Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
Eye of Solitude – Sui Caedere
Eye of Solitude is a London-based doom/death band and “Sui Caedere” is their second album. This album plays right to my current infatuation with funeral and death/doom metal bands, so I am happy to say that I like this album a lot. With the exception of the latest Ahab album, I do not hear a lot of music in this style where the production is really good and clear. Given the style this is not always a big deal, but it is nice to hear a good production, and “Sui Caedere” is better than most.
The music varies from slow to slightly above mid-tempo (faster than the glacial speeds of funeral doom) and is both bone-crushingly heavy and heart-wrenchingly melodic. The vocals are harsh and very deep sounding. They often have that gravely cement-mixer quality that drives me crazy with brutal death metal bands. This guy, however, enunciates a little better and the fact that the vocals are seated well in the mix turns this vocal style into a positive rather than a negative. The vocals combined with the music make for one really heavy album.
I realize this is probably not for everyone, but for me personally, I am really digging on this album. Check out the track “The Haunting.”
Moonloop – Deeply from the Earth
Moonloop is a progressive death metal band from Barcelona, Spain and “Deeply from the Earth” is their second album. They have been compared to both Opeth and Gojira, and while I can understand how those comparisons get made, I would never mistake Moonloop for either band.
The first thing I notice here is that the production sounds very nice. The music is very clean sounding, which is a nice because there is a lot of good riffing to be had here. The vocals are harsh and somewhat deep. They contrast nicely with the music thanks to the tight, crisp production. Once in awhile the vocals come off a little raw and do not quite mix as well with the slick sounding music, but most of the time it sounds perfect. Another nice contrast is the occasional inclusion of clean vocals.
Score another win for today; I really like “Deeply from the Earth.” The musical talent is obviously there, and combined with such solid production I am helpless before the melodies of Moonloop. Don’t believe me? Check out the epic 11 minute album closer, “Atlantis Rising.”
Oniromantic – The White Disease
Well, what do you know; we have a trifecta of cool albums today. Rounding out this hat-trick is Italian gothic metal band Oniromantic and their first album, “The White Disease.” Has anyone ever done a documentary on all the good metal bands coming out of Italy? I would like to see such a documentary because there is a seemingly never-ending flow of quality metal coming from that direction. Sam Dunn needs to get on this, pronto.
Oniromantic play a mix of traditional and gothic metal which I find hard to compare to other artists. In this sense they have their own sound, which is always a good thing. The closest I can come is the breathy vocal style used in the verses is vaguely reminiscent of Tiamat’s gothic phase. Other than this pretty weak comparison they really just do their own thing. And their thing is good.
My only minor complaint is that sometimes, particularly in opening track “Saturn Hellucination”, the vocals are not quite high enough in the mix and they get lost in the music. Due to the vocal style the words are easily overpowered by the music. This is not a problem in a lot of the songs, but maybe bumping the vocals up a notch might help them stand out a little more.
Other than that little thing, I love this album. I feel like we could really hear bigger and better things from this band in the future. I will be waiting. In the meantime, here is the track “High Resolution God.”
Last Updated on July 16, 2012
Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
Titan’s Eve – Life Apocalypse
Today I am happy to bring you Vancouver thrashers Titan’s Eve and their second album, “Life Apocalypse.” I liked “Life Apocalypse” so much that I went back and picked up their first album, “The Divine Equal.”
I use the term thrash pretty loosely here. I mean, yesterday I wrote about Mortillery and called them thrash, but their music is very different than Titan’s Eve. I dub Titan’s Eve thrash because the music is pretty fast and heavy, yet it is not death metal or black metal, so my fallback position is thrash. I could go with a much broader stroke and just call them heavy metal, but that would give you even less of an idea as to what they are about. I of course forget while writing that one can just go to the bottom and listen to the included track to figure out what they sound like. Let us move on then.
For a brief moment on “Road to Ruin” I was reminded of the old Finnish thrash band Stone (featuring Roope Latvala, currently in Children of Bodom.) That was a pleasant connection to make. On the whole Titan’s Eve does not resemble Stone, but something in the way the rough vocals were phrased whisked me back to 1988. No commands, no more, take no orders from you no more!
The instrumental work on “Life Apocalypse” is pretty killer. It has an old school metal feel encased in a contemporary stainless steel frame. It crushes you with powerful riffs and lighting leads, but also seems to effortlessly blend this with melody; there is beauty within this beast. The vocals are a little gruff, but not what one would consider “harsh.” I would almost call them hardcore style, but they are not quite so barked. The vocals are a perfect fit for this music and help establish a distinct sound the band can call their own.
I really dig “Life Apocalypse” and think everyone should check these guys out. Here for your head-banging pleasure is “Destined to Die.”
Pry - Transcendent Iridescence
Pry is an unsigned Serbian alternative metal band and “Transcendent Iridescence” is their first album. It is also a double album AND a concept album; how ambitious is that? My first impression upon listening to the opening track was that Kurt Cobain joined Alice in Chains to play Tool songs. I am throwing a lot of names at you there, but that is merely me trying to make a connection in my mind. What you should take away from that statement is that I was immediately drawn into this album and wondering what would happen next.
These songs are more alternative sounding than I am used to listening to these days, but damn are they good. Maybe it is the striking contrast to what I am used to hearing, or maybe these guys are just really damn good. I think I am going to go with both options.
They say that their music can be appreciated both by those seeking something deeper in the music and by casual listeners. I must concur, as it is easy to get sucked into this album on the very first listen, but I also feel like there are untold depths which I have yet to discover. Sort of like when swimming in the ocean, and you are not trying to touch the ground, you are just treading water, but then you have this feeling that the floor has sloped away and you know you are now in much deeper water.
I was pleasantly surprised by “Transcendent Iridescence” and hope someone will pick this album up and give it some proper distribution. Check out the track “Silhouette” below.
Minerva – Dead for a Lifetime
“Dead for a Lifetime” is the first album from Polish metal band Minerva. The dude that sent me this album described it as southern rock, hardcore and metal. I am not sure I hear the southern rock part, but hardcore and metal I hear. Musically there feels like there is some groove in that there metal. Vocally there is a lot of hardcore style screaming, but they also have a fair amount of cleanish vocals.
The production is very…bright. I am thinking it must be digital because it is very clean and intense; much more so than one would get from analog. That is not much of a stretch though as I suppose most recordings are digital these days.
Out of the gate I was not so sure I was going to like this album, but once I figured out where they were going with this I settled into a happy place and started to enjoy it. By the time I got to the fourth track, “The Day”, I was a fan. Speaking of “The Day”, here it is. Give Minerva a listen.
Adeia – Hourglass
Today is just full of wonderful surprises. Here we have Adeia from Rotterdam, Netherlands and their debut album, “Hourglass.” First conceived by classical violinist Laura ten Voorde when straight-up classical music was not doing it for her, Adeia melds elements of classical music with progressive metal. You have got to love a band that sandwiches Opeth in between Rachmaninoff and Simon & Garfunkel in their influences list.
A line from their own bio says it best: “They created a sound comprised of classical melodies, progressive rock elements and a nice dose of heavy grunts, growls and guitars.” The first few minutes of “Cordyceps” had me wondering how this album had made its way to me; it was all violin and piano and clean, light vocals. Then at about 2:14 everything changed. Suddenly the guitars started getting heavier and the vocals were much more rock-oriented. Ok, now we were getting somewhere. By 3:23 the vocals went harsh and I became very interested.
It seriously sounds like they took some classical music, some Pink Floyd and some Opeth and threw it in a blender. I suppose given the current state of Opeth this does not sound like an unusual thing, but these are three very distinct sounds that are all cohabitating in the same space at the same time, as opposed to evolving over a span of years like the Opeth sound. Mixing all these elements is not a new concept in metal music, but somehow Adeia manage to make it seem unique.
Today may be Friday the 13th, but I am feeling very lucky in today’s selections. Every one of them today is really good and I have no problem at all recommending any of these fine bands. Check them all out. Here is the single “Providence” from Adeia.
Last Updated on July 13, 2012
Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Ascending to Infinity
Are you fucking kidding me? I have been a big fan of Rhapsody for many years, but this is just ridiculous. In some sort of supposedly amicable split, Rhapsody (I choose not use the bullshit lawsuit-inspired name Rhapsody of Fire whenever possible) has made like an amoeba and split into two separate entities. On one side we have Rhapsody (of Fire) with remaining members Alex Staropoli, Fabio Lione and Alex Holzwarth (keyboards, vocals and drums.) On the other side we have Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody with Luca Turilli on guitar and Patrice Guers on bass. Well at least this will not be confusing for anyone.
Personally, I think that Luca should have just gone back to working under his own name (under which he has several great solo albums) and left the Rhapsody name in one piece. While I admit that Luca is a big part of Rhapsody, Alex and Fabio make up two thirds of what is great about Rhapsody, and they should be the ones using the name, so as to not confuse fans (and so maybe everyone can retain a little dignity.) It feels like a child custody battle gone very wrong.
Anyway, Luca’s Rhapsody in many ways still sounds like Rhapsody. The style is still very much the same, even if there is some new guy singing. He has a good voice and does an admirable job, but the fact that he is not Fabio is something of which I am constantly aware. From a technical and production standpoint I can easily say “Ascending to Infinity” is a great album. I just wish it was a great Luca Turilli solo album.
Here is the video for “Dark Fate of Atlantis.”
Whitechapel – Whitechapel
My friend Buke has always been a big fan of Whitechapel, but they have never done much for me. Whitechapel are labeled deathcore, and anything with “core” in the genre is either not my thing (most hardcore) or annoys the shit out of me (death and metalcore.) In an effort to be fair (hey, it is my site, fair is what I say it is lol) I am giving this, their self-titled fourth album, a listen before I pass judgement.
Ok, so I will admit this is a pretty good album. The lack of clean emo vocals sprinkled throughout is a huge plus (perhaps that is the difference between deathcore and metalcore?) and the solid production is another. The harsh vocals certainly have a “core” flavor to them, but they are close enough to death metal that I can pretend this is just a very polished death metal album.
There is something about a tight and punchy extreme metal album that excites me. Lately I have preferred a much rawer sound with all the funeral doom and atmospheric black metal that I have been gorging myself on, so this Whitechapel album is a nice change of pace. I still think too many of the cool kids will be listening to this, but that is just the elitist in me talking. This is a well put-together album that sounds really good, so I have to give credit where credit is due. Check out the track “Hate Creation.”
Mortillery – Murder Death Kill
I love seeing a woman in a Bathory t-shirt. Especially when that woman is attached to the front of a killer thrash band. “Murder Death Kill” is the first album from Edmonton thrashers Mortillery and it took me no time at all to decide I like this album.
Having grown up during the 80s thrash metal era, Mortillery’s style of fast, angry thrash is like “coming home” to these aged ears. Rather than hearing a new band for the first time it is like welcoming back the progeny of an old friend.
The music is straight-forward thrash metal mayhem, but the vocals of Cara McCutchen add a venomous flavor that makes this album stand out from the crowd. Her voice makes them more memorable than the hordes of others attached to the retro-thrash movement. I like this album and you should too. Check out the track “Despised by Blood.”
Suture – Skeletal Vortex
Hailing from Baton Rouge, I thought Suture might have a little Cajun spice in their metal, but alas, no, this is brutal death metal. No room for Cajun with that much brutality to attend to. “Skeletal Vortex” is Suture’s second album. I see it listed as originally released in 2008, but apparently this is a re-recorded and remixed version of that earlier album.
The production sound seems treble-heavy and bass-lacking like a thrash album, which of course, is perfectly fine with me; that extra treble for clarity helps my metal-shredded eardrums make out the details better lol.
A little more beefiness in the drums would be nice, but I love the guitar tone. The vocals, which are very harsh, could be a wee bit louder, but are really pretty alright as they are. I am not going to do any cartwheels over this album, but it is a good listen. Check out the title track below.
Last Updated on July 12, 2012
Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
Chaosweaver – Enter the Realm of the Doppelgänger
Chaosweaver hail from Finland and “Enter the Realm of the Doppelgänger” is their second album of self-described Cinematic Extreme Metal. These guys are new to me, so I had no idea what to expect. Looking at the cover I thought maybe they were thrash metal, but after listening to the album I think their description is appropriate.
The production is a lot cleaner than I expected (all these “expectations” based purely on visuals like the cover and song titles) but makes complete sense in relation to the cinematic elements. Think of Dimmu Borgir if they were less symphonic and more cinematic. Though to be perfectly honest, this often works as symphonic too. The vocals are all harsh in one way or another, but the type of harsh gets varied, resulting in vocals that do not get monotonous or boring. The drums are really punchy and the guitars have a nice thick chunk. The sound quality on this album is superb.
I am quite impressed with “Enter the Realm of the Doppelgänger.” Not a lot of bands can pull off an album that exhibits such quality in all aspects of the product, but Chaosweaver seem to prove they have what it takes to be among the elite. Check out the video for “Maelstrom of Black Light.”
Livarkahil – Wrath of God
Parisian death metal band Livarkahil have two full albums previously, and “Wrath of God” is their current five song EP. This is not death metal in a brutal or Swedish melodic sense, this runs in the same circles as Samoth’s The Wretched End, where the music is certainly death metal, but it has an atmospheric quality reminiscent of black metal. Atmospheric death metal perhaps?
The overall paunchiness of the mix is lessened by the atmospheric quality I just mentioned, but on the whole this is still a very nice sounding EP. The music tends to stick to fast and heavy and the vocals are all harsh in the mid to high range with occasional guttural growls. The songs on “Wrath of God” do not strike me as particularly original or compelling (what is these days) but they did impress me enough that I feel I can recommend checking these guys out. Here is the title track, “Wrath of God.”
Ereb Altor – Gastrike
Ereb Altor are not the band I was thinking they were when I started listening to “Gastrike.” For some reason I have them mixed up with a power metal band whose name I now am unable to remember (because of course I thought it was Ereb Altor.) It drives me crazy when I cannot recall or lookup a particular band, but short of looking through every album in my collection I will just have to wait for it to come to me. Anyway, Ereb Altor are not actually power metal, they are in fact a Viking Doom metal band (more Viking than doom) that features two members from the brilliant Swedish doom band Isole. “Gastrike” is the third album from Ereb Altor.
I am not exactly sure what makes this Viking metal, the songs do not seem particularly Viking-themed, I guess it must be a stylistic thing. The music on “Gastrike” sounds rather like a black metal /death metal mix to me. Whatever you want to call it, it sounds pretty good to me. The production is both good and at the same time slightly raw. I wish the vocals were a little higher in the mix sometimes, but this is still very listenable. Maybe what makes this Viking is the ghostly, haunting, clean wailing vocal that permeates the songs.
Between the two, I prefer Isole, but Ereb Altor is pretty cool too. Check out the track “Dispellation.”
Humangled – Odd Ethics
Now here is one that gave me exactly what I was expecting. Humangled is an Italian death metal band and “Odd Ethics” four song EP that follows up their 2010 full length debut. With a name like Humangled I was expecting death metal, possibly brutal, and that is just what it turned out to be.
I have noticed an interesting discrepancy lately between the sound quality of the albums I receive for review, and the tracks I pick out on YouTube. I will listen to an album that I have received and think that the sound quality is pretty bad, and then, using the same headphones, I will check out a YouTube track to include. More often than not the sound quality on the YouTube track is superior to the music I have received from the band or label. WTF? This is interesting to me because I will write up how bad the production sounds, and then turn around and post a YouTube clip that actually sounds pretty good.
Such is the case here with Humangled. The sound quality on the EP I received was really not that great, but the video I am posting below, while not perfect, sounds a lot better. Sound quality issues aside, the four songs on “Odd Ethics” are fairly run of the mill death metal, but I liked some of the riffing. And the deep harsh vocals are not too bad either. Check out the track “Needles of the Blind” to hear for yourself.
Last Updated on July 11, 2012
Category: Heavy Mettle Written by: George Washburn
When I was a wee lad, one of my early and favorite metal bands was Twisted Sister. They may not seem as “metal” when compared to all the death and black metal bands of today, but back then this was metal at its finest. In a pre-Metallica world (the early thrash bands took a little while to filter into the Mid-West) this was the latest and greatest heavy metal had to offer. I have been meaning to write this album up for awhile, and since I am currently reading Dee Snider’s book “Shut Up and Give Me the Mic”, it seems like a perfect time to get it done.
I am not entirely sure how I first heard about Twisted Sister, but I remember ordering “Stay Hungry” from the Columbia Record & Tape Club without having heard any of the songs. I bought the album on reputation alone. When the cassette arrived I spent a considerable amount of time inspecting such bizarre looking album art. I do not think I had ever seen anything quite like Dee on that cover. I was too young to have experienced the glitter rock era and hair metal had not yet gone glam.
Upon listening to the album, I was immediately a fan. Of course the first song I loved was the one everybody loves, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” I was never bothered by how they looked. I know some people thought they were gay because they dressed in women’s clothes and wore make-up, but that never occurred to me. First of all, they did not REALLY look as if they were trying to be women. I mean come on; they would have made exceedingly ugly women. I thought it was obvious that it was just a rebellious thing they did for shock value. Getting upset over something done so tongue-in-cheek just seemed ridiculous to me.
The video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (included below) was an early favorite of mine, as well. Since I was roughly thirteen at this time, I was just starting to experience teen angst and rebellion, and Twisted Sister seemed to be able to relate to the rage and injustice I felt. That video was so relatable that my hormone-addled mind decided Dee and the boys must be my new heroes. As metal became heavier and Twisted Sister less so, it became harder to justify my love for the band, but I never did give up on them.
Growing up, Star Wars taught me about right and wrong. It taught me about heroes. Twisted Sister taught me about justice. And vengeance. The track “Horror-Teria” was a horror story that seemed unthinkable to my young, suburban, Mid-West point of view. People actually did things like that to kids? And they got away with it? It blew my little mind. I used to bring a boombox into the bathroom and listen to music while getting ready for school in the morning. To this day I remember listening to this track in the shower, staring at the tiled wall as these ideas took root in my mind. Life is not fair, and people do terrible things. And if the justice system will not do anything, you have to take matters into your own hands. That day in the shower I vowed never to stand idly by when someone needed help; or someone needed an ass kicking. I have more or less kept that promise to myself. Years later Dee would write a movie called “Strangeland” which was based around the story in this song. Check it out if you get a chance. Thanks for the eye-opener, Dee, and for giving me some backbone.
“I Wanna Rock” was another of my favorites from this album. How could you not like this song? This is a classic. Another track that is apparently classic, but I did not know it at the time, was “The Price.” In retrospect, it seems “The Price” was a pretty big song, but at the time I never seriously gave it much notice. I think that I was too young to be able to relate to the lyrics in the song, and so it was not until years later that I eventually fell in love with it. Now it is one of my favorite Twisted Sister songs.
I cannot think about “The Beast” without thinking about my friend (and co-Twisted Sister Fanatic) Jim. He always called this song “The Nature of the Bitch”, which he dedicated to his mom. I think he even came up with new words for it. She was Jehovah Witness, which put a real damper on being a kid that loves heavy metal. She thought that the music I was exposing her son to was Satanic. Whenever she would find any of his heavy metal cassettes she would throw them out. To get around this, he started swiping her religious tapes, and we would record metal albums over them so they would be incognito. Ah, the good old days.
“S.M.F.”, which stands for Sick Mother Fucker, was another beloved song. While they never spelled out the words in the song, we knew what they meant. Especially since their fan club was called the Sick Mother Fucking Friends of Twisted Sister. Dee has a real knack for writing about things that angst-ridden teens could relate to, and this track was one more example.
I never got to see Twisted Sister play during their heyday, but eventually I got to see them play at Jaxx in Springfield, Virginia. Seeing them in such a small venue, while shit for them, was awesome for me. I got to get right up on the stage and at one point I high-fived Dee and got whipped in the face with his long blonde hair. Can you say Greatest. Moment. Ever? I know; I am such a dork.
In 2004, Twisted Sister re-recorded this album and released it under the title “Still Hungry.” It was a novelty to hear the songs done with the latest recording technology, but to longtime fans of the album, it just does not compare to the original. When listening to “Still Hungry” it sounds like the album I know, but lacks all the tiny little nuances that are tattooed on my consciousness and spark recognition. It just is not the same. If only George Lucas would learn that lesson and leave the original Star Wars trilogy alone.
One of the things in Dee’s book that made me chuckle was the design of the Twisted Sister TS logo. Dee talks about how he wanted it to carve-able, like the Van Halen VH logo. Growing up in the 80s I understand this, because I remember seeing school lockers and textbooks with the mighty VH winged logo emblazoned across them. Well, I was never much of an artist, but I did draw that TS logo on anything I could find, so I have to admit that the logo idea was brilliant.
I love the entire Twisted Sister catalog, even “Love is for Suckers” (I remember wearing out that album while taking driver’s education), but “Stay Hungry” will always be my favorite. I give my thanks to Dee, Jay Jay, Eddie, Mark and A.J. for making the soundtrack of my youth a rocking one.
Educate yourself with some of the Twisted Sister classics below.
Last Updated on July 10, 2012