Tuesday, 29 March 2011

#037 Orphaned Land - The Neverending way of the Orwarrior

Orphaned land are one of the middle-east's best known bands, and are among the few who have truly broken through and had success in Europe and the USA. The Neverending way is their most recent studio albums, and, much like the albums title itself, it is immensely long, interesting, and unique, with a healthy collection of middle-eastern influences, beautiful dual-vocals, and a progressive edge to rival any European or American band.

By anyones standards, this album has a lot going on, in every musical aspect. This, it would seem, is one of it's major strengths, as the music is so varied. The album has brutal death-growls, melodic dual-vocals, Heavy thrashy riffs, fantastic lead-guitar work, and more middle-eastern folk instruments than you can shake a stick at, which makes for an album which is like a fruit bowl brimming with vibrant variety. The folk instruments, especially, fuse elegantly with the metal element to create some of the most unbelievably beautiful and badass bridge-sections and interludes I have ever heard, along with fantastic soft parts to songs, which blend not only excellent acoustic guitar, but also acoustic pretty-much-everything-else, creating an amazing middle-eastern sound.

As the huge-complexity and skilled musicianship suggests, the bands technical abilities are well above average. Throughout the album, even through the most elaborate parts, the work on all instruments, including vocals, was top notch, without a single sloppily placed note or drum beat. The whole album has a complete, and consistent feel, with no "out of place" songs, or uncharacteristic material, and yet, the band also manage to avoid the songs running into one-another, which is extremely skilled, especially considering the sheer length of the album, juxtaposed with the consistency, each track still manages to be unique in it's own right.

The sheer complexity makes the band quite difficult to get into, and many of the songs take many, many listens to get into properly, with many of the songs being long, and all of them being very intricate, with the exception of "Sapari" which is quite straight-forward, making for the punchy opening-track which it serves well as. Overall, this is a fantastic album, albiet an acquired taste.

I give the album 10/10.

Orphaned Land on Myspace

Saturday, 26 March 2011

#036 Corrosion of Conformity - Wiseblood

Corrosion of Conformity have played more styles of metal, and indeed, at some points, hardcore punk, that I'm able to keep track of. However, Wiseblood, their follow up to "Deliverence" is indisputably fantastic southern metal, laden with sludgy and magnificently heavy tones, and is an album which truly excells, sounding so organic and natural, in being so reminiscent of what the band intended.

From start to finish, Wiseblood is dripping with raw attitude and power. Southern Metal is not a genre well known to me, but If all of it's bands produce material as good as this, It's certainly a genre I intend to investigate. Songs like "The Door" have you feeling badass merely listening to them, such is the extent of the mindblowingly catchy, earth shattering sound, which rivals bands like Pantera in terms of sheer attitude, which is quite an accomplishment.

Musically, I find the band very likeable. The thick guitar sound is what imbues the band with the attitude upon which I have overly focused, and the solid, dependable drumming, which is a pleasure to listen to, and is quite different to traditional and conventional metal drumming, with interesting time signatures and approaches, which make the drumming engaging, and make it fit the music like a glove. The vocals too, with a Lynard Skynyrd meets Metallica vibe, are very fitting to the music, adding to it's overall southern stylings.

Overall, Wiseblood is certainly an interesting record, and it feels very complete. I looked, but could not find, and filler tracks or half-assed work, which adds to my theory that this is the finely honed product of a band who were playing from the heart, and were happy with what they were creating, in it's enteirety.

I give it 9/10, easily. Anyone could enjoy it, even if Metal is not your first choice of music.

Corrosion of Conformity official site
Corrosion of Conformity on Myspace

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

#035 Mayhem - Grand Declaration of War

"Grand Declaration of War" marks only Mayhem's second full-length album, but already the band had a lot of reputation to live up to, with the legendary "De Mysteriis" and a slew of EPs of great repute, this album had a lot to live up to. whether it lives up to it's predecessors or not, I'm uncertain, but one thing is definite, It is one of the most bizarre and thoroughly alarming black-metal releases I've ever listened to. The album cover, for starters, is draped in more black-metal badassery than most you're likely to witness.

From a technical standpoint, this album is very strong, with ridiculously good, orgasmically tight drumming, and very crisp and adept guitar work. These both are aided greatly by excellent production, which is high-quality, but doesn't diffuse the black-metal ethos of the work. Maniac's vocals are, interesting, as he produces extremely raspy black metal shriek, and a powerful singing voice, which borders on spoken word. This has the effect, on some songs, of producing something so bizarre that it is impossible not to enjoy, but, on others, it makes Mayhem sound like a satanically-possessed pop-punk band, although, it must be said, this sounds somewhat fascinating.

Another feature of this album, which could be a strength or a weakness dependent on view, is how fantastically bizarre and surreal it is, with lyrical themes which are obviously apocalyptic, but in such an unconventional, nontraditional way, but in a way which seems to work well for the band. Musically too, the album is quite odd, with a lot of electronic effects, including a track which is almost techno-like, in a cold, threatening way.

 One of the things I found when listening to the album, however, was that the songs seem to run into one another a bit, and, although they are meant to share a theme, it was still somewhat annoying. Black metal isn't supposed to have hooks, but even with that taken into account, this album seems a little bland and unvaried, although the electronic parts, which I generally don't welcome, actually help with that, by adding a little variety. The album is certainly original however, and I've never heard anything remotely like it before.

I give the album 6/10. It's good, but I can't say that it lived up to what came before it.

Mayhem on myspace

Saturday, 19 March 2011

#034 Pharaoh - After the Fire

Pharoah are seemingly underrated, a traditional/power metal band, hailing from the states, "After the Fire" is their first full-length album, and is, I find, an album which sounds rather good, and has left me wondering what has left this band relatively overlooked over the years. The album is an energetic, sharp, and uncompromising debut, very clearly played by a band playing exactly the style and way they feel is right.

Many bands draw influence from a small "core" of bands, and in Pharaoh's case, the main influence is very overtly Iron Maiden, with a pinch of Iced Earth and Judas Priest, which is especially reflected in the vocals. One moment, the vocalist sounds like Dickinson, the next, Ripper Owens, then suddenly he becomes Matt Barlow, before breaking into something unique. These singers are likely, judging by Pharaoh's genre, to have been an influence on the vocalist, and it is a show of his talent and range in that he can sing in such a huge range of styles, rendering the vocals one of the albums major strong-points, with songs such as "After the Fire" the title track, being fantastically powerful, especially with regards to the chorus, which is stunning.

The vocals, of course, would be nothing without the force of the other musicians driving the sound along. The guitar work is evocative in the traditional sense, with few-to-no tinkly added effects which can often spoil what would be good power metal. It is for this reason that I consider the band to be on the "traditional" side of things, which is certainly not a bad thing, as it is a definite mark of quality for a band to sound epic without too many post-production effects. The production itself is adequate, it's not bad, but nor does it sound like it was mixed and mastered by NASA. this "in-between-ness" gives it the feel of early nineties Maiden, which does it no harm whatsoever, other than making it sound a little more mature than it actually is.

While it's a good album, it doesn't break any huge barriers. The music is epic, but is not anything which hasn't been done before, however, the band has easily enough unique character to make it worthwhile, and the band have more than enough time to develop their style a little. Debuts are seldom perfect, and taking that into account, this is a good one.

I give this 7/10.

Pharaoh on Myspace

Friday, 18 March 2011

#033 Burzum - Fallen

You can say what you like about mister Vikernes, but his musical ability is beyond question. "Fallen" marks his second album after his release from prison, and was expected to be a step up from the first "Belus". And a step it is. Not as much of a vast, earth shaking step as I expected, I thought... but then the pre-prison style screaming began.

 Indeed, the vocals are what impressed me most about this release.  Although lower, less maniacal than Burzums early material, the are coming into their own, and sound more mature, more in control, and definitely more varied. Varg adds some haunting, hushed clean vocals into a great many of the songs, making them more atmospheric, and taking the band's sound in an interesting direction. In "Vanvidd" Varg proves to us that  the old-screaming style remains intact. The moment those vocals struck, a shiver ran down my spine, and one thing was clear to me; Burzum lives.

The instrumentation is good, with Varg everpresent on every single instrument, all of which he goes from strength to strength on, and the production also compliments this - It is crisper and cleaner than Belus, or many of the pre-prison albums, but it still retains the gritty, raw that makes Burzum great. There are notably more effects added to this album than it's predecessors, with a lot of little additions, especially in terms of multiple layers of echoey vocals, which adds atmosphere to the album without spoiling it - I have peace of mind in that the songs need not be playable live, considering that the band in question have never played live.

I think that this album is a taste of things to come, but in many ways, it is just that, a taste. Varg has shown that his original, high scream is, in fact, intact, but merely teases the listner with it, not making use of it to any great extent. Maybe this is his choice, but I cannot help but feel that a little more of that vocal style would have been the icing on the cake.

I don't hesitate to give this an 8/10. It's impressive.

Burzum official site

Monday, 14 March 2011

#032 Hemoptysis - Misanthropic Slaughter

I would have reviewed this album days ago, but I missed the window to pre-order, and, thus, my copy only came today. But they say good things are worth waiting for, and "Misanthropic Slaughter" is doubtlessly a good thing, which, despite my review of the band's EP very recently, I feel it is worth it to bring the band into a review once again, as this is an album which should be known about.

Hemptysis have produced an interesting debut, That much is clear. There are cleaving, rasping riffs which equal and surpass the work on their first EP, but thrown into the mix are beautiful guitar parts, which give the album a smooth, more refined edge, along with solos which are unbelievably clever and numerous. Theres even a little track called "Interlude" which has Electric Sitar in it. This gives the new album a burst of extremely talented and impressive arrangement, and the musicianship has improved too, with all members performing excellently.

The band have also retained their unique blend of thrash, and I have yet to discover a band they resemble greatly. The vocals sound a lot like Arch Enemy, while the riffage sounds like Megadeth, but when all of the instruments combine, The band is somewhat unique, especially in the solo style. What happens with the guitars effects-wise, and how they are played, are truly inventive, especially in the slow bits, of which there are a few, and which really add to the music immensely, especially the sitar solo, which is mindblowigly unexpected, and adds a sprinkle of beauty among brutality.

This is a strong album, and there is little which grates against me in any way. The vocals could do with a little variation, but they're very strong, although also very consistent, almost too consistent, with all of the songs sung in the same style. This does, however, mean that all of the songs are appealing to the same part of my metal taste, which means that I have a whole album full of songs which I like, without any weak ones in-between.

This is a ridiculously good Debut, and I'm going to fork out a 10/10 rating for it.


Hemoptysis official website
Hemoptysis on Myspace
Hemoptysis Merchandise

Friday, 11 March 2011

#031 Lamb of God - Hit the Wall

This is going to be a short one, considering that "Hit the Wall" is a single track, and only four minutes at that. I gather, although I may be wrong, that this track will not be on any future albums by the band, and, as such, I believe that it is worthy of review of it's own right.

First impressions were interesting. The song blasts of to an intro which could quite easily be melodic-death metal, before settling into the familiar and much used Lamb of God groove style, albeit layered much more heavily with lead guitar than their earlier work, essentially giving it a feel of something between "Wrath" and "Sacrament". As always, the technical skill of the band is impressive, especially the drumming, which never fails to amaze me, and to incite my eternal jealousy of Chris Adlers ability as a drummer.

Although not the most catchy song I've heard from them, it's certainly true to form, even if the vocals are little thin, and sends a huge reminder to the world that the band are still on top of their game, and are playing a winning game of consistency. This being a single, there's not much more I can say, but give it a listen and see what you think. Incidentally, all the versions on Youtube don't have vocals, which seems a shame, but nonetheless...

I give this single a solid 7/10, and hope that the band keep up the good work.

Lamb of God on Myspace
Lamb of God official site

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

#030 Engraved - Overthrow the Pharaoh

After the lengthy and google reliant battle to spell "Pharaoh", I could only resist reviewing my local band's debut EP for so long before I crumbled helpless to temptation. Although they're more or less unknown beyond the area they inhabit, I cannot see this lasting, the quality of their songs taken into account. Engraved play a curious and vibrant blend of progressive, traditional and power metal, which It would take a wiser man than I to truly define. But regardless of genre, Engraved are the sort of band who just appeal to my metal-tastebuds, and I hope to convey why.

The variation in genre within the EP itself is very striking, but echoes of a band of vibrancy, as opposed to confusion of identity. Shorter, thrashy songs such as "Eternal" are complimented by long epics, such as "Flow of the Crimson Tide" which is gigantic and absorbing eleven-minute Goliath of a track. Many of the tracks have something almost unique about them, in the styles and arrangements. There are many a technically profound and catchy intro, and almost without exception the songs are cleverly arranged and have a certain catchiness which I find to be lacking in many of today's other power-metal group.

As far as influences go, you'll hear some Iron Maiden and Iced Earth in here, but they've fused in such a way as to create something which is unlike either. The vocals especially, are quite unique, and are certainly dissimilar to most I have heard. Although the EP is a journey through many styles, one thing which remains pleasingly consistent is the powerful and epic tinge which the songs bear. Regardless of speed and intensity, it is always there, and it would be even better with that little bit of extra production-smoothness which success would bring the band.

Granted, the production is far from tip-top, which is understandable, and YouTube won't be helping with that, as you've no doubt just heard from the video. Other than that, however, I find the band to be very promising, and having heard some of their newer material, from after this EP was recorded, I can confidently say that It only gets better. With this EP, you are beholding a band in the process of finding it's style, and sounding rather good while doing so, and they've only gotten better since. I add, as an afterthaught, that this EP is not avalable to buy, due to various legal reasons which the band are working-through. However, it is, in it's entirety, available on Youtube.

I give this EP a definite 8/10.

Engraved on Myspace
Engraved on Signmeto
Engraved on Facebook

Saturday, 5 March 2011

#029 Razormaze - Miseries

Razormaze are a young and thus far little-known thrash band hailing from Boston. Thrash is currently undergoing something of a rejuvenation, with bands of an oldschool and new style emerging in equal measure. I have to say that Razormaze lie somewhere in the middle, sounding like something between Anthrax and Slayer, but with unique and exciting characteristics of their own, in a style that hasn't been heard in thrash in quite a long time.

"Miseries" is a cute and pleasing little EP, which is downloadable for free on the bands Bandcamp account. I downloaded it from there, expecting a full-length album, but I was not dissappointed, after listening, by the three tracks of the EP. The first, and dare I say best, part of the songs was the vocals; Anthrax influenced from the onset, you'll certainly be able to hear shades of Belladonna in this vocalist, albeit a Belladonna who has been crossed with Tom Araya. The EP's opener, "Karma in/Karma out" is particularly Anthrax like, but very much in a pleasing way, as opposed to in a plagiarist way.

 The arrangement of the songs is certainly a cut above many of the retro-thrash bands out there, with inventive blending of lead and rhythm guitar, and fantastic solos, which fit into the songs very well. Overall, this results in a style which is very bouncy, and almost cheerful, which results in, and forgive me for mentioning Anthrax again, a sound quite like theirs, but also causes the thrash to lack brutality, although upon listening, other factors certainly make up for this, not least the catchiness. Most songs take a while to get into my head, but not these.

I wouldn't say this EP is adventurous or groundbreaking, but I'd definitely credit it as being a cut above most of the retro-thrash out there. It's not hugely deep, it's not one of those mystical, inspiring albums, but I'll tell you something; It gets your head nodding, and it sounds awesome.

I give this 8/10.

Razormaze on Bandcamp
Razormaze on Myspace

Friday, 4 March 2011

#028 Witchery - Witchkrieg

I can't say I'd heard anything by Witchery until a friend lent me their "Witchkrieg" album, out of the blue. Despite a lack of reference to their other material, to which I have not heard, I shall attempt to review the album based solely on what I hear, and without comparison to earlier raisings-of-the-bar by the band. Looking at the cover art, I first assumed the style to be somewhat blackened, and I was surprised that when I put the CD on, what came from the headphones was distinctly and unrepentantly thrash.

In "Witchkrieg", the band have certainly assembled an all star cast, with guest solos in half of the songs, including Kerry King in "Witchkrieg" and Gary Holt in "The Reaver". This adds a certain degree of unpredictability to the songs, with Kings solo taking me completely by surprise. Overall, the band seem to achieve a pleasingly technical, crunchy and catchy sound, which comes across as sounding like Slayer with a little groove thrown in for good measure, along with harsh death-metal like vocals which dominate most of the songs, which take them away from the realm of standard-issue thrash, and point the band to a more extreme sound.

While not as fast as some thrash, with the exception of a few songs, the band seem to compensate with brutal riffs reminiscent of Testament's "The Gathering", and similar crunchy 90's releases, although in contrast, Witchery certainly aren't scared to use a few electronic effects now and again, sometimes to good effect, sometimes not, and the album has certainly been produced very heavily in places, although other parts much less so, giving a slightly uneven feel.

The production on this album, while tolerable, in some places lets it down a little. The drums, especially, sound quite heavily polished and almost irritatingly plastic, and some of the added effects to the songs feel a little bit pointless. Another criticism I have is the lack of soul within the music, which, although brutal, sounds quite dry and shallow, which is certainly desirable when in the right mood, but not all the time.

I give this album a steady 6/10. It's likable, and in places very good, but I wouldn't consider it essential.

Witchery on Myspace

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

#027 Watain - Lawless Darkness

Watain are what I see as a much needed injection of youth into the black-metal scene of Scandinavia. Watain's sound has grown sharper, keener and altogether more epic through the years, with "Lawless Darkness", their fourth album, thundering into life, blasting Bathory-esque and energetic black metal left, right, and centre, with atmospheric and tightly played black-metal.

The album us very melodic, with the guitars making amazing atmosphere, and the whole work being very well produced, which compliments the style excellently. Songs like "Malfeitor" contain some of the finest lead work and melodic parts which I have heard in black metal, if not beyond. Many songs, notably the one mentioned, have a very sorrowful, and yet not dark, sound, thanks mainly to the guitar work, and slow, complimentative drumbeats strewn throughout the song. Other songs on the, such as "Total Funeral" are much faster, grittier, and more downright-belterish, with Watain showing not only their atmospheric abilities, but their fantastic technical skill too.

My personal favourite on the album is the epic-length closer. At over fourteen minutes, "Waters of Ain" is a hefty piece of music. But of all the fourteen-minuters I've ever listened to, none have captured me in the way this one did. It blends fast, furious parts with fantastic slow-bits, some of the finest on the album, which, to be honest, has it's fair share of fantastic slow bits. Some of the solos sent shivers down my spine, and It takes a certain calibre of music to do that.

You could, if you so wanted to, criticise the shortage of short, to-the-point songs on this album, but when the songs are all long, and they all sound so good, you'll probably change your mind. Watain have created what I can only describe as a black-metal masterpiece, and every song is worth listening to.

I give this album 9/10.

Watain on Myspace