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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Samael - Solar Soul (2007) (Nuclear Blast America)

This was a really pleasant surprise for me when I heard it. Samael's Solar Soul has so much pop sensibility that you can sing along to almost every track!

Just check out the chorus of the first tune "Solar Soul" - a wacky mix of Rammstein's melodic structure with an almost fist-pumping punk anthem. The electronic tinges now do not overshadow the songs, instead strongly accenting each. Listen to the classical strings thrown in in tunes such as "Promised Land" and "Slavocracy", impressing with a sense of chaotic grandeur.

In fact, you get 12 solid tracks of anthem potential in this album. I wouldn't be wrong to say that images of Rammstein would flash by after listening to this. But much darker, of course.

Ok, enough, before I get slaughtered by hardcore Samael fans!

Check out the tunes here...

Nightwish - Amaranth CDS (2007) (Spinefarm Records)

I don't think I need to elaborate much on this single release, which incidentally came out as 2 singles. You can read more here on my earlier review of the whole album.

Sample the singles here.

Primal Fear - New Religion (2007) (Frontier Records)

Europeans seem to have a knack for really good hard Melodic Metal, as evidenced from the ancient years of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, till now with the many Italian metal bands spanning genres from Symphonic to Power Metal. German Power Metal band Primal Fear display their chops admirably on this new release on Frontier Records.

Admittedly, I do not know much about Primal Fear, as I did not use to have much access to Italian bands. (Edit: and this shows - because they are really a German band - thanks for highlighting, guys! :)) They have a thick bass-heavy sound where the bottom-end simply delights coming out from my throbbing speakers. The vocals are reminiscent of Judas Priest's Rob Halford, and the keyboard lines and chugging guitar riffs all meld gracefully but with massive punch that really reminds you of standing in a grand stadium listening to the band churn out stadium anthem after anthem. But the band is not adverse to epic tracks as evidenced by "Fighting the Darkness" and "The Man (That I Don't Know)".
Really good rockin' album!

Check out the promo here and if you like it, get the CD when it comes out!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fleshcrawl - Structures of Death (2007) (Metal Blade)

It might seem like I'm a Metal Blade fan, but there just seems to be quite a number of nice albums coming out from their artiste roster. This new release from Fleshcrawl is another one. Though once again you have a Death Metal record that does not necessarily offer anything new, but the sound... ohh... just the sound reminds you so much of Entombed circa Left Hand Path.

Fleshcrawl has got it down so well - the guitar sound is a perfect clone of the buzzsaw grind of the Death Metal legends, except that the production is clearer and crisper. The bottomend adds a lively punch, as demonstrated in tunes such as "A Spirit Dressed in Black". There are even harmonic squeals reminiscent of Dismember, Entombed and so many of the old Swedish Death Metal bands. Manic drumming just about seals this band a place in my record player.

Even the song titles are so old skool ("Into The Fire Of Hell", "Anthem of Death", "Nothing But Flesh Remains") you could slap an Entombed cover on the CD and you would never notice the difference!

Great old skool Swedish Death Metal here, with admirable production. The tunes all rock and are extremely catchy, well worth the wait for Fleshcrawl fans and new ones in the making.

Check out Structures of Death here.

This Ending - Inside The Machine (2007) (Metal Blade)

Got this somewhere:

"This Ending is actually the reincarnation of A Canorous Quintet, who released a few albums in the '90s before disbanding in 1998. The newly named band includes Amon Amarth drummer Fredrik Andersson along with vocalist Mårten Hansen, guitarists Linus Nirbrant and Leo Pignon and bassist Jesper Löfgren. Inside The Machine is first rate melodic death metal. This Ending picked up right where A Canorous Quintet left off, with really melodic and catchy guitar riffs and a healthy dose of aggression. They also incorporate thrash into their sound. There's a strong element of technicality in addition to the bone crushing brutality. Hansen's vocals are strong. They are aggressive and angry, but also understandable. He varies his intensity and the pitch of his screaming style, which a lot of extreme vocalists could take a lesson from. This Ending is treading down familiar ground, but they put their own spin on the genre and their songwriting is strong enough to make them a force in the melodic death metal genre."

Inside The Machine is a surprisingly strong Death Metal release - while there is actually a very strong technical element to their sound, This Ending still manages to infuse refreshing melodies in the tracks. The album production is incredibly clear and well-mixed, oftentimes I am left breathless with the doublebass crush and the riffs overpower the speakers - I wondered if they would blow at times.

The vocals are alright - perhaps a clearer Amon Amarth. What shone through was the power and aggression which the band captured well in the mix. Definitely a good Death Metal album, although I would not classify it strictly melodic death metal.

Sample Inside The Machine here...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

As I Lay Dying - An Ocean Between Us (2007) (Metal Blade)

2007 has been a year of massive metal releases, with metal bands both new and old releasing incredibly strong and quality albums. In the much maligned metalcore genre, Neaera have impressed me with their recent release (featured here). Now, a fellow label mate of theirs, As I Lay Dying, have unleashed their just as brilliant new LP - An Ocean Between Us.

Containing 10 brutal efforts (excluding 2 filler tracks), the band have concocted an intriguing blend of pummeling deathriffs, chugging and staccato-filled rhythms, harsh rasping vocals with clean singing periods, and mesmerisingly melodic guitar lines. Opening full track "Nothing Left" gets everyone off on a great start, with a galloping riff that gets your balls off while banging your head against the speakers. "Forsaken" interspaces uplifting anthemic choruses with melodically technical verses that remind you of the best melodic death metal bands around today such as Arch Enemy and Dark Tranquility. Title track "An Ocean Between Us" bellows full steam ahead at breakneck speed, yet maintaining a catchy hook throughout. "Comfort Betrays" and "Bury Us All" grandly reveal the band's thrash and death metal roots, as both hurtle on with typical thrashy abandon as well as mid-tempo deathly gallops. "I Never Wanted " goes dangerously close to 'Linkin' Park' territory, but then the rumbling aggression rears its ugly head and you figure out what a tease the band is. The clean vocals contrast terrifically against the backdrop of sonic mayhem. In fact, there are no bad or even average tunes here - I found myself listening to this album continuously despite the endless cookie cutter output of metalcore bands recently, as the band have done the genre a favour by writing brilliant tunes, with closing track "This Is Who We Are" demonstrating this amazingly.

A fantastic effort from As I Lay Dying - continuing a great year for metal, some might be wishing it won't end.

Check out An Ocean Between Us here...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

D'espairsRay - Mirror (2007)

One of the few Japanese Visual Kei bands that I listen to, D'espairsRay has matured greatly with this release. With a powerful mix of bass-heavy rock, nu-metal, goth and industrial dashes, as well as some signature sounds of J-Rock, Mirror is a gem of a release this year from Japan. Vocalist Hizumi is extremely versatile, peppering his perfect-for-J-Rock pipes with guttural growls and symphonic screams. Rest of the band, guitarist Karyu, Bassist Zero and drummer Tsukasa are a tight unit - with guitarist especially skilful in coaxing melodic yet crushing riffs from his guitar. I've not had a chance to watch the band live, but with bands in such a genre famous for presenting a visual treat apart from their music, I wouldn't miss it if such a chance were to present itself. For you guys out there who have yet to hear them, give them a chance and take a listen!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Angelic Process - Weighing Souls with Sand (2007) (Profound Lore Records)

From Adrien Begrand on (but hey this ain't pop!):
"Bands like Jesu and Cult of Luna might be attracting the most attention with their distortion-drenched melodies, dubbed “metalgaze” by the perpetually pigeonholing music media, but it might surprise some that the Angelic Process have been doing it for longer than many of their peers. Comprised of the husband and wife duo of guitarist/drummer/vocalist K.Angylus and bassist/vocalist M.Dragynfly, the Athens, Georgia duo’s latest album makes an astounding, indelible impression from the opening moments, combining brutality and noise with tenderness and aching melodies, unleashing wave after wave of aural beauty disguised as cacophony. The variation the pair displays is sublime: we get the drone of Boris, the experimental noise of Swans, the mechanical crunch of Godflesh, the epic scope of Isis, the awe-inspiring power of Neurosis, and the sumptuous beauty of My Bloody Valentine all at once, as the musicians croon and scream, the oblique vocals in the vein of classic shoegaze from the early 1990s. The enveloping effect of the album’s mix is stunning, as the underlying melodies bring genuine warmth, radiating from the massive wall of sound. Far from a handful of iPod tracks, this is a full album that you need to set aside time for, an hour-long experience that haunts you as much as it entrances. It’s one of the year’s best extreme releases, and another top-flight release from the ever-reliable Profound Lore Records. 8/10"

My own take - I'm lapping it up - the wall of sound (not noise) is extremely intense and the melancholy crushes you like ten thousand tons of sonic heaven.

Sample The Angelic Process - Weighing Souls with Sand here...

If you like what you hear, buy the band's whole CD! Support them!

Stormrider - Lucifer Rising (2007) (Infernal Waves/Aural Offerings Records)

If you like your death metal filled with grinding old skool riffs ala early Swedish death metal bands like Grave, Unleashed and even some Entombed, with a healthy dose of furious double-bass, Stormrider dishes up huge servings of that in their second full-length - Lucifer Rising.

Frankly, there's not much differentiating Stormrider from many of the other clones, what with the lack of a signature sound. However, they more than make up for that with enthusiastic aggression and well-written songs which display a balanced mix of melody and power. So for fans of the above-mentioned bands or a similar sound, it's well-worth checking Stormrider out. At least for the standout tracks like Dead Love Of Mine Pt 4 (Last Words) and Conflictual Insanity (Gott Mos) which are really trips down memory lane.

Check out Stormrider's MySpace page!

Listen to Lucifer Rising...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Iced Earth - Setian Massacre (s) (2007) (SPV)

Just got a copy of this new single off the forthcoming Iced Earth album - and it rocks! Heavy as hell and double-bass madness! Classic Iced Earth tunage - there have been quite a number of superb and heavy power metal albums released recently, and I can't wait for Iced Earth's eighth full-length to be out in early September - Framing Armageddon. The new album is said to expand on the "Something Wicked" storyline, and get this - the next album after that will be out in early 2008! The latter will be a continuation of the "Something Wicked" opus.

That said, Setian Massacre is a fine appetiser for the new album. Tipper Owens is in fine vocal form once again, leading the song on a glorious crusade. The track opens with a galloping and urgent riff, with Owens roaring it to life. Fine melody lines swirl over the rumbling double-bass, with a nice jerky riff thrown in. The song builds and builds on a call-to-arms chorus, before a powerful climax, leaving you clamouring for more!

Just a month more, Iced Earth fans will rejoice!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Krohm - The Haunting Presence (2007)

Found this review which I think puts it aptly:

"Krohm's second full length emanation throws open doors to depraved corridors, exploring the darkest recesses of the mind. Meet the phantasmal presence in your psyche and surrender your grip on reality as the host's tortured visions and nightmare soundscapes lead you to a realm previously unexplored by any entity.

Seven prolonged sufferances reveal dreadful pain and distress, introducing a decrepit, hallucinatory and psychotic existence, suffused liberally with infinite inspiration and hollow hopelessness. These intense invocations transmit a profound maturity and sadness, invoking disturbing apparitions and spectral emissions, unsympathetically infecting the subconscious.

The Haunting Presence is a spiritual manifestation of ritualistic bleak art, a harrowing personal voyage through labyrinths lofty, majestic and grand. Supremely individualistic, Krohm is the essence of otherworldly continuance, the re-occuring resonance of lingering energies. Transcendental, paranormal black metal; for lost souls only."

Listen to The Haunting Presence here...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Through The Eyes Of The Dead - Malice (2007) (Prosthetic Records)

The release notes of this album proclaims the band's effort as possibly breathing new life into modern metal. While I wouldn't agree totally, it could be said that this has been one of the most brutal, aggressive, powerful and downright extreme death metal albums I've come across this year.

Malice is filled with incessant riffing and mindnumbing drumming, with raw bouts of double-bass interjected frequently. Personally I feel that the songs lack some identity as I could hardly differentiate between each, which could be due in part to the incredibly heavy riffs that the band has stuffed into each tune. However, there is no denying that Through The Eyes of The Dead know what extreme metal is, and this is such a violent aural assault that many fans would be well satisfied. If you have read my previous reviews, you would know that I demand certain amounts of melody in my metal, and even though some might argue that this has to be sacrificed for brutality, I beg to differ. Dimmu Borgir's musical bombast balances perfectly with the raw aggression that exist in their sound.

That said, this is a quality release, if not at least to be a fine representation of the (extreme) heights that death metal could (still) scale. Not my cuppa, but if death metal could be judged based on power that could pummel you into submission alone, this album easily ranks a 10/10.

Sample the album here before it hits the stores

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Alchemist - Tripsis (2007) (Relapse Records)

The first time I heard Alchemist, I was taken aback by their sound, which the band self-described as Death Metal/Thrash, but other than the harsh vocals and guttural growls, it was rare to hear such uplifting, atmospheric melodies in a genre classified as such. There was basically so much melody amidst that intensity that they were refreshing to say the least. The term Surfthrash bandied around was apt in a funny way - you could almost imagine surf guitar icon Dick Dale being part of Alchemist!

With the release of Tripsis, the Australians have continued to explore and expand their unique brand of metallic mayhem. Psychedelic grooves lace the songs with much atmosphere, and the band knows a thing or two about building tension which is further enhanced by the heavy-as-hell riffs. Take a listen to "Nothing In No Time", one of my favourites on the album - the quiet opening chords gradually slams into aural chaos with an urgency that demands your undivided attention. "Grasp At Air" has a slightly similar formula but the galloping double-bass and surf thrash riff brings a heightened dancey feel to it but the breakdown quickly drops the headbanging fist pumper back into your aural territory. If this is Death Metal, the genre should be filling massive open-air stadiums everyday! "Communichate" has a more traditional structure and feel to it. Other tunes like "Wrapped in A Guilt", "Tongues and Knives" and "Anticipation of A High" bring to mind Godflesh and Fear Factory, but all that intertwining guitar melodies bring them to greater heights.

Alchemist continues to bring a fresh and inspiring Metal sound to the scene, which sometimes can become rather stagnant as most bands strive for pure brutality and intensity, but without any careful consideration for songcraft and melody. Alchemist strive towards achieving all that, and do a jolly good job at it!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Absence - Riders of The Plague (2007) (Metal Blade)

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Having toured extensively in support of established bands like Cannibal Corpse, Dark Tranquility and Nile, and on the back of a widely acclaimed debut in 2005 (From Your Grave), The Absence continues to inject an urgent freshness into the saturated melodic death metal scene with the release of their new LP - Riders of The Plague.

The love for Swedish (or Scandinavian, for that matter) death metal is apparent in the North American band's sound - with bass heavy riffs infused with a keen sense of melody, harmonised solos and wonderfully grating death vocals from frontman Jamie Stewart. Guitarists Peter Joseph and Patrick Pintavalle also display keen influences from the Florida metal scene, as the tunes often bring to mind memories of old-skool death metal bands like Entombed, Dismember, and Gorefest, but throwing in the often-harsh brutality of Obituary, Deicide and Morbid Angel. The result is often a mindblowing mix of melodic mayhem and tight, aggressive raw power.

The Absence have a strenous tour laid up in support of Riders, which is all good considering the intensity generated from their live shows have been garnering rave reviews from fans and critics alike. The new tunes would certainly go down well with the crowd - title track "Riders of The Plague" storms into your aural arena with a shriek and galloping riff before an uplifting verse and chorus. "Dead and Gone" has a more traditional thrash riff before the death metal grind slowly devours your consciousness. Another gem "Echoes" showcases the band's intuitive sense for songcraft, a tune that would sit well in any Dark Tranquility or Arch Enemy album. A definite fixture in their live set with that short call-to-arms chorus. "Merciless" opens quietly before a glorius ravenous riff blares out from your speakers. The Absence skilfully blends thrash signatures over several tunes, but death metal fans would hardly notice, taken over by the layered brutality. Other tunes of note would be the soaring "Outro", a mental "World Divides" and the stampeding "The Victorious Dead".

Talented and hardworking, not to mention well-liked by fellow bands and fans alike, The Absence have released an excellent sophomore effort, which would hopefully establish themselves as a band-to-watch in the melodic Death Metal arena.

Check out The Absence's MySpace page!

Promo The Absence - Riders of The Plague here!

If you liked the album, support the band by buying the CD here!

Absence - From Your Grave

Friday, August 3, 2007

Nightwish - Dark Passion Play (2007) (Spinefarm Records)

The promo is out, but with voice-overs. Still, sample it and if you like it, you should never forget to support the band by buying the CD when it's released. Love the music? Get it!

Have not had the time to go through it well, but from what I've heard - new addition (and a big one at that - big shoes for her to fill) Anette Olzon has done a great job. I got to hear the operatic stylings, but even more, she adds a new dimension to the Nightwish sound. Her vocals are lighter, slightly thinner, but there is more warmth. Add to that, a real growth in maturity in the band's sound - witness the opening track "The Poet and The Pendulum" - the usual bombast but excellently structured and a keen sense of focus which pulls you deeper and deeper. There is mention of other 2 singles off the same album in another of my post. You may read more there. For now, I will be sitting back and putting this in my player. A definite enjoyment for the senses!

Listen to the promo here and buy the CD when it's out!

Black Betty - Black Betty (2007) (Twin Earth Records)

Bands with obvious influences from Black Sabbath, Led Zep and good old heavy metal, applied with dashes of modern metal, bring to mind Kyuss (does anyone know if they're still around? sludge never sounded this heavy!). And Black Betty brings to mind Kyuss.

Not much info I can gather on Black Betty, except that vocalist Jonas Fairley from Sir Hedgehog, and this short bio of theirs:

"Black Betty is Jonas Fairley (Drums, vocals) and Ana Serena(Guitars, vocals). Founded in our mutual love for music and the need to express, explore and exploit our creativity, we are committed to provide the most entertaining, alternative heavy music to the world."

And heavy is what they bring to the table! True, the influences are glaring, but the tunes are riff-heavy as hell and you won't need any grass to get stoned listening to this. Fairley's pipes are reminiscent of Ozzy but with much more clarity, and Serena has got the genre nailed in that six-string she straddles. Some punk influences rear their heads in tracks like "Evil Once Again".

Highlights include "Astral Messiah", "Devil Eyes" and "House of Chains". Love those riffs man! Looking forward to more from this band!

Buy their album if you like what you hear!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Neaera - Armamentarium (2007) (Metal Blade)

I do not normally listen to much metalcore, with only Heaven Shall Burn being one of only 2 bands that I pay particular attention to. The other one would be Neaera.

Having been impressed with The Rising Tide of Oblivion over 2 years ago, I was expecting even more with the upcoming new album Armamentarium. Imagine my sheer aural delight when the double-bass accompanied galloping heavy-as-hell riff blew out of the speakers from the aptly-titled opening track "Spearheading The Spawn"! Immediate comparisons withHeaven Shall Burn could not be avoided, yet despite that, you could not avoid head-banging even more. By the time the 2nd track "Tools of Greed" was drilling into my cranium with its stop-start syncopated passages, I was wondering why there would be much wide-spread derision of metalcore. True - majority of the bands sound like they have been cloned from Dolly, but when you have such massive tunes from a band like Neaera, the categorisation should not matter - just pure metallic heaven Benny and his mates are churning out.

Guitarists Stefan and Tobias somehow manage to spew monster riffs that are a brilliant mix of grind and raw aggressive power, as title track "Armamentarium" demonstrated. There are also no shortage of melodies that do not compromise on the harsh edge in the band's sound. Drummer Sebastian brings double-bass crush to every tune - the mix and production on this record have been done up very well - bringing out the pure power in Neaera. While a couple of the tracks, like "Synergy", sound like filler material, other tunes like "Harbinger" remind you, dare I say it, of old skool killer death metal, yet updated with a modern feel. "In Loss" and "The Orphaning" showcase their blinding speed thrashy edge, but with enough variety in the time changes to let you catch your breath before hammering you right into metal oblivion. The last track "Liberation" even sees an attempt for epic metalcore - clocking in at just over 7 minutes.

To be released near the end of the month, Neaera's Armamentarium is widely anticipated for a highly under-rated metalcore band. I have not felt such pure unadulterated aggression and power in a metal record for awhile, and if you wish to once again be inspired by the passion of metal, be sure to pick up a copy of Neaera's Armamentarium!

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