Friday, 27 May 2011

#053 Metallica - Death Magnetic

In order to balance out the universe, having reviewed fairly less-known bands recently, I felt I'd better do something a little more known, and somewhat more mainstream. You can't get much more mainstream than Metallica, that much is guaranteed, and so I've given Death Magnetic, their 2008 "comeback" album a listen, to see what I can find. It has solos, which is a start.

After a long period of playing some, shall we say, different albums, Death magnetic marks an attempt to return to the traditional, thrashy style of old. It works, to an extent, especially with songs like "All Nightmare Long" having a fairly thrashy sound, however, debris from the three albums before it still litter the sound, with little bluesy sounding bits, and other similar detritus knocking around in the mix - not neccessarily all bad, but it hammers home my belief that the band cannot return to their original sound, with so many musical styles having occurred between "...And Justice for all" and this album, the band simply cannot emulate their early style. That said, no two Metallica albums, with the exception of Load and Reload, sound anything like one another.

Musically, there isn't too much wrong with Death Magnetic. It's not what it's so often purported to be, but it's a solid album nonetheless. Songs like "Judas Kiss" are thrashy, with catchy choruses, and the bluesy Load and Reload remnants in the guitars. James's voice isn't what it was, and Kirk's Wah-pedal is overused, as ever, but other than that, the instrumentation is adequate. "The Day That Never Comes" is, in the first half, at least, quite impressive, and most of the songs on the album deserve a chance.

And now... the production. From a production point of view, the album ain't pretty. Its full of clicks, and is mixed far too loud, making it muffled, overly full of fuzz, and sounds pretty horrible at any volume, which is sad, as it spoils the albums many potentially enjoyable songs. The production isn't even bad in a charming way, it's just plain... bad, and sadly, this detracts from the album greatly. Death Magnetic's demo, aptly titled "Demo Magnetic" is, in my view, the album that this should have been, and I'd urge everyone to give it a listen.

I give Death Magnetic 6/10. With better production, it could creep up to 7.

Metallica on Myspace
Metallica Official site
Metallica on Metal-Archives

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

#52 Razorwyre - Coming Out

With the "resurgence" of Traditional metal, as proclaimed by many of the young acts out there, the variety of traditional sounding material being produced is of great extent. "Razorwyre" are somewhat more thrashy than many of the deeply orthodox traditional acts like White Wizzard, but does this harm their sound? No. Razorwyre produce a thrashy, clean vocal, fist-pumping bundle enshrining the spirit of metal with their debut EP - Coming out.

For a short, five-track EP, Razorwyre certainly manage to cram a lot of good music into it. The riffs is thrashy, not unlike Metallica's style on "Kill 'Em All", while the vocals are very smooth, with catchy, business like mid-range sound, with the occasional gang-chant, and over-the-top, impressive falsetto excellently blended into many areas of the song. Musically, the EP is very strong from a guitar and vocal aspect, with a sound in the songs which is a remarkably original twist, despite the overall style being extremely heavily used for almost three decades of the "softer" side of thrash. The thrash stylings of the album, are incidentally, augmented by many nods to traditional and power-metal, especially in the vocal department, and in some of the riffage, such as "Party of Five" which has some fairly noticeable power-metal influence, while still complimenting the other songs on  the album.

I'd have to say that the vocals are one of the factors which made this album appeal to me - The catchiness, especially, is impressive, and the songs are very memorable, with some original and downright awesome sounding structures and vocal hooks which really draw in the listener, especially on "Operation Market Garden" and "Battleshark", both of which are very strong songs. The production of the album also suits it well, with the rough-edged, but respectable production, nicely suiting the gravely, crunchy sound of old-style thrash, which would risk being spoiled by excessively tight, neat and crisp production.

Overall, this is an EP which leaves me wanting more from the band, and it's safe to say that the music is thoroughly addictive and enjoyable. All five songs are well thought-out and solid, without a hint of filler anywhere in sight. This is a band who, had the debut occurred in the early 80's, would have had a classic on their hands, however, even today, this EP suggests to me that the band will go far.

I give the EP 8/10.

Razorwyre Official site
Razorwyre on Myspace
Razorwyre on Metal-Archives (Yes, their original name was a little different)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

#051 Sylvus - Sylvus

Sylvus are a Canadian black-metal band, of the haunting, atmospheric, borderline folk type. I'm not sure exactly what subgenre of black-metal they could generally be considered, but sound wise, they remind me of bands like Wodensthrone, although Sylvus do not use synth to much, if any extent, but manage to create a suitably epic sound in spite of this. And, might I add, that album artwork is tasty.

Theres a lot going on in this EP, with everything from traditional black-metal tremolo picking, to slow, doomy passages which cast a vast and foreboding soundscape. There are also clean, or close to clean sections, which remind me heavily of black metal bands like Winterfylleth and Wodensthrone, although Sylvus are of a similar age to these bands, suggesting that they share a common "ancestor" of influence, as opposed to Sylvus being influenced by them directly. The band create a sound which appears to be about half-in-half oldschool black metal and  atmospheric black metal. The musicianship on the EP is on a par with either of the above bands, with well executed work, especially in terms of vocals, which are atmospheric, and hauntingly melancholic, which help add to the tumbling onslaught of music which the heavier sections bring.

The production of the album works quite well for it, with the grainy, medium-rawness of it complimenting, and indeed aiding the melancholic sound of the overall EP, with many of the parts being quite rough, but never descending into the realms of pure fuzz or noise. The production is especially complimentative to the drummer's sound - Bringing out an extremely pleasing blastbeat from the snare, and the bell of the ride cymbal.

For the relatively short time they have thus far existed, the band have done rather well, and have opened for somewhat different, but nonetheless well known acts such as Finntroll. Having listened to Sylvus, it is fairly understandable why. The band simply have a style which sounds like it will do well. From what the bands latest demo suggests, the epic sound has since faded a little, and been replaced with a more traditional black-metal sound. Hopefully, the band can find a way for the two to work in harmony.

I give this band 7/10.

Sylvus on Myspace
Sylvus on Bandcamp
Sylvus on Metal-archives

Monday, 16 May 2011

#050 Poisongod - Daemoncracy

Yet another free one, Poisongod are a Brazilian thrash band, with, as the album title suggests, some very political themes. The band's approach to thrash is that of the newer incarnation of the subgenre, and is done rather well, albeit with a few rubs here and there.

 "Daemoncracy" has some fairly clear influences, with Lamb of God being quite a glaring one. While Poisongod are somewhat thrashier than said band, there is certainly a liberal sprinkling of groove metal within their sound, most notably in songs like "Genesis Protocol", which exhibit some staple groove riffs. Another influence I interpret within the bands sound is Megadeth - The bands sound, and indeed, political themes, remind me heavily of Megadeth, particularly the "United Abominations" album, both in terms of sound and aesthetic. However, the vocals on the album stand out as quite unique, with a sort of dry strained shriek which is quit  unlike a conventional thrash, black, or even death-metal vocal. I cannot, at this time, make my mind up whether these vocals are positive or negative, although their originality is, nonetheless, appreciated.

From a technical point of view, the album is quite accomplished, with tight solos on many songs, and good musicianship all-round, especially lead guitar, and indeed drums, which were on a fairly high point of the drumming spectrum. The production on the album isn't the best I've ever heard, and can be quite "clunky" and has a bluntened, slightly shallow feel, which can prevent the music from reaching it's full potential.

Sadly, despite the albums good points, it has a rather generic sound, and does little to rock the boat. Many of the thrash/groove riffs, which are, might I add, pretty tasty, are somewhat universal. The intro to "Genesis Protocol" for instance, sounds almost exactly like Lamb of God. That said, the Lamb of God song involved - Laid to Rest, sounds eerily similar to Testament's "Into the Pit"... and thus the circle of life continues. Nonetheless, Daemoncracy is a solid-enough release.

I give this 7/10

Poisongod official site
Poisongod on Myspace
Poisongod on Metal-archives

Friday, 13 May 2011

#049 Hellfire - Warnings

Hellfire are one of the growing number of young, energetic bands who have taken upon themselves to produce fierce, youthful traditional metal. Hailing from the states, "Warnings" is the band's debut full-length album, and it is somewhat impressive, showing consistency, and a fairly definite, comfortable sound, which really caught my attention straight away when I was out sampling new bands. Hence, I bought the album, and was not disappointed.

Catchy doesn't even begin to cover most of the songs on this album. The blend of straight-forward, honest instrumentation, with chunky, down-to-earth rhythm guitar, blended neatly and cohesively to likewise straightforward, but also talented lead guitar, which is extremely easy to enjoy, as the guitar parts are, for want of greater eloquence, relatively free from wankery, while still being abundant in technical skill. This theme also exists in the other instruments, with traditional, wholesome drumming and bass playing, which are well mixed, to boot. The vocals are also in this vein; Melodic, and definitely talented, but also honest and earthy, and making no attempt to show off pretentiously through falsetto and the like, which adds a great deal of solidness to the sound, by stripping away much of the potential over-complex fodder which makes many bands very difficult to get into.

The album is very bare-bones, also, with an early NWOBHM, almost, dare I say, Punky sound, which is emphasised by the relative lack of keyboards and effects throughout the album. In some places, the album also exhibits some thrashy characteristics, although these are generally fleeting. All in all, Warnings is an album which just feels right. It's sound is organic, and is much more pleasing than many of the other bands in the "new wave of traditional metal", who, it must be said, have a tendency to try too hard. This album was, to me, an immediate hit, with many of the songs being instantly memorable. They have very human sound to them, like a bond between man and music. Insignificant as it sounds, something so simple as the shouted count-in after the intro of "Constantine" makes the music feel much more organic, a living thing, as opposed to some sterile construct.

The impact of the album lies in it's simplicity, which will, of course, grate with those who like their metal bedecked in multitudinous layers of sound. I, for one, love the punchy sound of this band, and have, I feel, found my favourite up-and-coming act in the traditional metal movement.

I give this band 10/10... and the artwork's pretty awesome as well.

Hellfire on Myspace
Hellfire on Metal Archives

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

#048 - Jute Gyte - Verstiegenheit

Another "free" one I found (the minimum donation being $0.00, which makes me feel rather stingy to not have paid) is the creation of a black-metal solo-artist Adam Kalmbach. "Verstiegenheit" meaning "Extravagance" in German. The band, however, is from the USA. Jute Gyte is an experimental take on the black-metal style, but still nods towards the black metal roots.

The album bursts straight into a full blown blast-wave of sound, with the first track "Gates of Day and Night", in which the artists style becomes immediately apparent, and the experimental aspects of the work immediately rear their heads. Aside from playing fast, ferocious and immersing black metal, with a fantastic scream which I've not heard equaled often, the traditional areas of the music are backed up with an underlying guitar-wail which evokes the sound that staring into the void would make, if, that is, staring made a noise. The following track, an eleven minute behemoth, also carries this ferocious air, but then subsides, into some melancholy, slower paced stuff, with truly savage screaming woven through it. Throughout the album, there are some truly innovative and fascinating musical arrangements, such as eerie oscillating tones, which cannot fail to cause pleasure as I listen to them, and which make me ponder why the band is not better known.

Adam Kalmbach, the man behind the work, is, from what I gather, originally a composer of electronic, noise music type material, which, despite my pitiful ignorance of, has definitely influenced the albums experimental sound, in many ways, especially in terms of the way it is arranged. In songs such as "The Light That Hangs Above the Fields", the heavy work immediately, without warning, collapses in upon itself, into a soft, creepy sounding parts, broken by vocals equally as harsh as those sung during the heavy parts, which is something which I haven't heard before. When I got over the initial bizarreness of the contrast, it sounded very effective, and all aspects, both heavy and soft, are complimented excellently by the albums production values, which are right in the middle - neither over nor under produced.

I'll not lie, some of the aspects of the album take a while to get used to. The softness mixed with the screaming, especially, was initially rather grating, but with time, it grew on me. It's sheer originality, or at least, as far as I know, originality, is impressive, as is the album as a whole, and is very much appreciable. I'd go as far as to say that this is the best one-man-black-metal project I've encountered after Burzum.

I give this 9/10.

Jute Gyte on Myspace
Jute Gyte on Bandcamp (With downloads)
Jute Gyt on Metal Archives

Thursday, 5 May 2011

#047 Solstice - Lamentations

Solstice are a band I'm damn glad to have been recommended. I asked for some atmospheric doom metal, and that is certainly what I got. Lamentations is the bands first full length album, and as pretty impressive, with songs which are memorable from the very first listen, and only get better with return visits to the beautiful soundscape, with one of Britain's best doom-metal exports.

Solstice's sound is immediately edible, for want of a better word. The traditional, doomy riffs, and extremely melancholy, catchy choruses are immediately digestible, and I found myself remembering songs such as "The Man Who Lost the Sun" instantly memorable, after single, even partial listens. The changes in vocal pitch, especially, sound excellent, with almost Asian sounding changes, which, being out-of-the-ordinary, never fail to grab the attention, and reel in the listener, with lyrics which are straightforward but deep, carried by a mournful and beautiful vocal, which stays with you more easily than most I've heard, and create a truly bare bones epic-feel, with only the four "staples" of metal; Guitar, bass, drums and vocals. No synthesisers are used, yet still there is a beauty.

My admiration goes to whoever engineered the album too, as the production values are wonderful to behold. As well as being tight, they are also excellent in showcasing each instrument, none of which obscures the other. Nothing is too high in the mix, nothing too low. Everything is audible, and sounds crisp and enjoyable, all the instruments working well together, instead of clashing. The songs are of very varying length too, which creates an "album for all occasions". There are lovely long epics, short doom-fixes, and even a gorgeous acoustic-ish instrumental, which is absurdly mellowing and soulful.

Once again, I'm a poor critic, and while listening to this, nothing really jumped out at me as being particularly objectionable to me. The songs are all in a very similar style, but I have no complaints about that - it's a style I particularly like. 

This is a fantastic album, I'll give it a 9/10. 

Solstice on Myspace
Solstice on Metal-archives

Monday, 2 May 2011

#046 Blaze Bayley - Promise and Terror

Theres a lot more to Blaze Bayley than just being "The guy who was in Iron Maiden for a bit". He's been around the block, and has some interesting musical offerings. Promise and Terror is one of his solo albums, and showcases his style far better than anything which he did with Maiden ever did.

The first, possibly most noticeable thing about this solo material is that Blaze sounds a lot happy as a vocalist, and seems a lot more skilled, natural, and indeed free, compared to his material in Iron Maiden, which is the only music I had encountered him in previously. His vocal range is much wider, and he goes into a lot of styles which are much more enjoyable than the fairly straightforward vocal delivery in Maiden. Bayley's voice alone is an excellent feature of the album, and makes it a good traditional metal release in it's own right, especially for 2010, with so many of the older vocalists fading, and losing their touch, Bayley seems to have only improved, with a unique and enjoyable vocal delivery.

The other musicianship on the album is solid, in a fairly standard tradition metal style, which occasionally borders on something a little heavier, maybe a sprinkling of thrash or indeed power-metal here and there. The guitars are crunchy, and the drums are solid and reliable, with a dash of double-kick every now and again, adding a little modern charm. The "Traditional-but-not-quite" metal sound is very reminiscent of a band I reviewed before - Pharaoh. Although this is probably a tenuous comparison, the crunchy guitars, and indeed the vocal style, are far more in common than I could have imagined.

Essential, I'd regard this as a robust traditional-metal release, with Bayley's vocals shown in their true, unconstrained state, which are far superior to the tiny taster of his vocals which he provided in his time in Iron Maiden. Blaze clearly had a career before that, in various bands, and he may have been as good as he is in this album at that point, for all I know. All that I can say is that, in this album, he's damn good.

I give this a 7/10.

Blaze Bayley official site
Blaze Bayley on Myspace
Blaze Bayley on Metal-Archives