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Album Reviews

Dreaming Dead – Midnightmares

Dreaming Dead are a metal band from Los Angeles, California, and “Midnightmares” is their second album. Their Facebook page lists them as metal, which is rather vague, and Encyclopaedia Metallum calls them melodic death metal. The harsh vocals of Elizabeth Schall certainly qualifies them for death metal status, but the music sounds to me more like old Dissection with all those fast, melodic guitars.

By the time I reached the second track Dreaming Dead had won me over. With as much music as I listen to these days, I can generally tell if I am going to hate something within the first few seconds of hearing music and vocals together. One would think that bands would open an album or demo with their best material first, so if the first thirty seconds are terrible I do not honestly see any reason to keep listening. Generally I will skip around a little, to give bands the benefit of the doubt, but most of the time the opinion has already solidified. If a band makes it past the first thirty seconds then it probably has something of value to offer me, it is then just a matter of deciding how much I like them. Well, in the case of Dreaming Dead, I like them quite a lot.

I enjoyed the fast, frenetic music that was heavy enough to throw me into a mosh, yet technical and melodic enough to appeal to my inner music nerd. It does not surprise me as much as it used to, but I still do a mental double-take when I come across hot metal women that sing with a formidable harsh vocal style. I cannot quite decide whether to be attracted or run in fear lol. Schall’s vocals sound perfect overtop of the music.

The production quality on “Midnightmares” sounds above average for this style of metal, so no worries in that department. There are nine songs that fill up 41 minutes. My one complaint about the album is the track, “In Memoriam.” There is nothing wrong with the track itself, it is an instrumental and a pretty good one at that, but the placement in the album killed the momentum. It is a much slower track than the rest of the songs (with the exception of the closing instrumental track, “Departure” which might be even slower.) Maybe they were hoping to give the listener a chance to take a breather, but for me, it brought the album to a crawl. I was going to say it would have been better to place it as the last track, but that spot is already filled with an instrumental. Anyway, it is not a big deal, just something that stood out to me.

All in all, I enjoyed “Midnightmares.” Check out Dreaming Dead on their site, Facebook, or check out the video below for the track “Overlord.”


 

Last Updated on April 26, 2012

Hits: 330

Unleashed – Odalheim

Unleashed has been around forever, well, for a death metal band anyway. “Odalheim” is their eleventh album. Their first album was released 21 years ago, and I first heard Unleashed 19 years ago in 1993, when I picked up their third album, “Across the Open Sea.” Man, time certainly flies; I cannot believe it has been that long. It is pretty impressive that after 20+ years extreme metal is still going strong.

Unleashed plays a style of death metal that is at times melodic and tempered with elements of Nordic black and Viking metal. The music is probably more evolved from blackened thrash than death metal, but the vocals, at least, are harsh in a death metal style. The last few Unleashed albums have had a definite Nordic/Viking slant to them, and “Odalheim” is no exception.

The production on this latest opus sounds very suitable for the style. The guitars are clear and crisp, allowing the listener to hear all the intricacies of the guitar riffs as they go flying by. The vocals are seated nicely on top of the mix where you can hear them easily, yet still pick out the music if that is what you prefer. The drums are maybe a little thin sounding, but I do not think thick, thundering drums are totally appropriate for these songs anyway.

“Odalheim”, like the rest of the Unleashed catalog, does not try to impress with lots of extra gimmicky synths or symphonic atmospheric elements. These songs are stripped down to the bare metal essentials and will impress the listener with their technical skill and intensity rather than flash and filler. I like Viking metal that includes all that extra filler, but I also very much enjoy this style.

Not surprisingly, I can heartily recommend “Odalheim” to existing fans of Unleashed or those who might have an interest in getting to know this veteran band. Check out the lyric video for the album’s title track below.


 

Last Updated on April 25, 2012

Hits: 453

Paradise Lost – Tragic Idol

Last month I wrote up Paradise Lost and “Draconian Times” in anticipation of the release of their thirteenth album, “Tragic Idol.” As any fan of Paradise Lost knows, the band has undergone many stylistic changes over the years, some changes for better, and some for worse. “Draconian Times” has always been my favorite Paradise Lost album, and while I have enjoyed bits and pieces of all the albums that have been released since, none has ever measured up to “Draconian in my mind. The band spent several albums working through a gothic/electronic phase before eventually steering back toward a more metal approach with their 2005 self-titled album. That album, and the two that followed, were all seemingly working toward regaining their credibility and finding the right mix of heavy and melodic. Well, in my opinion, I would say with “Tragic Idol” they have arrived.

Every time a new Paradise Lost album comes out people talk about how they hope it will sound more like “Draconian Times” (or, depending on their taste, one of the earlier albums, but for the sake of where I am heading with this, just agree with me here) and then they are disappointed when it does not. Well if you are still waiting for “Draconian Times” part 2, I am sorry to say you will have to keep waiting. This album does not sound like “Draconian Times”, but it is the first album since then, in my opinion, to channel the same spirit and intensity as that revered album. So no, this does not sound like a continuation of “Draconian Times”, but is the first album to feel like a natural progression from the music that was created in 1995. I cannot speak for you, but for me, that is all I have been waiting for, so I am pretty damn thrilled.

“Tragic Idol” is rather like a return to their heavier roots but with still a touch of melody too. I have always liked Nick Holmes voice the best when he puts a harsh edge on it and then tries to sing something melodic. When he has that edge on his voice, he does not seem to quite hit melodic, like he falls just a hair short of actually singing, and that is what I love most. It gives the songs an earnest despair that sounds so metal, and it is still kind of catchy. His voice was great on “One Second” when he was actually full on singing, but I prefer him in this style better.

If you have been sitting on the fence wondering whether it was worthwhile to invest in a new Paradise Lost album, let me assure you, now is the time. This is without a doubt my favorite Paradise Lost album of the last 17 years. Here are a couple of tracks you can check out on YouTube - the video for “Honesty in Death” and the audio track for “Crucify.” Enjoy.






Last Updated on April 24, 2012

Hits: 553

In Mourning – The Weight of Oceans

In Mourning is a Swedish progressive death/doom band and “The Weight of Oceans” is their third album; their first for Spinefarm Records. When I first received this album I mistakenly thought I had heard the band before; I was actually thinking of another band called In Ruins. So this is my first time listening to In Mourning. Let’s see what we have here, shall we?

The first thing I notice is that the production on “The Weight of Oceans” is perfect. The first track, “Colossus” starts off rather quietly, and it is so intensely crisp and bright that I found myself eager for the song to kick into full gear. The harsh deep Amon Amarth-like vocals were slightly jarring when I first heard them; I guess given the style of the music I was expecting something else. After a few moments readjusting my mindset, it became clear that these harsh vocals are a perfect fit with this music. This music could just as easily have some powerful, clean vocals sitting on top of it and no one would think anything of it, but the harsh vocals balance the beauty of the music a heaviness and force that ultimately makes the whole song more powerful. After a few songs, it was clear to me that I would not want this album any other way than with the harsh vocals.

The music has so much more going on than most albums that bear the death metal label; In Mourning lean more towards the progressive side of progressive death metal. It will take a good many listens to wrap my ears around all the little nuances of this album. It is without question a great listen the first time through, but it just keeps getting better the more times I hear it. In terms of style only, this album brings to mind the latest Ghost Brigade, at least in terms of combining beautiful, progressive music with heavier death metal style elements.

Given that this is the first time I have heard these guys, I have to say I am extremely impressed with this album. I say this all the time with bands that are new to me, but I need to check out the back catalog and see what their first two albums sound like. I think everyone should give these guys a listen. To give you a jump start here is the video for the killer tune “A Vow to Conquer the Ocean.” Just try telling me this is not incredible.



Last Updated on April 24, 2012

Hits: 417

Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light

I have been putting off this review. I got my copy of this album over a month ago, and I just have not been able to bring myself to start writing the review. There are several reasons for my procrastination. As I am sure most Woods fans already know, David Gold, the man behind Woods, died in a car accident a few months ago right before Christmas. I was already eagerly awaiting the release of this new album when David passed, so to say I was shocked and devastated by the news would be an understatement.

Knowing that this is the last Woods album, barring a trove of unreleased material, gave me pause. My way of thinking was that if I did not write the review I would still have that to look forward to at some point in the future. The thing that held me back the most though, was reading other people’s write-ups of the album. With the exception of one misguided individual, all the reviews I read gave the album extremely high marks. I whole-heartedly agree with these reviews; “Woods 5” is a masterpiece. The part that bothered me was that if I were to write up how I truly feel about this album, that it is likely the metal album of the year for 2012, people might think that I am either jumping on the bandwagon of praising the deceased, or worse, that I am simply being overly respectful of our fallen comrade. I certainly have the greatest respect for David, but alive or dead I would have loved this album. I have been anticipating “Woods 5” since the middle of last year, but when I got my hands on a copy, it took me over a week to be able to listen to it. Again, I knew this would be my last, first time hearing a Woods album. I know I am being overly sentimental, but that is the way I am with the bands I love the most.

People have said that listening to the album is eerie because it comes across as prophetic due to David's death. Death is certainly a prevalent theme on “Woods 5” and many of the lyrics are salt on such a recent wound. However, I do not think David would not want us to be moping about, pining over the loss. “Adora Vivos”, one of the most poignant tracks, schools us that we should not worship the dead, but rather adore the living. That is sound advice on paper, but is much harder to practice in real life. “Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)” is another track that drives home the loss.

Woods of Ypres started out playing mostly black metal on the first album, “Against the Seasons: Cold Winter Songs from the Dead Summer Heat.” There were some clean vocals, but mostly it was harsh, ripping vocals over chilling Canadian black metal music. The second and third albums, “Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth” and “Woods III: The Deepest Roots and Darkest Blues” started to bring a slower, cleaner doom element to the forefront, as well as a lot more clean vocals mixed with the harsh. By the time “Woods 4: The Green Album” was released, the harsher vocals were taking a backseat to deep clean vocals akin to End of Green and Type O Negative. The music by this time had evolved far beyond the bands early black metal roots.

“Woods 4” to me was simply a phenomenal album. If you look back on the site you can find my review for the album and how enthralled I was with David’s music. I knew “Woods 5” was going to be something truly remarkable, and it is. These are songs which are heavy, melodic, deep and brooding. Harsh vocals still make an appearance, and they sound perfectly natural side by side with the clean and melodic elements. The lyrics are personal and philosophical; these are not songs to play simply for catchy hooks (though they have them), rather these songs take the listener by the hand and guide them down a path of dark introspection. Anyone who dismisses this album has either not listened closely, or is not a fan of dark metal; this album should not be overlooked. Since breaking the seal and listening to the album I have been unable to stop listening to it; I would be surprised if any other album gets more play on m my iPhone this year. I hope “Woods 5” can be enjoyed as the pinnacle of a talented musician’s career and not be overshadowed by the tragedy that looms so large over its release.

The lyrics for “Adora Vivos” include a line which says “don’t wait till death to sing my praise.” Unfortunately, I think the metal music world waited too long to sing David’s praise. I feel that had he lived this album would have established Woods of Ypres as a major player in the metal world. Now, any success the album enjoys feels tainted by the fact that many people were probably drawn to the album because he died. I guess I am glad that the album is receiving more attention, and more people will hear about Woods, but this album could have received this attention on its own merits, without losing David.

I have already purchased two copies of the CD (the second one was bundled with the t-shirt of the album cover that I really wanted) and this morning found out there are limited edition vinyl copies available too. There were four colors available, silver (limited to 100), blue (limited to 200), snow (white, limited to 300) and black (limited to 400.) The silver and blue have sold out, but I picked up one of the white ones, so now I will have three copies. God this album will sound fantastic on vinyl. If you hurry, you might be able to get snow or black before they sell out too.

Check out “Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)” on YouTube below. Check out the comments section, aside from a few morons there are many positive comments from fans and a few responses from David’s mother, as well. Her comments left me pretty choked up.




For something a little faster paced, check out "Career Suicide (Is Not Real Suicide)"




Last Updated on April 23, 2012

Hits: 497

 

 

 

 

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