Monday, January 31, 2011
Drugs of faith-Corroded
One thing about listening to music for review on the computer as opposed to a stereo is that I can't help but notice the individual track time even before I hear song. For this album I noticed there were fourteen songs, but a total running time under twenty-eight minutes. Yes indeed I knew there were not going to exactly be any traditional epics on this disc. However the length of the tracks certainly doesn't diminish the fact that Virginia based trio Drugs of faith play a brutal and honest style of grinding hardcore. Don't let the running time fool you into thinking the band is taking shortcuts. Actually this just means that almost every song cuts straight into the meat of it and we are treated to very concise blasts of relentless metal. A number of the bass lines and drum beats remind me of Helmet only of course with far more layers of thick riffs piled on top. The sheer anger behind most of the songs is the same heart that was behind most of the best hardcore from the 80's and 90's. I believe that Drugs of faith truly capture that spirit and weld their own sound onto it. The ending results are quite impressive.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Heavy Metal Thunderdome
In this corner we have hailing from New York those funny short wearing, mosh inducing goofballs on their third LP, it is.....
Anthrax-Among the living
Their opponents featuring on their second LP and first on a major label fronted by a former Metallica member and hailing from Los Angeles it is...
***Which album do you prefer?
Ana Kefr-The Burial Tree (II)
One of the worst things about reviewing music is that if you proclaim every album that comes across your desk as good people will start to doubt your listening ability. The fact is most promos I get these days are usually good. It's hard to find record labels that would invest good money in bands with little to no talent. Unless you've sold your soul to the devil to mass produce corporate garbage like Creed and Staind you look for quality bands to work with and develop. Every now and then a band comes along though who are so far ahead of the curb that when I listen to their music it destroys my meager understanding of what "good" music is. Ana Kefr is one of those bands. The Burial Tree (ll) is a complex mix of death metal, prog. rock and classic rock. At times it frightens with it's brutality before it swallows you whole with its beauty. Unafraid to take the road less traveled these California natives paint with all the colors at their disposal. They spill their own blood to craft a masterpiece of extreme metal. Never content to leave well enough alone the band easily shifts from insane death bursts to AOR guitar solos without taking a breath. Socially conscious the band screams for human rights while rallying against mankind's dependence on religion. Philosophy in metal isn't a new beast. Ana Kefr though (who's name means "I am infidel" in Arabic) are what I'd imagine a progressive death metal band fronted by Sigmund Freud (on acid) would end up like. Lyrical this is as rich and deeply fascinating as the music is. Featuring instruments not normal found in your standard death metal group (clarinet and saxophone) Ana Kefr have created a new standard in the field of experimental music. This is the soundtrack for the end times and the music has never sounded sweeter.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Earth-Angels of darkness, demons of light
Masters of drone Earth return to do what they do best which is to slowly drag us down into their world of agonizing slow yet masterful sounds. It's a world where repetition is king and flash is non-existent yet they crank out this kind of sludge as well if not better than anyone else going today. Opener "Old Black" is guided by bitter twangy riffs as I imagine a dying balladeer trying to squeeze all he can out of his instrument and attempting to pull as much as he can out of each note as if it would be his last. Next up is "Father midnight" which is even longer and yes even slower. This song makes great use of echoes and each note is held tight squeezing every last millisecond out before plucking another. The drums chime in with simple yet hauntingly effective beats. This is a song that will make you want to lay back and be absorbed by the sounds. "Descent to the zenith" is a warmer track with some actual melodies strung together although they are still dark and strike a chord deep within as you undoubtedly be sucked in by the craftsmanship of this track. "Hell's winter" is subtle by Earth's standards and it almost hits so low that it's very below the surface. So you really have to focus in because they are not just serving this up in a nice neat platter to put in front of you. This is a shadowy march like a person going off to meet their maker. It's sad yet you can't help but follow along. The absolutely massive twenty plus minute long title track closes the album. The song is full of thick notes that echo throughout your body. Much of the music has such a shaky quality to it that you feel like everything around you is twisted and warped. I suspect this is the effect they were aiming for. It feels like trying to wake from a strange dream because you know you should yet you struggle because part of you wants to stay and find out the end. The track keeps going on down a desolate path because all of the music gives off the feeling of being enveloped by every ounce of music being churned out. At the end of this album I felt both drained and thrilled. This is a truly brilliant effort. Not an album that everyone will enjoy, but if you do enjoy it then you will certainly want to listen to it in it's entirety over and over to get the full effect.
Clash of the album covers
Friday, January 28, 2011
Forgottem Gems: Crisis-Armed To The Teeth / Kick It Out 2 CD 2010 Reissue
One day soon Mark and I need to make up a list of the most outrageous LP covers of the 80s. I'm sure Armed To The Teeth would get a mention. This 1984 EP has all the classic hallmarks that made heavy metal album covers "interesting". Let's see you have a half naked girl. Check. Machine guns. Check. And finally an electric guitar. Check. Yes, it's all here and more. But is that really what Forgotten Gems is about? Album art? No, it's all about whats under the wrapping. Speaking of which am I the only one who ever wondered "What would Raven sound like if Dee Snider fronted them"? Anybody else? Well, Crisis isn't an exact match but it's pretty darn close. Crisis were a heavy metal band from Salt Lake City, Utah who hit the scene in 1979 with their demo "Armed To The Teeth". The band would be picked up by UK label Bullet Records and "Armed To The Teeth" was put out and gained a touch of notoriety for it's cover. Pity though that the actual music was lost to history. With bands like Van Halen, Motley Crue and Ratt on the airways bands who were more influenced by the nwobhm movement were out of vogue. This three piece metal band played sloppy heavy metal in much the same way as groups like The Rods,Motorhead and early Twisted Sister. Armed To The Teeth is a pretty rough around the edges and raw EP. It's not at all like the pretty hard rock music that was all the rage in 1984 here in America. It's no surprise then that they ended up being more popular overseas than in their home country. Despite such popularity in Europe things fell apart for the band. Their record label collapsed and the record "Kick It Out" failed to be properly released. With fans unable to get copies of the album the bands small fan base withered up and they eventually called it quits. Now though Shadow Kingdom Records has collected these two releases onto one disc. It make things even sweeter they have included an additional disc of unreleased music. Featuring a color booklet with the bands history and lyrics this 2 CD set is a blast. Crisis play bare bones metal as I said. Fans of Raven, The Rods, Motorhead and early Twisted Sister take note. This is bar room metal. In a time when hairspray was all the rage Crisis were playing metal in jeans and leather. Obviously primitive in nature (no one is going to confuse Crisis with another three piece band like Rush!) Crisis is like a poor man's heavy metal. More AC/DC than Queensryche if you get what I mean. Today's kids certainly won't get this. It will come off sounding too retro. But for guys like me who think AC/DC's "Highway To Hell" blows Led Zepplin's "Stairway To Heaven" out of the water will enjoy the racket these guys lay down. Working man's metal for those days you just can't wait for some warm beer and cold pizza after a hard day at the shop.
What's coming up?
***So stay warm and safe this weekend.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Forgotten Gems: Maineeaxe-Going For Gold Reissue
Top Of The Heap-Overkill
Megaforce Records 1988
I was just trying to remember the first time I heard about Overkill. I know I was a little behind the times some since I went to private school up until the 8th grade. Our family never had MTV so I wouldn't have known that "Hello From The Gutter" was getting airplay on Headbangers Ball. I think my first introduction was walking into public school sometime in 1989 and seeing a kid wearing an Overkill shirt with a middle finger sticking up. I knew I had to find out about this band and so I did some digging around and before long I was listening to the sounds of one of New Jersey's greatest kept secrets. Under The Influence would be the band's breakthrough of sorts despite the fact that they had been around since the early 80s. With "Hello From The Gutter" introducing the world to vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth metal fans had a new voice to call their own. Under The Influence is driven by Blitz who has one of the most unique voices in all of metal. Tracks like "Shred" show of his raspy voice which was so different from what other lead singers had to offer in the scene. Bobby is in my mind the main focus on this album which also saw the band moving toward more of the thrash sound that bands like Exodus were doing around then. Under The Influence is raw thrash with a raw production. It has that gritty sort of feel. Standout tracks for me are of course "Hello From The Gutter" but also "Brainfade", "Drunken Wisdom" (Slayer love here!), "End Of The Line" (again a tad Slayer perhaps?) and "Head First". I love how the band morph thrash metal with an almost punk feel. I'm not really sure if there is any song I don't like. Backed by D.D. Verni, Bobby Gustafson and newcomer Sid Falck Blitz unleashes just a killer thrash disc from "Shred" to "Overkill III (Under The Influence)". It might not be as technical as other releases from Overkill nor as well praised. But it stands the test of time with me and remains a shining moment in metal history.
Metal Mark's pick -
The first Overkill album I ever heard was "Taking over" when it came out in 1987. I was overwhelmed by them right away and I played that tape quite a lot back in 1987-88. The next two albums "Years of decay" and "Horrorscope" were even better and for years my favorite alternated bewteen those two. However over the last five or six years I was drawn to their 1985 debut "Feel the fire". Indeed a raw but superior early thrash album. Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth's voice was melting my eardrums on scorching tracks like "Raise the dead" and "Blood and Iron". His unique vocals have always been so much of this band's sound as have the spine shaking bass licks of DD Verni. Overkill have changed guitarists and drummers plenty of times over the years. Yet my favorite Overkill guitarist was definitely Bobby Gustafson because he could shread with a very off the cuff type feel as evidenced by songs like "Blood and iron" and the title track. As for drummers again my favorite Overkill drummer is Rat Skates because while all the action was going on in front of him he was going crazy on the drums and bring booming beats all over the place. All of the parts comes together to form a very original sound on Overkill's debut that I don't think they have topped since. The first "Overkill" song is here with that haunting riff that would spawn sequel songs on subsequent albums, but none of them would top the original. Actually every song here is a classic to me and the album is one I can listen to over and over in it's entirety. It's a tough choice, but "Feel the fire" is my favorite Overkill album.
***What is your favorite Overkill album?
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Shroud Of Despondency-Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion
Onslaught-The Sounds Of Violence
As some of you may know Onslaught started out as a hardcore band back in the earlier 80's. Over the years the band's sound morphed into something more metallic in nature. Starting with a Venom/Motorhead sound (Power From Hell) the band moved to move melodic technical metal (In Search Of Sanity) and finally into thrash (Killing Peace). I guess you could say the group had an identity crisis while searching for their sound. On their 5th album Sounds Of Violence they find what they were looking for. Produced by Jacob Hansen (Mercenary,Volbeat, Heaven Shall Burn) Sounds Of Violence is an album chuck full of piss and vinegar thrash. Lead by founding members Nige Rockitt(guitar) and Steve Grice (drums) the group also includes vocalist Sy Keeler, guitarist Andy Rosser-Davies and bass player Jeff Williams. Starting off with the intro track "Into The Abyss" (a shorter number under 2 minutes in length) the British legends
Onslaught set the tone with a marching battle sound before launching into "Born For War" a Slayerish thrash attack. "The Sound Of Violence" has an old school Exodus vibe going for it while "Code Black" reminded me of later day Sodom. Make no mistake this is thrash at is finest. "Rest In Pieces" is a furious face plant as is "Godhead". "Hatebox" is brutal and continues the Slayer vibe. "Antiheist" is ugly street thrash with some technical thrash throw in for good measure and "Suicideology" offers up some Sepultura death/thrash. The outro track "Eye Of The Storm" breaks things up with a short piano interlude before the group finishes off the disc with a cover of the Motorhead classic "Bomber" (featuring guest appearances from Motorhead's "Filthy" Phil Campbell and Sodom's Tom Angelripper). Overall this is a tremendous thrash record from these U.K. greats. My only gripe with them would be their continuing infatuation with satanic lyrics. At times it makes the album feel cheesy the way early Venom does. It just seems too many band's take the easy way out with over the top "Hail Satan" lyrics instead of trying for something a little more deeper and meaningful. A minor complaint I know but for me I love my thrash bands singing about war and politics and not a prince of darkness love fest. Besides that observation this is one killer release and another good sign pointing toward 2011 being a great year for thrash metal.
Havok-Time is up
I remember first getting into thrash around 1985-86. It was an exciting time because before that I had been into classic style metal like Iron Maiden, Priest, Dio and the like. I still enjoyed that style too, but as I began to get into acts like Slayer, Metallica, Exciter and others the speed and power of their sound sucked me in immediately. The power and the excitement of thrash had me hooked. Over the next few years I looked forward to each and every thrash album that I got a hold of. Not all were gems of course, but there was still that feeling of anticipation and it was a great feeling when a new thrash album did turn out to overwhelm you. Now twenty plus years later and thrash has come back. Many bands coming the sound of the masters of thrash from the 80's, but all of them capture that excitement. Much of that is due to the fact that so much was down in this genre on the first go around that now it's hard to sound fresh. That being said I approach many thrash albums without the high hopes I did years ago. So when a thrash act impresses me nowadays then you better believe they are doing something right. Such is the case with Colorado's Havok. This is just pure kick you in the head style thrash as evidenced by tracks like "Killing tendencies" and "Fatal Intervention". Havok have every note down because there is no filler or dead space anywhere on this album. They just keep burning and chugging along hitting you everything have. For style comparisons think a mixture of Exodus, Anthrax, Destruction and other top bands of the day. They are just total copycats though because one play of "D.O.A" or "Out of my way" will burn them into your brain and have you shouting the choruses to yourself for the rest of the day. This is an addictive album and probably one I will be playing many times throughout 2011. The music is top notch, the vocals slice right through you, the drums are fitting and the production is smooth but brings all the best bits to the surface. Only a few weeks into the year and Havok have already set the bar very high for thrash releases.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Erasing Never-Killing Yesterday
Self Released 2010
Hailing from my home state of Ohio Erasing Never formed in the fall of 2008. Tired of the same old metal scene the group set out looking to add something different. Something fresh. Having played out for a year honing their skills the group recorded Killing Yesterday. A promising start for this young band Killing Yesterday is well written, well played and well produced. With a sound somewhere between progressive metal and heavy rock Erasing Never play with conviction befitting a more mature band. If I had any complaint with Killing Yesterday it would be that it lacks that super punch sound to put it over the top. I did love the intensity of drummer Bryan . Simply an amazing drummer I found myself wondering if it was all him or if there was some drum machine involved (I emailed him to ask and he said it's 100% him-crazy). And vocalist Dan does a good job behind the mic. Listen to the track "Choice" on the band's website for a preview of his vicious delivery. Bass player Brian though sounded lost in the mix. I would have loved to have heard more from him. Guitars are handled by James (lead) and Chad (rhythm). The solos were really good with a real modern metal flavor. I just wanted more. You can sense they have it and are waiting to unleash this beast. Apparently now down to a four peace after dealing with growing egos between the guitar players Erasing Never are now back on the track and looking at playing more shows by summer. Having already shared the stage with bands like Spineshank and Soilwork the band are writing new material and hope to have a new release out sometime this year. In the meantime do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Killing Yesterday. Support underground metal! You can find out more at:www.reverbnation.com/erasingnever.
Forgotten Gems:Obsession-Methods Of Madness
Enigma Records 1987
Featuring the talents of vocalist Mike Vescera (Loudness,Yngwie J. Malmsteen) 1987's Methods Of Madness was the most professional and accessible album of Obsession's career. It would also be their last until 2006's Carnival Of Lies. After the Martial Law EP and the full length Scarred For Life Obsession released sadly overlooked album. Methods Of Madness is an album that gets it fair share of mixed reviews. It is more commercial in nature than earlier Obsession. It's obvious the band was looking for more mainstream attention. I'm not here to debate the merits of that as it is what it is. I just think that it is good and more people need to give it a listen. Starting off with "Four Play/ Hard To the Core" we are treated to solid speed metal. It starts off with a timid opening before bursting out these great solos. "High Treason" has a Painkiller era Judas Priest vibe going on while "For The Love Of Money" is more commercial metal in tone. "Killer Elite" is pumped up metal and leather forever sound that defined the 80s. I love that and miss that attitude in metal. The title track also gets a nod for it's all or nothing metal forever mindset. Nothing new mind you but thats 80's metal and what I enjoy. "Too Wild To Tame" is almost pop metal so you can see they wanted more fans. "Always On The Run" and "Panic In The Streets" finished things off though returning back to a more power metal sound proving the band had a lot to offer fans of Armoured Saint and Judas Priest. The reissue I have tacks on the bonus tracks "Missing You" and "Waiting For Your Call"."Missing You" has this commercial metal sound going on. It feels so out of place on the album.Same goes for the ballad "Waiting For Your Call" that sounds like an outtake from Kiss' glam metal days. Neither one add anything to the album and it's obvious why they are just bonus material. While it does have it's flaws Methods Of Madness is still a disc that is fun to listen too. It's got a healthy dose of American metal 80's style going for it. It's quite catchy with clever lyrics, great musicians and a solid production job. With the band back on track and trying at a comeback do yourself a favor and check it out sometime. It's a worthy album to have in your collection of over the top 80's metal releases.
Best Albums Of 1991
In 1991 I was a junior in high school. I was 17 and had no idea what I wanted out of life. I was out of touch with life around me and felt like an outcast in my own skin. Music was an escape for me. I certainly never tried to follow the trends of the day fashion wise or music wise. I attended school in a small town with small minded people. In the days of Garth Brooks and MC Hammer I was an island in and of myself. The following are my ten favorite metal albums of 1991. No particular order and obviously some have stood the best of time better than others.
1)Sepultura-Arise: Mind blowing thrash. Probably my favorite album from 1991.
2)Metallica-The Black Album: At the time I had convinced myself that this was the future of metal. Now I look back and realize this was the beginning of the end for Metallica. I did a lot of drugs in those days which probably explains a lot!
3)Ratt-Ratt & Roll: I am not ashamed to admit I've always loved Ratt. Out Of the Cellar is one of the greatest hard rock releases of all times. This best of collection is just plain awesome.
4)Guns -N-Roses- Use Your Illusion 1&2: Yes, this is actually two albums. Yes, Guns N' Roses are a band people love to hate. And finally yes, I hate to admit to liking these. Thing is both albums have good tracks, so-so tracks and some real dogs. I made myself a compilation of the best off of both. I just liked the pissed off attitude and anger these showed. Slash was on fire and his playing was just so powerful.
5)Death-Human: Man, I love Death. Probably the best death metal band of all time. Human was another masterpiece for Chuck and company.
6)Soundgarden-Badmotorfinger: Is this metal? Or is it just "grunge"? I fought long and hard about whether to include this. I'm sure I will get flack for this but I think it's more metal than people give it credit for. Some of the riffs on this record are just crazy good. It's loud, heavy and aggressive and one of my favorites of my Junior year.
7)Motorhead-1916: What can I say other than it's Motorhead!
8)Bolt Thrower-War Master: Another underrated album that no one seems to have ever heard. This will blow the roof of any metal heads foundations!
9)Armoured Saint-Symbol Of Salvation: With a sound all their own Armoured Saint's Symbol is classic metal. A powerful example of straight up heavy metal!
10)Dark Angel-Time Does Not Heal: Another thrash release that showed the power of the genre at a time when thrash metal was not in vogue. Dark Angel wasn't flashy but they got the job done.
Honestly this was a hard task. There were some albums that could have been on my list: Releases from Slayer, Tourniquet and Mortification. Also at the time I was listening to a demo by Affliction (USA) that was better than most of what was going on with thrash metal. I would have included it but as it was only a demo I decided to skip it. All in all 1991 was a decent year for metal.
Metal Mark's choices-
One of the main projects I wanted to do when this blog started six years ago was to go back and re-evaluate my top ten albums of the year for the year that was twenty years ago. So I have done that and I asked Andy if he would like to post his list this year too and he agreed. So now you get two views on 1991. This was kind of an odd year. I say that because although 1991 was a good year for a metal we also saw grunge really knock metal/ hard rock out of favor rather quickly. This was a gradual build-up that I think started back around 1989 and grunge had been growing since then, but in 1991 it exploded and popular music trends for the rest of the decade would never be the same. For metal it was a fine year. Lots to choose from. So here are my picks.
1-Armored Saint-Symbol of salvation
Four years since their last studio LP. In between that time Dave Pritchard passed away and they lost their record deal. They bounced back, filled in the band, got signed to Metal Blade and put out the best album of 1991.
2-Prong-Prove you wrong
My favorite metal band of the 1990's even though they broke up like 2/3 of the way through the decade. The follow-up to Beg to differ had more industrial touches, but it was also more adventurous in a lot of ways as well.
Darker than some of their previous albums, but it shreds and hammers it's way through. One of their bet albums.
I had been following them since their debut, but on this album they really beginning to bring a strong technical element into the death metal sound they had been playing for the previous three outings. The results were spectacular.
Like a wall of sound hitting you in the face. An overwhelming album in many ways.
6-Ozzy-No more tears
Hard to believe that it's been twenty years since the last good Ozzy album. Actually I think this is the third best of solo career coming in after the first two releases.
7-Metal Church-The Human factor
Often overlooked album. It didn't sell all that well, but boy did I play my cassette of it over and over in 1991.
I tend to like their first two albums a lot and didn't enjoy them as much when they branched out. Except the quirky nature of this album struck a chord with me.
My favorite Soundgarden album. It's loud, heavy and in your face. This was another one I played to death on my Walkman back then.
10-Morbid Angel-Blessed are the sick
None of their other albums hit me like this one. An intense attack that strikes and never lets up.
***I really liked Motorhead's 1916 and Roll the bones from Rush back in 1991, but neither has aged very well. If I could have picked the best songs off of the Use you illusions, trimmed down the fat and made one album than it would have made my top ten. As it is there is just too much filler on those albums. Honorable mention to Heathen's Victims of deception which just making the list. Biggest disappointments of the year would be C.O.C's mediocre Blind and Helloween's odd Pink bubbles go ape.
Monday, January 24, 2011
AFM Records 2011
Redemption is the latest release from Hungary band Ektomorf. Having been in existence since 1993 ( and having released I believe 9 full length albums)one would reasonably assume that they have some sort of following. While listening to Redemption (which to be fair I sat through several times) I have to honestly wonder how and why. I'm not sure if Ektomorf want to worship at the alter of later day Pantera (pretty much the first couple of tracks) or Soulfly (about the other half). Sure there are moments like on "Sea Of My Misery" where they sound more like modern rock (Staind?). And yes "The One" reminded me of some sort of Limp Bizkit mall metal but otherwise it was been there/ heard that. "Stigmatised" could have been written by any modern metal band. Its just not that exciting. Yes they have a song called "Anger" (in which shouting anger over and over again is supposed to be angry I guess) but swearing a lot doesn't make you a brutal or heavy band. If anything it makes me roll my eyes. Like I said I gave this several listens in hopes that something would just jump out at me but it's just not that exciting. Again, yelling one word over and over again ("Redemption") is not groundbreaking. It's 2011 and Pantera really bored me the first time around to be honest. So to have a band all these years later that sound like a retread of Pantera?Sorry not cutting it with me.Nothing to see here folks so move on.
Sanktuary-Black Magic Brew
This four song EP comes from Sanktuary who are based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. These guys have me thinking that they have spent quite a few hours sitting around in a basement or garage with an old turntable cranking out the likes Iron Maiden, early Slayer, Exodus, Omen and others. Opener "Beasts of lore" is a tight riffed galloping ride complimented by raw vocals and wild guitar solos. If anything this song gets stronger as it goes along. "Waking the dead" has a similar early thrash type feel, but a bit more of a melody blended in as well. They take their time building up the mood and their patience pays off. This is a real blood pumpin' kind of song that will have you nodding your head along the way. Although I was hoping for this song to explode on a few occasions and it never quite did. The title track is up next and again we get classic metal with a slight speed metal touch thrown in around the edges. Clocking in a little under seven minutes this is the longest track on the album. Although it could have been a little tighter down the stretch I did enjoy the solos and the rhythms in the last third of the song. Closer "Dark Logic" is perhaps the heaviest and fastest of the four tracks on the album. They saved the best for last as this aggressive slab of metal is a great way to end this likable effort. Now I love the energy and their effort in fitting in as much as they can into their songs. The downside would be the production is slightly dull at times, but that should easy to correct. Also the vocals lacked the punch I was hoping for on a few moments. I think both of these complaints could be fixed in the future. Overall an impressive EP full of old style fist pumping metal.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Pale Chalice-Afflicting the dicotomy of trepid creation
Hailing from San Francisco play a frenzied, but intense brand of black metal on this four song EP that clocks in around half an hour. Opener "Transplant Of Dimensional Recourse" explodes with furious sounds. Yet they soon settle into a controlled style of chaos. The vocals are high yet forceful. "Command of the Formless” slows down the pace considerably, but the sound remains vicious. The drums are a slow yet steady barrage throughout this eight minute plus track. Next up is “Caressed by a Feeble Flame” which finds the band back to an onslaught of thick mayhem and venomous screams. The whole songs stays at a high level all the way through. Closer “Ascend the Idyllic Sphere” is a real growling assault on the senses. Again this is another steady killer with all the sounds plowing forward the whole time. Never a dull moment on this album because the band remains focused throughout. Definitely worth a listen.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Clash of the album covers
Friday, January 21, 2011
What's coming up?
***So enjoy those Championship games, stay warm and have a great week!
Helstar-Glory Of Chaos (Limited Edition Version)
For those paying attention Glory Of Chaos made my list of best albums of 2010. Originally released here in the states in digital format only this new edition features two bonus tracks-covers of "Heavy Metal Thunder" (Saxon) and "Animal Magnetism" (Scorpions). Both tracks are good in their own right even if they sound very little like the originals. As far as the regular material is concerned there is a reason it made my best of. Helstar have always been unsung heroes of heavy metal. As you may know from my review of Burning Star I think Helstar deserve more praise than they are given. Despite the busy life of vocalist James Rivera (and his various side projects) he has kept this band going over the years releasing quality metal that has grow out of their humble heavy metal roots to more of a speed metal/power metal sound. While their last studio album King Of Hell got mixed reviews from fans (personally I dug it) Glory Of Chaos pulls no punches and delivers a full on thrash attack. With a crystal clear production job Helstar come out with all guns blazing on the powerful opener "Angels Fall To Hell". This album aims for the jugular and never lets up. "Monarch Of Bloodshed" and "Bonecrusher" offer some of the hardest moments of Helstar's career. Filled with dynamic guitar solos and insane drumming Glory Of Chaos is an insane album. While I have read where some people complain because the production job sounds "too modern" I personally love how up front and punchy it is. This is in your face thrash. Sure James gets to show off his softer side on "Trinity Of Heresy" (which shows off amazing technical metal by the way) but make no bones about it Glory Of Chaos is HEAVY! "Alma Negra" is brutal metal and shows that Helstar can hang with the big boys of thrash. This is the album Helstar needed to make them household names. With the direction bands like Metallica are taking towards more of an accessible form of thrash Helstar embrace their roots and put it all out-laying all their cards on the table. The gamble paid off in this case. Glory Of Chaos is not only one of the best albums off 2010 but with this version 2011!
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Poland's traditional metal/power metal outfit Crystal Viper returns with their third studio effort. This album came out in Europe back in the fall, but won't out until February here in the states courtesy of AFM records. This is slick, but extremely well-written Euro-metal with impressive female vocals and more crunching riffs than you can shake a stick at. Some of the songs have very direct influences. For example "Blood of the heroes" is reminiscent of Keeper of the seven keys-era Helloween while "Ghost Ship" is pure late 80's-early 90's Running Wild. Many of the others are a mixture of those two bands plus Iron Maiden, Gamma Ray and Grave Digger. The also pay tribute to another influence as they cover Accept's underrated "TV war".The phrase nothing new is bound to come into your mind during this album, but that phrase will quickly get kicked to curb once you here this whole album. New or not doesn't matter because this band has all the licks and notes down as well as anyone who is or has done this style. The one word that comes to mind upon hearing this album is "flow" because they don't wait they just push ahead and every element of this album flows along in spectacular fashion. Because of that approach this is album where you here it once and you feel like you have known it for years. Although that won't stop you from playing it over and over. Quite the opposite because you will want to hear more and more of "Legends". A shame that we on this side of the pond had to wait a few extra months for it come out, but hey it's worth the wait.
Times Of Grace-The Hymn Of A Broken Man
It was 4am sometime in the summer of 2002 while driving to work that I first heard Killswitch Engage. While the actual date escapes me I do remember the time for the reason that there I was on a dark and lonely stretch of road when I caught the beginning of what I assumed was death/thrash on a local station. While that would have been odd in and of itself (most local stations at the time thought Metallica's Load was considered "thrash" and would not have dared played anything heavier) it soon broke down into this hardcore beat down. I searched everywhere in my car for a pen and jotted down the name of the band-Killswitch Engage. The following weekend I ran out and bought Alive Or Just Breathing which changed the way I thought about extreme metal. That disc would end up receiving hours upon hours of play over the next month and affected me on a personal level with it's message. Fast forward now 9 years later and I'm an older man at a different point in my life. While I loved Killswitch Engage I stopped listening after vocalist Jesse Leach left the band. Don't ask me why as I have nothing against Howard Jones. It's just that for whatever reason I could truly hear the heartache and desperation in Jesse's voice. It matched what I was going through at the same time. When I first heard about this collaboration between Jesse and Adam Dutkiewicz I was really curious if they could rekindle their musical chemistry. Thankfully they have. The Hymn Of A Broken Man is a deeply introspective look at faith in the mist of a world in darkness. Killswitch Engage fans should know what to expect. You have moments of thrash,hardcore,death metal and even rock. Musically this album mixes up all these different genres in such a way that it all seems perfect and logical. It strikes that balance between the brutality of Swedish death metal and aggression of American thrash metal. But what makes it stand out is again the personal insight of lyricist Jesse Leach. Leach allows us to share with his struggles of faith in a fallen world. You can feel his inner pain and frustration trying to make sense of this thing we call life. It's breathtaking how open and honest this is and it's that fact alone that made this record all the more powerful to me. We are less than a month in to 2011 and already Times Of Grace's debut disc is a candidate in my eyes for album of the year.
Primal Fear-Devil's Ground
Primal Fear's forth release "Devil's Ground" was originally released in 2004. This seems to be the top Primal Fear album that fans have some problems with. That may be putting it mildly as some fans like it, others rate it as mediocre or just below. Then there are some fans who are just besides themselves frothing at the mouth and shaking their fists in anger over this release. I think it falls in the decent, but could have been better category. The fact that fans had to wait three years for this and the results were slightly generic may have been a large reason why it was met with a less than favorable response in some corners. For the negatives there are several songs go longer than they should, the lyrics are not going to win any prizes for creativity and the production is maybe a bit more slick than it needed to be. Still the same Judas Priest-Painkiller era sound is still present with maybe a touch of Accept throw in. They follow that blueprint with strict attention to blazing solos and soaring vocals from Rolf Scheepers. It's not the first album of theirs that I would for because I think the previous albums hit harder and there is less filler on those two albums. Still this album follows mostly in the style of their previous outings. The re-issue includes two re-mixes and a pair of cover songs as bonus tracks.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Top Of The Heap: Judas Priest
Gull Records 1976
Clash of the album covers
Monday, January 17, 2011
Twisted Sister-Club Daze: Volume 1 The studio sessions
Many people didn't get into Twisted Sister until the mid-80's when they briefly became a household name due their anthems and crazy videos. Sometimes it's easy to forget that they spent nearly a decade playing in clubs in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut before finally getting a break and releasing "Under the blade" in 1982. This album is a collection of songs the band played back in the late 1970's-early 1980's while they were cutting their teeth and establishing themselves as one of the wildest club bands in their area. The band began in 1973 bringing in elements of glam, hard rock and early punk rock. In 1976 Dee Snyder joined and helped elevate the glam elements in the band despite the changes in the music climate around them. Many of the songs on here are from 1978 and represent a variety of styles. "Come back" is huge thumping rocker with a lot of power behind it. "Rock-n-roll saviors" has an early Judas Priest feel to the music and the lyrics are all about supporting our beloved rock music and pushing past the hated trend of disco. "High steppin' is a push groove-infused trip that bounces along and has a very live feel to it. By 1979 Mark Mendoza replaced Kenny Neill on bass and the line-up was getting closer to the one that most us would know. The tracks from 1979 include a version of "Leader of the pack" that is much more raw than the one that would doom this band when they chose to release it as a single in 1985. There is also and early version of "Under the blade" that shows they had this song about down three years before it became the title track for their debut LP. The real on here is "I'll never grow up now". I first heard this song when it was added as a bonus track on the 1985 re-mixed version of "Under the blade". Having been recorded in 1979 this could be considered a blue print for late anthems like "I am, I'm me" and "We're not gonna take it". However I would say for Twisted Sister that "I'll never grow up now" is the big daddy of anthems because it really is that good. It also makes me think it's shame the band couldn't have gotten signed sooner than they did. This album has plenty of early band pictures in the booklet plus noted from Dee and Jay Jay about their influences and ideas behind the songs on this collection. Twisted Sister fans are sure to be pleased by this one.
Forgotten Gem: Helstar-Burning Star
Primal Fear-Nuclear Fire
Primal Fear's third album Nuclear Fire originally came out in January of 2001 following up the band's 1999 release Jaws of death. Former Sinner guitarist Henry Wolter was brought into the band before the recording of this album. This album picks up where "Jaws of death" left off. More Judas Priest inspired metal as songs like the blazing "Angel in black" and the hard hitting "Kiss of death" sound very much like material from Priest's Painkiller. However Primal Fear put some of their own ideas into this album as well. Songs like "Back from hell" and "Fight the fire" are dominated by intensity that they only hinted on their previous albums. The title track is a soaring song that will have you nodding your head throughout. So there are not a great deal of changes since "Jaws of death" but instead they seem to have been building upon the same sound from that album. If anything they sound even more comfortable and confident on "Nuclear Fire". This 2011 re-issue includes a band biography, four bonus tracks and a video clip and Angel in black. Another great job by Metal Mind.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Twisted Sister-You can't stop rock and roll
Like many people I didn't get into Twisted Sister until Stay Hungry in 1984. I loved that album so much and played it over and over. Of course I wanted more so I sought out their two previous albums "Under the blade" and "You can't stop rock and roll. The debut "Under the blade" was a raw slab of hard rock with plenty of attitude. Their major label debut "You can't stop rock and roll" was a bit more polished, but also saw the band growing some as songwriters yet they still maintained their edge. One of the major type of songs that Twisted Sister would become know for is of course their anthems. There are some prime examples on this album with the stomping opener "The kids are back". The us against them attitude shows up in "I am, I'm me". The believe in yourself thinking dominates "We're gonna make it" and at this point in the band's career this song may have been a personal anthem for the band as they had been at it for years trying to get to "make it" in the music world. Other songs like "Ride to live, live to ride" and the mighty title track will have you singing along in no time. Originally released in 1983 by Atlantic this disc received a re-issue in 1999 on Spitfire records. That re-issue included three bonus tracks with the simple "One man woman", the fist pumping "Four barrel heart of love" and the adrenaline fueled "Feel the power". The problem with the re-issue was that it had the same production of the 1983 version. Although not bad it was shocking to put in the CD and still hear hissing at the beginning of "The kids are back" and the album as a whole didn't sound any better quality wise than the cassette version I was listening to some 15 years earlier. That was a shame because it deserved better. Fortunately someone else agreed as now Armoury has released a re-mastered version of the album with the same bonus tracks as the 1999 version. Now we can heard the classics in a much sharper version. Not all re-mastered versions improve the sound of an album as some show very little change and others strip the sound too much. On "You can't stop rock and roll" it's done right because the sound is clear, but the heaviness and the power is kept intact. A fine re-issue indeed.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Primal Fear-Jaws of death
In 1997 former Tyran Pace / Gamma Ray vocalist Rolf Scheepers and Sinner bassist Mat Sinner decided to form Primal Fear. Primal Fear's 1998 debut frequently became labeled as Judas Priest clone of the Painkiller variety. I have no problem with that, in fact it was welcome considering the real Priest were going in a different direction with the not so impressive Jugulator. Originally released in July of 1999 the follow-up Jaws of death certainly saw the band pushing the boundaries more and taking some chances. The metal is law type sound was style there as was Scheeper's Rob Halford style vocals, but there are certainly more tempo changes and a bit more of focus on the melodies. Tracks like "Final Embrace", "Play to kill" and the burner "Into the future" hear Primal Fear plowing forward like a monster. Not content to just trample your senses they mix it up some with tracks like "Nation in fear" and "Say a prayer" which show a more layered songwriting style that includes some needed pace changes within the songs. Closer "Hatred in my soul" is likely my favorite on this album and a great way to end it because this is a hit you in the gut kind of cut with lots of force and fire behind it. This re-issue includes bonus tracks "Kill the king" and "Horrorscope" plus a lyric booklet and band biography. Overall a great package and an album that sounds as good now as it did twelve years ago.
Neurosis-Souls At Zero (reissue)
I was pleasantly surprised when Mark presented Neurosis's Souls At Zero reissue for me to review. Originally released in 1992 Souls At Zero is nothing short of a masterpiece. While Neurosis had started out as a hardcore band by the time this (their third album) rolled out they had begun to experiment with a variety of different sounds and effects. Simply not contempt to just stay within the confines of hardcore the group played around with tribal beats, sparse vocals, doom metal and bizarre samples to create what would eventually be known as atmospheric hardcore. I remember when this first came out it created quite a buzz in the metal underground. Through reviews and word of mouth the album became a must hear piece of music. I bought it the first time I saw it at my local record store. Thinking back I can recall how far removed it was from much of the music of the 90s. It was just so dark and mesmerizing. Certainly ahead of it's time. As I sit and listen to the reissue I'm still impressed with not only how unique it is but also how well as a whole the album flows. It creates it's own little world of melodic yet powerful wonder. It's a work of art. Much more than just meets the eyes as with each listen you'll pick up on something you've missed. If you've never heard this album than do yourself a favor and pick the reissue up when it comes out. Featuring 2 extra demo tracks and a live number Souls At Zero is a feast for the ears. Few releases ever achieve the lasting impact that Souls At Zero has. Neurosis was and is one of the most creative metal acts out there. With a live show that is a visual experience as well Neurosis is in a class of their own. While their later material is good nothing ever compared to Souls At Zero for me. This is an album that I forgot how much I enjoyed it. I need to keep this one handy for when I need something really good to indulge in.
The Eyes Of A Traitor-Breathless
Allen/Lande- The Showdown
The Showdown is the third collaboration between Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen and Masterplan vocalist Jorne Lande. Also featuring the talents of Magnus Karisson (guitar/bass/keyboards) of Primal Fear fame and drummer Jaime Salazar ( Midnight Sun) the album plays out as one would expect given the line up: melodic hard rock/heavy metal. With production that is crystal clear The Showdown is a masterful mix showing off not only the talents of two great singers but also the guitar playing of Magnus Karisson. While this album never gets too heavy (the title track is probably the most powerful moment on the record) the album is catchy and well executed. Tracks like "Turn All Into Gold" and "Never Again" are what melodic metal should sound like-a perfect blend of melody and heavy rock. The fact is there really is never a dull moment on the disc. 12 great tracks of melodic hard rock/heavy metal. You can't go wrong with this one.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
What's coming up?
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Jag Panzer-The scourge of the light
Long time Colorado based power metal band Jag Panzer return with their first album in seven years. Hard to believe that this band formed some thirty years ago, but here they are still going strong as their new album shows. Back in their early days they were more a classic metal band and that foundation is still in their sound, but there are certainly progressive metal elements in their sound today as well. Quite honestly it's a welcome change because they how to use the style to their advantage. The eight minute plus epic "Book of kells" is a powerful example of the band's great songwriting skills. While "Union" is a memorable anthem guided by some spine shaking drumbeats. I was glad to hear the band open up a bit with "Overlord" which features some swirling guitars and the vocals let loose. My favorite track might just be "Bringing on the end" which follows a marching style but it also features plenty of pace changes and some striking yet chaotic solos. Actually there are no weak or filler tracks on this album. Instead just killer metal with the band playing to their strengths. Jag Panzer have had some highs and lows over the course of their career and some gaps in between releases, but it's great to see them back and in fine form.
New feature coming soon
First installment will come next week. Hope you enjoy it.
Creation's End-A New Beginning
A New Beginning is the debut album by Creation's End. Featuring one time Riot singer Mike Dimeo Creation's End sound could best be described as progressive power metal. The band keeps things interesting the whole way through even if the shortest song on here is just over 5 minutes! With epic guitar solos and interesting time changes the music never feels dull. Although we have yet again another band that owes a lot to Dream Theater unlike Forgotten Suns the band takes that influence and builds on it. Certainly more like a heavier version of Dream Theater than anything else Creation's End mixes in traditional metal solos ("Of Shadows And Flame" is pure power metal) and crunchy metal riffs ("Dissociate" is just plain heavy with a serious bass breakdown that slays!). "Still Life" is one of the more mellow tracks but even that is heavy rock. A New Beginning is aptly titled as this is a great beginning for Creation's End. Much more than just another progressive metal band Creation's End are creative and have a great mixture of harmony and heaviness. Highly Recommended!