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Album Reviews

Tuesday Reviews

Emptiness – Error
“Error” is the third album from Belgian black/death metal band Emptiness. The band prominently features two members of the band Enthroned (I guess they like ‘E’ band names.)

This is one of those albums that has atmosphere in spades and production quality is given short shrift. Normally this would bother me, but something about this, maybe it is just the style they are playing, responds well to this treatment. Nine times out of ten when someone says an album has good atmosphere I think they are just rationalizing poor production, but here I actually believe it. This album sounds…humid. Imagine a dark cavernous place where hot volcanic steam is emanating from the rocks, hellfire glows ominously, the air reeks of sulfur and you can just make out the sound of something large and evil, possibly Satan, intoning wicked incantations. That is what this album sounds like to me.

Contrary to my initial impression I find I like Emptiness. Check them out below, but abandon all hope, ye who enter here…

Põhjast – Thou Strong, Stern Death
I cannot find much information on Põhjast other than they are a German/Estonian black metal band signed to Spinefarm Records and “Thou Strong, Stern Death” is their first full album. Given the style, the album cover and the typically complicated pointy black metal logo, I was expecting something much harsher than what this turned out to be. I thought it would be reverb-saturated buzzsaw blades with yowling cats buried in the mix somewhere, and I was completely dead wrong. I was thinking “I Am the Black Wizards” Emperor style black metal when in actuality it turned out to be more like Bathory old school black metal.

The production on “Thou Strong, Stern Death” leaves something to be desired, but the songs themselves are fairly enjoyable. The music is mostly mid-tempo metal and the vocals range from a harsh-edged singing to a slightly strained clean sound. The vocals probably remind me of Quorthon the most. I would not exactly call this Bathory-worship, but I think the influence is definitely front and center. Being a fanatical Quorthon fan myself I am all in favor of people perpetuating the Bathory metal sound. I will gladly give this album the RMC stamp of approval. I hope to hear more from this band in the future.

Given the little I could find on the band it is not surprising that I could not find anything from them on YouTube, which is too bad, because they are a decent listen; check them out if you get the chance.

Never to Arise – Hacked to Perfection
Never to Arise are a two-man death metal duo from Florida and “Hacked to Perfection” is their first album. From the first few notes of this album my initial impression was “Is this over yet?” Muddy production sound combined with deep harsh vocals where I cannot make out any words does not make for an album I am eager to hear end to end. I am frequently hamstrung by my own first impressions, so I dug in for ten songs and 50 minutes to see how things would turn out.

The best thing I can say about this album is that there is some cool guitar work; I would normally expect a wall of distortion with vocals like these, making the music a muddy mess, but the guitars are actually the easiest part of this mix to make out. There are certainly far worse metal albums out there, but this one is mediocre with a bullet. It is a first album, so maybe they will add some band members and sound better next time around, but “Hacked to Perfection” just does not do anything for me. Check out the track “Hyperbaric Torture Chamber.”

Nexhymn – Black Horizon
“Black Horizon” is the first album from Colorado death metal band Nexhymn. The band is female-fronted and features the harsh vocals of Holly Wedel. This album is a definite step up from Never to Arise in terms of quality, but something about it is not clicking with me. The band display competent technical skill and the production quality falls within acceptable range, but there is something missing.

I am sure there are plenty of people who will get behind this album, and I will not disagree with them. There is plenty to like about this album, but it lacks the spark that ignites my excitement. I can listen to the album and form an opinion based on technical merit and production quality, but that is just going through the motions. Maybe that is my problem with this album; technically it is good but it does not have any soul or spirit, and so feels like they are just going through the motions of creating music. The album shambles around looking for brains to eat, but there is nothing going on behind the eyes.

Septekh – The Seth Avalanche
I was pleasantly surprised upon listening to “The Seth Avalanche”, the second EP from Swedish death/thrash band Septekh. With an opening track titled “Fuckslut from Hell” I presumed this would be some sort of aimless noise metal or perhaps some crusty punk metal, but as it turns out these guys produce some fairly solid thrash.

The sound quality on this EP is so crisp and in-your-face that I have to admit I am impressed. The guitars and drums are a tight, solid core which forms a vehicle for the Mille/Kreator style harsh vocals, which perch on top, hood surfing as they careen down the road with the speedometer needle buried in the red.

I am very much digging this EP. I say get these guys into the studio and crank out a full album. Check out the video for “Shoot Them All.” It has a goat in it. And some scary half naked dude in a gimp mask. Enjoy.

Last Updated on May 22, 2012

Hits: 310

Oddland – The Treachery of Senses

Finnish progressive metal band Oddland sound like they have had quite the wild ride these last few years. They won the Suomi Metal Star contest and ended up signing with Century Media to record their debut album, “The Treachery of Senses.” Their own bio comments on how most contest winning bands often release a song or an album and then disappear; a fate Oddland plans to avoid.

This is not your typical Dream Theater style progressive metal. I honestly cannot think of anyone that Oddland brings to mind, but their bio lists Tool, Symphony X, Alice in Chains, Faith No More and Fates Warning. I cannot say I really hear much of those bands in this music other than that Symphony X and Fates Warning are both prog metal. On the upside, I suppose that makes Oddland sound original, at least to my ears.

It is no surprise that they won a contest. The music on “The Treachery of Senses” is both technically magnificent and easily listenable. One of my biggest complaints with prog metal is that songwriting sometimes takes a backseat to virtuoso instrumentation and fretboard gymnastics. There is plenty for the shred-heads to drool over on “The Treachery of Senses” but the average music listener, like me, can also enjoy this album without feeling too left out. I think the vocal talents of Sakari Ojanen do a splendid job of engaging the listener and giving the music a rallying point around which to focus.

The sound quality on “The Treachery of Senses” is clean and clear, exactly what one would expect from a progressive production. Ten songs clock in at 51 minutes giving the listener a full album experience but not overstaying its welcome. I was not entirely sold on these guys when I started the album, but by the time I got to the end they definitely grew on me. I can definitely recommend Oddland for fans of progressive metal. Check out the opening track “Above and Beyond.”

Last Updated on May 22, 2012

Hits: 295

Sabaton – Carolus Rex

Tomorrow, Swedish metal band, Sabaton, will be releasing their seventh album, “Carolus Rex.” It sounds like grim things went down in their camp as everyone but singer Joakim Brodén recently left the band. I have heard many times of a singer quitting a band, but not so many instances of the entire band quitting and leaving the singer with the band name. I do not see anything that says for sure, but I am going forward with the assumption that the band recorded this new album before quitting and that the replacement band members will be touring the album. If anyone knows the story behind this, please feel free to share.

My first taste of Sabaton came when I received a copy of their second album, “Primo Victoria” back in 2005. I was immediately swept up by the anthemic power metal with gruff almost Running Wild-like vocals. Based on how much I loved that album I figured I would never hear from the band again (because my luck just seems to run that way.) Sabaton has managed to keep it together (until recently, anyway) and have been fairly prolific releasing five albums in the last six years (six in six if you count last year’s live album.) The vocals are a little smoother now, but the songs are still heavy, anthemic slabs of catchy power metal.

“Carolus Rex” is a concept album telling the story of Sweden’s King Charles XII and the Northern War of 1700-1721. I am a fan of history, but I am not familiar with this particular story. I enjoy when bands take historical events and make songs or albums around them. They may not always do total justice to the facts, but they at least spark enough interest that the listener can then take the initiative to learn more on their own. Do not ever let anyone tell you metal heads are an uneducated lot; I have learned a great deal of history from picking things up in songs and reading about them on my own.

Last year I turned my nose up at Sabaton’s “World War Live: Battle of the Baltic Sea” because I said the sound quality did not do the band justice. I said I would much rather listen to their impressive body of studio album work. I still feel justified in that review, because now I am listening to “Carolus Rex” and am blown away by the epic, power metal sound. “The Carolean’s Prayer” is like a metal song combined with Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” (only the most epic piece of music ever; a lot of people know it as the music from Conan the Barbarian.) This is an album’s worth of music to stir the hearts and minds of metal fans everywhere. These guys are like the Swedish Blind Guardian.

It remains to be seen whether the almost all-new Sabaton lineup will continue to produce the same caliber of metal in the future, but I certainly hope they will. For the moment, we at least have this latest slab to keep us sated. Check out the lyric video for the title track “Carolus Rex.”

Last Updated on May 21, 2012

Hits: 378

Moonspell – Alpha Noir/Omega White

I have been a fan of Portuguese metal band Moonspell for about sixteen years, and during that time I have seen the band morph from black/death metal to gothic metal, from gothic to electo/industrial, and then finally back to their original form.

My favorite albums have always been the first two, “Wolfheart” and “Irreligious.” I loved the raw power of “Wolfheart”, and “Irreligious” introduced us to Fernando’s deep, Peter Steele style clean vocals. “Alpha Noir/Omega White” gives us the best parts of those first two albums. “Alpha Noir” is a potent blackened metal album which is probably the heaviest I have heard these guys since that first album. “Omega White”, which is a whole second album included as bonus tracks, is the polar opposite of “Alpha Noir”; it is much more gothic sounding and includes all of the deep, clean Fernando vocals that I came to love on “Irreligious.”

I suppose going from the one album to the other can be a little jarring, but depending on my mood I will just listen to the album that fits the moment best. Choosing which of the albums is better is rather like deciding which of your children you like more. I love them both for what they are, despite how different they are from each other. I will admit to being slightly more taken by “Alpha Noir” at the moment, as it seems so different from what I am used to that I am still marveling over the transformation. The inclusion of “Omega White” lessens the sting of how few clean vocals there are on “Alpha Noir” but it makes me wonder which way they will go with their next album. It is like we are at the crossroads and the band wants us to choose the direction in which they will continue by voicing our opinions over both styles. That is a close call, but I would probably come down on the “Alpha Noir” side.

I think old fans of the band will be happy with “Alpha Noir” while fans of more recent albums might prefer "Omega White." For me, "Alpha Noir" is my favorite Moonspell album in years, so I am content. Below I am including the video for “Lickanthrope” from “Alpha Noir” and below that is a medley of parts from “Omega White.” Check them out and see which style you like the most.


Last Updated on May 21, 2012

Hits: 309

Friday Reviews

Lahmia – Into the Abyss

Viva Italia! We have more killer Italian metal today in the form of “Into the Abyss” by Lahmia. Lahmia play a melodic death/black metal with a touch of doom, and I must say, they do a pretty good job. When I hear the tag melodic death metal anymore, I tend to roll my eyes, because there is just so much of it that even if done well it all just starts to sound the same. So I admit to having been less than enthusiastic about listening to this album, right up until I hit play. You know what, though? When done well, the best metal, regardless of how many people are playing in the same style, will always stand out and energize the listener. So even though I may have just listened to nine mediocre melodic death metal bands in a row, when the tenth one proves to be something special, I will still perk up and take notice.

Lahmia make me excited about this style again. I will border on the sacrilegious by saying this, but they almost remind me of a mix of early Sentenced and “Down”-era Sentenced. Given that “Into the Abyss” is their first album, I am very excited by this prospect. I have been excited by many bands in the past, only to never hear from them again, so I plan to be cautiously optimistic about the future of Lahmia. I see the potential for greatness, though, if they can continue to grow and evolve. I was hoping to have something for you to listen to, but I could not find anything online. Check them out anyway.

Revel in Flesh – Deathevokation

“Deathevokation” is the first album from German death metal band Revel in Flesh. Musically they sound like Swedish death metal ala At The Gates, but the vocals are pretty deep and sound like they should be paired with some sort of brutal death metal. I think if these vocals were over top of some generic brutal death metal I would not think very much of the album. However, this combination makes for an interesting mix and I continue to listen to find out where this is headed.

I am having a hard time deciding on this album, and I think it has a lot to do with the production quality. I think if the vocals were cleaned up a little more (only from a production stand-point, I like the harsh style itself, I just want to be able to hear it better) this would be a pretty good album. I think if they had gone with a melodic death metal singer this would just get lost in the crowd, so this is a nice combination of music and vocals. Check out “Opus Putrescence” below:

Svyatogor – Doctor Veritas

Svyatogor are a Ukranian death/black metal band and “Doctor Veritas” is their third album. I think this album leans more towards black than death, and even in terms of black metal I would say this differs a bit from the norm (in a good way.) In many aspects this is stock black metal, but there a lot of little flourishes that bring me back when my attention starts to wane. Saxophone anyone?

I do not really have much else to say about this album. It is a pretty enjoyable listen but does not blow me away. I think the little things they do to set the music apart from others in this style, but at the same time there seems to be some small piece missing that would make this a great album. It almost feels a little disjointed like it was patched together piece by piece and so the flow is not as smooth as it could be. This one will really come down to personal taste I think. Some people will probably love it, others will not. Give it a listen and see what you think. Check out “Reincarnation of Thoughts.”

It Bites – Map of the Past

It Bites. They said it, not me. Just kidding, it does not really bite, but it did rather take me by surprise. I was expecting something metal, and based on the first song this could be Peter Gabriel fronting Dream Academy or something along those lines. Then the second track kicks off and the music sounds like it could be late 80s Rush. Apparently this English band has been around since the early 80s and has many albums under their belt already, but I have never heard of them. This is likely due to the fact that I do not listen to this style of music.

I do not want to trash this album, it sounds competently done, but it just does not fit in with the type of music I review so I find myself unsure what to do with it. I suppose if catchy, melodic pop rock is your thing you might like this, but I find myself twitching and itching to switch to something heavier. Next, please.

Darkend – Grand Guignol – Book I

I opened with some Italian metal, why not close with some as well. Darkend is a symphonic black metal band and “Grand Guignol – Book I” is their third album. My first impression of this album was of a “Dusk”-era Cradle of Filth style, but they quickly dispelled that association with some clean-ish choir type vocals. Thinking along those lines gets you in the ballpark at least. Maybe Cradle combined with Dimmu is a better estimation.

What this album lacks in originality it makes up for in passion and epic, atmospheric grandiosity. This is a black metal album with a lot going on and I can be easily distracted by following a guitar or keyboard line off on a tangent while the rest of the song plays on. I initially thought I would find the listening experience hampered by a less than crisp production, but after listening awhile I realize this just adds to the sinister atmosphere of the album, and the greatness of the music shines through regardless. Give it a listen:

Last Updated on May 18, 2012

Hits: 335





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