylistic adventure. With that and their raw intense writing, Loathe shall never be loathed!
Favorites: "Broken Vision Rhythm", "Two-Way Mirror", "New Faces In The Dark", "Is It Really You?", "Gored", "Heavy Is the Head That Falls with the Weight of a Thousand Thoughts", "I Let It In And It Took Everything"
Genres: Alternative Metal Metalcore
This is the only death metal album rating and review I'm gonna keep. I promised myself I would stop listening to death metal and avoid it at all costs, but I felt like giving myself an exception. I mean, it is quite understandable, right? Y'know, when a band you've heard for a few years has ended, followed a year later by the tragic passing of their guitarist/vocalist during a new project. You probably know how I felt...
Legendary melodeath band Children of Bodom split up when half of the band left, taking the rights to the name with them, so guitarist/vocalist Alexi Laiho formed a new band Bodom After Midnight. Sadly he passed away at the end of 2020, leaving behind a few songs for an upcoming album. The rest of the band released those 3 songs as an EP, and ended the project, knowing that this was Laiho's project and continuing under its name would put them in the same legal trouble he almost had over the name rights of Children of Bodom. As a tribute to their fallen leader, Paint the Sky With Blood does great justice to his absolutely astonishing career that's now gone too soon.
Beginning this 15-minute offering of melodeath entertainment, the title track has epic melody. Fast riffs and powerful rhythms battle against neo-classical solos and fun keyboards. Alexi Laiho has vocal charisma, especially in the catchy chorus supported by gang vocal fury. This is very well the best song he has ever written in his career, absolutely hungry for the epic fury he hadn't had for 20 years. The song does indeed sound fitting for that early era of Children of Bodom.
The second track is probably the least strong and most brutally lyrical of the EP, "Payback's a B***h". It starts with heavy breathing, then energetic rhythms, furious riffs, and relentless reckless vocals kick in. There's less catchiness but more brutal atmosphere that sounds fitting for the later part of Children of Bodom's middle era 10 years ago.
The EP ends with an excellent Dissection cover, "Where Dead Angels Lie", the longest song in the whole Bodom band universe, just a few seconds longer than "The Nail" from the 1997 Children of Bodom debut Something Wild. The sinister atmosphere and melody remain while adapting into the EP's impressive technical melodeath. The song has a slower pace than the other two, but it will keep you interesting throughout these 6 and a half minutes. The original Dissection song has been appreciated by melodic black-death fans. Two melodeath-ish bands, both split up, each with their guitarist/vocalist passing away shortly after.
At the end of it all, Bodom After Midnight have made their only studio appearance with Paint the Sky With Blood, an excellent swansong EP for the melodeath mastermind Alexi Laiho. I highly recommend this timeless piece of melodeath for fans of the genre who want to preserve it for many generations. RIP Alexi and Bodom....
Favorites: "Paint the Sky With Blood", "Where Dead Angels Lie"
Genres: Death Metal
Wow... I didn't expect this to be so amazing! This album was quite a leap for doom metal 20 years before this review. Originally known as an ambient blackened death-doom kind of band, Dolorian kept up their unique doom inventory by reducing the blackness they apparently once had and adding a more gothic sound with ambient and industrial elements. Those new elements are more prominent in the shorter interludes with the lonely atmosphere of an empty wasteland. Their earlier material had screaming vocals for lyrics, but their self-titled album has almost none of those. They sound much closer to haunting whispers in this perfect blend. The keyboards have more background presence to fill the empty room of this music. There are both quiet and heavy guitars, the former to draw out your courage and the latter to drag you into a helpless Hell. Those bright tones and dark tones in the guitars really unite for sorrow to embrace the depression.
I guess not everything is new for longtime fans hearing the band's usual somber emotion. However, the frustration is out and the depression is in to dig down to the deepest gray. Or you can think of it in this scenario; you're lost in this grey world of colorless darkness, and you end up in desolated factory ruins with no else around except strange shadows that can be seen but not sensed in any of the other human senses. So basically you're along in this world of cold misery with no escape unless to the afterlife, if you know what I mean. To stay alive in the album's beauty and sorrow, you have no choice but to accept the misery. Be strong! Hold back those tears... And maybe your misery would turn to joy and you would find more meaning in this bleak life. All torment can be silenced and you would be able to smile in this dwelling depression.
"Grey Rain" is the opening intro that has low keyboard ambience along with slight industrial metal, especially when the guitars echo simplistic notes. Before it advances to the first actual song, you get to hear a couple, and I mean a COUPLE, undecipherable whispered lyrics. You can't figure out what they say, but those thoughts just echo into your mind. Without pausing a beat, "Blue Unknown" floats away from the soft ambience into a heavier sound. The guitars burst in then go slow and steady, heavy yet melodic. The industrial noises are gone, but there are the strategic screams that are rare here. Of course there are also those haunting whispers that add emotional despair to the sound. The mostly unclear lyrics are about the merciless lonely journey you are in, as you're dragged down into the unknown void. The most chaotic song here, they might just have the last bit of their earlier blackened bleakness. You try to escape the void but you keep being dragged down into the horror. You end getting curled into a ball with too much pressure in the head, inducing tormenting pain as you're taken down further. "Hidden/Rising" continues the journey in slower heavier gloom as the music floats around aimlessly. The guitars range from minimalistic brightness to darkness. The keyboards are still in the background but the whispers are now in the slightly clearer foreground. However, the guitars some more distant in those parts. The music pushes on with more courage and hope. You hear about the pain in the journey so far, but discover faint hope within the depression for you to overcome the longing desire and be the stronger man. You are at a higher state of mind to beat those challenges now...
"Cold/Colourless" has an even greater balance of heavy and dreamy. The dark and bright guitars come together like a high school dance, but instead of dancing happily, they dance in the dark with no lights and no else around. Industrial keyboards follow the guitars that float around. The music is straight and slow with a bit of chaos. The vocals are whispered again to the point where they sound half-spoken, all lonely in this empty space to fit in with the less clear lyrics, which see you floating alone with no one to keep you company. The song is mainly melancholic with slight joy. You're back in the deep sea of sorrow with lack of strength from the sadness. You may be alone, but nothing will harm you. "Nails" floats nicely back into the ambient interlude section, and I mean pure ambience with no guitars or drums in sight. Like other interludes, it's short, and the keyboard effects are a nice break from the metallic doom of other tracks. Crackling noises can be heard like rats running in the factory ruins. The vocals are the same as the intro and even also has a short amount of lyrics where you're still stuck in this cold lonely world but apparently, someone is forcing other people to stay out so you can be alone. Even though you agree that other people are a pain, you feel cold without them. Life is not easy... "Numb Lava" starts with a heavier intro than before. In fact, this track is much heavier compared to the others in the album. Bright and dark guitars collide to give the riffing harsher weight. They set the cold oil of previous tracks ablaze, creating scorching fire spreading for eternity, with a few attempts to rain out the fire for the lonely emptiness to shine. No joy is present, only painful anguish found in their debut. The lyrics take you back to the beginning void but drag you deeper into a hellish labyrinth where finding the exit is difficult unless you can handle the tolling pain.
"Ambiguous Ambivalence" might have clues for the exit. The track has only industrial-sounding ambience that once again takes a break from the usual metallic doom for echoes of rain and machinery. The pain in the emotion is washed away, but filling its place is the hard emptiness that is stronger than before with no other emotions around. The journey is almost ending, but can you live to tell the tale? "Seclusion" has much fewer guitar sections than the other heavy tracks with more minimalistic drums as the atmosphere goes down to the deep end. The harsh guitars can barely be found, but when you can find them kicking in their last heavy strength. Despite the dreaminess, the keyboards are rare as well, but they howl like a machine in haunting emptiness. The journey drifts farther from the fading harsh guitars into a brighter part that is depressing but has a sign of joy. The tale told here is about how separation can be normal (especially now during the virus), yet it's for the best. You prefer to think more emotionlessly, and you do that by separating from your inner self. You have conquered the hard depression of your mind and became a higher supreme form. "Faces" ends the last minute of the album with slight whispers and bright tingling in a calm ambient soundscape, all quiet and empty, having floated away from the horrid agony you've been through.
So now the torment is over. You have travelled through the torture, and as a reward, you've realized what an incredible journey this was, something that I realized as well. You're now back in your chair sitting down, having just listened to that fadeout, and you can sigh in relief. This album might drag you through depression and pain, but in the end, you have an ambient gothic doom masterpiece in your hands. There's nothing to be scared of, as long as you return with a smile!
Favorites: "Blue Unknown", "Hidden/Rising", "Cold/Colourless", "Numb Lava", "Seclusion" (basically all the non-interlude tracks)
Genres: Doom Metal
Today is the day, a very special day... It's my time to try a bit of experimental noise-metal with Today is the Day! I tried reviewing one of their other albums that was an Infinite feature release, but I bailed out because it was too much for me. So let's find out how I'm gonna handle this one...
The 1997 Today is the Day release, Temple of the Morning Star has been known as a noise metal classic, and for its 20th anniversary in 2017, a deluxe reissue was released to include a bonus CD filled with demos and a live concert from the original release year that was released in 2007 but remastered for the album's reissue. It might seem amazing, but if I can stand the noise-ridden music in the original album, maybe then I'll proceed to those rarities. (spoiler alert: I didn't)
The opening acoustic intro starts the album in nihilistic nature ("I am slowly dying, I can’t be what you want me to be, I am dead") to summarize the views of lyricist/founder Steve Austin (not to be confused with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin). A pleasant acoustic start before the cathartic start of the sound that inspires metal acts like Converge and Thou. After that acoustic intro is a sample of Waylon Jennings' "Good-Hearted Woman", then the screaming chaos of "The Man Who Loves to Hurt Himself" starts to frighten those who aren't prepared. "Blindspot" sounds more repetitive in the riffing, but the sirens almost make the chorus sound like Pac-Man. The dark sludge to appear in later albums is hinted in "High as the Sky". My favorite track in the album is "Miracle". It's short but it sums up everything the band has from anger to doom.
The lyrics in the album are far too direct, especially in "Kill Yourself", when he gives clear instructions to take a blade and cut through the wrists, neck, thighs, heart, etc. ("Why hold back!? Kill Yourself!!! Take a blade!! Do it fast!! Do it clean!!!") No thanks! I got a lot to live for and I don't wanna waste my life by bleeding to death. A more experimental sound can be heard in "Mankind". The minimalistic noise rock of their earlier albums returns in "Pinnacle". More of the astounding noise layers come in "Crutch", keeping up the break from the emotional melody before the next track. "Root of All Evil" is a more melodic song in contrast to most of the songs so far, but before the heavier listeners could call it "filler", the powerful crescendo is still in possession. "Satan is Alive" has far more Satanic experimentation than reversed messages. Maybe playing it backwards would summon Satan itself, but do I dare to? NAH...
"Rabid Lassie" continues the melodic groove while still having rabid experimentation. "Friend for Life" is a pointless half-minute acoustic interlude that I want banned for life. Austin does a bit of clean singing in "My Life With You" (while still screaming), a tale of disappointment and demise of his ex-relationship. "I See You" can kinda be a sequel to that previous track, where he ends up seeing his ex in his dreams. We come near the end with the 8-minute doom epic "Hermaphrodite". The ending electric outro ends the album similarly to how it began, but of course more electric and tuned up a semitone. Technically the original album ends after a hidden cover of "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath".
Here's a bit of listening advice; play the album as loud as you can, but only in a soundproof room where no one can accuse you of "disturbing the peace". The only distortion you wanna hear is that of the guitars and not the production quality. The band has aced their sound but I still don't feel ready for more of that noise. Maybe some other day....
Favorites: "Temple of the Morning Star" (both versions), "The Man Who Loves to Hurt Himself", "Miracle", "Root of All Evil", "My Life with You", "Hermaphrodite", "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" (hidden Black Sabbath cover)
Genres: Avant-Garde Metal
Jesu is a band formed by Justin Broadrick that was active during his decade-long breakup of his main band Godflesh. The name is spelled like "Jesus" but without the second S, and pronounced "yay-zoo", like when you say "Hey kids, we're going to the zoo!" and your kids are like "YAY, ZOO!!!" I decided to give this EP I requested to add to the site a listen to see if I'm up to completing my post-sludge elemental star. Probably not at the moment, but never say never...
Fans of Justin's work pretty much fell in love with Jesu's 2004 self-titled debut and were glad to hear him still in action. In an attempt to match its greatness, he continued the project with the EP Silver. This really does seem closer to post-sludge than the drone of their debut, but it still has the band has to offer.
Off in a good start is the title track that marks the beginning of what the sound has; electronic ambient sludge instead of drone. A good but not too shocking opener. "Star" is an upbeat alt-like shocker. Jesu fans might have trouble digesting it, but it's all good once you get used to it. The second half is where things slow down to the drone style of their debut album and EP. "Wolves" is good, though sounds closer to the drone of their debut. The last track, "Dead Eyes" discards most of the guitar heaviness for synths, thereby being the EP's black synth sheep. I really like this song because of the well-placed synth-ambience, so it's my black synth sheep of favorite songs...
There are two bonus tracks in the Japanese release, which are original mixes of "Silver" and "Wolves", but seeing how the EP versions are the slightly lower quality half, I'll skip those two bonuses. Despite that, I really enjoy Silver, and how can a band not have even the slightest complaint, right? JK Broadrick has still got it!
Favorites: "Star", "Dead Eyes"
Shadow Work is known as the swansong album for Warrel Dane, who suffered a fatal heart attack while recording. He was one of the best singers in metal, and now we get to experience his last ever material. Despite being incomplete, this album is incredible! All fans of Nevermore and the recent Sanctuary should enjoy this twisted darkness.
This album was released 10 years after Praises to the War Machine, when he still had the light of Nevermore while using less of that band's virtuosic technicality. Shadow Work is so heavy and impressive, and he recorded the album in Brazil with a local band. I'm guessing those two guitarists Johnny Moraes and Thiago Oliveira were trained by Jeff Loomis before recording with Warrel Dane. The riffing balance between heavy and melodic sure has been inspired by Nevermore.
High-quality ethnic sounds perfectly fill the overture "Ethereal Blessing". Then the intense "Madame Satan" starts the extreme action in a bang. "Disconnection System" is closer sounding to the second Nevermore album The Politics of Ecstasy, even recycling some lyrics from that album. The best song to sample before the rest!
"As Fast as the Others" is ironically not as the title says, but it does have an arena rock vibe. The title track distinguishes the album from its atmosphere with its killer heaviness that make the song a highlight. The intro to their cover of The Cure's "The Hanging Garden" is probably the darkest and most extreme section of any song Warrel Dane had worked on. The guitar stays both vicious and atmospheric with a few unexpected twists, as Dane's melodic vocal emotion shines over prog-death instrumentation.
The ballad "Rain" is more accessible while still gloomy. "Mother is the Word for God" is the epic closer with all his vocals heard for the final time, from snarling to whispering. All that's missing is his falsetto from the earlier Sanctuary, but he has worn it out. This really echoes the title epic of Nevermore's This Godless Endeavor without copying.
In the beginning of this review, I mentioned that this album is incomplete, right? Yeah it was supposed to be almost twice as long, near the 80-minute CD time limit, but after Dane's passing, they used the songs he completed and thus came Shadow Work. Those recordings were made possible thanks to Dane's band and the last of his emotional vocal drama. It might seem a little rough on the edges, but this is the best album for his singing at the very end of his over 3-decade career. Thank you, Warrel Dane..... RIP
Favorites: "Madame Satan", "Disconnection System", "Shadow Work", "Mother is the Word for God"
Genres: Progressive Metal
Whether living your life personally or professionally, you are bound to reconsider and change your path. Man's best creative achievements include artistic experimentation and renewal. Our evolution is much different from that of other creatures, with tons of changes that define who we are. After the fall of the somewhat unknown Distillator, this Dutch trio of metallers (vocalist/guitarist Laurens Houvast, bassist Frank te Riet, and drummer Marco Prij) did what the creators of Phineas and Ferb did after their show ended; start a new one! This time, they altered the thrash destruction of Distillator and took it a step forward into a futuristic progressive style to create... Bionic Swarm!
Meanwhile, American prog-thrashers Vektor reformed with a slightly different style, and both bands' changes were first exhibited in their split album Transmissions of Chaos. With the first Cryptosis album Bionic Swarm, there are a few things different from the usual thrash including Frank's mellotron synths creating ethereal ambience for the futuristic concept. This progressive thrash approach includes hardcore/death metal overtones surrounded by symphonics.
An ambient "Overture 2149" sets up the mood needed for the album. Then "Decypher" begins the prog-thrash action in a perfect blast, welcoming fans to the band's new cycle of creativity as probably one of the best songs of the album. The perfect blend of fury and harmony is mixed together with futuristic textures that stand as the concept. The interesting dynamics and rhythms bridge together the band's influences from Vektor, Coroner, and Megadeth. Despite the prog-thrash approach for the album, there's the simple verse-chorus structure that fits well as the sun of the solar system of all those elements. This minor detail serves as a stabilizing counterbalance for the technicality and progressiveness. The Megadeth-like riffing continues in "Death Technology".
"Prospect of Immortality" is more atmospheric, and what's unique compared to the other songs is, the guitar leads and solos take a break from technical simplicity to match the splendor of the other elements. "Transcendence" has a chorus that very well screams out the band's Vektor influences. "Perpetual Motion" is an ambient intermission.
The large brutality returns in "Conjuring the Egoist", breaking through walls at full speed and power. They sure know what they're doing with their razor-sharp thrash style. "Game of Souls" once again shows the band is at the top of their progressive thrash game. "Mindscape" has perfect harmony before the album's fierce remainder... "Flux Divergence" ends the album and narrative with nearly the same level of chaos as the album began. Once again, the strongest achievements by the band are made in creative maturity while gaining a bit of diversity.
Bionic Swarm shows this Dutch trio leaping into more than just stylistic change, it's a full-on reinvention of their creativity. Cryptosis' progressive-thrash hybrid brings new fresh hope to a style that has lacked attention. While I wouldn't put this album into the avant-garde category, its sense of adventure and audacity makes this album one of the most remarkable albums in the recent times of progressive thrash metal!
Favorites: "Decypher", "Prospect of Immortality", "Transcendence", "Mindscape", "Flux Divergence"
Genres: Thrash Metal
Anyone who has heard of Todd La Torre knows that he is the current lead vocalist of Queensrÿche, Seattle's progressive metal pioneers, along with being a replacement for the late Midnight of Crimson Glory for that band's last few years of activity, and yet they don't know his many layers of artistry. Similarly to the comic strip Big Nate (and same time as well), he was only known in his own state (Florida) in the 90s and 2000s before rising in popularity in 2010 (when he was in his mid-30s). Not only that, he can play drums as much as he can sing. While Queensrÿche are recorded their parts of their upcoming album with COVID getting in the way of touring, La Torre unleashed his own creativity that he had since the late 2000s to finish the album he was working since the late 2010s, the furious storm that is his first solo album, Rejoice In The Suffering!
With highly diverse influences, there are various genres you can get tempted to tag, but they're all compiled into one that is modernized traditional heavy metal. You can totally hear what he has done in Queensrÿche, along with Judas Priest influences, in La Torre's dynamic vocal range, from glass-shattering falsettos to mid-range intensity, plus a bit of crooning balladry. There also seems to be the strong groove/progressive metal sensibilities that Warrel Dane had in his last Nevermore album, his last Sanctuary album, and his last solo offering before his unfortunate passing, and those elements fit well with the vocals of raw drama in occasional melodeath.
"Dogmata" begins the ride with bombastic speed metal. "Pretenders" has the Swedish mid-paced melodeath instrumentation of Avatar in their third album while continuing La Torre's Halford-inspired vocals for a Nevermore-powered sound. "Hellbound and Down" is perfect, from the sound to the engineering! Todd La Torre is an insanely great vocalist who can perform both Halford-like falsetto powerful growls, all fitting well with the great guitar. Todd's singing has already gotten me hooked with his brilliant phenomenal vocal range. If this album came out 5 years ago in my teenage years when I was still in my earlier epic metal taste, I would've gotten it in a heartbeat. He and Craig Blackwell did a great job with this kick-A song. The heavy vibe makes this song probably the best so far this year to make thrash-like heavy metal history.
There's quite a groove/thrash/power metal mix in "Darkened Majesty". The expressive "Crossroads To Insanity" has melancholy in a ballad kind of way. "Critical Cynic" has more progressive-sounding instrumentation like a heavier take on Cynic's Traced in Air. The powerful title track features Jordan Ziff of Ratt playing the second of two guitar solos. That should inspire younger shredders to breed like rats...
Building up from acoustic to mid-paced heaviness is "Vexed". That song's intro has spacey clean guitar played by Blackwell, and the vocals throughout the song are far more varied than in every other song in the album or in existence. Riding through full-on speed/thrash is "Vanguards of the Dawn Wall", with Blackwell making high impact in his guitar approach. Finally there's the melodic progressive drama of the dark semi-ballad "Apology". While the first two of the 3 deluxe edition bonus tracks, "Fractured" and "Set It Off", the one that really stands out in "One by One", an essential epic power/progressive metal song with Gothenburg melodeath influences in the chaotic drumming.
There never fails to be an album that rages into the scenes within just a couple months after release, and I might just consider this colossal creation to be the metal album of 2021 (so far). Maybe it can motivate his band Queensrÿche to get going with their next album and have it released before the end of the year, and it might add a rough edge to the band due to its aggression without being completely extreme. La Torre's album sure seems different from his work with Queensrÿche to the point where it might even surpass those albums. If you're a power/progressive metal fan who wants something darker and more technical, this album is your prime target if you want both melody and aggression injected into your blood. Enjoy!
Favorites: "Dogmata", "Hellbound and Down", "Darkened Majesty", "Critical Cynic", "Rejoice in the Suffering", "Vanguards of the Dawn Wall", "One by One" (bonus track)
Genres: Heavy Metal
I have a lot of albums that I consider the "best albums" (5 stars) even though it's like a couple hundred of them, but no... THIS album, Death or Glory is one of the true best! Ever since the previous Running Wild album Port Royal, they've fully established a different epic lyrical theme...pirates! Though if you think this band isn't serious about that theme, wait until you hear Alestorm. Death of Glory sounds so glorious and I can't wait to listen to their previous two classics that started their pirate motive...
This album truly is a masterpiece made by some of the most genuine metal pirates around, especially a couple real highlights. But in order for me to get to those highlights, I'm gonna do what I almost always do; track by track! Hold on to your (barrel) seats...
The first track is the highlight "Riding the Storm". After the two-minute intro that sounds like it could've inspired the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack in the compositional sense, the vocals by Rolf Kasparek come in to shine, especially in the chorus filled with emotion. The riffs cross through like a violent thunderous typhoon into your head, as the charged-up verses and powerful choruses are brought together by the drums all in this unforgettable song. That's the pirate metal "Thundersteel"! Next track "Renegade" is a catchy tune, though a bit slower. "Evilution" is much slower, but never in a bad way. Near the one-minute mark, the guitar majesty starts, leading to a massive riff. Another solid song, for anyone wanting heavy metal similar to Sanctuary instead of the death metal invasion of bands like Edge of Sanity.
"Running Blood" (almost the band's self-titled theme track) is also great, giving the structure more style and the riffing more genius. "Highland Glory" is the instrumental intermission which has different diversity in an effective sequence of melodies. Then back in the speedy business, "Marooned" blinds you with awesome guitar rhythm, especially after the first chorus. The drumming is also some of the greatest here with interesting fills. There's powerful riffing in the outro as well. Yet another one of the greatest tracks in this album!
Then here comes the classic single "Bad to the Bone". You're gonna f***ing love this song whether or not you're a metalhead! SO AWESOME!!! Next up, "Tortuga Bay" is speed metal madness closer to their first two albums. The song itself is a h*lla d*mn fun headbanger! The title track has that same vein, though not as fast but still good, with a wonderous solo. The original vinyl version's last song "The Battle of Waterloo" is a big epic that you can't miss whether you're listening or reviewing. F***ING UNBELIEVABLE!! It starts with bagpipes during a march into a Napoleonic battle between French soldiers and pirates, then the battle rages on with mid-paced riff before a perfect transition into the marvelous majesty of the solos, especially the second one of evoking emotion. Then the song ends where it began, with the same great marching rhythm that began the heaviness. A true piece of pirate metal!
Similar to Blind Guardian's Somewhere Far Beyond, I say the original vinyl version is perfect as it is, but then comes the bonus tracks, starting with the one ending the CD version, "March On". This one is actually pretty boring and doesn't go anywhere. It would probably be decent in a more mid-paced heavy metal album, just not this one. The rest of the bonus tracks have appeared in the 1990 reissue and most other reissue afterwards as the Wild Animal EP, starting with the EP's own title track with a cool riff in the intro, but not a lot is special in this song. The pirate-themed lyrics are still cool. However, the vocals are weak and don't grab the listener as much as the album itself. All bad things aside, there's some more soloing greatness! "Chains & Leather" (re-recorded from Branded and Exiled) is the best, most kick-A song here! The riffing will have you headbanging in delight through the cool lyrics. This re-recording should've been the album's original CD bonus track! "Tear Down the Walls" is a cool song ranging from slow to fast, and the chorus riff is well-played. However, lame lyrics, weird-ish vocals, and a repetitive chorus demote the song to just OK. "Störtebeker" has f***ing awesome lyrics and riffs, the latter along with the soloing reminding some of Iron Maiden. Another fast song that should've been part of the Death and Glory album itself!
So despite that bonus track in the original CD version and half the Wild Animal EP being f***ing weaklings, the main part of Death or Glory has some of the best production. The ultimate pirate-themed heavy/power/speed metal album! Yo-ho, let's go!!
Favorites: "Riding the Storm", "Running Blood", "Marooned", "Bad to the Bone", "The Battle of Waterloo", "Chains & Leather", "Störtebeker" (the latter two from Wild Animal EP)
Genres: Heavy Metal Power Metal
I've never really been a Kylesa fan, but I recently stumbled upon a couple of their songs, each from one of their albums, when searching for Spotify recommendations for my private-at-the-moment playlists. While the first song, "Tired Climb" from Spiral Shadow, was a restrained pop-ish metal disappointment, the second song which appears in this album, Ultraviolet (I'll tell you which one when we come to it) is heavier and more superior. This made me surprised that this album is considered non-metal, when I hear stoner metal all over in that song, but having learned my lesson after my Alcest review/judgement submission, I decided I won't submit this album into the Hall until I make a full review. So let's dive into this offering from a sludgy stoner metal band from Georgia!
I am quite curious to see if there's metal here or not, but while the metal strength is prominent enough to be in a clan, it seems more diminished than most other metal albums I've listened to. That might sound awful, but the approach works better than you might expect because it has way more psychedelic abstract than mainstream sugar. Instead of 21 Century Blink 182-inspired music, they've gone backwards in time with their influences ranging from 90s alt-rock to 80s post-punk to 70s Pink Floyd. Baroness and Kylesa stay king and queen of present-day stoner/sludge, but the latter's sound is more evident, proving that this album is, once and for all, considered metal.
"Exhale" sounds great with cool downtuned fuzz, but the lyrics can come out hilarious. The band's combination of heavy sludge metal with psychedelic trance is so obvious in "Unspoken", their most accomplished mission in reminding me of how metal they are. In fact, that's the song from this album I found when I was adding recommended songs to one of my playlists to my Spotify account, and the main reason for this review. "Grounded" is another great song.
"We're Taking This" is short but has f***ing intense vocals with insane lyrics. The guitars sound fresh, especially at the two-minute mark that reminds me of Mastodon, though not as amazing as "Unspoken". Except in this one, you hear massive atmosphere with amazing riffs suitable for metalheads. Seriously, those sinister vocals are awesome! You'll find a lot of sludge stacking up more than Red Fang or Stake, and did I mention the heavy uncompromising riff in the psych section. It's so short, unlike Mastodon's longer songs, but I love it! I also say h*ll yeah to the awesome "Long Gone". The short "What Does It Take?" is faster, but in a Placebo-gone-metal kinda way. Philip Cope goes solo when doing the vocals for that song. "Steady Breakdown" starts with what the title says, but over the stoner rhythm is a memorable melody. However, the melancholic passages make the band have a Beach House-like sound. Laura Pleasants returns with her vocals and riffs there.
"Low Tide" is a somber flashback to Joy Division. "Vulture’s Landing" continues the speed with Laura's vocals soaring through the air, along with a short solo trip. A killer heavy tune! "Quicksand" is a quick song with not a lot to note here. "Drifting" starts off sounding more suitable for stoner smokers before increasing heaviness.
Ultraviolet is a pleasant break from the extreme metal realm of growls and blast-beats, but there are a few outstanding riffs and heavy solos, though with barely any doom in the guitars. However, what's really missing that would make the album more appealing would be any tribal drumming jams that would make the dreamy soundscape and the heavy vocals more solid. Ultraviolet might not make Kylesa reach my interest, I love the mystique of this album! Kylesa have really evolved their sound along with fellow prog-sludgers Mastodon and Baroness. Ultraviolet is an album I would recommend to people with broader stoner tastes who might find this kind of metal fascinating....
Favorites: "Unspoken", "We're Taking This", "Long Gone", "Steady Breakdown", "Vulture's Landing"
I wanna make this really clear from the start that this IS post-metal/blackgaze. Really! I dare you listen to this album and see if you can't find any metal. Result? You definitely can and will! This is what Alcest is for this album. Black metal has its controversial rep of dark Satanism, and even though Alcest is part of that genre, they do the opposite of what most other black metal bands do; evoke hope and tranquil beauty. In Les Voyages de l'Âme, the songs have calm melodies and powerful riffs guided by ethereal vocals of Neige. It's definitely not like doom bands (except maybe My Threnody) because the atmosphere consists of uplifting melody, unlike the haunting darkness of those other bands. With every melancholic touch comes a hopeful aura. Instead of reminiscing the past of pain and suffering, I can let the beauty embrace my life energy.
So what's the album's problem then? Well without the beauty it already has, the album would be left with not a lot to enjoy. The ethereal soundscape is what keeps the music in shape, formed from Neige's imagination of the Fairyland (not to be confused with symphonic power metal band Fairyland, also from France). This seems both complete and incomplete. You have to put a lot heart, soul, and mind into your music, but it's the mind element that this album is missing. With that, this album is more based on mood. The ethereal soundscape will certainly teleport you into the Fairyland...
The starting track "Autre Temps" (Another Time) slowly grabs your attention as you experience the acoustic progression that you send you through a thousand winter fields beneath the blackened sky of Neige's vocals and guitars. "Là Où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles" (Where the New Colors are Born) has more black metal aggression in the guitar distortion and grim vocals. The riffs are so memorable that this can very well be the last thing to remember before you die, no matter what. Besides the dreamy vibe, the heaviness of this song is the main reason why I decided to review this album in protest against it being non-metal, and it was all thanks to a Spotify recommendation when assembling my own private-but-will-be-public-someday playlists.
We can notice more of the grim visions caused by guitar distortion in the title track (in which the title means "The Journeys of the Soul"). The tremolos are some of the best parts of the album and they use it well in this song in a different direction but the same effects. "Nous Sommes L'Emeraude" (We are the Emerald) adds more mist to the guitar riffing, along with great drumming. "Beings of Light" is, however, a filler 6-minute track with overused writing and unintelligible vocals. The otherwise killer bass and drums don't help the song get any better.
"Faiseurs de Mondes" (Makers of Worlds) has abrasive black metal screaming in the first half that reminds me of early Woods of Ypres. "Havens" is another filler track, this time being a useless generic interlude. Finally, the last track "Summer's Glory" is more triumphant in some parts, but in other parts, it has a commercial part that makes you think you heard it before in other albums from North bands or maybe in the mainstream. Not really a good thing...
Despite most of the second half being weak, I can't deny the music performed by Neige that gives most of the songs here absolute beauty and serenity. There might not be any progressive riffing or technical complexity, not even brutal destruction, but the album is so d*mn beautiful....
Favorites: "Autre Temps", "Là Où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles", "Les Voyages de l'Âme", "Faiseurs de Mondes"
Time for the last bit of this project's nearly unknown darkness... There's no denying the power of "Denial", which is actually sounds heavier and faster, like a darker Persefone. Killer opener! Then it's back to the good melancholic doom misery of "Transcending Misery", though the structure can be a bit progressive. Excellent one! "Running to Stand Still" seems to run the light doom engine greatly, but it just comes out as a standstill. The EP would be perfect if that song was more improved....
So this EP, Transcending Misery is a bit heavier and more progressive while maintaining the doom in the last two tracks. The EP would be My Threnody's swansong until a new single was released 15 years later. But for now, let the misery transcend upon you..... (quite a short review, but the length fits well for this short EP)
Favorites: "Denial", "Transcending Misery"
Genres: Doom Metal
The deepest darkness lies in the Dawn of Understanding...and it takes someone brave and experienced to reach that dark depth, let alone understand it. Once you're ready to face that level, you'll find the project's underrated greatness within.
The opening intro, "Epilogue - Tenebrae" (I'm sure they meant to say "Prologue") sets the dark slow mood. "Fading Away" shows that I can be pleased by the slow darkness of doom metal, as opposed to faster modern bands like Demon Hunter and In Flames. "A Dying Flame" also gives a melancholic vibe that never fails to please, adding beauty into the sorrow for a nice blend.
The track "Thy Threnody" (almost the band's theme) is so good, especially in the lyrics and orchestral parts. Throughout the 11 minutes, the song may sound similar to other tracks, but it maintains that power and stays strong, through it might start getting a little draggy a few minutes in. After those slow songs, the short fast "The Orchid" blazes in out of nowhere, adding to the mix the progressive black/death elements of early Opeth. Everything fits well, though that song isn't very long. Then the slowness comes back in the lighter "Butterfly on a Wheel".
Another slow song is "The Sorrow in Your Eyes", though just when it starts to prepare a fast dash towards the end, it doesn't happen, it just fades into the rain. That's probably the one thing out all of the band's songs that has bothered me. "Embrace the Pain" is what the beauty of this song does. The finale, "The Break of Dawn", indeed breaks the dark dawn with a bright sunrise. The bonus track "As the Autumn Comes" is a demo version of a song from the previous album, An Angel and the Eternal Silence.
So is this album different from their previous album? Not entirely. But is it still interesting. Yes! It is impressive how one man can do everything in this project, and The Dawn of Understanding would surely delight fans of dark orchestral doom metal put together in an hour-long album. A doom form that is both sad and beautiful!
Favorites: "Fading Away", "A Dying Flame", "Thy Threnody", "The Orchid", "Embrace the Pain"
Genres: Doom Metal
Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to listen to you again, because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping, and the vision that was planted in my brain still remains...as An Angel and the Eternal Silence. (see what I did with that first paragraph?)
After a break from the doomy darkness for the heavy metal light of bands like Accept, Riot, and Ignited, it was time to return with this album, starting with a short doom metal overture, "Lies". Then "Shadows Reigns" picks up the energy, sometimes going into thrashy velocity, but of course this isn't Trivium or Revocation in any way, it's epic extreme doom, that's what it is. "Like Roses and Thorns" really does have beauty and pain like roses and thorns.
"Tulips (And the Garden Looks So Sad)" sounds so sad, but having experienced doom for a few years now, I'm used to the sadness. "Songs for the Sorrowful Souls" is actually one track split into two songs, "Frozen Tears" and "Pact of Souls", and their both filled with sorrow, especially that second act.
I'm a little surprised these next two songs have been combined into one track since they fit like a glove, not just in the name, "As the Autumn Comes and the Night Falls", though I guess in order for that to work, the former would have to segue into the latter. I definitely enjoy the latter song, though. "Eternally" is the longest song in the album and by the project, at over 13 minutes. Another two-part epic, with the two parts being "Absence of Your Light" and "Painless Now"! I enjoy their melancholic sound inspired by the death-doom Paradise Lost and inspiring the dark lyrics of Before the Dawn. "In Articulo Mortis" is the outro to end this dark dream.
In conclusion and all honesty, An Angel and the Eternal Silence is none other than an epic dark doom masterpiece that would motivate any fan of doom metal and/or death-doom to return to the genre when they feel nostalgic after heading into the light of The Guardians. Say hello again to your old friend darkness!
Favorites: "Shadows Reigns", "Like Roses and Thorns", "Songs for the Sorrowful Souls", "And the Night Falls", "Eternally"
Genres: Doom Metal
3... 2... 1... "Ignition"!!!! The 40-second intro of this song, and its album Steelbound, made me think of Trivium, with the fast speedy tempo and killer riffing, and it seemed like a reasonable thought...until the high screaming vocals come in to blow me away. As a recent fan of classic heavy metal bands like Accept and Riot, I definitely accept this! Ignited may have their own original heavy metal sound, but each of these 10 songs bring back memories of the power metal bands I used to enjoy. Helping me recall those brighter power metal memories is "Pain", allowing me to take a break from the darkness of gothic metal bands like Type O Negative and Lacuna Coil.
The title track is a kick-A speeder that is one reason why this album is bound closer to me than Riot's Thundersteel. "Living in the Dark" is a mid-tempo march that's slightly darker but still shines bright. "Call Me to Run" will have you running faster than a cheetah on steroids when you're having a morning run. "Times" shows the band going softer and mid-tempo while staying a bit chaotic.
"Ground Pounding" is a mighty pounder, that will have you stomping on the ground harder than a certain Queen anthem. "Shining Void" is another shining highlight that once again brings some of my lighter melodic metal melodies out of the void I've abandoned long ago. "Roaring Gears" is a killer song, in which the gears of instrumentation roar right through and the vocals have mighty power. "Rotting" is the last and longest song of the album at just around 5 minutes, and it kinda recaps some of their influences while staying true to the originality they have.
In conclusion and all honesty, Ignited's Steelbound is a brilliant offering of heavy metal that ignited memories of my epic metal past of the 2010s. It continues to fill my heart to become a heart of a Guardian. This band and album is so underrated and deserves to be heard and supported more. Let the power of heavy metal unite!
Favorites: "Ignition", "Steelbound", "Call Me to Run", "Ground Pounding", "Shining Void", "Roaring Gears", "Rotting"
Genres: Heavy Metal
Wow... Vektor has changed a lot since we last heard of them! First off, they set the tuning to the standard E, as opposed to the slightly higher F tuning in all their previous releases, and that's a bummer because I was kinda hoping for them to pick up some C-tuned 7-string guitars for a heavier yet ethereal sound. Second, the vocals! David DiSanto has been known for his high shrieking, yet the vocals here are mainly more melodic and clean, with a small bit of the shrieks only in the background. I think he lost most of his screaming ability after using it all up on his ex-wife (sorry, I know, poor taste).
With the E tuning and mostly cleaner vocals, "Activate" sounds closer to the 80s albums of Voivod and Coroner (both bands I enjoy) than the unique style Vektor has been known for. That song is, in my opinion, the band's fourth-worst song (second-worst being "Collapse" and first-worst being "Mountains Above the Sun"), though it's not bad enough to be a sh*tter and it still remains solid. What is the third-worst Vektor song, you may ask? Well that would be the other song of the EP...
I spend some time wondering if this other song, "Dead By Dawn" would have this new sound as well or their unique style from before, and if they both have this new sound, is it just one-off for that EP, or will it affect their upcoming album and become permanent?? Only time will tell for the latter, but now I know the answer to the former. IT'S THE NEW SOUND!! The first half is a clean Pink Floyd-like prog ballad while the second half continues Vektor's signature thrash, like a "Collapse/Ultimate Artificer 2.0" or some sh*t. My third least-favorite Vektor song behind "Collapse" and "Mountains Above the Sun" while still staying solid.
With that, I decided to check out the other band of the split EP, Cryptosis, and let me just say... They're like a Vektor-ized Revocation! Born out of the ashes of Distillator, the death-ish tech-thrash complexity they started developing along with Vektor-inspired sci-fi themes. Their two songs in the EP, "Decypher" and "Prospect of Immortality" are great singles.
Who knows what Vektor would sound like in their next album? Is this their new normal of just a one-off thing? That's probably one of two things I wanna know from Vektor, the other being whether or not they'll re-record the Demolition epic "Moonbase". For now, I shall enjoy this band and new fellows Cryptosis....
Favorites: "Decypher", "Prospect of Immortality" (yeah, I like the Cryptosis songs better the Vektor ones)
Genres: Thrash Metal
I've never really gained full interest in completely instrumental metal bands before, and sometimes I like to take instrumental songs (metal or otherwise) and write lyrics for those songs. I think it's really cool because then you can sing/scream along the lyrics to the songs you think would be empty without lyrics. This band and album might just spawn a huge heap of ideas for me...
Thanks to a recommendation, it was time for me to check out an album from instrumental djenty jazz-metal band from Washington DC, Animals as Leaders! This project, led by bassist/guitarist Tobin Abasi, perform energetic riffing and solid drumming, and their debut marks the beginning of more of them to come.
The aggressive intense workout, "Tempting Time" is the key opener of the album. The kinder "Soraya" is another killer key highlight. "Thoroughly at Home" is another intense song worth checking out. "On Impulse" is also kind but has some of the best riffs and electronic textures.
"Tessitura" is a short interlude. "Behaving Badly" is not bad at all. "The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing" kicks the synthetic percussion to overdrive for listeners' pleasure. "CAFO" is the longest and probably the most extreme song of the album, pointing to Meshuggah and Focus-era Cynic. If there were vocals to accompany that one, it would probably be growling and robotic synthesized cleans.
"Inamorata" is not as heavy and long as the previous track but it's very close. Another killer highlight! "Point to Point" is another short calm track, tapping through cascading melodies of Joe Satriani in a 7-8/string guitar style. What's surprising about "Modern Meat" is not only the name, but also the gentle acoustic melodies to remind some of Frank Zappa or bossa nova. Closing track "Song of Solomon" ends the album with the last bit of jazzed-up heaviness and synth patterns. This Solomon dude would be so proud of this band for such a gift.
Not every band's debut album can be consistent or flawless, but for Animals as Leaders, this is certainly different. A lot of good stuff you can find in their debut includes energetic consistency and masterful performance. I don't think there's any flaw in here, that's how perfect the album is. The guitar riffs might be a bit repetitive, but they're still enjoyable. Animals as Leaders' debut is one of the best progressive/djent releases, and I can just imagine the lyrics I'm gonna write for this wave of jazz-djent babies!
Favorites: "Tempting Time", "Soraya", "On Impulse", "CAFO", "Inamorata", "Song of Solomon"
Genres: Progressive Metal
After my review for The Atlantic, I just knew the time would come for me to review Evergrey's newest album, Escape of the Phoenix! While this marks Evergrey's first album to not to be part of the conceptual trilogy of their previous 3 albums, the band's epic voyage continues...
It was around 2014, at the time when Hymns for the Broken came out, that I first started listening to Evergrey. What sets them from other bands apart is the unique progressive power metal sound with slight doom elements, filled with melody and drama. It might not be for everybody, but I kinda selectively like some songs and albums, some of which have more emotion than their prog-power metal roots.
Right at the start, "Forever Outside" begins the band's amazing race through the album with dark aggression and heavy energy. They've picked up the aggression from The Atlantic, including the down-tuned guitar. There might be slower songs to come in better pace than the half-boring half-incredible The Storm Within, but not as super-great as The Atlantic. I didn't think "Where August Mourns" would be so beautiful, but it is, with deep texture. The keyboards subtly work through the verses to balance with the heavy guitar. The chorus is catchy with successful appeal, but the bridge and solo make a beautiful gem. It feels like guitarist Henrik Danhage can get me moved with his beautiful expressive playing without ever going as technical as Converge. "Stories" is a good ballad of accomplishment. The intro is so beautiful, and the beauty bleeds into the rest of the song. I sometimes feel how misused the length is for the ballad, but the bridge is lasting enough to keep it a good song. "Dandelion Cipher" is my favorite song here, both the title and the song itself. The energy oozes through the song for real prog-power metal. It's not complex, but the groove melded well with the melody.
I admit how a bit boring "The Beholder" is, but I don't mind waiting some time for more punch. What I like is the solid guest vocals by James Labrie (Dream Theater) that counterbalance with the croons of lead vocalist Tom S. Englund. I also didn't like "In Absence of Sun" a lot when it first started because I had enough of the ballads and wanted something more upbeat. However, as the song went on, it greatly but slowly builds up into a great climax that is needed before the speedy energy of the next song... "Eternal Nocturnal" is simple but kicks a** with its rad groove riffing and memorable chorus.
For the title track, here's what I think; title tracks have to be really good and summarize what the album sounds like, and this one lives up far beyond what I was expecting. This is the heaviest song of the album and probably by the band! It continues the good guitar tone of the album, heavier and darker than the band has gone before while keeping the melancholic atmosphere and emotional melody. You would definitely bang your head to this song until you fling your face clean off. "You from You" isn't really remarkable, but a solid break between headbangers. "Leaden Saints" is an AMAZING SONG with the best riffing and most undeniable groove that would have you not only banging your head but also your a** harder than if you're doing a "booty scooty" whether you want to or not. The song is remarkable with memorable verses where neat vocals flow over relentless groove, along with a phenomenal chorus and incredible solo that would have you coming back to this song many times. That song itself deserves 5 stars! I also respect the band for the beautiful album ending "Run", which might be difficult to decide whether it is a good ending or not because one moment that's a fast verse, and the next is a slow emotional chorus. Either way, the band has won another amazing metal race!
So will Evergrey release another album in the future? Most likely if all goes well, but the final Before the Dawn album having a similar title has me slightly worried. Is there any other band that can greatly balance powerful songs and ballads? Probably not. Escape of the Phoenix might not be perfect but it made a great impact for metal this year!
Favorites: "Forever Outside", "Where August Mourns", "Dandelion Cipher", "Eternal Nocturnal", "Escape of the Phoenix", "Leaden Saints"
Genres: Progressive Metal
Moonspell has really kept their black-ish gothic metal spell going throughout their nearly 3-decade career. The last major part their discography was a live album where they kept Lisboa Under the Spell with not just one, but 3 of their best studio albums performed in their entirety; their first two albums Wolfheart and Irreligious, and Extinct which was their most recent album when they played that concert, before they started recording 1755.
3 and a half years after the album 1755, those Portuguese gothic metal pioneers have returned with Hermitage! After that Portuguese-sung orchestral concept album, the band toned some things down for this one, bringing back the English lyrics, along with simple atmosphere and slower melody.
The eerie "The Greater Good" is a great start to this new approach. It starts with the mysterious enchantment of chanting, fragile guitar, and minimalistic keyboard. A minute on, the track begins picking up speedy energy with vibrant bass and creative drums joining the journey, while keeping some of the eeriness. What really highlights the song is the heartfelt guitar solo, then later the clean vocals changed into harsh vocals. You might need to give this song a few spins before considering it a great track or a good single. The beginning of the creativity and organic production of the rest of the album that the song represents... "Common Prayers" has some more common elements of the band's gothic metal sound. ''All or Nothing'' is the best tune here. It's a long track that laid-back with slow melody, getting more sacral near the end. The song tightly grips a progressive atmosphere throughout these ambitious 7 and a half minutes. This is the best song to enjoyed while being trapped in isolation during the ongoing virus and letting many images and words flow through.
The title track is another one of the best tracks, this time shorter with concise energy. Efficient guitars, thunderous drums, and desperate shouts show the band's heavier side. "Entitlement" keeps the slower side going for the album's sound to be in good balance. The loud heavy guitar comes when needed in the instrumental "Solitarian" which builds layer after layer of atmosphere and depth. The foundation is laid for "The Hermit Saints", one of the heaviest, most bombastic songs on the album. That's probably the best example of Pink Floyd meets Paradise Lost!
The gritty "Apoptheghmata" has dark creepy organ tones. The psych-doom epic "Without Rule" is perhaps the most extraordinary song here with glowing dynamics sounding like they have both all and nothing, along with furious charisma and Pink Floyd-like prog in synths and guitar. "City Quitter" is a pleasant orchestral outro to end the journey.
All in all, Hermitage is a good comeback album for Moonspell, though there are a few weaknesses. With patience, you find the magic from the slow melody in this mellow eerie offering of atmospheric gothic metal. This isn't just a comeback for Moonspell, but also the gothic metal/rock soundscape from 20 years prior, while keeping their trademark elements. Melodic guitar gloom and varied vocals continue the band's her(m)itage....
Favorites: "The Greater Good", "All or Nothing", "Hermitage", "The Hermit Saints", "Without Rule"
Genres: Gothic Metal
Wolves are like primal dogs that can be far more dangerous or lonely. They eat sheep, form packs, and howl in the night. Every child's journey of learning more about these creatures can be reading devilish fairy tales or via Roman history. You can be in breathless awe of what a magnificent kind of animal a wolf can be. There are more tales told about this howling glory, here by Grand Magus. A distant wolf has exiled himself from the pack in his own home of solitude, all told by a Nordic metal band whose family tree shows their classic heavy metal and doom ancestors...
Wolf God is an album that continues the band's quest to get things right. Their past albums offer a solid spectacular blend of slow epic doom and stomping heavy metal. Their success has varied for the past 20 years with grand albums like Iron Will and The Hunt with some of their heaviest anthems, with slight disappointments in a couple albums like Hammer of the North. Their distinctive sound gives them a sense of continuity throughout their career. The man behind the guitar and vocals, JB Christoffersson carries a lot of weight for the band, and that's nothing to argue about. His belting tones range from pre-battle roars to post-battle sighs as he rises through his own riffing crusades. The simplicity is easy to grasp in those marching riffs.
The orchestral intro "Gold and Glory" has a bit of a RuneScape vibe. Then the title track stomps in with its marching pace between shuddering doom and relentless Manowar-like glory. The weight grows in the commanding lyrics, "Tremble as the moon grows every night, now it’s shining like a dagger". JB plays a searing solo that shows what he can do with one guitar. A victory song to remember is "A Hall Clad in Gold". The first part proves the band's simplicity with pounding drums setting the rumbling bass tone before the guitar power. As the processed throne ascends, the chorus is assembled for a distinct atmosphere. "Brother of the Storm" has some pausing when necessary.
"Dawn of Fire" keeps up the usual semi-doom marching that is a nice break to have from listening to metalcore bands like Oh Sleeper. "Spear Thrower" attacks by kicking up the speed a few notches for bloodshed in battle. With terrific instrumentation, that song can never go wrong. "To Live and Die in Solitude" starts with melodeath-like riffing similar to All That Remains' debut, but the drumming stays moderate instead of extreme and the vocals are still clean.
"Glory to the Brave" has more kingly strides thanks to immense drums, sharp guitar, and ballistic bass for thunderous chords, a technique rising better than in the past. "He Sent Them All to Hel" is never dull, but the glam groove is a bit tacky. Finally, "Untamed" probably competes with the last track of Iron Will as the perfect album closer. There's so much to describe in those 4 minutes of glory, beginning with fierce drumming, massive riffing, and a solo over all that, then ending gloriously with an anthemic chorus that sets the stage for the structure, "From the north, now hear us roar".
Despite fewer options Grand Magus could have compared to other groups with this epic brand of metal, they've mastered their own sound in persistence. Their effort really marks their territory with music that reveals their characteristics one by one. It all makes great sense! The band sure know their spirit within their epic quest of heavy metal, continuing once again in their last offering, Wolf God....
Favorites: "Wolf God", "A Hall Clad in Gold", "Spear Thrower", "Glory to the Brave", "Untamed"
Genres: Heavy Metal