I wanted to give everyone a quick rundown of what PS will be from this point forward. Things haven't really changed as far as my disposition goes. I'm still crazy busy and really don't have time to do all of the maintenance this forum requires. However, I see no reason to leave the board sitting closed and unused. This is mostly due to the fact that so many people have contacted me asking if the forum would ever be back. Before today I would have told you that I wasn't sure, if at all, but with enough people showing interest I think it would be silly to let this place disappear.
Here's what's going to happen/has already happened:
-New logo (pretty plain, might make it better eventually)
-Cleanup (getting rid of irrelevant stuff, organizing things)
-Scaling down (no more exchange system...just too much upkeep, other things like news and reviews will be left up to convenience instead of regularity)
-Slow improvements (I will make updates and try my best to improve things when possible - including any bugs that should arise)
Anywho, feel free to use the site again. I find myself missing the days where a bunch of us were posting. I think the concept of the site is still strong and I'll still be moderating under the notion of keeping this place open-minded and flame free. The bottom line is that I think it'd be nice to just let this place exist and see what happens. I guess it's up to chance!
Edguy frontman Tobias Sammet's solo project is starting to take shape, and as usual with his Avantasia prospects, the album is metal opera featuring some metal superstars in different parts. Set to take part in the upcoming album, called "The Mystery of Time", are Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple, Malmsteen), Biff Byford (Saxon), Bruce Kulick (Kiss), Michael Kiske (Helloween), Russel Gilbrook (Uriah Heep), Arjen Lucassen, Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), and Eric Martin (Mr. Big)
Earlier Avantasia releases have been great, so I'm looking forward this, no release date as yet though.
As this is my favorite extreme metal album of all time and just an all-around amazing, difficult-to-find album, I thought I'd give a shout-out to this.
"On January 28, SACRAMENTUM's classic debut album, "Far Away From The Sun", will be re-released on CD, LP and picture vinyl.
Sold out for over ten years, "Far Away From The Sun" has only been available for exorbitant prices for the last couple of years. Now all fans of the real Swedish death/black metal that missed to grab a copy of the album back then finally get the chance to fill the gap in their collections.
"Far Away From The Sun" is one of the few huge classics of blackened Swedish death metal and ranges amongst legendary albums such as "Ancient God Of Evil" (UNANIMATED), "Welcome My Last Chapter" (VINTERLAND), "Vittra" (NAGLFAR), "Afterlife Kingdom" (SATANIC SLAUGHTER) and "The Somberlain" (DISSECTION).
The re-release of "Far Away From The Sun" is being done in close cooperation with the band. The impressive cover artwork was newly scanned by its painter Kristian "Necrolord" Wåhlin and the entire layout was reworked. Dan Swanö, who recorded the album back in 1995, has done a careful remastering of the sound and Olivier Badin an in-depth interview with guitarist Anders Brolycke and drummer Nicklas Rudolfsson."
So yeah, the album was originally released through France's Adipocere Records way back when and has long been selling for insane prices. The new release looks killer and I'm hoping it'll give a chance to more metalheads to get sweeped by its chilling melodies as well as its sheer frost and grim darkness.
Below is a clip of "Fog's Kiss", as well as the newly scanned artwork for the album and a preview of the beautiful picture vinyl.
Obviously, Helloween is a band that needs little introduction: Many, including myself, consider them to be the first real power metal band, with their debut Walls Of Jericho being the origins of the genre, but either way their importance and their influence on other bands over the years has been undeniable. They've gone through quite a few line-up changes over the years, including three different singers, but I won't go into all of that. Suffice to say, no matter how many changes the band has made, they've always remained one of the best in their genre, and no matter which era of the band I examine, I can find albums that blow me away the whole way through, along with albums that are dragged down by a couple weak spots, but still have enough great moments to make them enjoyable overall. Unsurprisingly, I consider the first two parts of their Keeper Of The Seven Keys set to be their crowning achievement, though other albums such as Walls Of Jericho, The Dark Ride and Gambling With The Devil aren't too far behind. All of these albums have their own distinct feel, while I find some of their others are very good, but less inspired, and less consistent.
Their previous album 7 Sinners was a perfect example of this, as it was a haphazard mix of great songs and mediocre songs, that seemed randomly thrown together just for the purposes of releasing a new album. I won't criticize the band for not trying to be innovative with every new release, but I do find it disappointing whenever such a great band releases an album that simply has no feeling of its own. So as excited as I was to hear their new album Straight Out Of Hell, I can't deny there was also a slight concern on my part going into it, as I wasn't sure if they could come up with anything fresh again. Well, the good news is they've delivered one of their best albums with current vocalist Andi Deris. The bad news is, I get the feeling they're holding themselves back from being as great as they can be, and I'll explain why in just a bit.
First though, it's time to break this thing down. While I wouldn't say it's one of their most inventive albums to date, it does add a bigger sense of scale at times, and it is definitely their most epic and soaring album in quite a while. With their previous two albums they were playing much heavier than usual, where on Straight Out Of Hell they do still have some louder parts and some great riffs for sure, but on the whole it has a lighter feel and is definitely faster and more focused on the melodies a lot of the time, which makes it feel like a throwback to their earlier albums. And indeed, this album has all their trademarks in full effect, and it's certainly in line with their previous work, though they did include some new elements to make it stand out, and that's where some of the highlights come from. Unfortunately, the two most experimental songs are also by far the worst.
Starting an album in epic fashion is nothing new for Helloween, and "Nabataea" continues that trend, as it's one of the biggest and most epic songs they've done in a long time, as well as being one of my very favorite album openers by them. At just over 7 minutes, it has quite a lot going on, including more symphonic elements than usual, an excellent chorus, and also quite a few twists throughout, making it one of the most epic songs on the album, as well as the most complicated. The symphonic elements carry over to "World Of War", a much faster and simpler song, which still somehow manages to be even more epic and stupidly catchy, while also boasting perhaps the best riff of the album, turning it into to a perfect balance of old and new Helloween, and probably my favorite song by them since 2000.
After such a strong start I had very high expectations for the rest of the album, and for the most part it delivered, though perhaps not quite as much as I would have hoped. The next three songs are all very good, if slightly bland and generic, with the very speedy "Far From The Stars" being my favorite of them, just due to its chorus. Things pick up again with "Waiting For The Thunder", a very nice and rather slow song by their standards, but it works because it's just a simple and very melodic song which allows Andi Deris to shine. Speaking of which, he has never been one of my favorite singers but I have always found him to be very solid and reliable, as well as very distinct, and on this album he continues to be in top form. This continues on the lone ballad of the album, "Hold Me In Your Arms", which is really nothing special but it's at least pleasant enough.
Up next is the first total disaster of the album, "Wanna Be God". Yeah, the name kinda hints at a failure, but holy shit, I just wasn't expecting something this bad to come from such an excellent band! Pretty much, this feels like their attempt at arena rock, except the lyrics are stupid, the music sucks, Deris somehow sounds irritating, and the whole thing just fails on such an epic level, I already knew I'd struggle to give this a 4.5 even if everything afterward was completely perfect. At least we get a nice break between crap, as the title track comes next and is one of the very best songs on the album, with a very traditional feel to go along with the incredibly awesome chorus. But before you can get excited, it's time for lame ass joke song number two. And yep, that "ass" was an intended pun, because the song is called... (cringe).... ahem.... "Asshole". Seriously, I was in shock when I saw that title on the tracklisting, and while I initially had my fears, the actual song was a horror I could have never anticipated. First off, since when did Helloween have these cheesy keyboards? I mean, I love cheesy keyboards most of the time, but these sound like they come from an old videogame and are simply pathetic. Even more pathetic is the overall sound, which is nothing at all like the rest of the album, and is instead a very modern sounding mid-paced track with generic riffs, the occasional use of auto-tune (seriously....), and one of their worst choruses ever. It's probably self-evident, but the lyrics are a completely stupid and embarrassing attempt at humor, or something. Either way, this song sucks.
So by that point I was getting pretty fed up with the band, for already managing to ruin their chance at making an album to at least equal Gambling With The Devil, but I would soon cheer up again as "Years" is a symphonic power metal masterpiece, which basically sounds like one of their classic songs but with added symphonic elements and that's enough to make it stand out as another one of their best songs in recent years. "Make Fire Catch Fly" starts off as one of their weirder songs, but it quickly turns into another excellent up-tempo power metal track with yet another ridiculously catchy chorus, putting things back on track for a strong ending. And that's exactly what we get in "Church Breaks Down", which despite its rather dark lyrical themes, is another upbeat and epic song and is the second most complicated on the album. The intro is pretty cool with use of church bells and organs, and from there it turns into an excellent power metal song with a couple nice twists.
In the end, Straight Out Of Hell doesn't really tell us anything we didn't already know: Helloween always have been and always will be one of the very best bands when it comes to epic and speedy ultra melodic power metal with soaring choruses, they will always throw in a few experiments per album, some of those will almost certainly work out, while others will turn into nothing more than disastrous joke songs. That pretty much sums up the band past their first three albums, as their apparent enjoyment of experimenting and making silly songs that don't fit in with their style is sadly a habit they've had throughout their career, and I don't see it going away any time soon. Which is too bad, because aside from those two unbelievably bad songs, this really is some of their best work with Andi Deris and it shows that sometimes the pioneers of a genre can still shine along with all the young and rising talents they have influenced with their music. Overall, Straight Out Of Hell falls just a bit short of reaching the top tier of their discography, but it's still a step up from their previous album and it does a great job of taking the sound of their last two albums and making it just a bit lighter and more in line with their older albums.
Release Date - December 28th 2012 - Close enough. I'm not fucking up the well deserved publicity for this by concatenating it to the end of last year's list. I think that would be unfair.
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Progressive Atmospheric Djent/ Djazz / Slow Burn, Sludgy Post Hardcore/ Tasteful and Evenly used Electronics/ Layered/ Oh yeah and World Class Musicianship
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The initial description of this should be to state that, If you are not afflicted with some form of Attention Deficit, then this album is going to be a difficult one to sit through. It's sort of a backwards mentality, considering most pop culture conceptual understandings of the disorder paint a hilariously inaccurate picture of 13 year old kids talking at light speed and running circles around every structure they can find. While that is accurate to a very vague degree, this symptomatic interior process forces me to keep myself engrossed in the interpretation of complicated information as to not find myself in the emptiness of a chaotic consciousness...Fuck trees... I'm laughing in my mind because I can imagine that most of you run for fear of cheesiness and retreat to ye old Plato's cave of ignorant comfort when considering albums longer than the LOTR film trilogy. 80 plus minutes of music that constantly changes attitudes, structures, moods, and tempos is something akin to watching a Broadway play while the actors and set pieces constantly explode. Now tell me if that sounds enticing. I'd pay to see it.
The production is our next topic. It is obviously self recorded and mixed; and, whether or not there was too much or too little is a semantic argument of zero importance. Even though the range changes professionally, the vocals could stand to be a little less static at some points. I understand where he is proverbially coming from, though. How else are we judgmental music elitist supposed to drone out if there isn't some muffle to the vox, ya feel. From ISIS and Meshuggah to Stealing Axion and Cult of Luna, there is always gonna be distortion. Speaking of distortion, these feller'z like their junk noisy and seamless. It kind of feels like being wrapped in a dissonant blanket of comfortable electrocution while rain lightly washes against a window you can't seem to locate. Whether or not this detracts from your listening experience probably depends on your listening ratio of shiny, engineered plastic to artsy, hipster noisiness. If you have nicer speaker systems with adjustment controls, then i suggest turning the bass down slightly and crank the volume. It really does make a HUUUUGE difference.
The final comment is a simple one. Why in the shit did they think that the album cover was as cool as their name. I imagine it could be metaphorically referenced as a Singularity swallowing colors, a holographic representation of frequencies of conscious thought, or a wave of observable dark matter rushing at you with an unknown intent. Does dark matter have intent? I have no idea, but i do know that whatever the symbolism, it looks like a mess of Blue, Violet and Black smears. They are faded into each other and it looks bland. That is why i almost wrote this off. I saw it on Bandcamp and was like "Well that looks like more mediocrity from the Djent babies". Wrong again was I.
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The structures making large Riffs, and the deeply layered, sub-structured riffs making song long riffs. Confusing Fractals?....Me too, but I cannot help but notice it. Hmmmmm. How to explain..... When I listen to ISIS, TOOL, Cult of Luna, and Post-y heaviness of the like, it feels like imagining a vivid mental imagery of complicated geometric sequences through a glass framework, while underwater. Since Djent usually incorporates more flashiness and technicality to gain a catchy and groovy aspect, i feel i should say that I associate this young group of guys' sound more with Townsend, TOOL, Meshuggah and Uneven Structure. Aeolia sounds and feels like that but they compact it into most every second of the music. In that same imagery previously mentioned, add more elements to the visual stimuli in each underwater scene and incorporate feeling like you are in four different glass rooms simultaneously. Now start spinning those rooms that you and your four counterparts occupy in an oscillatory fashion around a concentric sphere of amalgamated colors. These colors rush from the sphere and cascade around inside of each room at the speed of light while the resonant rays float magically through the thick air in the rooms. It's explosions of color in the most monotonous sense.....All i'm sayin is that it is a dense little Neutron star. Having an appreciation for complex jazz frameworks and pro style counterpoint flow is crucial to the enjoyment of this experience. This is not a casual listen. It may even be displeasing, initially, to some of you. I have no idea. All I can do with music this deep is say what i think and feel as descriptively as humanly possible.
5 kids from Texas, toiling in musical obscurity, have created one of the most intensely confusing, cosmically atmospheric, and honestly beautiful pieces of devastatingly heavy music i have ever heard. I began this not knowing what to expect, played the album at full blast for its entirety, and afterwards, felt like staring at the sky for hours so that i could contemplate the dense complexity of the concepts presented. Goosebumps and feelings of "WTF, how did they write that" are perpetual companions to this existential experience. There are few expressions that accurately represent the account of something's awesomeness with something simple and declarative. I think the terminology I'm searching for doesn't exist yet. As always, Thank you for pushing those boundaries that were never there, Aeolia. May you tour with the best and shit on your detractor's jaded doubts. Overcome your preconceptions, embracing the unfamiliar changes that all possible futures bring.
It should come as to no surprise to anyone who's a fan of traditional heavy metal that there is a resurgence of a more occult-tinged type of traditional heavy metal, bearing a deep bluesy vibe and a slight stoner incline. Over the past few years, we’ve had Castle, Christian Mistress, Blood Ceremony and a bunch of others from all over the world. Of course, Sweden has had its share of the mother lode, with bands like Graveyard and Witchcraft being now quite well known and successful to a bigger scale. It is my pleasure to bring you another Swedish up-and-coming wonder:Snakeskin Angels.
The band is still quite young, having been active only since 2008. Their first demo came out in 2010 and actually consisted of all the songs present on Follow the Snake to the Core, their first official full-length album, which is nothing less than a full re-mix andre-mastering of this 8-song (plus one intro), 2010 demo. What perhaps is most notable about the band is its line-up, consisting of members of some notable Swedish bands. First, we have Kenneth “Thunderbolt” Gagner on vocals, better known for having been in Swordmaster, for the more extreme metal fans among you. Then we have Kalle “Graveyard” Pettersson and Daniel “DK” Kvist on drums and guitar respectively, both better known to some by being in melodic death metal band Taetre. This round of musicians is rounded up by second guitarist Grim Vindkall, a member of melodic doom band Nox Aurea (who brought us Ascending in Triumph, their terrific 2010 offering) as well as Gustaf “Kallbrand” Sundin, who hails from the black metal scene with his own band, Styggelse. So when you look at it, Snakeskin Angels is kind of an underground supergroup or sorts, given birth by these musicians and their desire to unite and bring us an occult heavy metal sound influenced by the late 60s/early 70s, dubbed “Luciferian rock n’ roll”.
So yes, that means that there is an undeniable influence from Black Sabbath permeating throughout the album, which can be felt through the album’s production style as well as the its atmosphere, thickened with incense fumes. The same could be said for all the bands which I name-dropped at the beginning of this review, as without question,Black Sabbath is the pretty much the root of this occult, metallic sound. The Satanic/occult themes had been done before, such as by the infamous occult-inclined progressive rock band Coven - which funnily enough, their debut album came just a few months before Paranoid, but it was still Black Sabbath that “metalized” it and gave birth to the sound we hear on Snakeskin Angels’ debut album.
Now that the history lesson is over, let’s get into the meat of this album. After a 2-minute intro soaked in hallucinogenic substances, we get into the first real song “Black Light District”. It quickly becomes clear and obvious that what you get is heavily influenced by early Black Sabbath. You get the catchy riffs, the not-always-on-key vocals of Thunderbolt and a nice old-school solo. The following song, “By the Hammer of Beelzebuth” keeps this trend of catchy riffs and vocal hooks, with a nice bridge section boasting some great guitar work. “Nothing But Pain” caught me off guard with its beautiful acoustic-driven, contemplative mood. Thunderbolt’s vocals are much calmer and fit impressively well here. I must be honest and say at first, from the first songs, I thought his vocals were kind of off, but now I realize that was deliberate because here, the vocals are very well done.
From the mellow drive of the previous song, “The Great Sarcophagus” brings out a doom-laden mood which I absolutely dig and there’s a wicked groove to the whole thing, as well as a nice solo, which makes it a big standout for me. “The Rebel” follows and is the longest track here, yet still clocking in only at 5 minutes. Again, this is another very strong track, with a ridiculously catchy chorus, as well as a nice acoustic break in the middle which shows the band making good use of dynamics, with even some double-bass pounding at the end. Thunderbolt’s vocals also soar a bit more here, which I must say sounds very good to my ears. “Black Moon Curse” is a bit more generic to me. The riffs are decent but unimpressive and while I like the higher vocal notes in the chorus, it all ends up sounding a bit boring. “The Fire Omega” unfortunately follows the same line as the previous song to me and isn’t as strong as the album’s first half. Thankfully, the short “Wolfmother” brings the album to its end on a strong note, with an interesting near-spoken word to the vocals as well as some soaring vocals which sound really good and makes me feel better that the albums ends that way.
Often, projects made of several musicians from different backgrounds end up either disappointing or just plain boring, yet Snakeskin Angels somehow manages to escape that unfortunate tradition and the final result is a pleasantly solid album of good old heavy metal. The album does seem to get a bit worn out in the second half but it still has a couple of killer songs and a very strong first half.
The bottom line is, if you dig this resurgence of a more occult-tinged heavy metal sound and have been enjoying bands like The Devil’s Blood, Witchcraft or Graveyard, or even if you simply are a Black Sabbath fan, then Snakeskin Angels will most likely find a nice niche in your collection.
Final score: 4/5
NOTE: the cover artwork above is not the actual album's cover; the actual artwork wasn't available in large size as of yet
Clip of "Black Moon Curse" (not the best here, but no other was available):
The sheer mention of that phrase is enough to make a good amount of metalheads turn tail and run the other way. Admittedly, while it most definitely stemmed from Sweden – the birthplace of the very “Swedish death metal” sound, the melodic death metal scene has seen its time of popularity and once used to be a blossoming and flourishing scene, brimming with talent from all over the world. While it is true that the “Gothenburg” sound is pretty much the basis of the genre which saw giants like In Flames and Dark Tranquillity spearheading the scene, the genre would go on, spreading across the world and bringing some great melodeath from unexpected places (such as Enforsaken, from the US).
It would be however Finland that would end up with the strongest melodeath scene after Sweden, with household names such as Children of Bodom, Norther, Insomnium, Omnium Gatherum or Kalmah all being strong exports from the Finns and beloved from fans all over the world. After the early 2000s, the melodic death metal sound seemed to get a bit out of breath and while the big names kept going, many changedtheir sound for a different approach, be it more progressive (Insomnium) or more modern (Children of Bodom). I’m not sure if that’s the result from people getting worn out on melodeath of if it was just the result of general stagnation from the scene not bringing anything new and seemingly not going anywhere.
In the end, I think that might be a big part of the problem. Enter Sons of Aeon. Again, what we have here a bit of a “supergroup” of sorts, featuring current and former members of Ghost Brigade, Swallow the Sun, Endstand and Code for Silence. I personally cannot say for the latter two, which are admittedly unknown to me, but I’m a rather big fan of both Swallow the Sun and Ghost Brigade, so my interest to hear Sons of Aeon’s self-titled debut album was rather high.
The brand of death metal that these Sons play is most definitely melodic, with some atmospheric and progressive influences. It’s also quite honestly, not bad at all. The only major issue I have with this album is the lack of anything new. It’s all been done before, both better and (thankfully), much worse. So really, if you’re a melodic death metal fan, you should have a good time with this. I don’t hear much Swallow the Sun influence here, as obviously, the sound is far removed from doom but I do hear some of Ghost Brigade’s atmospheric tendencies, which to me are quite welcome and allow me some breathing room, adding to the general dynamics and avoiding the trap of being your average one-dimensional, constantly speedy melodic death metal album. Besides that, I do hear a bunch of different bands in here, such as Dark Tranquillity on “Seeds of Destruction”, Insomnium on the epic “Weakness” and even (funnily enough) Amon Amarth on “Enemy of the Souls”. So it’s quite obvious that the band have influences and there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is when your album starts feeling like it doesn’t really know where it’s headed, and that’s what I feel with Sons of Aeon’s debut. It’s the sound of an incredibly talented bunch of musicians doing what they do extremely well, but without a defined focus or identity.
Does that mean the album is terrible? Of course not! It’s actually quite good, to my ears. The intro and outro to the nearly 8-minute opener “Faceless” is dark and beautiful, “Burden” has an incredible atmosphere (Ghost Brigade comes to mind, again), “Enemy of the Souls” has a great Amon Amarth-esque style of riffing, “Havoc and Catharsis” has a stupidly catchy riff that drilled itself in my head, “Weakness” is epic and could come from Insomnium orKalmah and finally, “Black Sheep Process” is a beautiful drawn-out instrumental closing the album on a melodic note.
To the band, I would say that the album is very solid and I have absolutely no qualms about the musicianship involved in this album. The talent and potential is mighty high here. However, they definitely need focus and to find a sound that would make them unique. I want to hear these guys doing something different, something else than “Sons of Aeon plays Amon Amarth” or any other band. To be frank, I feel a bit frustrated that this albumisn’t any better, because I love the bands some of these guys are/were involved with and I feel this is just too familiar to warrant a really high score.
On the other hand, I’m somewhat thankful this didn’t degenerate into another of these “modern” melodic death metal bands, because as Wille said himself: “With a few exceptions, I’m not personally interested in today’s extreme metal. I like my metal with nuances and soul. Math-based, vacuum-packed bursts of anger just don’t do the trick for me.” I very much concur and that perhaps is why that even though this isn’t very ground-breaking or mind-blowing, this “soul” might be what gives the album its je-ne sais-quoi which forces to give it a better score than what I might normally give an album like this.
So even though my score may not be the highest, please take into consideration that the band is comprised of some incredible musicians and this being their debut, there’s a load of space for something much better in the future. Also, keep in mind that to me, 3.5/5 is above average. I don’t give 4s that easily and much less 4.5s (and you may actually never see a 5 from me).
Bottom line is, if you’re a melodic death metal and you enjoy the Finnish school of melodeath, please ignore the not-so-high rating and check these guys out, because they might be onto something pretty awesome in the future.
I'll be honest, I'm not the most familiar with Cult of Luna's discography. My first contact with the band was The Beyond, which even after listening to it yesterday, I still find it to be unbearable noise, much in the way of Gojira's earlier works (worse, actually). I tried The Beyond after hearing a lot of praise for it and well, that also really disappointed me. After several listens, I couldn't get into it. Then I kind of gave up, frankly. I wrote off the band and thought this stuff is just not for me.
Fast forward to 2013. It's still only a week into the year and here comes Vertikal, an album which supposedly is based on the movie "Metropolis". And like a dumbass, I made a resolution to listen to anything that could potentially float my boat this year. Oh crap. What did I get myself into?
Well, to be honest, after "The One" being an ominous intro, "I: The Weapon" already wasn't too bad. The short infusion of melody in the middle part was stellar. So I figured maybe I wouldn't hate this all that much. But then, "Vicarious Redemption". What a crazy endeavor, that song. I mean, seriously, the third song is freaking 20 minutes long! It started out very subtle, like it crept itself under my skin and the whole ordeal was admittedly very uncomfortable but somehow, I loved it. It felt so surreal and transcendental. The droning parts were incredibly well done. It didn't feel like 20 minutes, honestly. I came out of it drained but deeply satisfied. And then, the throbbing electronic backdrop of "The Sweep" came in and gave me a short breather before another abrasive number in "Synchronicity", which I feel a bit more indifferent to but it's not bad, by any means.
Already half way through! Wow, that wasn't bad. So, next is "Mute Departure". Absolutely love that one, easily my favorite on the album. I dig the slight droning here as well as the very organic drumming and the general atmosphere of that song. I can't really count "Disharmonia" since it's under a minute and only serves as transition to "In Awe Of", but it's effective at what it does and leads into another of Vertikal's highlights. "In Awe Of" is another incredibly organic and melodic endeavor, I have to say I enjoy all 10 minutes of it. It doesn't have as much scathing screaming either, which is a plus to me. The album closes with the melodic "Passing Through", which features the surprising appearance of clean vocals, which always have seemed sporadic with this band and here it sounds good but as much as I would like to say otherwise, I found it to be a slightly underwhelming finale. I would have put it before "In Awe Of", honestly.
Either way, I've been listening to Vertikal for what, 3 days or so, and I'm finding myself enthralled by it. For once, the electronics are used in a way that compliment the album, rather than just make a mess of inorganic cacophony. Best sludge I've heard in a long time. Very abrasive at times, very unsettling even, but somehow very addictive and oozes with a sense of contempt and surrealism which I dig. A well deserved 4 stars from me.
"Rise Of The Virvum Juggernaut", a brand new song from California extreme metallers DEEDS OF FLESH, can be streamed in the YouTube clip below. The track comes off the band's ninth album, "Portals To Canaan", which will be released next year via Unique Leader Records. The CD features "amazing artwork and numerous conceptual pieces" by Raymond Swanland (see below).
Commented DEEDS OF FLESH founding member Erik Lindmark: "We are very excited to get this release out there amoung the masses.
"The album combines new and old elements of the band and we think the fans will really enjoy it. Zack from Castle Ultimate has done a great job in putting the final touches to the production and 'Portals To Canaan' is most definitely our best production to date."
Personally, I was surprised at this one. It's definitely modern-sounding but it's still very powerful and I love the riffing. Should be better than "Of What's To Come" and on par with their best works (Mark of the Legion and Reduced to Ashes).
Xanthochroid: Adjective used in Anthropology and/or Ethnology, meaning, relating to, or designating races having light-coloured hair and a pale complexion.
In my endeavors to bring you the newest, most impressive talents in black metal, I bring you today this new American powerhouse: Xanthochroid. These fine men play black metal, in quite a unique fashion. You could throw around words like symphonic, progressive, epic, fantasy, occult or atmospheric but it would all be in vain, because their take on the genre is very unorthodox and far removed from the clichés of the genre (i.e. Dimmu Borgir). More on that in a moment.
To say that US black metal is a misunderstood scene is quite accurate. It is comprised mostly of bands which strive to repeat the Norwegian black metal of old, with its grimness and unequivocal approach to the original sound (bands such as Krieg, Judas Iscariot, Clandestine Blaze or Averse Sefira, for example). That said, to say the USBM scene is one-dimensional would be a fatal mistake. There are bands out there such as Panopticon (atmospheric black with bluegrass!) that strive to stick out of the mass and make their own brand of unique black metal. As such, those who still think black metal is all about the corpse paint, the satanism and the over-the-top imagery are either ignorant or biased. The black metal scene is as diverse, as creative and as artistic as it has ever been. Despite the fact that some of these forward-thinking bands are quite controversial, such as Lithurgy and its frontman Hunter's pretentiousness and general idiocy, some others are truly something special and deserve the attention of all black metal fans and beyond. That is the case of Xanthochroid.
The brand of symphonic black metal which Xanthochroid crafts is as I said above, quite unusual. It's actually very laid back and while it can blast and sound like any black metal, their uniqueness lie in their sense of epicness, which takes the form of ambient segments and occult atmosphere intertwining with the compositions. Speaking of the songs, they can be quite lengthy, with 3 above the 7-minute mark. Usually, when a band says their music is "sophisticated", I tend to be cautious because admittedly, many who claim so are really quite boring. But for once, the guys of Xanthochroid are onto something truly unique. While there are most definitely some influence from Emperor and vocally, the black metal rasp sounds quite a bit like Ihsahn's (and also like Dissection's late frontman does on Reinkaos, in my opinion) and are surprisingly intelligible, which is a welcome thing in black metal, I would say. There are also plenty of choirs which are very well done and frontman Sam Meador also has a terrific soaring clean voice which at times reminds of ICS Vortex or even Ihsahn, and compliments the black metal outbursts very well. The band sounds like no one else out there and that is something quite rare. The only other bands I can think of off the top of my head that have such a unique sound that is their own are Opeth and Unexpect.
Musically, describing this one is extremely difficult, considering the complexity and diversity of the band's sound. They really send you on a journey, and quite an epic one, at that. I've seen a lot of so-called "epic" black metal bands but so far, no one really made me feel that sense of grandiosity, of grandeur which the term "epic" comes with. Only Italy's Stormlord ever came close to me but I can definitely say Xanthochroid nails that sound, and then some. No matter if you take the title track "Blessed He With Boils" that brings together the band's musical identity quite well, the insanely epic and beautiful "Deus Absconditus: Part II", the superbly musical and diverse "In Putris Stagnum" or the epic 9-minute finale that is "Rebirth of an Old Nation", the album is just incredible from start to finish. It sends you on a roller-coaster of emotions and moods, ranging from blasting and sweeping black metal to epic soaring symphonic sections to fragile, sensible and tasteful ambient segments. Production wise, one can't complain here, it sounds very clear and powerful and was mastered by Swedish master Jens Bogren. I also have to shout out at Natacha Nielsen, who created the album's beautiful artwork.
I just cannot find much that goes wrong with Blessed He With Boils. It truly is just as astounding achievement from an American band - from any black metal band - in 2012 and it blew me away with its sophisticated (finally, the term can be properly used!) and complex approach to a genre which sadly often ends up risible for its imagery and odd characters populating the scene. Add to this the fact that this is their first full-length and I find myself flabbergasted at the sheer display of talent and musicality here, even more so than with Saturnian, which already baffled black metal fans earlier this year with their masterful throwback to the Cradle of Filth sound of old. If you consider yourself open-minded, musically enlightened and/or a fan of black metal, you just need to check this one out. This came and completely screwed up my 2012 year-end list! I really could rate this a 5 but that wouldn't be fair until at least a year from now. Nonetheless, easily the best black metal of 2012 and my ridiculous gushing and amount of excitement over this tells me this will stand the test of time. Hail and respect!
Album is available HERE at the band's Bandcamp page, for a meager $10USD for digital download or only $12USD for a digi-book with the awesome artwork!
So, here we are with the Finns of Mors Principium Est and their 4th studio album, ...And Death Said Live. These guys have taken a bit of a break (5 years!) since their last album, Liberation = Termination. It seems the break has at least paid off, because the last offering was quite lackluster compared to the solid melodeath assaults of Inhumanity and The Unborn. Thankfully, this one sees them back on the right track.
Now, since this has come across as a subject of discussion here at Planetary Sanctum, let's get this out of the way. Mors Principium Est definitely follows the Swedish (Gothenburg) school of melodic death metal. That means, no pretty orchestras, no electronics (wait, there are some on "Birth of the Starchild" but they fit and are used sparingly), no weird samples and thankfully, no breakdowns. This isn't modern melodic death metal. This is straight out of the old school and follows the vein of some other melodic death metal bands such as Within Y (minus the thrash influence) or The Duskfall.
After an admittedly somewhat unnecessary intro (it should have been part of the track, really), we're thrown right into "Departure", a very solid cracker which showcases the band's melodic leaning and speedy assault perfectly. From there, it's just solid track after solid track. The only downside of the album is actually the lack of dynamics. The music is great, don't get me wrong - but it could have used some variations in tempo here and there. Thankfully, the band does know how to write some good melodies and some of these shine through the album, such as on the aformentioned "Departures" (which also boasts a fantastic solo) as well as on "Birth of the Starchild", "Bringer of Light" (possibly my favorite on here), the epic closer and on the title track. Definitely some great work from the new guitarists, which fit right in with the band and being solid skills to the table and some great, melodic and blistering solos throughout the album. Another downside is the title track, which is nice and is a nice showcase of the new guitarists but really just serves as a lengthy intro to "Destroyer of All" and again, comes across as a bit unncessary and overstays its welcome. Despite all this and comparing it to the band's previous album, ...And Death Said Live is pretty solid. Not quite as solid as the debut or The Unborn but definitely much better than the last one.
Another issue at hand is the vocal approach. The vocals here are definitely more in the front of the mix, which may make vocalist Ville Viljanen seem a bit harsh and give a core-ish vibe to his vocals. That said, he's always been like this since Inhumanity, so I think it's just the mix that make the vocals sound a bit weaker than usual (or maybe his voice is just not as good?). However, I don't think his vocal approach is all that different from most melodic death metal bands. I don't see that big a difference if I listen to some older melodeath bands like Omnium Gatherum, old In Flames, Detonation, The Duskfall, Callenish Circle or other bands of this ilk. The vocals in MDM have mostly always been either shouted or screamed, only exception I know being Vehemence who play MDM but have a deep growler on the mic. While I can definitely say this style of vocals has grown out of me, I can say this is nowhere near as bad as it has been in the past few years, with the more "modern" turn on MDM which I just can't stomach (with some abysmally bad vocalists, such as the one who ruined the last Cipher System album after their masterpiece debut).
So all in all, I can say that ...And Death Said Live is a solid MDM album, definitely rooted in the old-school Swedish sound with a bit of Finnish atmospheric sensibility in the keyboards. Fans of the band will want to track this down, obviously. If this is your first encounter with Mors Principium Est and if you don't mind vocals being a bit forward in the mix and enjoy solid melodic death metal, by all means check this out. There's a reason why this band is often mentioned from fans of melodic death metal.
The new Helloween single, Nabataea, taken from the forthcoming "Straight out of Hell" Studio album.
It's sounds great to me, it's been quite some time since I was excited by new music from Helloween.
A good mixture of their old and new styles, and this time not too long. Like a lot of older bands Helloween has had a tendency to drag songs out to 7 or 9 minutes when the song should have ended at about 4 or 5 minutes
I have a bit of a shocking statement to make: I have never been a huge Labyrinth fan. Now, don't get me wrong, I certainly like the band and I've listened to all their albums at least twice, but unlike most people I never thought they were anything special as a power metal band. Instead, I prefer their more experimental albums, like the self-titled release and 6 Days To Nowhere, where they used more progressive elements in their music. The latter in particular is completely unlike anything else they did, which caused quite the backlash, and yet I have always loved it. But why say all of this when they haven't even made a new album yet since that very successful sequel to their most beloved album?
Well, let's take a look at the line-up for this new band A Perfect Day. On drums we have Alessandro Bissa, but I guess some may not recognize that name because he's a relatively new addition. Moving on then, on guitar we have Andrea Cantarelli, and I guess that should probably ring some bells. In case anyone is still confused, on bass and vocals we have none other than..... Roberto Tiranti! Yep, in case you somehow haven't clued in yet, this is a new band consisting entirely of Labyrinth members. Apparently Andrea had been wanting to try something different for a while, so he presented some new music to Roberto and that's how it all started. Knowing who was involved and that I had often respected their talents more than their actual music, I was very interested to see what they would do, and whether or not it would be different enough to justify a different band name.
Turns out, the self-titled debut most definitely is something fresh and completely different, so releasing it under a new band was a wise move, knowing how easy it can be to upset Labyrinth fans. Thankfully, I was able to come in with an open mind and let the music speak for itself. I have to say, this may have just become my favorite album with Cantarelli and Tiranti involved, and while it's not surprising to know this kind of album is being released by Frontiers Records, it is far better than anything most bands signed to that label could come up with.
As you'd expect based on that last sentence, this album has quite a few modern elements, and it is extremely melodic. More so than anything else these guys have been involved with, by a lot. Basically, this could best be described as a very melodic and slightly progressive metal album, with some influences of alternative metal. Anyone expecting power metal will be very disappointed, as there are only a couple quick bursts that even sorta have anything to do with power metal. But as I said, I've always been more impressed by the individual talents of Roberto and Andrea than I have been by most of their music, so this doesn't bug me at all.
For the most part, the album follows two patterns as far as songwriting goes: There's the slightly heavier song which starts out with some modern sounding riffs, usually with some alt metal influence, then it calms down for a while until picking up again for the chorus, and from there the pattern continues. Then there's the more ballad-ish songs, which only become heavy in very quick bursts. To their credit though, the band does an excellent job of making every song memorable and easy to listen to, so even though there aren't many surprises once you've heard the first three songs ("Long Road To Ruin" is the first of the ballads), the album doesn't get any worse as it goes along. In fact, most of my favorite songs come in the second half.
The title track is pretty much as heavy as the album ever gets, once the cheesy intro ends. Even then, it's still a very melodic song with just the occasional burst of heaviness, including the first of two sections on the album that would fit on a power metal album, and it comes right after the intro. The verses and chorus are more in line with the rest of the album, and one thing that needs to be said: Bob Tyrant is in fine form here, singing very calmly but with a ton of emotion, and he delivers one of his best performances yet, as the more melodic approach to the music fits his voice perfectly.
While the title track is very good, it's not one of my favorites here. Those include "Waiting On The Edge", which starts with the only other vaguely power metal section on the album before slowing down as usual, the excellent closing track "We Only Say Goodbye" and two excellent ballads in "Long Road To Ruin" and my absolute favorite on the album "Under The Same Sun", where Roberto really gets to shine. With that being said, this album is very consistent the whole way through, and is more about the overall experience than it is about each song.
As far as side projects go, A Perfect Day is pretty damn awesome, and while Labyrinth fans may want nothing to do with it, anyone willing to hear Andrea and Roberto try something a bit more modern and much more melodic, white still having some progressive touches, is highly recommended to give this a try. Anyone else: Don't say I didn't warn you. Either way, I love this and can expect to hear it quite a few more times in the next little while.