Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Shadows Fall-King of Nothing-92%

I'm not going to lie, I love Shadows Fall and their unique style of thrash/metalcore. And with this new single, they have gone above and beyond their previous works, bringing together a nice cocktail of speed, brutality, and hair raising musicianship.

Brian Fair doesn't do a whole lot of experimenting with his vocals, as usual, but why fix something that isn't broken? He switches between his typical harsh singing and throaty thrash vocals. Nothing really special there...until you hit the chorus. Guest vocalist Randy Blythe kicks the whole song into a much higher gear with his easily recognizable trademark growls.

The guitars end up being top notch for Shadows Fall. Unlike the last couple of albums, Bachand and Donais actually created some new riffs for this album, and they do a very good job of keeping the listener interested with their machine gun riffs and fast yet technical solos. The most noteworthy bit happens, again, during the chorus, where Donais tremolo picks a nice high solo that any self respecting metal head will bang their head to.

There is not very much to say about the bass. It's there, I'm sure, but it isn't very audible, instead just adding to the brutality and atmosphere.

And lastly, the drums. Jason Bittner has always been one of the fastest and most technical drummers in world, but here, he takes it one step further. His double bass thunders through the whole song, and his fills emphasize his skill and creativity.

Here's how things add up.

Overall score-92. Very worth a listen if not a buy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fantasy Opus-Beyond Eternity-95%

This has to be one of my favorite reviews of all time, no joke. Fantasy Opus, a power/heavy metal band from Portugal, of all places, has managed to put out an album that tops all power metal albums in my collection, including Hammerfall's Crimson Thunder and all of Firewind's albums. The band consists of two guitarist, a dedicated lead vocalist, a bassist and a drummer, and they work together quite well, making this album epic, catchy, and amazing on so many different levels.

Beyond Eternity is comprised of 8 songs, four of them being separate songs, while the last four make up one big song called "The Warrior's Call". Fantasy Opus thunders out of the gates with "Mystic Messenger", a song which seems to have thrash influences in it. The drummer is extremely talented, and the double bass blazes through your ears until the end of the song. The guitarists are also very talented, and solos are plentiful. But hold on. I can hear you already, some of you are screaming, "AHHH! YNGWIE-MALMSTEEN-WANKER-CLONES!" This is not the case. Claudio and Marcus both pick and choose their solos wisely, and the result is a mature playing style that defies the stereotype of most power metal. Now here is the real shocker: the bass is clearly audible! Not only that, he is quite good. The vocals are just epic. The only person I can compare him to is Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden, but only because of his range. Pedro Arroja's voice soars into operatic high notes, and his midrange vocals pack quite a punch too. On this song, it's truly hard not to sing along to the chorus.

Next up is "The Sacred Trilogy". Fantasy Opus moves away from their thrashy influences on this song, going with a more power/prog sound. The double kicks are once again stunning, and the beginning riff is ever so catchy. This is probably my least favorite track on the CD, however, only because the riffing in this song is so similar to the next song, "Path of Destiny". That being said, "The Sacred Trilogy" and "Path of Destiny" are very worth a listen, if only to hear Arroja's wonderful operatic voice and the very catchy riffing.

The final song before the four part epic is "Higher State of Mind", which is the ballad on this CD. This is one of two songs on the CD to actually beat "Mystic Messenger" in overall quality. Starting off with an acoustic guitar/piano dual, the vocals shine greatly on this song, mainly because they are complemented by the keys and acoustic guitar. The song is truly beautiful, something I don't normally say about most bands. Props right there to Fantasy Opus, good job guys.

And finally, "Warrior's Call", the so called epic of the CD. It is divided into four parts: "Chapter I-The Lament", "Chapter II-The Warrior's Call", "Chapter III-The Gathering-The Battle-Liberation", and "Chapter IV-The New Dawn". Chapter I starts out with a soft piano solo complemented by orchestration and a twelve string (as far as I could tell) acoustic guitar/six string nylon guitar. About halfway through, however, the power metal inside them kicks in, and they rise to new heights of soloing madness. The song flows straight into Chapter II, which is probably the fastest song here, being close to or over 200 BPM. The song is a host to a very nice solo, arguably the best on the CD. And then, the grand opus (pardon the pun) of Beyond Eternity, Chapter III. Clocking in at 9:37, this masterpiece holds quite a few gems. The bass has a very large part in the song, the soloing is tied with the previous song for quality, and the beginning intro is in a different class in and of itself. Lastly, Chapter IV, a very interesting song in my opinion. The first 15-20 seconds or so are done a capella (for the non-music buffs, a capella means without music). The rest of the song is done in a fast, almost thrashy style.

Overall, this album is AMAZING. In the days ahead, the metal world is sure to be graced with a more mature, refined, and better than ever Fantasy Opus.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

GraveSide Service-Masters of Lunacy-82%

Allow me to paint a picture in your mind. It's a dark, stormy night. Thunderclaps deafen you as you run through the woods. A killer chases you, the knife in his left hand still glistening with blood from the flesh wound he had managed to give you. Then...the ominous music starts. This is GraveSideService. Consisting of only piano/synth, drums, and vocals, this black/neo-classical metal band hails from Rhode Island, and their unique style envelopes the listener and transports them to the situation I described. However, there are some flaws to this work, and I will point them out, as well as the high points, in this review.

The first thing you will notice is that the piano player not only takes lead, but he is an astounding virtuoso. He glides up and down the keys like no one's business. The tone of the piano varies from normal grand piano sound to strange sounds such as a saw wave tone (think techno leads). He takes the place of a lead guitarist, who left before the recording. But the fact that this is the main instrument you hear leaves a gap, leaves you wanting something. But mainly, the keys sound excellent.

As I said before, there are no guitars. The guitarist apparently left before the recording of this record, as a result of infighting I believe. Unfortunately, or at least as far as I could tell, there is no bass guitar either. This is a pity, because it takes away from the brutality...though, in retrospect, black metal isn't really known for it's brutality, as much as it is the atmosphere.

Speaking of the atmosphere, this album has one of the greatest atmospheres I have ever run across. Between the piano leads, the shrieked and growled vocals, the thundering drums, and the windy, often stormy background noise, it feels like the devil incarnate has come again and taken over your stereo system.

The drums are another category in and of themselves. The quality is excellent. Yes, all you diehard black metal fans, they are triggered. Yes, they are fast. But don't think Dimmu Borgir. They have a lot of variety, going from standard rock beats to blisteringly fast double kicks to blast beats. The only gripe I have about them is certain fills don't exactly fit the song. Overall, they are very good.

And last, but most certainly not least, the vocals. I have never been a fan of the raw, harsh, almost speaking black metal type vocals. But these are different. The vocalist uses three distinct styles of vocals: harsh shrieks, harsh growls, and clean vocals. My main annoyance is the high shrieks. They often come in at times when they aren't needed, but the low point of them is the song "Devil Made Me Do It". He shrieks over and over on top of a beat "the devil made me do it!", sounding more silly and irritating than serious. The growls are, truely, very good, and the clean vocals are really evil sounding, but in a good way.

Overall, if you are a fan of avant-garde music, music that crosses boundaries never before crossed, you should pick this up. I am anxiously awaiting their new release, The Pope's Pears, and I believe they will be a more mature and heavier GraveSide Service than ever before.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Uneven-Vrzino Kolo-84%

Well well well, what do we have here? A metal band from the lonely wastes of Serbia? It boggles the mind! Uneven thunders into the well trodden genre of progressive metal, and they actually succeed, without being Dream Theater clones. No, far from copying the prog masters, they blaze their own path, utilizing strange time signatures and blistering guitars in the process. However, they do have their weak points as well. As this is such a short EP, I will do a track by track review.

First off, the title track, Vrzino Kolo. The guitars are quite fast and heavy, painting a brutal landscape on the listener's ears. That aside, the riffs are actually a bit happy sounding, instead of the normal dark sound. The drums are also quite good on this track, as he plays in some odd time signatures (I believe this one was 7/8?). And here comes the real shocker...the bass is audible! He is actually good, and doesn't just play the same thing as the guitars, instead making his own patterns that go well with the music. This track is an instrumental, so there are no vocals yet.

The second track, entitled "Nights In The Club" is a bit weird. The lyrics are all about clubbing, which I would never expect in a metal record. That being said, this song is more brutal than the last, with the guitars using rapid tremolo picking, and the drums following along on the double kick drums. The bassist, instead of doing his own thing, decided to lower his volume and just add to the brutality and heaviness, which I did not like. But my main gripe is the vocals. Blehhhh. He's really not that good of a singer, and some harsh vocals a la black metal would work better here. Overall a pretty good song though.

Here is the "Angel of Death" of this EP, the chaos invoker, the controversy causing song. USSR. This is the heaviest song on the record, and my personal favorite. It starts off with some sound bites from various USSR and UN transmissions about the Berlin Wall and the Nuclear Weapons Treaty. Then, Uneven roars into the verse with a heavy as lead riff with a pinch harmonic for good measure. The drummer does some very talented double kick rolls and patterns, while the guitars are perfectly synchronized, and the bass is audible again. The best segment is at the end, where they have a speed breakdown with a very talented solo. My only gripe is the song is too long and a bit repetitive. But, still good overall.

Next up is probably the worst track on the EP, Uneven. While it does have a pretty catchy riff, it repeats. Over and over and over. The chorus is quite irritating too, with the line "Round round round, what's that sound?" and such. However, what redeems this song is the solo. The fastest one on the album, it brings this song back from the pits of hell and makes it bearable.

And lastly, Fire In The Hole. Thank goodness, this song is much better than the last. It's quite funny, talking about weed and drinking in the beginning. The guitars are notible, they have some good riffs. The bass has decided to be audible again. And the vocals are better in this song than any other track on the album. Overall good.

If you like progressive metal, pick this album up. It's heavy and it has generally good riffing. Many metal fans will brush this off because of the vocals, but if you can get past those, it's quite a good piece of musicianship.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Humanity Will Suffer-Demo 2009-77%

Ahh, brutal death metal. Aside from death/metalcore, this could be the most controversial and hated genres in all of metal. But I managed to track down this band, Humanity Will Suffer, from chilly Ontario. But despite their cold location, the music they put out is anything but drab, dull, and flat. However, they could use more direction in their work.

First off, the guitars. The first word that will come to your mind is lead (the metal), because these guitars are tuned really low. The riffing is pretty standard for brutal death, but it works and the speed is insane.
The one thing that brings the guitars down is the substandard production. Given, they are an unsigned band, but making the guitars a bit crisper would greatly increase the brutality and quality of the songs.

The bass. It's there. But it's really not too audible, instead adding low end and increasing the overall level of brutality and heaviness. Not much more to say.

The drums are a whole other bag of chips. This drummer is quite good. He's fast and pretty technical too. But he needs to TURN THE SNARE DOWN. That being said, I like the drums. His fills are timed pretty well, there were a few places where he got off tempo, but the recovery was almost immediate. If HWS mixed the drums a little bit better, the album would sound amazing.

Aaaaaaaaaand the vocals. This guy sounds like Chris Barnes from Cannibal Corpse/Six Feet Under. The typical pattern is alternating from low "cookie monster" growls to harsh high vocal. He also tends to throw pig squeals in there, which are extremely annoying. Mostly he stays away from the highs, though, which is good, because they are not his strong suite.

The song structure is generally similar for the 3 songs on this demo, but all the riffing is different. The main drag on this album is the breakdowns. These are where the guitars slowwwwwww down, and the vocals change to the annoying pig squeals. Minus that, the demo is fairly good. If HWS progresses as bands such as Cannibal Corpse did, the metal community is in for a real treat in the genre of brutal death metal.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Interview with Sweden's "Neglektum"

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Neglektum, a progressive black metal band from Sweden. Their new demo, "Beyond the Frozen Mist", is an excellent piece of work, and any metalhead worth his salt should pick it up.

1. So how did you guys come up with the name Neglektum?

We thought about it for a long time and tried to find something that we thought would fit us. It’s hard nowadays to actually find a name that hasn’t been used at all, but we were fortunate to do it. We actually got the name from the latin word “Neglectum”. It means “slight” in English, and I guess the English word “neglect” has its origin from it as well. We thought it fit, but we also thought it looked better with a K.

2. The first things I noticed with your demo are the very long songs and the lack of extensively rapid double bass. Are there reasons for these?

Lack of extensive double bass? I disagree. I mean, the double bass isn’t there for an entire song (although very close on “Needless Suffering), but listen to the first part of “Isolation” or as mentioned, pretty much the whole of “Needless Suffering”. There’s definitely some double bass on there. In fact, there’s double bass on every track. But, we also have mellow parts as well, which are part of the progressive elements that we have in our music. This also explains why we have long songs as well.

3. Who was instrumental in shaping the black metal you guys play?

In terms of us, it’s been me and Nazgirth who naturally came up with the style that we now play. It just clicked. We previously played progressive death metal, but eventually black metal caught up with us. It just fits perfectly with our styles of play.

In terms of bands, I would say Opeth, Ulver, Immolation, Satyricon, Marduk, Nyktalgia, etc.

4. The demo has surprisingly good production. Did you record at a studio or did you do it all yourselves?

No studio, it’s all recorded on a tiny Zoom h2 device. Except the bass which was recorded separately through a line-in. We did everything ourselves. We honestly were surprised at just how good the production turned out to be despite the equipment we had.

5. What is the story behind “Beyond the Frozen Mist”? Is there a personal significance to it?

Yes, but nothing specific. It just fits the whole atmosphere of the demo and the title came naturally.

6. As for the vocals, I can say that they are a bit atypical of black metal. Does the progressive element in your music have anything to do with this?

Yes, I like to experiment with my vocals and use different types of it.

7. What’s up next for Neglektum? A full length album or another demo/EP?

For now, we are planning on releasing another demo. That might change with time though, but we already have some material done. The next release will most likely be more evil and brutal than our first demo. It will follow the path of “Needless Suffering” and “Isolation” in terms of sound. It also looks like there won’t be any clean vocals, but you never know until it’s all finished.

8. In my experience, a lot of unsigned bands have very extensive music collections. Is this the case with you guys?

Not really. None of us has an extensive music collection, but we do like a lot different bands and genres.

9. Do you ever do live shows? If not, do you ever plan to, or are you strictly a studio band?

We did a few live shows before we started recording the demo. We are also very eager to start doing it again, but we need more practice. Since our former drummer left, Isedor has taken over the drumming and we still have to play more before we are ready for gigs.

10. One of the notable moments for me was the solo in “Needless Suffering”. Do you just play off the top of your head, or do you sit down and take hours composing a solo, or a fusion of both?

That solo is very inspired by Immolation. Some parts were composed before, but most of that solo is actually improvised. I later had to literally listen to my own solo again (this version was done on a previous version of the song) and learn the parts that had been improvised as I didn’t know how to play them. I wanted that version specifically, because I thought it fit well. The solo on “Isolation” is also mostly improvised.

11. Sweden has one of the largest and greatest metal scenes in the world right now. Are you guys friends with many of the bands out there, IE Meshuggah, Scar Symmetry?

No, but we do like a lot of Swedish metal bands. We are not friends with these successful groups, and the metal scene on our city isn’t that big either, unfortunately.

12. Some of the vocal lines are belted out so powerfully, I can feel the anguish in the voice. What are the typical themes that drive your music?

Depression, anger, anxiety and hate. We are all very inspired by the climate here. Especially on winter since that period is very cold and dark most of the time.

13. How are you getting your music out into the world? Do you go amongst friends and such and sell it to them, along with your Myspace, or are you searching for a small label?

It’s mostly by our page on myspace. We do spread it to our close friends, but most of the copies have actually gone to people that for us are completely unknown. We’ve had buyers from the US, the UK, Norway and Sweden so far. We are very pleased by the response we’ve had up until now.

14. I notice that you don’t have a bass player. Do you ever plan on picking one up?

We do have a bass player. Isedor was our bass player until Fredrik quit and he took over the drums. He now does both, but we are looking for a bass player so that we can play live further on.

15. Best of luck to you, Neglektum. One last question. Who writes most of the lyrics for the band? Or do you all contribute equally?

Thank you. So far I’ve been the only one who writes the lyrics.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Before I begin, let me say that Meshuggah is very difficult to get into. With their extremely low tunings, odd time signatures, and monotone screamed vocals, Meshuggah goes where no other band has gone before, often using new instruments (8-string Ibanez guitars) and new recording techniques (The Drumkit From Hell program) in the process. That being said, this album is so amazing, so esoteric, and so bloodily heavy, it is worth a listen for even the diehard haters of technical post thrash.

Nothing was a breakthrough album for Meshuggah, for this was the album that they first started to use their 8-string guitars. The production of these 8-strings, being downtuned to F#, should be horrible, right? Wrong. They have the strangest tone on this planet, and the crystal clear production allows the listener to hear every riff, every tremolo pick, every shift in pitch of the 2 dualing guitarists. With their unique, almost twangy sound, Nothing draws you in from the first track to the final track, Obsidian. The riffs do tend to sound repetitive, but not in a bad way. After another run through through the album, you can hear the subtle variations in riffing. The bass follows the guitarists perfectly, and adds to the overall heaviness.

Ahh, the infamous Tomas Haake. One of the most loved and the most hated drummers in existance. With his recent high-octane performance on "Bleed" from the album "obZen", I decided to come back to this album to see how he did. I had some doubts about the drumming, because he used a drum machine for this album. Boy was I ever wrong. His polyrhythms tear through every song on this album, most notably "Spasm", "Perpetual Black Second" and "Straws Pulled At Random". The most surprising point about his drumming is the fact that he can play in odd time signatures such as 23/16, yet his hihat/snare patterns remain rock solid in 4/4. Excellent work on Mr. Haake's part.

And last, but certainly not least, the vocals. I'm not gonna lie, Jens Kidman is no Christian Alvestam when it comes to vocals. But his monotone screams fit the music perfectly. One notable moment, however, is Tomas Haake's vocals in "Spasm". Laced with a phaser effect, they will make even the darkest metalhead shiver.

This album is a slice of excellence, showing what is to come in Meshuggah's future. Buy this, download this, get it somehow. It is amazing beyond belief.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Perpetual Nightmare-The Final Solution-72%

At last, a promising band from my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. As stated on their myspace, Perpetual Nightmare is a death/thrash metal band. But unfortunately for them, the quality of the EP "The Final Solution" has lessened the impact of their music on me. I'm going to do a track by track review for this one, since it only has 3 tracks.

First off, "Shadows of Existence". Arguably the catchiest song on the album, Nightmare surges forward with their twin riffing attack. Dan Hogan's shouted/screamed vocals of "A darkened enmity blackens my soul, thoughts of nothing warm, they've all turned cold" combined with the catchy as hell chorus riff, which piqued my interest immediately. And that's where I lost track a little bit. They go into a breakdown of sorts, not your typical chug chug of deathcore, but a thrashy one that will throw you for a loop if you're not used to it. After that, they go back to the catchy chorus riff. The solos are excellent, especially Hogan's. If they rewrote a little of that song to make it flow better, it could be my favorite off the album.

Next up, "Her Black Abyss". The lyrics are about, well, just what you'd think they would be about. Being a bit more groove oriented, this song is interestingly catchy and heavy. The drums pound through the chorus, with Scot Robertson's double kick drum rolls being the highlight. The riffing is a little standard in this song...until you get to the break. Hogan and Aaron Guzman engage in a string skipping dual guitar battle, which builds until it thunders back into the chorus again. The only part that is annoying is the intro, which doesn't do anything at all for the song.

And lastly, the title track of this EP. It starts off with a nice clean, eerie guitar intro. Unfortunately, one guitarist decided to go into the distorted part too early, and it sounds off. After they get their act together, the guitars propel the song into a nice thrashy riff right away. Another notible point is Robertson's double kicks, which thunder through the verse at a breakneck speed. Plenty of tempo changes to satisfy the technical fans, too. And lastly, Hogan's sweep outro is pleasantly surprising and brutal.

Unfortunately, what really kills this release is the production. The drums sound overly triggered and programmed. The guitars sound thin and lack the power of a typical death/thrash release. The bass is non-existent. And the vocals have a very annoying chorus/phaser effect that makes Hogan's normally good shrieks almost unbearable.

Overall, if you want to get a feel for this band, you should pick up this release. It delivers what it claims to: heaviness, brutality, metal. But if you really want to know who they are, see them in concert. They really are just that good.

Everwhere-Black Dawn-89%

When I first came upon Everwhere, I was on a search for the heaviest thrash I could find. I found these guys, and after contacting one of the members, I received a high quality recording of the new EP, Black Dawn.

First of all, for all thrash fans out there, these vocals are atypical of thrash. Blomquist's vocals are very unique. The only way to describe them is a cross between Miland Petrozza from Kreator and Petri Lindroos from Norther. He puts a lot of emotion into his vocals, as seen in the song "Awake". Though compared to Petrozza, he never resorts to straight up shouting, instead keeping his vocals harsh enough to satisfy most death metal fans, yet loud and hate filled enough to satisfy most hardcore thrashers.

The guitars are what you'd expect in a thrash metal release-heavy, distorted to hell and back, blisteringly fast and technical solos. However, the riffs in and of themselves, while being unique and heavy, were not as fast as I would have liked. Still, the guitarists show their skill in all songs, but most notibly the solo in "Claustrophobic".

The bass is...wait for it...actually audible! Most of Jherry Karlsson's basslines follow the guitars, which works well, and adds to the heaviness. I would like to see him stand out a bit more in the next record, but, hey, it works. One of his most notible parts is his solo on "Two-Face".

Mika Määttä is actually quite good. His double kick drum rolls can be heard over everything else, and he shows his skill, but unfortunately, I don't believe he was playing to the top of his ability. His drumming did stand out in a number of places, such as the beginning and end of the title track, and his quick feet on "Two-Face".

Overall, this is a fairly good and solid record. It makes you want to start a mosh pit on the spot and wonder why your stereo won't go any louder. I'm looking forward to further releases from this up and coming thrash band.