Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
Katana – Storms of War
“Storms of War” is the second album from heavy metal band Katana. The band has a Japanese theme, but they are actually from Sweden. I have a soft spot in my blackened heart for bands that remind me of my misspent youth, and one of my favorites in that category is White Wizzard. Katana is doing a pretty respectable job of muscling their way into a tie with White Wizzard.
The production sounds much more modern than typical 80s metal, but the style sounds NWOBHM; like Iron Maiden mashed together with some Judas Priest. I hear some “Thundersteel”-era Riot in here too. How can I not love something like that?
I do not want to gush too much about “Storms of War”, but I truly am enjoying it immensely. My next stop will be to go back and pick up their first album, “Heads Will Roll.” Check out the track “Kubilai Khan” and tell me I am wrong.
Crawl 2 Chaos – Wasteland America
“Wasteland America” is the first album from New Jersey based metal band Crawl 2 Chaos. These guys play a mix of thrash and traditional metal and the first listen through “Wasteland America” I can tell I am going to like these guys.
The songs are fairly midtempo and have lots of nice guitar work. What makes the album for me though, are the vocals of Mark Ramsey. He puts a subtle, rough edge on his voice, but still sings fairly clean, or at least clean enough that you can always make out what he is saying. His voice has a lot of character, and if he is even remotely animated on stage I bet he has a commanding presence.
I think these guys are fantastic, but my one criticism that I have to offer, is about their name. It could be just me, but a band name with a numeric character in it, in this case “2”, makes me think of things like Sinéad O'Connor (“Nothing Compares 2 U”) and rap (2Pac). It just does not seem very metal. I actually quite like the album title “Wasteland America” and think that would be a killer band name. That said, I do like the logo they have with skull and wings and whatnot, which works well with the name, but just saying.
Show these guys some support and check out the video for title track “Wasteland America.”
Prophecy – I4NI
A few months ago I reviewed “Legions of Violence” by Brazilian thrash band Prophecy and thoroughly enjoyed it. Recently I received an email from Tauan, the band’s guitar player, thanking me for the review and asking me to check out their new four song demo, “I4NI.” Of course I said I would give it a listen; these guys rock!
In case you missed out on the first review, Prophecy play old school thrash in the Bay Area style. In particular, they have an early Testament sound that I just love. That style continues to rage on the four songs that make up “I4NI.” The first track, “The Calling” is a minute-long intro track which leads into the first full track, “The Ultimate Truth.” This track, and the two tracks that follow (“Backlash” and “I4NI”), makes up the meat of this demo.
Keeping in mind that this is a demo, I think these songs sound pretty damn tasty. Some of the drums (snare) sound a little clunky at times, but everything else sounds real nice. I hope this demo leads to a new full-length studio album because I think Prophecy should be unleashed upon the masses.
Show these guys some love. Here is the title cut, “I4NI.”
Offending – Age of Perversion
The last in line (\m/) for review today is French brutal death metal band Offending and their second album, “Age of Perversion.” Encyclopaedia Metallum, a great heavy metal reference site, lists Offending as brutal death metal, and I guess I can hear that, but they do not seem quite as brutal as what I would consider that subgenre. They are undoubtedly death metal, but the music is a little more structured and cohesive than what I tend to think of as brutal death metal. Whatever, splitting hairs, I know. This shit is heavy; that is all you actually need to know, right?
The music is mixed pretty tight on “Age of Perversion” so checking out the different instrumental parts is pretty easy. The vocals are fairly harsh but are seated well in the mix so they ride the music well. In terms of sheer satisfaction value, this album rates pretty high. I do not hear anything about the album that makes it stand out from the crowd particularly, but it is certainly an enjoyable listen if you are looking for well put together death metal.
I guess they must be offending someone, but it is not me. Check out the track “Within This World.”
Last Updated on June 21, 2012
Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
The Agonist – Prisoners
Montreal’s The Agonist have returned with their third album, “Prisoners”, and I think that perhaps this is their short-list of what they do not plan to take. The Agonist has been gaining ground with each of their releases, and based on “Prisoners” I think they will be turning a lot of heads this year.
Musically, I suppose I would call them melodic death metal. The songs have a lot of punch and heaviness, but also a lot of melodic lead work. The vocals, provided by the lovely Alissa White-Gluz, are a mix of harsh vocals and beautiful clean vocals. I am trying to think of a good comparison, but the best I can come up with is a heavier Lacuna Coil.
I am really digging this album, and I expect a lot of other people will too. Make sure to give this band a listen. Start out with the single, “Ideomotor.”
My Dynamite – My Dynamite
When these guys say they are southern rock, they really mean it. My Dynamite is a classic rock and roll band from down under, or more specifically, Melbourne, Australia. This is their self-titled debut album, and I have to admit, for someone who mostly listens to metal, I am enjoying it. This is in part due to the fact that the songs all sound vaguely familiar; this is not an original sounding album, but it is an album that is done well.
The first band to come to mind while listening to this album was The Black Crowes. My Dynamite is sporting the same bluesy rock music, and the vocals of Patrick Carmody are very reminiscent of the style used by Chris Robinson. Their bio lists Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones as influences as well, and I can hear that too.
If you are looking for the latest and greatest original trend in rock music, you might as well keep walking. If you just want to kick back with some nice retro sounding rock and roll, then I suggest you give My Dynamite a listen. Here is their track “Inside Out.”
Labyrinthe – The Depths of Hell
Ok, My Dynamite was cool and all, but now I need to get back to something ugly and heavy. “The Depths of Hell”, the first album from North Carolina’s Labyrinthe, is just the fix I need. These guys are not exactly pushing the originality envelope either, but who cares when they provide such a clean and punchy death metal listening experience. The songs tend to be mid-tempo chunky death metal with harsh and thick vocals. The production is what really makes this album stand out; the songs are tight little packages full of chunky chords, frantic yet controlled drums, and harsh vocals that spew anthems of death and destruction.
One song title that stood out to me was the track “Raped by Trees.” Wait, what? Is this some kind of Tolkien snuff porn or something? I dunno, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Slightly more curious is the video for the song “Flesh Fixation.” What I can gather from the visuals is that the singer goes to a party, meets a girl, makes out with her and then in the closing moments of the song, kills her. Not exactly an unusual theme for a death metal song, but disturbing to see acted out nonetheless. Here is the video.
Sofisticator – Camping the Vein
Just when I think I have seen and heard it all, along comes Italian thrash band Sofisticator with their first album, “Camping the Vein.” I am going to go out on a limb here and call these songs Camping Metal. Yes, that would be songs about camping. In the great outdoors. Burgers, beans and flatulence are the order of the day here. I get the distinct impression that this is tongue-in-cheek parody metal, because to think anything else would surely haunt my dreams.
I am normally quite fond of the music on EBM Records, but this one is weird. Musically it is not all that bad; it reminds me of a cross between Municipal Waste and Gwar. Maybe these guys should be on the Gwar-B-Q bill this year; I think they would make some interesting grub. If nothing else, this album is good for a chuckle or two. Check out the track “Burger Hell.”
Bob Wayne – Till the Wheels Fall Off
Speaking of unusual albums, I present you with Bob Wayne and his album, “Till the Wheels Fall Off.” What makes this album unusual is that it is country music. Why the hell am I writing up a country album, you ask? Well, normally I would not, but this one came from Century Media, so I said what the hell, let’s give it a spin.
This is not your contemporary, Toby Keith kind of country; this is old school, outlaw country in the vein of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Sr. I am open to, and have listened to and enjoyed, many styles of music other than metal in my time. Metal is and will always be my favorite, but old style outlaw country does hold a soft spot in my heart, so I continued to listen to this album after the first song.
These kinds of country songs tend to tell amusing stories of some kind, and that is the case with the tunes on “Till the Wheels Fall Off.” I get a Charlie Daniels “Devil Went Down to Georgia” feeling from some of these songs, which I also think is pretty cool. This is an album that I can listen to and not be compelled to puncture my own eardrums with a rusty nail.
I am not entirely sure how Bob wound up on Century Media, but I noticed that he has a split 7” with 3 Inches of Blood, so he must tie in to the metal scene somehow. If you feel inclined to go a little country, check out the title track below.
Last Updated on June 20, 2012
Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
The end of Emperor was a real bummer. You know what the silver lining was though? Now we get twice the amount of music from these guys; Ihsahn is doing his thing and Samoth is doing his own things, as well. Today the planets align and two titans converge as both Ihsahn and Samoth’s The Wretched End are releasing albums in North America today. It is like Christmas in June here in George’s metal wonderland.
Ihsahn – Eremita
First up today is “Eremita”, the fourth solo album from Ihsahn. For the youngsters in the room, Ihsahn was a founding member of Emperor, one of the early (and in my opinion, best) Norwegian black metal bands to come out of the early 90s. Emperor called it quits in 2001 (I cannot believe it has been eleven years already!) and, among other projects, Ihsahn has been releasing solo albums every two years since 2006.
I have eagerly snapped up each of these solo releases as they dropped, and today was no exception. As usual, the production is immaculate. I love how crisp and bright all of Ihsahn’s albums sound. I feel like I can almost tell one of his albums by the sound of the production alone.
Over the years, Ihsahn, while staying decidedly metal, has also become more avant-garde in his approach to music. He introduced saxophone to the mix on his last album, “After”, and it appears again here on “Eremita.” While there are certainly areas of pure black metal fury, there are also progressive elements creeping into these solo releases. I have heard progressive death metal before, but this combination is refreshingly different. I love how beautiful, technical passages and clean vocals can give way to face-ripping ferocity in the course of the same song.
“Eremita” is both the raging storm and the beautiful sky that follows. I love this album and cannot wait to explore the nuances that one can only discover over the course of many repeat visits. Alas, Candlelight has only released this teaser trailer on YouTube, but it is someplace to start. Check it out.
The Wretched End – Inroads
Samoth’s post-Emperor path has included albums with Zyklon, Scum and now, The Wretched End. The Wretched End released their first album, “Ominous” in 2010, and now they return in 2012 with their second album, “Inroads.” Samoth, of course, provides guitars, while the rest of the band is rounded out by Cosmo (Mindrgrinder, Scum, Zyklon), also on guitar, bass and vocals and Nils Fjellström (Dark Funeral, In Battle) on drums.
The opening moments of “Inroads” are somewhat quiet, but hint of the roaring explosion of molten metal that commences at the fourteen second mark of “Tyrant of the Mountain.” Where “Eremita” is progressive and avant-garde, “Inroads” is intense and in-your-face death metal that sweeps up the listener and slams them to the ground like violent ocean waves pounding the beach. There are moments of respite where quieter passages ebb the flow of brutality, but with inevitable eventuality, it turns from caressing one’s eardrums to pummeling them once again.
I call this music death metal, but that may be too broad of a stroke for “Inroads.” These songs are not melodic death in the Swedish style, though they are melodic; neither are they brutal in the Cannibal Corpse style, but that aggression is certainly present. I suppose it could be technical death metal, but that does not feel quite right either. It is rather like death metal with some of the atmospheric elements of black metal, but without the symphonic baggage to clutter up the mix. However one chooses to classify it, this album rises above the vast majority of extreme metal today.
I highly recommend checking out both “Eremita” and “Inroads.” I will continue to hope that eventually Ihsahn and Samoth will reunite for an Emperor album, like they did for several shows in 2006 and 2007, but if that never happens at least they are still delivering the goods individually. Check out the video for “Death By Nature” below.
Last Updated on June 19, 2012
Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
Burning Point – The Ignitor
“The Ignitor” is the fifth album from Finnish melodic power metal band Burning Point. It did not take me long to warm up to this album. The power metal style these guys play is a very familiar one; the music is heavy in the traditional metal style, the songs are catchy and the singer has a strong melodic voice.
Sometimes we put too much emphasis on sounding original, and I think that might be due to the fact that after awhile so many people play/saturate a particular style and many of them do not have much to offer. If there are a hundred bands all playing power metal, and they are all mediocre, we are going to think, wow, that has been done so many times before, let us hear something new. It is not that the style no longer has value; it is just that much harder to pick out the good from the bad when there is so much available. People always seem to take the path of least resistance, and in this case that means the easiest solution is to listen to something very different in order to feel it is fresh and new. Well, I happen to like certain elements of heavy metal music just the way they are, assuming they are done well. I too am always searching for new and different bands, but I refuse to discount the music that continues in a proven vein.
Such is the case with Burning Point. Is their style remotely new or original? No, not at all; you can easily find another hundred mediocre bands that sound alike. But I find Burning Point do a much better job than those hundred other mediocre bands, so I can bang my head and sing along and enjoy their music for what it is: a good heavy metal album. A good album is a good album, regardless of how many wanna-be and soulless imitators there are flooding the genre.
Here are a couple teasers from “The Ignitor” on YouTube.
Def Con One – Warface
Def Con One is from Newcastle, UK and “Warface” is their second album. Based on first visual impression (prior to hearing them) I was thinking this would be a hard listen. Anything that has hardcore listed anywhere in it tends to predispose me towards disliking. But I kept reading, and saw that their drummer, Antton Lant, did a stint in Venom. Well, that certainly was not an element I was expecting, so I decided it was time to give “Warface” a listen.
This album was not at all what I expected it to be. It certainly has some elements of hardcore, but it is blended so well with thrash and groove that the things that annoy me about hardcore are not even an issue. There is much more of a Pantera element at play here and I am digging it hard. The music is pretty tight and the vocals generally are harsh edged. But you can tell the singer has a voice that can do more than just scream; he can sing when he wants.
While Antton was not an original member of Venom, he has managed to put out what I consider the best sounding album lately from any of the Venom alum. He also appears on Mantas’ Mpire of Evil albums, which I did not like so much, but that was about something completely different. So check out Def Con One. Here is the track “My Halo.”
Mortal Infinity – District Destruction
While I am frequently provided with bio sheets for bands, I tend to start listening to an album and then dig around in my stuff for the bio while the music plays. So when I put on “District Destruction” from Mortal Infinity, I was thinking based on the name that this would be death metal. Once again I was shown how frequently I am wrong. Turns out Germany’s Mortal Infinity play thrash metal. Nice!
The music is definitely thrash-based, but the vocals are harsh enough that they could work for death metal too. Think Exodus’ Paul Baloff but even more extreme sounding. I like the guitar work on the album the most, but overall this is a pretty decent first album. They got my head bobbing with some of the grooves on here. For a second album I would like to hear something maybe a little more tight and crisp sounding to accentuate the guitar lines and how they complement the sharpness of the singers’ voice.
I was not able to find any studio tracks from the album on YouTube, but here is a live version of the song “Retribution” from Metalfest last year.
Vampires Everywhere! – Hellbound and Heartless
You know what heavy metal does not need? We do not need Vampires Everywhere! being associated with metal. This shit is just embarrassing. Google these guys and look at them; do they look metal to you? They look like fucking Justin Bieber dressed up for Halloween. The music is heavy-ish, but it is saturated with cute little electro-goth elements that strip away all credibility and smack of contrived commercial desperation. The vocals sound like Marilyn Manson mashed together with Dani Filth into something that just sounds annoying. Even that media whore Manson (I mean that in the nicest way, sir) has got to look at these guys and go “what the fuck is this shit??”
I cannot imagine why one would want to listen to this band, but in case you do, here is “I Can’t Breathe.”
Last Updated on June 18, 2012
Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
Toxic Trace – Torment
There is a part in Adam Sandler’s “The Wedding Singer” where he is at the airport and a guy working there is wearing a Flock of Seagulls haircut and he asks Adam, “Do you like Flock of Seagulls?” That is what comes to mind when I listen to “Torment”, the debut from Serbian thrashers Toxic Trace. Do you like Kreator? The airport employee was wearing his love of Flock of Seagulls on his head, so it was no surprise he was a fan. Toxic Trace, named for a Kreator song, play old school German-style thrash and wear their Kreator-worship on their sleeves. Their leather and denim jacket sleeves.
While the majority of the thrash revival bands are focusing on Bay Area thrash, these guys are following in the footsteps of early thrash progenitors Kreator, Sodom, and Destruction. Sporting a somewhat lo-fi production (by today’s standards) “Torment” spews forth a barrage of fast, intense thrash songs with guttural harsh vocals that do honor to the genre’s pioneers. I am totally digging on this album; I can hardly sit still while listening. The production may not be as crisp and bright as I prefer, but the simple, raw energy of these songs is hard to resist. Original? Hardly. Fun? Hell yeah. Check out the track “Religion is Slavery.”
Dogbane – Residual Alcatraz
I have no idea what “Residual Alcatraz” is supposed to mean, but I guess it does make me think, so if nothing else the title lets me exercise my melon muscle. One thing I do know is that it is the first album from North Carolina’s Dogbane.
Dogbane plays a traditional heavy metal style. “Residual Alcatraz” has ten tracks of reasonably catchy mid-tempo metal that reminds me of the “old days” of metal. The hooks and personality of the tracks peek through the somewhat muddy production sound, but I think this album would benefit from a little post-production clean-up. I can get behind these songs as they are, but if they were clearer and punchier they would shine and demand more attention.
Check out the title track on Youtube.
The Morning After – Legacy
I am not entirely sure what to make of UK band The Morning After. “Legacy” is their second album of what I can only call a combination of 80s hard rock and some sort of pop music. This seems to be the logical conclusion of what happens to power metal when it gets too frou-frou. I am just waiting for Kenny Loggins to jump out and sing something.
I feel compelled to mercilessly mock this album because it does not fall within the fairly expansive musical boundaries of my tastes, but if I step back and take my personal feelings out of the equation, I cannot honestly knock this band. The production quality is good, and they sound like they are proficient musicians. The vocals are clean and catchy. The only thing this album is truly guilty of is offending my prejudicial musical sensibilities. This is hard rock at best; I cannot bring myself to call this metal. Feel free to check out the track “Into the Fire”, but make sure you have some insulin handy.
Frostbite - Valentine and Other Stories of Hope
Frostbite hails from Atlanta, Georgia and plays a gothic, industrial style of hard rock/metal. The band appears to be mostly, if not all, the work of one Christopher Lee Compton. The history is a bit vague, but it sounds like he has been kicking around the music scene for awhile.
The album takes awhile to get moving. There is a lot of instrumental build up before any vocals kick in, but once I got fully into the album it makes sense because the pacing kind of matches the dark and brooding songs. People talk about albums having atmosphere, well, this one has it in spades. The vocals are often gruff but travel back and forth between clean and not-so-clean. I would like a slightly cleaner mix, but honestly the album sounds fine as it is.
I am somewhat surprised to find myself enjoying this album. I used to be a big fan of Sisters of Mercy and these songs revive my interest in gothic rock music. The album has a rather 90s feel, so it takes me back to another time and place. I do not listen to this style very often anymore so it stands out from the other things I have been listening to lately. There are two cover songs that I am aware of, the first being “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails. The album closer is a cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Veteran of the Psychic Wars.”
I was unable to find anything from this album on YouTube, but you can check out some of the songs on Frostbite’s Reverbnation page. I will give Frostbite a thumbs up.
Last Updated on June 15, 2012