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Album Reviews

Exumer – Fire & Damnation

Exumer is a German thrash band who released two albums back in the 80s (“Possessed by Fire” in ’86 and “Rising from the Sea” in ’87) and then shortly after broke up. “Fire & Damnation” is their first new album in 25 years. I have no idea what they’ve been up to all these years, but as far as comeback albums go, this one is pretty damn tasty.

“Fire & Damnation” has all the qualities that I loved about thrash metal in the late 80s but a nice, modern sounding production. I love having my cake and getting to eat it too. I always felt like thrash was poised to do some interesting things around 1990, and then Alternative/Grunge came along, and that was the end of the thrash era. I am glad that some of these bands that died off back then are starting to resurface. I have heard some rather weak albums from bands trying to capitalize off their early thrash credentials, but like I said, I think this one is very listenable.

The songs are essentially what you would expect from a thrash album – fairly fast, riff-heavy, and just enough groove to make sure you can mosh to it. The vocals are not quite clean, but I would not say they are harsh in the modern sense either. They are more of a bark/yell with a slight bit of an edge to them. They are very easy to make out compared to most metal vocals these days.

The production is not top notch million dollar slick, but it does sound very good. For a thrash band, this is just one step below a totally perfect production, and it is light years better than anything one would have heard in the 80s. I have not heard their first two albums, but I would put money down that this album sounds a lot better.

Whether you are an old school thrash fan looking to relive the glory years, or a more recent thrash aficionado, I think you will find enjoyment listening to “Fire & Damnation.” I took to it right away and am sure I will keep on spinning it after I am done writing this review. So check them out and welcome them back to the scene. Click below to hear the title track.

 

Last Updated on May 04, 2012

Hits: 308

Litrosis – I Am Death

Litrosis are a symphonic black metal band from Greece, and “I Am Death” is their debut album. Even after all these years I am still a sucker for awesome cover art, and the cover for “I Am Death” caught my attention right away. Despite my weakness for album art, I will be the first to tell you that there is a ton of bad music out there hiding behind engaging cover art. So I was pleased to find that “I Am Death” was one of the albums that both looks good AND sounds good too.

The band describes their music as “extreme epic metal” but there is certainly a black metal element as well. The keyboards and orchestration provide the epic symphonic atmosphere and make the songs sound huge. There are quieter moments, but most of the time the music is pretty fast and heavy. A lot of the time the songs sound so vast that paying attention to individual instruments can be challenging, but when you can pick out the guitars, bass and drums, the top notch musicianship is clear. The vocals are a mid-range harsh style. They are now low death metal style harsh, but neither are they the really high piercing shriek one finds in black metal either. The middle-range scream is one of my favorites as it is much easier to discern the lyrics than with the other ranges.

The production is pretty good but sounds a little rawer than I would expect from something so symphonic. I think perhaps with the orchestration I expected more low-end heaviness in the mix, and this is much more typical of black metal in that it favors treble over bass. The album sounds fine and it is a good listen, but it might seem fuller with a little more low-end. I would also like to hear the vocals higher in the mix.

“I Am Death” is a pretty good first offering. And look at the pretty album art, don’t you feel compelled by it? Lucky for you I am including some YouTube action so you can check out the title track and decide what you think before the artwork sucks you in and you go scrambling for the credit card. Check it out!



Last Updated on May 03, 2012

Hits: 410

The Suicider – Death Surround

Hailing from Moscow, Russia is The Suicider with their first album, “Death Surround.” I cannot hear a name like The Suicider without thinking of the now defunct Finnish metal band Sentenced. “The Suicider” is a track from the fifth Sentenced album, “Frozen.” Listening to “Death Surround” I do get a sense that The Suicider was influenced by Sentenced, but I would not call them a copycat…yet. There are similarities though, track titles like “Bleeding to Death” (“Bleed”), “Kill Yourself and Be Happy” (“Excuse Me While I Kill Myself”), and “All About Misery” (“One With Misery”) certainly bring to mind The Northernmost Killers (aka Sentenced.)

There are also some stylistic similarities with later-era Sentenced; a lot of the songs on “Death Surround” have the same slightly gothic metal feel and vocals bearing a harsh edge which is still melodic enough to be catchy. The album also contains some harsher vocals which make me think of Children of Bodom. Then there are the clean vocals which do not remind me of anyone.

Wow, track five, “Children of the Northern Night” sounds like it rips off the main riff from Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark.” Ba-ba ba-da-ba-da da-waa-waa! Yeah, that is so Dio. Not sure how to feel about that; you do not steal from the king.

I feel myself at the crossroads here. Down one path, I say how it is great that The Suicider have picked up the ball that Sentenced laid down and ran with it to keep the style alive. Down the other path, I say how there is just way too much Sentenced-worship going on for this to be anything but a lesser band trying to profit off the originality and talent of a better band. Is there a third path? I suppose rather than turning left or right I could just go straight and pick and choose a little from each path. I truly enjoy that The Suicider choose to play in this style of metal. I am not as thrilled with how much they rely on their influences. However, this is their first album, so it is not terribly surprising that their influences are worn so boldly on their sleeves. I think the real test will be to hear how a second album sounds. If they can mature and grow beyond their influences to express their own voice and vision, then I feel these guys could do something noteworthy. If they go back to the same well again, then I see their journey being a short one.

Here is the video for the album opener, “Road to Silence.” It sounds as though it could be a lost track from “Frozen.”

 

Last Updated on May 01, 2012

Hits: 350

Four More Mini-Reviews

Deadborn – Mayhem Maniac Machine

Deadborn are a German metal band and “Mayhem Maniac Machine” is their second album. The band features two former members of Necrophagist, and plays death metal with a little thrash thrown in for good measure.

From a musical and production standpoint “Mayhem Maniac Machine” sounds pretty decent. The songs are above average and so is the sound quality. This is a very listenable, aggressive album, but something about it does not make me overly excited. I think if I was looking for something in this style I would probably pick up Vader before Deadborn. This is a hard album for me to review, because there isn’t anything I can point to and say “improve this.” I can easily listen to this album and enjoy it, but it does not make me do cartwheels.



Horisont – Second Assault

As one might suspect from the album title, “Second Assault” is Horisont’s second album. Their Facebook page labels them as New Wave of Swedish Old Mans Rock (NWOSOMR?) These guys have that retro 70s hard rock vibe which seems to be building popularity lately. Imagine if you took The Sword, Witchcraft and Graveyard and melted them down in a fondue pot. Once you swirled it all around a bit, you would dunk a piece of bread in there and it would come out dripping Horisont. However, when you melt something down you must lose a little bit of the original flavor, because in this case each of the individual ingredients is better than the sum which results from the blend.

The production on “Second Assault” is lower quality than I would expect from a contemporary rock music album, but it is perfect for the retro sound they are trying to achieve. The songs themselves are pretty good; there are lots of cool riffs and the occasional heavy power chord. The vocals are clean and fairly high pitched. Given my choice I would opt for one of the other bands mentioned above, but this is a pretty good listen too.



Stigmhate – The Sun Collapse

“The Sun Collapse” is the third album from Italian black metal band Stigmhate. This is a pretty decent album. It sounds somewhat treble-heavy, bass-thin like many early black metal albums, which I kind of enjoy. It also has a vast atmospheric vibe without making the mix sound too distant. I think the music benefits from that atmosphere, but the vocals could stand to be a little bit higher in the mix. If the vocals were more in my face I think this album would appeal to me a lot more. As it is, it only stands slightly above your average black metal album.

The band themselves sound great. I liked the guitars the best. The vocals are harsh and epic, maybe kind of Dimmu-ish. The style is not particularly original, but they do a good job with what it is. Other than the minor critique about the vocals (and honestly the more I listen the less I notice) I think this is a pretty listenable black metal album. I would not call it a great album, but I would definitely call it good.



Cancer Bats – Dead Set on Living

Cancer Bats are a hardcore/metal band from Toronto and “Dead Set on Living” is their fourth album. I have heard these guys in the past but was never particularly interested with what I heard. I think the main turn-off for me was the vocals. Hardcore styled vocals tend to be either deep Hatebreed-like shouts, which I can deal with no problem, or a piercing shriek that just kind of grates on me. I like the majority of harsh vocals, but there seems to be a frequency range that just annoys the shit out of me, and Cancer Bats were in that range.

Listening to “Dead Set on Living” I still get a little on edge with the vocals, but it does not seem as bad to me as it has in the past. The music is pretty good though, and that might help take some of the edge off the vocals. I think he might be singing slightly lower which could be helping too. There are a lot of non-screamed vocals too. So anyway, listening to this album I can kind of get into it. The riffs are pretty heavy and monstrous and bring a nice groove to the album. I might just have to give this some extra spins and see if we can take this relationship to the next level. Pretty cool.

Last Updated on April 30, 2012

Hits: 328

Running Wild – Shadowmaker

Last week I wrote a post about Running Wild’s first album, “Gates to Purgatory”, in anticipation of this week’s release of “Shadowmaker.” Like so many bands lately, Running Wild opted to break up a few years ago and then after awhile changed their mind and decided to put out a new album. You will not hear any complaints from me, as Running Wild are one of my all-time favorite metal bands. So here they are with their fourteenth album, and I am chomping at the bit to get into it.

Running Wild is probably most known for pirate metal. They pretty much had that theme to themselves for years, until the arrival of Alestorm and Swashbuckle. None of these three bands sound much alike, but I guess pirate metal is a legit genre now. That said, “Shadowmaker” only barely touches on the topic this time around.

One thing that surprised me a little was tracks like album opener, “Piece of the Action” and track 6, “Me & The Boys.” The songs are pretty decent, but they sound much less like typical Running Wild and a lot more like late 80s happy hair metal songs. I cannot help but be reminded of “Piece of Your Action” by Motley Crue and “Me and the Boys” by Twisted Sister. These tracks do not actually sound like those older songs, the names just make me think of them. They do, however, sound as though they could have been released in that era. I have seen some people complain about this change to the Running Wild sound, but you know what, I am just glad to have them back. These songs are still pretty enjoyable, and tracks like “I Am Who I Am” more than pick up any slack.

What I have always liked about latter-era Running Wild is that they would play fast and melodic metal that was catchy despite Rolf’s rather gruff vocal style. Because no matter what Rolf sounds like during the verse, you could always count on Running Wild to come back with a massive gang vocal chorus that should be listed in the dictionary under “epic.” It always gets my blood pumping and makes me feel about a thousand feet tall. That is one of the best qualities of metal, is it not? “Shadowmaker” retains that essential element, so I am content.

To the haters out there, say what you will (you always do) but I love that Running Wild are back, and I love “Shadowmaker.” Weigh anchor and hoist the sails! I wanted to post “I Am Who I Am” but the only thing SPV has posted on YouTube is this album teaser. If you want to hear “I Am Who I Am”, there are non-sanctioned versions available on YouTube.


 

Last Updated on April 26, 2012

Hits: 507

 

 

 

 

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