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Monday, July 30, 2007

Nightwish - Meadows of Heaven/Sahara (2007) (Spinefarm)

2 new singles from Nightwish's forthcoming album in September '07.

Meadows of Heaven is a typical, but still excellent symphonic ballad. Strings and dramatic sweeping breakdowns. This is the first single I've heard off the new album, which means my first listen of their new vocalist Anette Olzon. Sure, she is no operatic diva, but her vocal chops do not pale in comparison. Just listen to the ending of the track - pure soul - dare I say soaring r&b emotions?

Sahara provides a more aggressive stomper with a darker feel. Admittedly, these 2 singles do not showcase any further marked development in the band's sound, with the most obvious difference being Olzon's vocals. She even does some Cranberries style vocal musings in here. There is some growing maturity in song structure - they have worked in more passages which have resulted in the tracks providing a story-telling feel to them.

Still, quality metal is still a byword of the Nightwish sound. 2 nice tunes, but I am looking forward to more from the album (yes, I have not heard the earlier released singles :) ).

Miseration - Your Demons - Their Angels (2007) (Rivel Records)

Sometimes I wonder where I've been, missing loads of great metal albums and music in general. Half of 2007 has flown by, and it's only now that I've just discovered the amazing death metal release from Sweden's Miseration.

Having been released in the beginning of 2007, Your Demons - Their Angels encompasses all the ferocity and raw aggression that has been missing in so many death metal bands of their generation, yet packing all the melodic dynamics that sees no compromise in the brutal delivery.
The occasional clean vocals of Alvestam contrast brilliantly with the intense interplay between the pummeling riffs (from guitarists Jani and Marcus) and forceful drumwork. This is perfectly demonstrated in "Perfection Destroyed", which smoothly flows into the keyboard-laden rapid monster "Seven Are The Sins" - images of Dimmu Borgir at a heightened pace, with a beautiful breakdown before a densely majestic climax, cushioned with a pounding bottomline from bassist Ylenstrand. "World Lethality" lets you catch your breath with a devilish build-up before unleashing a well-sung chorus - but Alvestam showcases his harsh pipes less you start to wonder if death was their game. While the rest of the album keeps it firmly in the melodic death metal arena, what sets Miseration apart from so many other bands in the genre is their obvious ability to mix all the tuneful elements of their sound with what many hardcore fans expect from death metal - pure, fast, and raw metallic rage.

Miseration's Your Demons - Their Angels is definitely a metal release not to be missed - so many have claimed to be the dog's bollocks in metal, but Miseration has nuts so loaded that they crush most, if not all, competition with overpowering brutality.

Check out Miseration MySpace page for samples of Your Demons - Their Angels!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Arch Enemy - Rise of The Tyrant (2007) (Century Media)

Arch Enemy has been a band that I've enjoyed tremendously over the years, not so much for any special facet they bring to the metal table, but for the skilful songwriting they unleash upon the world with each release. The last album, Doomsday Machine (Century Media), was a rocker of a release - great tunes with killer riffs and soaring leads. It still gets regularly rotated on my CD player!

With Rise of The Tyrant, the Amott brothers once again do not disappoint. In my opinion, they have carried the band on to greener pastures, despite the once-mourned departure of charismatic frontman, Jonas. The shining songcraft is strongly evident again in this album - it is amazing how frequently the guitar duo manage to squeeze out such technically proficient yet melodically enchanting riffs. What is even more apparent is the growing maturity. Wailing leads laced over the tracks heighten the tension that bring each track to greater heights.

Hardcore death metal purists might bemoan the band's growing exploration into more melodic territory, especially with Tyrant. True enough, some of the tracks border on rock (or dare I say it, power metal) with only Angela Gossow's death growls the most identifiable relation to death metal. Despite this, there is still much brutality in the song delivery, with mindnumbing speed and aggression. Opening track "Blood On Our Hands" pulls out all the stops, with trademark pounding hooks and ripping solos, quickly followed by a thrash stomper "The Last Enemy". The headbanging continues unabated with each track, before the band slows it down a wee bit with "Revolution Begins", which has a clever little breakdown before swinging into a roaring climax. Title track "Rise of The Tyrant" starts with a wicked little sample (anyone knows where it came from?) before blowing into the closest thing to their previous rawer death metal work. Other highlights include the soon-to-be stomper anthem "Night Falls Fast" and last track "Vultures" which showcase some of the Amott brothers' best fretwork since Wages of Sin.

Already, the usual rants of fans bemoaning the band's gradual move towards a more balanced mix of melody and aggression have begun to surface. Yet, I am enjoying this refined release, and expect most fans to feel the same way. Undoubtedly, this will bring the band to an even wider audience, and with that, greater success which a hardworking outfit fully deserves.

Definitely one of the top metal releases of the year!

Visit Arch Enemy's MySpace page!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Obituary - Xecutioner's Return (2007) (CandleLight Records)

I was excited when I heard that Obituary was back with a new LP, but was hesitant due to the limp offering last year ("Frozen Alive"). That album was boring to say the least, struggling to fan any raging fires within me. It was roundly slammed by my inner circle of metal critics - we wondered if the band reuniting was down to another hard-up tale of desperation.

However, after a day's listening to a promo copy of "Xecutioner's Return" (the LP title probably aludes to the band's original name prior to entering Death Metal history with the killer-band-name-of-all-time), despite its poor recording quality, I can safely say the intensity and pure punk death attitude of Obituary is back. All the band members are in fine fiery form - Tardy with the trademark guttaral yet discernible vocals; his brother Donald putting up a respectable drum showpiece; guitar duo Peres and Santolla (who replaces Allen West) dishing up classic Obituary riffs that rip apart your audiosensory faculties, backed ably by the pumping bass of Watkins.

The promo came with 11 tracks - with a maelstrom kicking off to "Face Your God". The manic yet bone-crushing riffs intertwine madly with swirling solos, laced with Tardy's horrific gargling cries. "Slowly We Rot" circa 2007? You bet! But with an even greater driving intensity that swears to have Obituary claiming back the death metal throne. There was no let-up as the band tore into "Last Presence" - notice the greater number of wailing guitar solo duels between Peres and Santolla - a possible influence of the latter guitar legend. "Evil Ways" even throws in a simple yet deceptively catchy chorus - at this stage, you could be reminded of when Slayer tried to go punk a coupla years back, only this time - Obituary has succeeded where the thrash legends failed. Most of the tracks here clock within 4 minutes, with the longest being the 7-minute "Contrast the Dead". This epic plods along with bone-crushing monolithic passages before picking up the pace halfway through. Other highlights are "Lies" and "In Your Head" (a gargantuan death roller).

"Xecutioner's Return" comes a long way in making up for their previous limp showing, with an aptly-titled declaration of triumph. Such brutal aural destruction could only be delivered in such fine fashion from a Death Metal legend. All fans await to rejoice their return.

Get your copy of Obituary's "Xecutioner's Return" Now!

Limited Edition Copy:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Just got hold of a promo today...

Obituary's forthcoming LP, Xecutioner's Return on CandleLight Records! Will definitely be posting a review of this once I've given it a listen to. Hopefully it will be a killer compared to the previous release!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Nile - Ithyphallic (2007) (Nuclear Blast)

With Ithyphallic, Nile returns with their 5th full-length opus, the first on their new label Nuclear Blast. Since they exploded onto the technical brutal death metal scene, I have heard and read many good things about the band, but each time I put on their past albums, the material had never appealed to me. Brutal - definitely. Technical - no doubt. Listenable or enjoyable - nay I say.

However, with this new release, the band has kept all their trademarks of pumelling-fast blastbeats and crushing passages, but they've miles expanded on their song-craft and imbued durable enjoyment despite the technicality of their sound. Identifiably there is much maturity in their growth - most songs are much shorter between the 3 to 5 min lengths (although the track titles are still nasally long for most), and there is now a nicer balance between blastbeats and mid-tempo arrangements. The Egyptian influences are still clearly evident in the lyrics, melodies and tones, with the clear yet harsh inter-changing vocals of duo Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler Wade. Drummer George Kollias contributes hugely to the Nile sound, with phenomenal and blazing fast double-bass work - your psyche will definitely get a pounding from this mad skin genius.

There are only 3 songs which go beyond 5 mins, and "Eat of the Dead" is my personal pick. Unbelievably evil with the right images being conjured by the music and lyrics "... feed off the dead..." and best bit of all it does not go all ballistics on the blastbeats.

Present fans will continue to be delighted with the mind-blowing speed monsters like "Laying Fire Upon Apep" and "The Essential Salts" that continue in the best traditions of the technical brutality of Nile. The epic last track "Even The Gods Must Die" begins with the mandatory horn passage so prevalent in previous albums, and slowly builds up with a mind-numbing crush of a marching riff that just breaks into mayhem as all hell is let loose in the latter stage of the song. This was my personal highlight of the whole album.

As stated, Nile has never been one of my favourite bands or even one that I look out for. But with their most mature release-to-date, they have landed themselves in my radar. The band's technical prowess does take away from some of the listenability, but this has been minimised with Ithyphallic. There is much more focus on writing songs which people would listen to (shorter tunes definitely cater to that - most people have shorter attention spans than technique freaks). Ah! That bluesy solo in "Even The Gods Must Die" encapsulates it all! Certainly a must-listen this year!

Get Nile - Ithyphallic at, for only $12.99! Save 2.99%!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Akoma - Lost Forest (2007) (Promo)

I happened to come across this promo on-line and at MySpace, and it has hit me as a very enduring piece of sympohonic gothic genius.

Akoma is a 4-piece symphonic gothic metal band of 3 years, from the Scandinavian country of Denmark. Their music has the ingredients of all that's required to satisfy both listeners and critics, and to climb greater heights - amazing crystal clear vocals from female vocalist Tanya Bell, powerful riffage from both guitarist Morten Harboe and bassist Daniel Nielsen, and the crushing skinwork of Peter Buur.

The quartert has recently recorded this 3-track demo (the production and recording on this demo is amazing btw, by Jacob Hansen) and it simply blew me away from the first time I put it on. Opening tune "Lost Forest" builds up with a classic foreboding sense of dread with sorrowful melodies, and when the riff comes in, it slams you right in the face with such power and a whirlwind of emotional goth, with Tanya's vocals heightening the atmospheric intensity. It felt like incredible intense sex after a lover's fight! Certainly one of the best metal songs ever this year!

Track 2 "Running Away" is a more down-beat offering. It reminded me of a Within Temptation, but with the subtle harshness of Theatre of Tragedy saddled into the mix. Tanya's vocals leaves a tinge of wistfulness in the mix, and the band's uncanny sense for simple but effective melodies still manage to bring you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

With Track 3 "Forgotten Heroes", the band builds it up with a medium tempo start, but soon the band's ability in crafting symphonic storms comes to the forefront, as the instrumentation melds beautifully with Tanya's strong vocals, with a song that paints pictures of great mythic marches of mediaval armies going into war.

I am eagerly awaiting a full release of a new album by this band, and watching their progress. Akoma reminds me of many symphonic death goth bands like Tristania and Trail of Tears, but with a much better balance of the beautiful and harshness of metal. There have been many bands in this genre recently riding the waves of popular acclaim but in a genre that has seen much watered-down commercialisation, Akoma could possibly be the one to bring back the enchanting melody and enduring listenability without sacrificing any bit of the power of metal.

Listen to the tracks of Akoma's MySpace Page -

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