the underground music magazine    

issue #60 February/March, 2008

 


Untitled Document

Dear Maelstrom faithful,

Whew! Another year, another anniversary. This time, it’s #7 for Maelstrom. What material does #7 correspond to? Plastic? Cardboard? Crayon? In terms of zine lifespans, it’s probably more along the lines of silver.

We skipped an issue while I was away on tour, which means that Maelstrom #60 is a whopper at 119 reviews. We have two interviews, one with video game music metallers Powerglove, and the other with Dendura. We were also going to run my chat with record producer Colin Richardson, who tells about how he got Carcass’ guitars to sound as they do on Heartwork, but damned if I can find my digital recorder in all this remodeling mess. We’ll have to save it for next time.

Something that you should be sure to check out this month is the report from the 2007 Dubai Desert Rock festival, which will allow you a glimpse of what the metal life is like in the Middle East.

This month, we're giving away a split grind/hardcore CD on the Japanese label Bloodbath Records. The album in question is GESEWA (Jap) / UTTER BASTARD's (USA) Rising Sun Fuckers / Kusottare Yankee. We really dug Gesewa's demo years ago (read about it in our pages), and those few tracks are also on here, but mastered.

To win, be one of the first to answer the following correctly:

Name one of the members of either Gesewa or Utter Bastard that appear on this album.

Good luck!

The anniversary issue also conveniently co-incides with our end of 2007 issue, which means best of lists galore. I know I’ll be scrutinizing these to know what records that I hadn’t heard of to buy.

Happy 2008!

Roberto Martinelli
editor
Maelstrom.nu

Roberto Martinelli’s favorite albums of 2007

1. Ruins of Beverast, The – Rain Upon the Impure: The music-collector, metal-head, record-buying, list-making nerd facets of my multiple personalities had been looking for that fifth album to round out the Top 5 All-Time Best Black Metal Album list. Found it. (by the way, I know that this album is a 2006 release, but I hadn't heard of it till last year AND we were sent it to review as a new album in 2007)

2. Virgin Black – Requiem Mezzo Forte: A stunning marriage of two of my favorite musical things: metal and classical, except the classical is all done by actual, acoustic instruments, and the vocals are performed by highly adept opera singers. The album is like hearing a soundtrack to the tragedy (and glory thereof) of war.

3. NeObliviscaris – Demo 2007: I try not to consider that what one band deems a “demo” severely outshines the “studio album” of most any other metal band. They can call it what they want. No other album this year made me hold my breath with excitement and also vindication — that someone did make the kind of music I want to hear within the metal context.

4. Wrath of the Weak – Wrath of the Weak: I love the out-of-nowhere underdog. It didn’t come more so in 2007, as Wrath of the Weak was the sole black metal project on a noise label. The one-man band nailed the tone of the raging, necro storm that simultaneously was relaxing and meditative.

5. DGM – Different Shapes: Simply, Different Shapes is 2007's best power/progressive metal album.

6. Pagan’s Mind – God’s Equation: What I had hoped would be the best album of the year (again, see 2005's list), but #6 ain’t bad... but take into consideration that the ranking and my suckerdom for this band correlate.

7. Jesu – Conqueror: Pure bliss. Jesu made its downtrodden sound more pop and simple, and as depressing as it’s purported to be, it’s actually rather uplifting and relaxing.

8. Symphony X – Paradise Lost: It may not be the best music overall that this band has done, but for damn sure it’s the best overall album Symphony X has put together, and it rips.

9. Circus Maximus – Isolate: The second album by these other Norwegian prog metallers (see Pagan’s Mind... does Norway do every style of metal as good or better than anyone else?) showed that the debut was not a fluke. Original genius with outstanding vocals.

10. Akercocke – Antichrist: It’s hard to top Choronzon in these departments, but Antichrist shows once again that you can be extreme metallers and still write catchy, proper songs.

11. Locus Mortis – Voust: A black metal torrent on full blast, it was a good ride to let this Italian group overtake me.

12. Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone: Hey, three Maelstrom staffers can’t be wrong.

13. Helloween – Gambling With the Devil: Yeah, I’m also a sucker for this group, and for cheesy, gay power metal in general... but Helloween does sing-along, forever memorable choruses better than anyone in the genre, and this album is a great piece of work.

14. Wuthering Heights – The Shadow Cabinet: The idea of turbo-jigs married to prog metal, and with one of the genre’s most awesome singers (Patrik Johansson) appeals to me, and The Shadow Cabinet finally sees Wuthering Heights get its asses in gear and put out an energized, gonzo album.

15. Gorefest – Rise to Ruin: Partially to round out the list to 15, and partially because I’m a sucker for amazing, clear, heavy production. Rise to Ruin was sonically impressive, and my roomate came in and got stuck in the room, nodding his head in profound admiration.

Record that should have been on my tops list but didn’t make it/disappointment:

Stars of the Lid – And Their Refinement of the Decline: Tired Sounds of the Stars of the Lid is my favorite album of all time. The follow up sounds even better, but the music is far less interesting. What a shame...

Joshua Gottlieb’s 75 Pontifications and Obfuscations of 2007

– Criteria: altered from previous years as Roberto instituted the “Josh Rule” wherein the best ofs had to, in fact, have been released only in the calendar year. Evidently I was up to the task…
– Creature Comfort: in a year where I grew increasingly frustrated with finding music that rocked my little world I still managed to come up with a list that sprawls like the Midwest plains on a road trip from hell. Or something to that effect.
– Discomfiting Realization: I bought, absconded with, and/or obtained three hundred fewer CDs than in 2006.
– Discomfiting Realization, The Sequel: the ole CD collection still increased by half a thousand.
– Greatest Revelation: my fourteen-year old niece’s discovery, and subsequent obsession with, extreme metal, the best conversational snippet with her being: “Gorgoroth’s quite good but Cannibal Corpse is kind of one dimensional.” Damn near brought a tear to my eye and warmed my black heart.
– And The Winner Is: Down’s III: Over the Under. Let’s see, a five year gap between albums, a frontman about as stable as acid and base commingling on a mule train through a prairie dog shanty town, the near wholesale destruction of the band’s hometown and the salient fact that supergroups, as a rule, devour large quantities of rhino cock. Recipe for suckage, right? Yet here they go and churn out a record that echoes the past while staying firmly rooted in the present, giving all the young ‘uns a schooling on how to rock, pulverize and, dare I say, emote without a dash, whiff or trace of irony or eye liner. Brilliant.

The Top Ten:

1. Down – III: Over the Under
2. Baroness – Red Album
3. Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
4. Year of No Light – Nord
5. Chalk, Andrew – Goldfall
6. Sunny Day in Glasgow, A – Scribble Mural Comic Journal
7. Austerity Program, The – Black Madonna
8. Alcest – Souvenirs D’Un Autre Monde
9. Jakob – Solace
10. Jesu – Lifeline

Fifteen That Could Have Cracked the Top Ten on Any Other Day (in random order):

Wormwood – Starvation
Angelic Process, The – Weighing Souls With Sand
Ea – Ea Taesse
Ufomammut / Lento – Supernaturals Record One
Rosetta – Wake / Lift
Ministry – The Last Sucker
Nadja – Radiance of Shadows
Wolves in the Throne Room – Two Hunters
Venetian Snares – My Downfall
Alchemist – Tripsis
Angel Eyes – …And For a Roof a Sky Full of Stars
Simulacra – Eidolon
Gnaw Their Tongues – Reeking Pained and Shuddering
Souvenir’s Young America – An Ocean Without Water
Tigertailz – Thrill Pistol

Another Fifty That Found Heavy Rotation and Sloppy Kisses (alphabetized):

IXXI – IXXI
Akercocke – Antichrist
Alabama Thunder Pussy – Open Fire
Amiina – Kurr
Atavist / Nadja – 12012291920 / 1414101
Basinski, William – Shortwavemusic
Big Business – Here Come the Waterworks
Bjorkk, Henrik Nordvargr & Beyond Sensory Experience vs. Kenji Siratori – Hypergenome 666
Deathspell Omega – Fas – Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum
Earth – Hibernaculum
Editors – An End Has a Start
Eluvium – Copia
Gainsbourg, Charlotte – 5:55
Gnaw Their Tongues – Die Mutter Wahlt Das Todtenkleidchen
Gog – Noriah Mills
Harvey, PJ – White Chalk
Hey Colossus – Project: Death
Human Quena Orchestra, The – Means Without Ends
Jesu – Conqueror
Kleinbach, Wilhelm – The Funerary Notebooks of Herr Gratchenfleiss
Lesbian – Power Hor
Lifelover – Erotik
Minsk – The Ritual Fires of Abandonment
Mnemic – Passenger

Monarch! – Dead Men Tell No Tales

Monster Magnet – 4-Way Diablo
Monument of Urns – Cruelty
Morkobot – Mostro
Nadja – Thaumogenesis
Narrows, The – Benjmain
Neurosis – Given to the Rising
Ocean, The – Precambrian
Orenda – The Funeral
Pelican – City of Echoes
Place To Bury Strangers, A – S/T
Red Harvest – A Greater Darkness
Ruins of Beverast, The – Rain Upon the Impure
Rwake – Voices of Omens
Snares (Venetian Snares) – Sabbath Dubs (10”)
Stars of the Lid – And Their Refinement of the Decline
Timony, Mary Band – The Shapes We Make
Today Is The Day – Axis of Eden
Torche – In Return
Transmission 0 – Memory of a Dream
Tulsa Drone – Songs From a Mean Season
Type O Negative – Dead Again
Virgin Black – Requiem Mezzo Forte
When – Trippy Happy
Windmills By the Ocean – S/T
Wraiths – Plaguebearer

Ignacio Coluccio’s best of 2007

Best of 2007:

2007 was one of the best years for music that I personally had the luck of living in. Another damn near perfect Tokyo Jihen album, a new, albeit short, Joanna Newsom release, Dax Riggs' triumphal return and Reverend Bizarre going out with a bang, and definitely the best bang I've ever seen a band go out with. As good as it was, it also had its fair deal of disappointments: the good but not up to their level Fiery Furnaces, Arcade Fire's albums, LCD Soundsystem, and Burial's overhyped-to-hell-and-back albums that weren't really so good. Anyway, with just one metal album, this is my own top 20 list. (Order's quite a bit random, take it with a grain of salt, and know that they'll be ranked based on personal preference, too, and not just pure objective analysis)

01 - Tokyo Jihen - Variety/Senkou Shoujo: Just one year away from Adult, Variety's a big change: much less jazz, much more western rock, and most of all, no Shiina Ringo compositions here. It's brilliant anyway. And... Senkou Shoujo, the little 20-minute DVD with their "Osca" and "Killer Tune" videos that introduces one of the best tracks of the year, "Senkou Shoujo." It's been a good year for us Shiina Ringo cultists.

02 - Joanna Newsom - Ys Street Band EP: So far, she's recorded nothing but masterpiece after masterpiece (hell, even her first EP thingy destroys most folk artists out there) and I'm not really expecting it to change. This EP in particular is great if only for the new song, “Colleen,” easily the top 2007 track. Now, I can't choose this as the best 2007 release since it's just an EP, but it's the best thing I've heard all year (and probably the thing I've heard the most all year).

03 - Shiina Ringo - Heisei Fuuzoku / Dai Ikkai Ringohan Taikai no Moyo: Shiina Ringo's short return to her solo career gave us two releases to listen to for weeks: the original sound track to the movie "Sakuran" (kind of), and yet another DVD documenting her jazz-orchestrated remakes of pretty much every single "hit" of her solo career and some lesser known songs ("Gamble", "Poltergeist"...). Both share many songs, including many identical versions, and we had heard some of them already, but those new orchestrations and songs turned Dai Ikkai... and Heisei Fuuzoku into a must for us Ringo fans, and those identical remakes were just too good for us to care. A perfect combo to remind those who think that anything made in Japan is just bubbly 8-bit pop, cheesy techno para-para boybands and bad hiphop that there's actual music there.

04 - Dax Riggs - We Sing of Only Blood or Love: Dax Riggs, if you know his music, you love it. Be it his metal band Acid Bath, his criminally underrated rock band Agents of Oblivion or his most well known Deadboy and the Elephantmen, Dax Riggs has always released concise, down to earth albums with some of the best vocals ever found in rock. And I just can't explain how good We Sing of... is. Leonard Cohen-ish Bob Dylan-ish Deadboy-ish Dax Riggs solo stuff with body (and distorted guitars!), one notch above Deadboy and the Elephantmen, showing that even Dax Riggs can get better over time.

05 - Reverend Bizarre - III: So Long Suckers: No contest, the best doom and metal album of the year. Double album, that is. Brilliant just like every single Reverend Bizarre album, filled to the top with crushing bass and guitar riffs, a great thick production, epic vocals like Candlemass' From the 13th Sun, and long, long songs that actually go somewhere. Did I mention five-minute bass solos? If you're at all into metal, you'll like this, trust me, as it's easily the most epic album released in years... and the most original traditional doom album ever recorded. They are no longer the Doom Over the World stoner doom band, they are completely original and they've thrown away most everything academical. And now that they've broken up, I doubt we'll see doom this good for quite a long time. Gah.

06 - Battles - Mirrored: To this day, I still hate the fact that I missed them when they were playing 20 minutes away from here. I know that now that they're well known in the indie circle you might doubt their talent, but do yourself a favor and get it. If you're into math-anything, I mean. Great, great, GREAT math-rock with actual melodies, and a fair deal of postmodern angular rhythms and loop pedals.

07 - Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer?: Best straight-forward pop album of the year, bar none. Inhumanly catchy psychedelic indie pop but with a certain ‘60s sound, some incredible vocal harmonizations and a whole lot of fun. I know, it's a trendy thing now to like Of Montreal, but they really are good baroque pop, especially if you're at all into catchiness.

08 - Polysics - Karate House: Tied with Of Montreal's for 2007's catchiest record, Karate House shows a much more pop-oriented Polysics than the usual Devo worship, but with the same weird time signatures and all around incoherent structures, this time with actual choruses.

09 - Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - In Glorious Times: The best avant-garde rock album released in quite a long time, nothing more, nothing less.

10 - 9mm Parabellum Bullet - Termination: Saying "original J-rock" is pretty much like saying "vocal post-rock" these days, but Termination is an original release that comes as the culmination of everything started in their previous EPs. If emotional but heavy rock with polymeters and weird time signatures here and there is your thing, you should know about this crazy, out of the norm rock band that sometimes records some normal songs.

11 - Carla Bruni - No Promises: So... yes, she's going to get married to a president. And she's all over the news, and she's now known by pretty much everyone who watches TV or reads newspapers. Trust me, it was weird for a fan of her musical work to see her everywhere for some days, and I know that her albums will probably sell much more now... but that's a good thing. No Promises is a near perfect modern folk album with some seriously flawless and sweet songs.

12 - Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone: They are one of the leading post rock bands nowadays, and for a reason. That reason being that their heavy parts are as gorgeous as they come. All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone is just another Explosions in the Sky album, with everything that it means.

13- Blonde Redhead - 23: Alternative, but note grunge-oriented, rock with some of the best songs released this year, both weird and incredibly accesible.

14 - Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity: indie, artpunk, twee, whatever, Deerhoof has always been awesome, and it's because of releases like this that they are loved by many (yet not nearly as enough) indie fans. And they're getting even better.

15 - Secret Mommy - Plays and

16 - Winning - This is an Ad for Cigarettes: two awesome free-jazz / free-rock / free-something indie albums that you should buy and play one after the other to see just how postmodern rock can get without sounding amateur.

17- Keiko Matsui - Moyo: Just like every single Keiko Matsui release, the perfect mix of new age and smooth jazz, with some terrific piano parts and some of the best new age compositions ever.

18 - God is an Astronaut - Far From Refuge: Great great great great post-rock, but you surely know that if you're at all into post-rock, right? More varied than most post-rock releases, but still using the same sounds you know and possibly love.

19 - Polyphonic Spree, The- The Fragile Army: theatrical, complex yet at the same time singalong indie pop, The Fragile Army summarizes most good things about indie, from the catchiness to the fun.

20 - Waerloga Compilation- Radio Rivendell: Ok, ok, I know, unexpected, but this is way too good, way too cheesy and way too nerdy not to mention. Nerdiest compilation ever, and that's precisely why it's one of my favorite compilations, and, no contest, the best medieval / RPG-soundtrack-thingy compilation ever released (and maybe the only good one).

Mladen Škot’s top list

Music, and especially metal is supposed to be art, not a competition (say it's not so and I'll kill ya). Therefore, my favorites of 2007 will be listed in an alphabetical order. Now that you've read my excuse for not wasting my time on numerating the albums, here is the list. What the hell, here are the lists. Maybe some of them aren't exactly works of art, but if it says, "I am what I am and thou shouldst accept me or get lost," has tremendous personality, originality, adrenalin or it is just fun to have around, it is in. Instead of trying to explain why, I have sub-divided my top 45+1 into categories, to make things clearer — and they are, as follows:

The "essential listening of 2007" top 20:

Abigor - Fractal Possession
Akercocke – Antichrist
Aluk Todolo - Descension
Carved in Stone - Tales of Glory & Tragedy
Countess - Blazing Flames of War
Deathspell Omega - Fas-Ite, Maledicti, in Ignum Aeternum
EgoNoir - Der Pfad Zum Fluss
Funeral Mist - Salvation (re-issue)
Furze - UTD
Katharsis - VVorldVVithoutEnd
Limbonic Art - Legacy of Evil
Marduk - Rom 5:12
Mayhem - Ordo ad Chao
Rotting Christ - Theogonia
Ruins of Beverast, The – Rain Upon the Impure
Striborg - Nefaria (and all the awesome re-issues)
Valkyrja - The Invocation of Demise
Vision Bleak, The - The Wolves Go Hunt Their Prey
Vital Remains - Icons of Evil
Yakuza - Transmutations

The "maybe it is essential, maybe it isn't, but it's damn great to have" top 15, in alphabetical order:

Abruptum - Evil Genius (re-issue)
Arsonists Get all the Girls - The Game of Life
Behemoth - The Apostasy
Blood of the Black Owl - Blood of the Black Owl
Drautran - Throne of the Depths
Evil Masquerade - Third Act
Furze - Necromanzee Cogent (re-issue)
Furze - Trident Autocrat (re-issue)
Gamma Ray - Land of the Free II
Graveland - Will Stronger Than Death
Moonspell - Under Satanae
Paysage d'Hiver - Einsamkeit
Revelation of Doom - Shemhamforash
Thrudvangar - Zwischen Asgard und Midgard
Vinterriket - Und Die Nacht Kam Schweren Schrittes

The "I've played them more times than I expected" top 10:

Das Ich - Panoptikum
Korpiklaani - Tervaskanto
Lake of Tears - Moons and Mushrooms
Manowar - Gods of War
Mind Propaganda - The First Strike
Municipal Waste - The Art of Partying
Nightwish - Dark Passion Play
Sodom - The Final Sign of Evil

Black Dahlia Murder, The - Nocturnal
Tony Naima & The Bitters - Dismember

Finally, the "fuck off" top 1:

Manowar - For Fans for Christmas

Brandon Strader’s favorites of 2007

2007 really seemed like a mixed bag. There was one album, however, that stood out for me throughout the year, Kaipa’s Angling Feelings. It features the talents of Hans Lundin, Per Nilsson, Morgan Agren, Jonas Reingold, Patrik Lundström, and Aleena Gibson. Angling Feelings is one of the most incredible prog rock albums I’ve ever heard.

In the second spot for 2007 is Powerglove’s Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man. It’s really astounding.

Here are a few2007 releases that I really enjoyed in no real order.

Novembre - The Blue
Circus Maximus – Isolate
Behemoth - The Apostasy
Devin Townsend - Ziltoid the Omniscient
Dial – Synchronized
Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos
Iron Fire - Blade of Triumph
Magnum - Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow

Mechanical Poet - Creepy Tales For Freaky Children
Neal Morse - Sola Scriptura
Nightingale - White Darkness
Novembers Doom - The Novella Reservoir
Sigh - Hangman's Hymn
Sirenia - Nine Destinies and a Downfall
Swallow the Sun - Hope
Therion - Gothic Kabbalah
Vitalij Kuprij - Glacial Inferno

Chaim Drishner’s best of 2007 and why

2007 has been most notable for its abundance in everything post: post hardcore, post metal, post black metal. From Dirge to Year of No Light; From Acrisia to Baroness, post-metal and atmospheric hardcore were the dominating force in the underground, infusing new blood into its stagnation. This and more: the black metal excellence of Wolves in the Throne Room and Spell Forest raised the standards for quality with the strange but only natural inclusion of post-rock and shoegaze elements have reigned the underground. These are my nominees for the best of 2007:

Onslaught - Killing Peace
Because there wasn't a better thrash album this year.

Rwake – Voices of Omens
Because intelligence, harshness and positivism walk hand in hand.

Sunn & Boris– Altar
Because this is something completely different, and classy, and so not Sunn O)))

Grimm– Heksenkringen
Because melodic and cheesy black metal has never sounded that good.

Dark Messiah- Rise of Black Dawn
Because this is the EP of the year – Part I

It Will Come - 47/Bound
Because Sacrilege (UK) has never sounded this good since Sacrilege.

Ride for Revenge - The King of Snakes
Because this is just fucked-up dark drumming-galore

Year of No Light – Nord
Because the ocean has never looked so vast as it has with those guys.

Acrisia – Acrisia
Because this is simple, pure fun.

Baroness / Unpersons - A Grey Sigh in a Flower Husk
Because this is the best split of 2007.

Dimentianon - Hossanas Novus Ordo Seclurum
Because black/death metal has long since sounded this good.

Dirge - And Shall the Sky Descend (re-issue)
Because this is the re-issue of 2007 - part I

Evoken - Embrace the Emptiness (re-issue)
Because this is the re-issue of 2007 - part II

Across Tundras - Dark Songs of the Prairie
Because it wasn't included in the best-of list for 2006 and had to be included in SOME best-of list.

Hierophant - The Tome
Because this is the re-issue of 2007 - part III

Worship – Dooom
Because this is a phenomenon of its own.

Fen - Ancient Sorrow
Because this is the EP of the year – Part II

Dirge - Wings of Lead Over Dormant Seas
Because I'm fucking speechless.

V:28 - VioLution
Because apocalyptic death metal has never sounded this luxurious.

Voodooshock - Marie's Sister's Garden
Because this is the epitome of excellence in song-writing, execution and vocal-approach.

Arbeit - Zum einem neuen Licht
Because WWII has never sounded this good.

Knell, The – Harm
Because it made me proud to be an Israeli.

Svartsyn – Timeless Reign
Because this is what vitriolic black metal is all about.

Wolves in the Throne Room – Two Hunters
Because this is black metal art I could have listened to a thousand times in a row.

Spell Forest - Lucifer Rex II - Celebrare a Furvum Luna in Martis
Because black metal now has a new king of melody, cacophony, chaos and beauty.

Abigor - Fractal Possession
Because a new dark star in the black metal skies is (re)born.

Entombed – Serpent Saints
Because too much time has passed since my ears bled to the sounds of such a bad-ass and in-your-face album.

Pal Meentzen
’s favorite metal releases of 2007 – in random order

1. Gorefest – Rise to Ruin (excellent dutch death)
2. Horna - Pimeyden Hehku (vinyl version) (Finnish black)
3. Ildra – Þær Swefende Hæleð Licgað (demo 3) (promising new Pagan one man BM from UK)
4. Hellveto – 966 (Polish symphonic BM)
5. Tjolgtjar – Holnijimnjok (“the lunatics have taken over the asylum”)
6. Xasthur – Defective Epitaph (Japanese version)
7. Obscurus Advocam - Verbia Daemonicus (Great bm debut from France)
8. Colosseum - Chapter 1: Delirium (amazing Finnish doom with ace grunts)
9. Kruger - Redemption Through Looseness (best neuro-metal release, from Switzerland)
10. Ophidian Forest – Redbad (original lo-fi demo from bm pagan world)

Larissa Glasser’s 2007 Top Ten

I say phooey and good fucking riddance to 2007, mostly because I didn’t enjoy music or even writing as much I should have. This was mostly due to a personal setback that I have yet to fully recover from. Whatever, the past is played out, metal still flows freely through these veins, and what bits of dried offal I can salvage from last year are hopefully ones that you also managed to chew or choke on.

1. Neurosis – Given to the Rising CD (Neurot Recordings): the sound of perseverance, revisited. Neurosis’s heaviest and most majestic release since Times of Grace, this slab of incredible doom sails over a world of spiritual decay, doomsday machines, and the most subtle of tonal shades.

2. Metalocalypse – Season One DVD (Williams Street / Warner Bros. Home Video): I mean, really. What WOULD happen if a half-Scandinavian / half-American death metal band became the world’s twelfth largest economy? I can only hope the results would be this superb. And watch out for their lawyer. He means business.

3. Metalocalypse / Dethklok – The Dethalbum CD (Williams Street): I was skeptical as to how Brendon Small’s television material would translate to a standalone CD, but I think it’s that and more. The Queen / Behemoth influences shine through a bit more clearly here, partly with the assistance of live drummer and Death / Dark Angel / Strapping Young Lad alum Gene Hoaglan, along with a lot more focus on the songwriting, rather than visual antics of the show. Standouts include “Murmaider,” “Go Into the Water” (perhaps my favorite funerary march of the entire year), and of course, “Thunderhorse.” GO FORTH AND DIE!

4. Shellac – Excellent Italian Greyhound CD (Touch and Go Records): A new Shellac release is always worth waiting for. It’s been seven years since 1000 Hurts. As with bands like AC/DC, you pretty much what to expect, but Steve Albini’s spontaneity keeps this project fresh. Beginnings and ends of songs deliberately fall apart, gnarly jack knife guitar tones seethe with contempt, and no lyrical punches are pulled when it comes to the battle of the sexes — “Genuine Lullabelle” is a prime case in point. “Be Prepared” swaggers with beer hall bravado before a sudden detour to math videogame psycho-jazz, “Kittypants” defies the odds and actually turns out to be a nice, Pixies-like instrumental, and “The End of Radio” is the best sonic portrayal of Armageddon since the extendo-version of “Warhead” by Venom.

5. Rasputina – O Perilous World 2CD (Filthy Bonnet): Like Shellac, Rasputina is one of those projects where I see a new offering on the store rack (often unexpected), and buy the slab instantly. Melora Creager’s personnel have varied greatly over the years, but her twisted vision had downright adventurous songwriting approach have never faltered. She is obviously the one in command, then as now, and cello / cabaret / chamber rock has never sounded so good. On this double CD, Rasputina is stripped down to her and drummer Jonathon TeBeest, but their sonic arsenal sounds bigger than before. Songs touch on everything from Fletcher Christian (Mutiny on the Bounty), child soldiers in present-day Africa, the Iraq War (but not ham-handedly so), deathbed requests, and much more. This project may sound extra-terrestrial to the uninitiated, but Rasputina can never be accused of being boring. My year of wading in pig-shit-up-to-my-neck was a little more bearable with this CD running on repeat.

6. Skeleton Witch – Beyond the Permafrost CD, (Prosthetic): Sometimes you see an opening band that really grabs you by the short and curlies. This happened at a Dying Fetus show not long ago, Ohio’s Skeleton Witch really impressed me with their hyper-abrasive, old school thrash-mash of Kreator-mort. Bearded, blood soaked, and big-bellied, their first full length on Prosthetic Records brings great control and vision to the metal beast. Impressively balanced between rawness and precision, Skeleton Witch is my favorite cudgel beating of the year.

7. Amputator – Deathcult Barbaric Hell CD, (Foul Productions): Their name is without ambiguity: a king of Hell, down-to-basics, bloodthirsty moniker that a fifteen year old boy could come up with for a comic book character drawn in study hall. The sound? Pummeling Hellhammer thickness, insane black thrash that I propose even runs neck and neck with early Impiety — no small feat, considering the chasm that lies between Singapore and Rhode Island!

8. Rome – Confessions d'un voleur d'âmes CD, (Cold Meat Industry): Rome’s militaristic folk outing touched me deeply this year. Layer upon layer of brooding and melancholic texture folds in on itself, evoking a sonic landscape of sheer regret and loss. A fitting sentiment. Leonard Cohen needs to watch his ass.

9. K. Meitzer - Dark Matters CD, (Old Europa Café): Lays out a pilgrim’s progress through the deepest reaches of regret and misfortune. Superb dark ambient. To paraphrase the film “Magnolia,” we may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us.

10. Striborg – Ghostwoodlands CD, (Displeased): A very acquired taste, my black metal brussels sprouts. Yummy! And grim.

Avi Shaked’s selection of top 2007 releases:

1. Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet: A masterpiece that reveals more and more of its finesse and keeps on growing with every listen.

2. Morglbl – Grotesk: Most possibly the liveliest jazz-rock fusion release in quite some time.

3. Winds – Prominence and Demise: Finally, Winds got it right, and delivered an album packed with strong songs that carry the band’s unique approach to progressive metal.

4. Midnight Peacocks – Shalosh: An adventurous collage by a distorted, modern musical collective.

5. King Crimson – The Great Deceiver, Vol. 1 & 2 (Reissue): The truth is I have yet to obtain these reissues (each is a 2CD set), but I am familiar with the music they consist of (the entire musical content of the expensive, long out-of-print box-set of the same title). Now, with a price that is right and a widespread distribution, everyone can (and should!) put their hands on these brilliant live recordings by the amazing lineup that yielded such important works as Larks' Tongues in Aspic and Red.

Alisa Z’s top ten of 2007

Watain - Sworn to the Dark
Marduk - Rom 5:12
Immolation - Shadows in the Light
Chimaira - Resurrection
W.A.S.P. - Dominator
Otargos - Kinetic Zero
Behemoth - The Apostasy
Dew-Scented - Incinerate
Rotting Christ - Theogonia
Nifelheim - Envoy of Lucifer

Bastiaan de Vries’ best of 2007

Field Music - Tones of Town
Frog Eyes - Tears of the Valedictorian
Oxbow - The Narcotic Story
Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover
Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
Cue - Wedding Song
Do Make Say Think - You, You're a History in Rust
Logh - North
Stars - In Our Bedroom After the War
Swan Lake - Beast Moans
The Sea and Cake - Everybody
Kim Hiorthoy - My Last Day
Sleeping People - Growing

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interview by: Brandon Strader

Dendura is a female-fronted rock band with Egyptian themes. After their drummer left in2005, the band began work on a demo entitled I Have a Gun. Songs from this demo were featured in independent films, and has helped Dendura to gain fans and exposure. Frontwoman Aziza also has gained acting roles in some films, and the band seems devoted to creating musical compositions for movie soundtracks in the future. I recently got the chance to speak with the seemingly busy Aziza and ask a few questions.

Maelstrom: Greetings, Aziza. How has the Christmas season been for you and the guys? What did you guys do to celebrate? Or perhaps I should have asked if you do indeed celebrate Christmas?

Aziza: We all celebrate Christmas. We had an excellent time.

Maelstrom: Who writes the music for Dendura? I noticed that the fact that you’re an Egyptian vocalist is promoted a lot in support of the band. Is this geographic aspect incorporated into the songwriting or is it just the influence upon the sound by your voice?

Aziza: It is both because I am part Egyptian and we as a band want to have our very own sound.

Maelstrom: How did you guys manage to get your songs from the demo I Have a Gun featured in independent films? Did you have some incredible promotion, or was it luck?

Aziza: We had no live shows to play, so we pushed our music in other areas like films. We approached some film makers and some approached us during our 2005 hiatus while looking for a drummer.

Maelstrom: After the success of the demo, have you chosen to create music for films or are you also writing album-based material?

Aziza: We always wanted to do composing for films and get our songs in films as well astour and make albums.

Maelstrom: Aziza, do you currently live in Egypt?

Aziza: No, I do not. I will visit some time. I have not had the opportunity to travel outside of the States yet. I talk to some relatives and people I have met via the internet in Egypt and they say metal isn't real big there.

Maelstrom: I believe I heard something about Aziza acting in a motion picture… Was this true? What are the details of that?

Aziza: Yes. I have been in some films. I starred in a film called “Broken,” which won three awards, and played a drug addict. Most recently, the TV pilot “New Directions” as the femme fatale Nina. Both films have our music in them too. It's very cool. I am signed on to reprise the role of Nina in “New Directions” if there are more episodes. They are working around our band’s schedule, so it's really nice.

Maelstrom: When I listen to Dendura, I don't really pick out a lot of influences ofprogressive metal bands… apart from perhaps earlier Dream Theater material… what are some of Dendura's most potent influences?

Aziza: The debut album, New Life, doesn't have a whole lot of progressive metal songs on it. We wrote most of those songs in 2004 and 2005. Our next album will still have our signature sound, but are heavier and more progressive with influences from Orphaned Land, Nevermore, Queensryche, Dream Theater, Niyaz, Symphony X, Epica and After Forever.

Maelstrom: Is it awkward to have a female singer with the rest of the group being male? I've always wondered if the chicks involved in these bands get knocked around or picked on during “behind the scenes” situations…

Aziza: No. I was raised by my father andbrother. My mom worked a lot so I only saw her when she was coming home really late after work or on Sundays so I am used to being around guys. I always had more male friends than women too. They pick on me because I worry more about my appearance than they do but it doesn't get to me. I have plenty of things to pick on them right back about!

Maelstrom: Have you ever seen a mummy?

Aziza: In a museum. So, yes!

Maelstrom: What do you think Dendura will achieve in the near future? Got any movie plans coming up for either soundtrack or acting duties? Are you guys planning any tours?

Aziza: We are looking into touring, going to Europe in 2009, doing some metal festivals this summer, working on more soundtracks, and if the right role and film comes along, working around the band’s schedule. I might do another film. I also really want to sing as a guest singer on a death metal band’s CD or a Middle Eastern fusion group. I'm looking.

Maelstrom: What gear does each member use? Do you guys use any 'unordinary' instruments in your music as well?

Aziza: I have a Sure Beta mic and a Korg IX200 Keyboard. We don't use any unordinary instruments but we might just have a unique instrument on the CD from a studio musician. You'll have to wait and see.

Maelstrom: If there was any single movie in the past that Dendura could have created a musical score for, what are your picks?

Aziza: “The Mummy,” “Cleopatra, Queen of the Damned,” “Interview with the Vampire,” “The ScorpionKing,” “300,” “Halloween,” “The Thing,” “The Fog,” and any John Carpenter film. I love his work and would be honored to compose with him.

Maelstrom: I hope to hear more from you guys in the future and see you in some larger film projects! Thanks so much for taking the time for the interview!

Aziza: Thank you! Check us out online and if you'dlike to enter contests for free merch, email the Temple at dendura@gmail.com! Thanks!

www.dendura.com
www.myspace.com/denduraband

 

 

 

interview by: Brandon Strader

Powerglove is a metal band that covers video game music in an instrumental manner. The songs listed on their previous release, Total Pwnage, intruiged me quite a bit, yet I was officially introduced to their sound with Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man, their current release. There are a lot of bands big and small (but mostly small) performing video game music. The biggest names of which include The Minibosses and The Black Mages.

Powerglove, however, has penetrated the territory with gusto, and has honestly impressed me more than The Black Mages have in the past. What separates them from the rest is their incredible musicianship and creativity that ultimately brought into existence what may be the best instrumental metal album ever. I forcibly plucked the men of Powerglove from their epic lives to come down to earth and share some chintzy revelations. The transcripts of this interview were translated to English with a Virtual Boy, which caused the translator to go blind. The original language, an archaic blend of demonic symbols and universal paradoxes, proved too unstable to be comprehended by a normal human being.

Maelstrom: How did you guys meet, and are you all avid gamers?

Powerglove: Powerglove was forged in the fires of mount doom 5,000 years ago. Living inside of a volcano, the only games we were allowed to play consisted of throwing molten rocks, screaming, “LIGHTING BOLT, LIGHTNING BOLT!”

Maelstrom: Why did you choose "Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man" as the title track for the new CD?

Powerglove: It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Maelstrom: How did you learn these songs? The Final Fantasy IV medley in particular, what did you use?

Powerglove: We write out all the songs as MIDIs using a program called Guitar Pro. When transcribing the songs, we change and embellish the melodies and add original parts. We also heavily change and add parts during the recording process. As far as the FFIV medley, Bassil was trapped in LA, and spent countless hours weaving a bunch of FFIV songs together into a grand tapestry of Zeus-esque magnificence.

Maelstrom: I noticed you guys don't have a keyboardist... So who arranged or performed the keys / synth on this album?

Powerglove: We all programmed MIDI keyboard lines for the album, and the orchestral synths were done by Matt Pigott and Alex.

Maelstrom: How did you get that incredible production? Did you guys use a professional studio, or a home setup?

Powerglove: We did all the recording ourselves in an obscenely convoluted setup. We recorded the guitars and bass tracks in Alex and Chris’s apartment hallway, and the drums in Bassil’s apartment. We mixed and mastered the album in Bassil’s home studio.

Maelstrom: What gear did you use on the album?

Powerglove: Alex and Chris used ESP guitars and Peavey 6505+ Amps. Nick used an Ampeg Svt Classic bass head and cabinet. Bassil played on Pearl drums, and Zildjian and Sabian cymbals.

Maelstrom: How long have Alex and Chris (the guitarists) played, and what practice techniques did they use to gain such virtuosity?

Powerglove: Alex has been playing for 7 years and Chris has been playing for approx 10 years. Their technique consists of hours and hours of rotting in their room practicing to a metronome.

Maelstrom: I saw the pictures of your costumes on your MySpace page... I friggin' love the costumes, where'd that idea come from?

Powerglove: Malice Mizer. They’re a Japanese band, look them up.

Maelstrom: From what I've witnessed... You guys seem fairly hilarious. Does this ever interfere with creating or playing the music, or does it just make it better?

Powerglove: We’re actually all incredibly lame. We couldn’t even think of a funny response to answer this question.

Maelstrom: How'd you get the popularity and exposure that you currently have? I noticed that on MySpace alone, you've got 400,000+ views... was it a natural occurrence from game lovers?

Powerglove: We actually never expected for this band to catch on at first. Alex and Bassil started it as a side project back in 2004, and since then word of mouth has been on our side.

Maelstrom: “Omnishred”... Do you guys think you did a better job than the Black Mages?

Powerglove: “Omnishred” is our take on a great song, and we don’t view music as a contest. The Black Mages are a great band!

Maelstrom: What's your console of choice in the console wars?

Powerglove: The Xbox 360, because it is sexy; damn sexy.

Maelstrom: Have you guys had some time with “Super Mario Galaxy” yet? Thoughts?

Powerglove: “Super Mario Galaxy” was a great game, I wish the Wii had other games that were of that quality. We are all waiting for Super Smash Brothers Brawl to come out!

Maelstrom: Are you guys going to "ride the current" for a while, or do you already have ideas for songs for the next album?

Powerglove: We do indeed have plans for our next album, but we’re currently focusing on promoting Metal Kombat and playing out live as much as possible.

Maelstrom: How do you manage to basically recreate the songs for metal? Do you all work together on the arrangements?

Powerglove: Yes, we all work together to create our re-mixes. We add metal style harmonies, heavy rhythm guitars, speed metal drumming, and bowel-smashing bass lines to the songs. We also all grew up on heavy metal, so when we write a song we can’t help but metalicize them.

Maelstrom: So we talked about console wars... who's your choice for the Presidential election wars?

Powerglove: We’re not big fans of any of the current candidates, to be honest.

Maelstrom: How does Alex see with that mustach helmet on?

Powerglove: He doesn’t.

Maelstrom: The packaging for Total Pwnage looks like a PlayStation 2 game case... What did you guys think of that packaging, and why the switch to digipak with Metal Kombat?

Powerglove: We thought the TP packaging was a funny idea, but the production costs would have been too great to do the same for Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man.

Maelstrom: Can Chris give some insight on the "Cheater keyboard"?

Powerglove: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sqe2rPm8QkE

This video is pretty much all the insight you need.

Maelstrom: Have you guys ever actually used a real Power Glove?

Powerglove: Of course! It sucks!

Maelstrom: What do you think of Jetpacks?

Powerglove: They rule! Except when they burn your feet.

Maelstrom: Flying cars?

Powerglove: We want airships!!!

Maelstrom: Green transportation tubes?

Powerglove: We’re all ferrets, so they rule!

Maelstrom: Thanks so much for answering all of these. Any chance you guys will do more medleys in the future, like perhaps “Chrono Trigger”?

Powerglove: No, Brandon, Thank you! Your questions amuse us. There are many vg themes we still really want to do. “Chrono Trigger” is an amazing game, if we can think of any ideas for it, it may happen in the future.

Maelstrom: Metal Kombat is incredible... why don't you guys have a "record label"?

Powerglove: Thanks, dude. We’ve talked a bit with a few labels, but never ended up getting a deal together. We’ll be aiming for mass distribution for our next record, but we will see where the winds will take us.

Maelstrom: Thank you, guys... I'll reserve a few mushrooms for you. May Mario keep your path clear of Koopas. Peace.

Powerglove: Word.

www.vgmetal.com
www.myspace.com/vgmetal

 

 

 

 

 
7/10 Avi
 

PERSEPHONE'S DREAM - Pyre of Dreams - CD - Progrock Records - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

The fourth album by Persephone’s Dream suffers from a vague production that doesn't really do this detailed work justice. The album's lack of instantly gripping tunes and of blazingly fast sections also detracts from its immediate value, and might be a good enough reason for some people to give up on it. Those who will pursue further, however, will find excellent features and solid compositions.

Pyre of Dreams mixes progressive rock with bits of metal, and packs them with a sense of ambience. The bass playing is dominant and up front, the percussions playing is sensitive — both adding much color and vitality to the album. The vocal performance, divided between two female vocalists for the most part, is expressive and seems to draw quite a bit from gothic rock / metal.

"Synesthesia," one of the most memorable songs here, relies on jagged, semi-metallic guitars, fat bass lines (by John Lally, who has passed away since the time of recording), and ‘70s organ sounds. The vocals are exciting, sounding like a female version of James LaBrie, and the song’s delicately arranged mid-section reveals a tasteful use of percussions and textures.

Most of the album’s songs share the aforementioned characteristics to a satisfying result. The album’s suite, "Temple In Time," however, finds the band focusing more on the ambient side, losing momentum due to a way too sluggish approach and ineffective storytelling that overclouds the musical potency (DC Cooper, who also co-produced the album, guests here on lead vocals, to a very questionable result. Alternate, dare we say superior, female fronted versions of the two songs on which he sang leads are included as bonus tracks). The suite’s finale ("Avalon") does manage to restore some of the strength, mostly thanks to the engaging bass playing and a surprising, Magma flavored RIO movement towards its end. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
9.25/10 Avi
 

MIDNIGHT PEACOCKS - Shalosh - CD - Earsay Records - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

Midnight Peacocks is a collective of musicians led by bass player Eitan Radoshinski, one that features some of the hottest players of the Israeli underground scene. Shalosh, the Hebrew word for "three," stands for the three sections contained here, each encompassing a different musical concept as a prominent feature, but none is detached from the collective's disturbed character, which occasionally echoes Mike Patton’s lunacy and explorations.

The first section offers metallic hardcore that corresponds with most of the previous album (2006 It's a Brutal Machine, reviewed in issue #42). "Toxic Sludge" and "Pussycat" are edgy a la System of a Down; "Die" is a menacing number that relies on the kinky female vocals by the multifaceted Maya Dunietz (a raw, underground version of Kate Bush, if you will). None of this psychic hardcore is detached from what is about to come; particularly "Windy Valley," which features Yoni Silver on violins and arrangement, and serves as a precursor to the following section.

The second section carries a more oriental flavor, and delivers more of what was offered on the previous album's "Port Saeed" in the form of three well orchestrated, yet still deranged tracks.

The third section offers the freshest aspect of the collective (in terms of its recorded output that is) — free music. The explosive instrumental "Yalla Gever" corresponds with the first section of the album, and with its alarming sax and bashing drums it is bound to deliver for both metal and free jazz fans. This last section (and the album) culminates with the brave "Insomnia" — over thirteen minutes on which Silver (on bass-clarinet) and Dunietz (on piano) improvise to radio broadcasts manipulated by Radoshinski.

Shalosh is a highly varied album, and since it flows rather smoothly between its three semi-distinctive sections, and builds from the basics into more experimental forms of music without losing its momentum and metal-driven ambition, it should be considered a hardcore fan's ultimate introduction to other forms of challenging music. (9.25/10)

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Roberto
 

NEOBLIVISCARIS - Demo 2007 - CD - myspace.com/neobliviscaris - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Calling NeObliviscaris’ 2007 output a "demo" does not do it justice. It is nothing less than a highly accomplished album. Perhaps the members of this Australian project also enjoy flagellating themselves or other acts of self-deprecation.

Demo 2007 displays a thrilling mix of extreme metal (harsh, raspy vocals, aggressive, distorted guitars, full-speed, raging drums, blast beats), classical (female operatic vocals, violins), and folk elements (percussion and twangy instruments unusual in a rock/metal context, clean singing on relaxed, acoustic guitar). NeObliviscaris executes all their stylistic variances with the pinnacle of skill and sagacity as Demo 2007 is presented with much dynamics that make the disparity between the ultra-raging parts and the quiet, reflective ones all the tastier. A good comparison might be Arsis’ work, and particularly their debut album, A Celebration of Guilt — which blends brutality and melody exceptionally well — except NeObliviscaris does Arsis one better in terms of presenting their music with more depth and dynamics.

As well produced as Demo 2007's songs are — as mentioned, the sound production serves the dynamics the band intended to present superbly — part of what makes them work is that they aren’t polished and compressed to compete in the current absurdity of the "who’s bigger, louder and more perfect" olympics. The instrumental execution is done to a very high degree, but it sounds authentic and honest, which is a good thing as NeObliviscaris’ work is allowed to breathe.

Demo 2007 contains only three songs, but those average a bit more than 10 minutes, so this is still a pretty big chunk of a ride. NeObliviscaris’ music is highly emotional, glorious, torrential, and deft. This group is a godsend, and hopefully more work will be available soon. As much of a "demo" as this recording may be touted as, it is one of the best pieces of work this year. (9.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Alisa
 

DAATH - The Hinderers - CD - Roadrunner Records - 2007

review by: Alisa Z

Daath’s approach to music is amusing. The band attempts to merge the mystical aspect of the Jewish faith (the Kabbalah) with a dark vibe in order to create something that offers the listener a pathway into the depth of the curious mind of mankind. Recorded by James Murphy and Andy Sneap, in The Hinderers, we can hear the elaborate patterns that the musicians have interlaced throughout the songs.

"Cosmic Forge" features an orientally inspired melody that glistens amidst the swirling guitar sound. "Ovum" writhes and pierces with its crunchy guitars, as does "Festival Mass Soulform." "Who Will take the Blame" is a weird track with a weird structure, including a guitar solo by James Murphy. The next track, "Dead on the Dance Floor," is even weirder, sounding more like industrial drum ‘n bass rather than solely metal. "Blessed Through Misery" is more morbid in tone, with a sentiment that suggests distress (also featuring a psychedelic guest solo by James Malone).

The most disappointing thing about the sound is the drum’s tendency to sound too synthetic during certain instants, which is a shame because the overall sound itself is very dynamic. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
6.7/10 Alisa
 

BEYOND THE DREAM - The Beginning - CD - beyondthedream.info - 2007

review by: Alisa Z

There is something strange yet unique about Beyond the Dream. It’s a medley of spitting, energetic guitars, sad and pensive melodies as well as lyrical themes that are at times pseudo-religious. There is something "Finnish" about the music, whether it is the slight reflection of Children of Bodom or the sometimes very noticeable Finnish accent in the vocals.

The concept of depression can get tedious, but this band makes sure to go around it by mixing things up. "Loneliness, the Usual Pain" may sound like a cheesy title, but the song is interesting in that it reverberates from one emotion to another, from the morbid, isolated side of being lonely to the angry, empowered one. "The Vow" is, as the name suggests, about a vow that one person makes towards another, in this case, marriage and belonging to another being. In "Predator’s Bride," the vocalist, Herri Kauppinen, attempts to do a strange squealing noise, which does not do the song much good.

The guitars are simple most of the time, which suits the band more than Dragonforce-like complexity. The genre can be described as heavy metal that clings close to keyboards and piano, at times tickling certain more extreme styles. The vocals are not always in tune with the rest of the music and at times risk debilitating entire songs.

The blend of musical compositions is interesting and if the band works on the tightness of the sound, they could vastly improve the quality of their music. (6.7/10)

 

 

 

 
9.99/10 Chaim
 

SOUVENIR'S YOUNG AMERICA - An Ocean Without Water - CD - Crucial Blast Industries - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

While being part of the atmospheric hardcore boom, the post-rock and post-metal trend of the recent year or two, Souvenir's Young America's An Ocean Without Water is something to behold.

Apocalyptic to the hilt, through various riffs and manipulations, the saddened and melancholy-laden southern rock of these newcomers is indeed a drama upon its own.

If Across Tundras' wonderful Dark Songs of the Prairie established a standard in regards to this peculiar amalgam of metal, rock and anything in between — then Souvenir's Young America raises this standard a tad and offers a purely instrumental excursion through the landscapes of the South; the sun, the sweat, the hard labour, the death of the human spirit and in contrast — its flourishing… and one giant Pink Floyd.

Sun-drenched and intoxicated with the unbearable easiness of existence, Souvenir's Young America bring forth and amplify the very core of easy living — the absence of meaningful life; the hardship; the lack of a real target in the end of the journey, and one, looming and great Pink Floyd.

An Ocean Without Water is what Pink Floyd has always wanted to be; an influence, a flux, a vibe, a certain consciousness of the beyond and the almighty and the hereafter…

Shedding all identity, as if a re-invented phoenix, Souvenir's Young America bring forth melodrama of the hardship and futility of hope; the dialogue between the humanly possible and the grind, the echoing eternity, the inevitable.

Hazy, fuzzy, insubstantial guitars risen from some dead and long forgotten Western B-movie; one harmonica, hazed, intoxicated; ritual drumming, as if being the announcing voice of the apocalypse; all conspire to bring forth an amazingly odd, sparse, laid-back and sun-drenched album. An Ocean Without Water portrays the barren desert of human existence, the dancing of shadows, the dichotomy between the human spirit and its wretchedness.

Devoid of any vocals, Souvenir's Young America's playground is its musical tools with which it copulates, harnesses to its strange language, to become the band's mouth, by which it can spew its sordid slogans, its agenda.

Wonderfully executed for everything atmospheric and anything post. This is all the things that come right after the power of words has faded and speech has crumbled down. This is beauty, in its most bizarre and dark appearance. (9.99/10)

 

 

 

 
9.6/10 Mladen
 

ALUK TODOLO - Descension - CD - Public Guilt - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Having Aluk Todolo's Descension in your CD collection is like having to choose between the proverbial red pill and a load of blue pills. Take the blue pill (or: any other CD) and you're back in safe territory. But, let the damned curiosity prevail, go on, choose the red one that's been beckoning you and tickling your imagination — and face the consequences. You'll need strong constitution and considerable mental stability, but even then, who knows where or in what state you'll end up. There'll be some damage to your system; but the stronger you are, the smaller the amount of it will be. But, one way or another, you're literally screwed.

The French trio (including members of Diamatregon and Vediog Svaor) has a fair share of knowledge about ritual magic(k) and the occult theories. Descension, their first full-length (after the 2006, self-titled EP), is, finally, a proof of what can be done when theory translates into practice. The contents are easy to describe. Superficially, the four tracks are nothing but a few long, repetitive patterns. Simple drums, endlessly doing one and the same thing, continuous bass and guitar lines and some unpleasant noises. Nothing could be more retarded or boring, you might say. Far, far from the truth. Even farther from the light.

Things don't look so safe once you actually hear it. The opening "song," called "Obedience," is perfectly named — the sound: nothing but drums and distortion; the rhythm: the layers of noise swirling around and the sheer pain of the sum of those are just plain merciless. Call it whatever you want, but Aluk Todolo will instantly find a weak spot in your psyche, grab it, ride it and blow it out of proportion. If you didn't know you had one, the worse for you. And no, trying to escape won't do you any good. You're just a piece of flesh, whatever it is you considered to be your soul now belongs to someone else and he's not being kind with it.

After that, there's no more noise, at least not of such a horrible kind. Yet, there is no time to relax. There's no need for noise because "Burial Ground," "Woodchurch," and "Disease" have their own wicked ways of doing the same thing. The victim is still trapped inside the endless circle of sounds. Mesmerized, entranced, easily forced to listen and doomed to be painfully amazed by the seemingly similar sounds becoming ever more intense, closing in on you, chopping away pieces of your consciousness, withdrawing, returning and finally leaving you exhausted and violated at the last second of Descension. Not before.

Although unique, Descension actually makes other music sound strange and inappropriate. Think of other bands — a vague memory — and ask what's the point in having vocals, when they just detract? Why do the other bands' guitars play so many things, yet end up sounding like one and the same, happy, thing? Is there a need for that? Why play complicated when simplicity breeds far greater anxiety? And is it a guitar or a bass? Or two bass guitars? Where did those bizarre noises come from? What makes them, what gives them orders and why do they listen? How can Aluk Todolo do it and where do their methods of commanding those — and other — sounds come from? Don't ask.

And no, Descension isn't red. It's in black and silver printing. To a regular eye, the signs, drawings and symbols don't look familiar. Every line (probably) has its own meaning, but the meanings will have to remain a question. Gaze at it all the time in the world and you'll be none the wiser. While you're at it, you'll probably want to listen to it again, just to check if it's really what you thought it was. And it will be.

A word of advice: don't listen to Aluk Todolo while driving, walking, managing sharp objects, or if you're planning on having a nice day. If you're a drug user, avoid it like the plague. Descension is NOT safe. Things like this shouldn't be legally available. (9.6/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

AMORPHIS - Silent Waters - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

Silent Waters isn’t really a step forward for Amorphis as much as it is a fully realized integration of the band’s previous efforts. The band maintains its folk metal roots, building another album around a story from the Kalevala, and once again relying on its trademark, ethnic riffs for distinctiveness.

The two opening songs are of the most brutal tracks Amorphis has produced in a long time — the vocal performance is raw and rough, and the music simply obeys to the aggression demanded by the vocals — these are definitely for the old-time fans.

Those who favor the band’s brutal side should be warned, at this point, that the adrenaline level is not consistent. The title track follows and opens with delicate keyboards, which, as the song evolves, are wrapped with distortion-packed rhythms and compelling guitar leads; the vocal delivery, however, is too restrained. "Towards and Against" does restore some of the bellow, yet musically, some of it is irritatingly upbeat and lacks singularity.

But Amorphis, for the most part, makes up for the slight brownout with fine melodic work, as evident on "I of Crimson Blood," "Her Alone" and "Enigma" (the most traditional song here, founded on chords and epic, minstrel-styled vocal delivery). The rest of the album works equally well, yet "Shaman" deserves a spotlight of its own as it offers — on top of its classical guitar intro — a dazzling fusion of Finnish metal riffs, stomping rhythms, keyboards and flute. (8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Am Universum (issue No 4)  

 

 

 
7.9/10 Chaim
 

AUSTERITY PROGRAM, THE - Black Madonna - CD - Hydrahead Records - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

Think of Godflesh's Slavestate combined with Jesu combined with hardcore punk combined with punk rock… and a drum machine. Two (modest, as their moniker suggests) friends from New York — one plays bass, the other guitar and vocals — who evoke a rather peculiar style of atmospheric hardcore without being too atmospheric... or very much hardcore, either.

The duo relies very much on high-tone strumming (think of the blurry high tones used by bands such as U2 in their glorious days) and very dominant bass lines, rather than heavily distorted guitars. In fact, this is one of those rare recordings in which both the bass and electric guitar play an equal role in the overall music; both extremely dynamic, extremely powerful; and both complement each other.

There are hardly any vocals present throughout the recording. However sparse the use of human voice on The Austerity Project's music, it is hardly felt or absent. The holy trinity of bass / guitar / programmed drums makes this recoding a pleasurable journey through the minds of two highly talented artists who were capable of recording an excellent album, which manifests the potential of those incredible musical tools. They display the richness of minimalism; the pomposity of austerity, if you wish.

The sound of programmed drums, and how they were programmed, add that "industrial" twist to the recording, hence the slight resemblance to Godflesh (you could add to the comparison also Fudge Tunnel and Pitch Shifter and you wouldn't be so wrong).

The mercifully sparse vocals are a tad annoying and eventually redundant to this excellent musical display of nonchalant but extremely tight hardcore / punk / post-rock-ish madness and you can really do without them.

The other downside would probably be the resemblance many of the tracks share with one another. The album is extremely monolithic in that sense, and even though the listening is enjoyable and the execution excellently eclectic, the songs tend to blend and mix and repeat. It is almost as if hearing one song sums up, more or less, what the album is about.

Some really interesting ideas happen on Black Madonna, and when coupled with excellence both in musicianship and production, you got yourself a treat. (7.9/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Terra Nova EP (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
9/10 Brandon
 

AYREON - 01011001 - CD - Inside Out - 2008

review by: Brandon Strader

Over the years, Ayreon has grown to be a massively versatile musical project. There is a large difference between 01011001 and the project's previous opus, The Human Equation. Their previous release had much more of a folk surrounding, and seemed based in a real world scenario. With 01011001, the project ventures back into space and the fantastic synths return! It's somewhat of a stylistic mixture between The Dream Sequencer and The Human Equation, but the results are better than we could have expected. The name seems a bit awkward though… 01011001?

I can imagine the scenario now… "Neighborhood Records, may I help you find something in particular?" You pause, thinking of how to express your thoughts… "Yes, ma’am, I’m looking for zero one zero one one zero zero one!" Then again, if they file it in the right section before A on the CD shelves, it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

There are a total of 17 vocalists for this epic! The best performances are Daniel Gildenlow, Jorn Lande, Steve Lee, Hansi Kurch, and Bob Catley. Also, Phideaux put in a fantastic performance, but he is limited to only one song, "Web of Lies." Phideaux's part is a short duet with the intimate vocal performance of Simone Simmons, who is also limited to that single song. Of course we’d pondered how Simone could hold her own amongst these other strong singers, yet it seems that she shared a song with an equally soft-voiced man on a single song… So in the end, it seems to work out.

Ty Tabor is also limited to one song, and he puts in a performance on "Connect the Dots" that feels like the complete opposite of what you would expect from Ayreon. His voice is quite loud in the mix, and he really doesn’t put any fancy modifiers on his voice, like a vibrato… apart from the heavy effects applied afterwards in the studio. It’s a very simple voice, yet the song still manages to be great… And the "Finger lickin’ good" vocoder line made me laugh out loud the first time I heard it.

This is my favorite Jorn Lande performance since his incredible work on Beyond Twilight's The Devil's Hall of Fame. Lande works exceedingly well with Steve Lee.

There are a lot of very memorable parts on 01011001. For example, the chorus "duet" between Steve Lee and Daniel Gildenlow on "Ages of Shadows" is fantastic. Of course you can’t forget Jonas Renkse’s parts, all of which are equally perfect.

Jorn Lande’s distinct vocals make Comatose a really great "ballad," and his duet with Floors Jansen on "Liquid Eternity" is priceless. Daniel Gildenlow’s dramatic crooning on "Beneath the Waves" is the best thing we Pain of Salvation fans have got from him in a while. His parts are crucial, and I honestly don’t think any other vocalist could have pulled them off as well as he did, yet it is surprising to see that he isn’t a "main character" in this story. In fact, nobody is. There’s great vocalist distribution throughout 01011001.

Bob Catley also does a great job throughout the album. I was introduced to Catley through the British rock band Magnum, which I previously reviewed for Maelstrom. He does a great job following up Gildenlow on this song, and actually has some fantastic parts further along — like a duetwith Hansi Kursch on "River of Time." "Ride theComet" sounds like people getting ready for an odyssey of some kind, and Anneke van Giersbergen supplies a very powerful performance with several layers that is pretty much murdered by the soft internet love song, "Web of Lies"!

"The Truth Is Here" is probably one of my favorites. It features Arjen himself in a duet with Lisolette Hegt from Dial (I reviewed their CD a couple issues ago). These earth-based songs, like "Web of Lies," "Connect the Dots," and "The Truth is Here" really don’t make a lot of sense to me. There are a lot of songs sung by the "Forever" cast about mankind’s doom (great concept), which really makes up the majority, yet there are these few out-of-context songs intended to totally throw you off, I guess.

The blatant rip off of Led Zeppelin’s "Immigrant Song on E=MC2" is pretty hilarious… The song itself, however, is very nice and features large parts by two unknown vocalists, Wudstik and Marjan Welman, who do a great job on it. It does tend so seem a bit cheesy to me at times though, but I love cheese, so no complaints there!

In conclusion, you've really got to experience 01011001 for yourself. It may be easier to access for those who thought The Human Equation was a bit too cheesy. The album feels incredibly dark and sad at times, which really seemed strange. I can't say I've ever heard such sad work from Arjen Lucassen. The compositions are masterful, and the vocals are spot on from most of the vocalists…

...except Tom Englund, whose performances were definitely the worst. Not only that, but they put his layered, off-key vocals first on the album. Still, the music and the album are totally great. As usual, Ayreon has managed to release a very fine-tuned and enjoyable album. Hearing all of these vocalists singing together is as ever a treat. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

BELAY MY LAST - The Downfall - CD - Mediaskare - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

You've heard the story: A young American hardcore band (from Fullerton, California) with 375,349 visits on their MySpace page, short hair, metal T-shirts, loads and loads of tattoos and piercings, played almost everywhere, and where they haven't played they will because they have a gig scheduled for every day of the next two months... wait, on November 23rd they have TWO gigs. And here's the highly expected debut album.

You've heard the music too — hardcore with death metal elements, or is it vice versa? Blastbeats, arpeggios, growls and screams, combined into songs with no repeating parts, with elements lain one after another. It's almost like listening to Cryptopsy. Almost. Once again we have a multi-talented band doing THAT thing, playing all over the place without moving or actually saying a thing. Don't look for melody, development, groove or atmosphere. The music just goes on and on in a percussive way (I think they'd call it "brutal"). Don't look for emotion either. Why?

Because you've read the lyrics, too. Belay My Last are angry, they hate with passion, they want to see someone dead, or gone, they don't care, you're a lying bitch and they will stand strong in the end while you'll have your knees broken (or something equally scary).

Right. Belay My Last hate, and Belay My Last can really play their instruments. This is probably all that the MySpace crew really needs to know, and whatever this review says The Downfall will sell. And, yay, (or "lolz"), look how the new school bands now outperform those old school longhairs. Well, ten years ago we were told that Coal Chamber were more brutal than Deicide, and no doubt ten years from now there'll be something equally "brutal" on the market. For all their playing skills, or the skills of another exactly-the-same shallow band, all this is becoming slightly boring. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

BELL, MAGGIE AND MIDNIGHT FLYER - Live, Montreux, July 1981 - CD - Angel Air Records - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

Often regarded as a supergroup, Midnight Flyer had only lasted long enough to release a single album (the 1981, self-titled release reviewed in issue #34), but Angel Air now sets things straight by issuing a live recording by the band.

Recorded the same year the aforementioned album was released, this rather raw and beautifully sounding live recording seems to do more justice to the band's unrelenting blues-rock than its confined studio counterpart. Maggie Bell attacks with her full range, and the band backs her up potently and enthusiastically, with both the hard drive and the delicate touch demanded.

On the closing tracks, the band is joined by Taj Mahal, and then by Albert Collins, and the expressive dialogue between the latter's guitar and Bell's vocals on the fueled up performance of "Stormy Monday Blues" is one for the books!

Anyone who appreciates early Led Zeppelin should give this album a listen, if only to hear the female equivalent of Plant rocking with the mostest. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.8/10 Roberto
 

BENIGHTED - Icon - CD - Osmose Productions - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Benighted’s extreme metal style is well-crafted and executed. It often brings to mind Aborted’s last three albums in how it presents its interplay of rhythm guitar and drums, and the way the vocals sound and are implemented on top of that, although it can be a healthy bit more melodic than what Aborted does. Benighted whip out some very tasty moments, like on a part in which the chunky rhythm guitar takes a subtle back seat to a lead bass part that plays a catchy melody.

If you follow the world extreme metal scene, it won’t take you long to recognize Benighted as French. Listen to bands like Seth, Anorexia Nervosa, Destinity, or Balrog for sounds that could pen a thousand pictures. A few words could be, "depraved, yet somehow dainty in its well-executed mission of high-speed, note-packed blasphemy." Imagine the Marquis de Sade playing extreme metal, and that’s good enough.

Icon runs a fairly wide gamut for extreme metal (that’s a fairly blurry mix of black and death metal), and does it well, although perhaps no one would heartily agree that any inclusion of rap/hip-hop elements is ever a good idea. Sadly, Benighted go that way for 10 seconds on one song, but that’s 10 seconds too many. And French rap is even more pathetic than American rap. Trust me.

Luckily, 10 seconds is far, far from ruining an excellent piece of work. Just smirk, tell your true metalness to settle down, and get to getting down with Icon. (7.8/10)

 

 

 

 
6.8/10 Roberto
 

FOLKEARTH - By the Sword of My Father - CD - Stygian Crypt Production - 2006

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Beginning a CD with a great hook is one of the best ideas in crafting an album, and if that hook is a semi-self-indulgent keyboard instrumental, then so be it. The opener on Folkearth’s latest album is stirring, kind of like Vangelis meets Vikings blasted off into space. It also helps a great deal if you’re also a blind fan to anything Lykathea Aflame did on their only album, Elvenefris, down to the ridiculous / fabulous / ridiculous 11-minute new age keyboard outro with incessant million-bird choir.

Folkearth is a very fun project. It’s made up of musicians from six countries, who have gotten together to make at least three full-length albums. And these aren’t "barely full-length" CDs. By the Sword of My Father is well over 60 minutes.

Folkearth’s style on hand on this album is a many-headed creature that mixes power metal with black metal, folk elements, and an unabashed fascination for Swedish Viking metal project Falkenbach. As the power metal wholeheartedly embraces the project’s folk / Norse mythology idolatry, the vibe is of the yippee-yay, turbo jig variety. The black metal is not "blackest of the black," but rather speedy folky melodies driven by blast beats and with black metal vox. Even then, like on the title track, these parts serve as the supremely catchy chorus. How many black metal songs have catchy choruses? The Falkenbach elements are as subtle as employing many devices that the famous project has been doing for years, to covering an actual Falkenbach song ("Heathenpride") in its entirety, and covering it well.

Where the tale gets a little sour is when you consider that what makes Folkearth seem like so much fun is likely the same issues that detract from By the Sword of My Father. Primarily, the album is spread too thin and carelessly in its style and intent. The above+ styles are present, but they tend to be independent of each other, and don’t seem to exist with much depth of thought with one another. Sixty-eight minutes, yes, but it’s more of a marathon 68 than an engrossing weave of folk-and-hell 68.

For all the killer, enjoyable tracks, there are incongruous, nigh joke-y tracks like "A Tribute to the Viking Gods," which seems like pop-punk in the context of this album... but considering the rampant, haphazard stylistic patchwork of the record, what that context is remains slightly muttled. If only there were more focus of the better elements on By the Sword of My Father, and less to no focus on all the others that change the pace and mood of the album needlessly.

But there are 30 musicians from all over on this album. And as it’s a collaboration, trying to get that many independent people all over the literal map to make a cohesive piece of work is probably unreasonable, although you might cynically think that having that big of a pool of people would have led to a better yield in clean male vocals...

In the end, despite its shortcomings, Folkearth is a project that a metal fan should rightfully get excited about. More than two dozen people putting time, effort and money into recording an album to benefit the gods of metal? Fuck, yeah! And truth be told, when I saw Folkearth’s other albums in CD stores in Japan, I was pumped. (6.8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.4/10 Mladen
 

HELLISH CROSSFIRE - Slaves of the Burning Pentagram - CD - I Hate Records - 2006

review by: Mladen Škot

According to Hellish Crossfire, there are no such things as "old" school and "new" school — there's only one school. All they care about is the ancient, evil, eighties' thrash, done with spirit and conviction. In their world there's no place for — in their words — black metal boy bands, pseudo-philosophical stuff, "old school" groups "true to the bone" sucking the dicks of the musical forefathers, Nazi and left-wing scum, the "happy" power metal trend, tree-fuckers from outer space called "Pagans," Gothic bitches with their trendy, decadently expensive clothing, and so on.

Only one of them uses e-mail, and half of the band doesn't even own mobile phones. What they do own is an impressive collection of tapes, ripped jeans, bullet belts, patches and badges.

I suppose we should consider ourselves privileged for being able to listen to their debut, Slaves of the Burning Pentagram, on a CD, as it was originally intended to remain only on vinyl. Nevertheless, even without the vinyl or tape "magic," it sounds irresistible. It's unmistakably German speed thrash, from the high speed tremolo picking, one-on-one drum beats all the way to Iron Tyrant's spat-out screams, growls and just general unabashed guttural decadency. The guy sounds like he's breathing the eighties' air. The music is a relentless blend of the faster parts of the early albums by bands such as Sodom and Kreator, although Hellish Crossfire's tape collection probably consists of every German thrash album ever released. The sound, although clear, isn't modern at all. There are no modern treatments on the guitar or drum sound, but it wasn't even necessary because the music takes care of leaving the impression.

The speed riffs are varied and straightforward, the solos are childishly outrageous and the machine-like thrash riffs don't even try to be subtle. Nothing extremely technical, but then, you can hear every chord change loud and clear, and every time the pick touches the strings you're convinced that Hellish Crossfire mean it. Highly contagious.

This month, in pretending to be twenty years behind their time, the Germans win, the British (Evile) lose. Let's not start about Hellish Crossfire jumping into their own mouths when talking about "sucking the dicks of musical forefathers." Instead, turn on your imagination, think about the Cold War again, look at the situation in the world right now and see for yourself that Slaves of the Burning Pentagram isn't quite as outdated as it might seem to be. Grab a beer and welcome yourself to the time warp. (7.4/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

AETHERIUS OBSCURITAS - Viziok - CD - Paragon Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

You don't realize it's there because you don't expect it. We're talking about something like happiness — in black metal. Viziok, the fourth Aetherius Obscuritas album, is a strange one. Get it, listen to it a number of times and it all seems nearly there. But there's something weird about it, and you can't tell what it is until you've visited their website. In the words of the only non-session member, Akhorrl, "...I need an extra to feel well and this is Aetherius Obscuritas" Hah! "Feel well"? That must be it!

In theory, there shouldn't be any of this. If Akhorrl's influences are really Burzum, Ancient and Ragnarok, why doesn't Viziok sound at least close to them? Okay, the screams, both in Akhorrl's native Hungarian and English, are awesome. The sound, although slightly underproduced, leaves nothing to complain about. There's two straightforward sounding guitars, quite audible bass and loud, natural drums. Although Hungarian, Aetherius Obscuritas is easiest to compare to the default Swedish black metal bands (Dark Funeral, Marduk or Setherial) — the riffs always have something to say, from the tremolo picked semi-melodies to the simple, effective chord sequences. The composition is standard, managing to hold the attention through quite discernible and diverse songs. But then... happiness?

If you're trying to listen to Viziok as a "true" black metal release, it hardly makes sense. Even the riffs of the first track are strange — black metal chords ended by a staccato lick just don't feel right. Yet, as you progress through Viziok, all the time having joyfulness in mind, it reveals itself. The two bass drum beats actually sound galloping, the chord sequences could have just as well been on a folk album, and even an attempt at a slow, brooding track sounds more like a waltz than what it was probably intended to be. The technical riffs of the 11th track are so playful that they wouldn't be out of place on a Children of Bodom album.

And what would be the point? Isn't black metal supposed to be hateful, depressed, threatening or just simply unpleasant? In the case of Aetherius Obscuritas, it isn't. Depending on your willingness to try out something new, Viziok can be either a revelation or a subject of contempt. It's a quality release, no doubt... but... happy-sounding "true" blastbeats? Galloping Marduk? Feels awkward, but what, for example, a band like Vreid have merely tried, Aetherius Obscuritas have done the right way. Or it would be the wrong way then? Or... damn. You've read the review, you decide. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Roberto
 

HELLOWEEN - Gambling With the Devil - CD - SPV - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The length of Helloween’s album-making tenure is such that they should have entered "burnout" stage long ago. But they keep making great records filled with energy and the knack for the hook-y chorus. (Contrast and compare: plotting the same course, Iron Maiden’s Dance of Death should have been a killer, charging record.) Sure, it’s not without the expense of cheesiness, but that is as much a part of the power metal tradition as their staple double kick drum triplet rumbling and calculated, goofy spontaneity.

Gambling With the Devil isn’t as strong an album as 2005's The Keeper III, but it’s a tribute to Helloween’s latest, greatest rejuvenation considering how damn ballpark it is. Bring in the talented young blood that cares and the old dogs will run around like puppies once more. Gambling With the Devil will appeal to you if you liked the last album — they kept the same basic sound production that made that one stand out (no problems with that here) — and although none of the songs are *all* time classics (probably), damn it if you won’t remember each one on the album. With Helloween, even the songs that make you groan stick with you. Things have been in such a good place since 2003's Rabbit Don’t Come Easy that even bitching about the continued employment of CG album artwork that makes Stratovarius’ albums look like they were created by Da Vinci seems like it might jinx stuff up. Happy, happy. (8.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Rabbit don`t Come Easy (issue No 14)  

 

 

 
Bleakness made flesh/10 Chaim
 

HIEROPHANT - The Tome (re-issue) - CD - Solitude Productions - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

Other than one minor downside (that, in scope of this album’s worth, is as much of an afterthought as placing it as a post-scriptum at the end of this review) I am all praise for this release. John Del Russi, the sole member of Hierophant ("don't call me John, my name is Xathagorra!") and his unique project, have been kind of elusive, being recorded in extremely small quantities through now-defunct labels (mostly his own); what brings us to this compilation:

Solitude Productions has reissued The Tome, most of Hierophant's recording throughout the years (the oldest recording dated back to 1994!) — originally released in a ridiculously few number of copies of only 135 — and has brought to those who are uninitiated with this project, the blessed opportunity of listening to the entire sonic legacy of one of the few, true, crushing and minimalist funeral doom/death acts that ever walked this Earth.

For me there has always been a very few, and select, number of genuine funeral doom acts, long before the hype, the fashion and the trend of funeral doom becoming the underground's hot-topic: Thergothon, Skepticism, Worship and Hierophant; four giants, four forerunners of the most heavy, unfriendly, and dark subgenre of metal in existence — the prototype, the essence and epitome of what funeral doom is all about.

Bleak, monolithic and crushingly heavy; obscure, unfriendly and vile; spiritual, transcendental, celestial and ethereal.

Like with my Worship review, Hierophant's chants are not music per se but a descent into the pits of hell, into realms of solitude and despair. Del Russi's razor-blades-for-guitars, his abyssic grunts, the excruciatingly slow, torturous drumming and this extra chiming bell — that touch of something inexplicable; a bass guitar? A stroke on a keyboard? Who knows? — transforms Del Russi's assembly of sounds and tools to an almost spiritual ecstasy.

The sharp and crisp production only enhances the harshness of the already-disastrous and hate-permeated, tragic sounds. The outcome? Phenomenal, no less.

Grab this hour-long torturous and torturing recording. It's worth every goddamn penny and it will make you forget about everything you have ever known — or think you have — about minimalism, funeral doom and what they are all about.

(Bleakness made flesh/10)

PS: Solitude Productions has a unparalleled skill in ruining profoundly any original artwork, as evidenced on every single album this label has re-issued.

Hierophant's best-of compilation is no different. Whether for legal reasons or "artistic" considerations, the original cover has been raped and been crowned with lameness beyond belief.

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

JANVS - Fvlgvres - CD - Aeternitas Tenebrarum Music Foundation - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

With such a distinctive guitar playing style — or is it just the sound — it's a pity Janvs couldn't get their act together in a more aggressive way. The sound in question is pulsating black metal — whether they go for tremolo picking or alternate picking between notes of the same chord, it sounds pulsating, a throbbing, natural, distorted but easily discernible rhythmic throbbing.

It does create a certain melancholic, solemn atmosphere... but the songwriting fails to keep the attention. There is a fair amount of rhythm changes, though mostly in the same two or three tempos, and there are not many riffs as such. The Italian trio Janvs has forsaken anything that might have given their music some personality, and relied solely on the guitar sound. As interesting as it is at first, after listening to about one half of Fvlgvres you'd just wish for them to finally unleash one strong, memorable, blazing part instead just doing black metal by the numbers, and the sound becomes annoying. The screams and the drums do a fair job, but once again fitting into the scheme of being too predictable.

A few acoustic instrumentals suggest Janvs's love for desolate nature landscapes, but being all about the mood and feeling doesn't have to contradict with actually giving a bit of yourself. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4.2/10 Mladen
 

BITTER END - Climate of Fear - CD - Malfunction Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

9/11 must have been a tragedy, and, beginning with a sound clip from the news on that day, Climate of Fear is obviously still yet another echo of the impact it had. That subject aside, have you ever wondered what Tom Araya (Slayer) would sound if he tried to talk like Zack De La Rocha (Rage Against the Machine)? Yes, another tragedy.

Bitter End's vocalist, Daniel Edsen, was really a bad choice. While the music sounds like a thin, underproduced (but in essence, very mosh-pit friendly) variation to the Biohazard theme, the vocals make it next to impossible to make it through the whole CD. He's too loud in the mix, but too shy to shout as if he means it. And never, ever do his vocals sound like they actually belong on Climate of Fear. Once again, thin guitars, thin drums and audible bass only when it's playing alone, but Edsen sounds like a lame commentator talking and trying to rap in his room, sitting by a trebly sounding stereo.

If the production job was done right, Climate of Fear could have been a fine, schoolbook example of hardcore. Nothing original, most of the time in the same tempo and with replay value depending on your affinity for this type of music. As it is, it just leaves an impression of someone trying to make a statement but instead making a fool out of himself. (4.2/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Pal
 

BLOOD RED THRONE - Come Death - CD - Earache Records - 2007

review by: Pal Meentzen

Although they’re from Norway, Blood Red Throne have their musical roots in the US death metal tradition of Deicide, Obituary, Death and Cannibal Corpse..

Those who like chunky death metal with both heavy grooves but also lots of blastbeats should definitely check these guys out. The album is aptly titled Come Death, and its cover artwork, with its fantasy blood covered angel statuette in a cob-webbed, church-like environment is striking to say the least. It surely had me intrigued. On the other hand, I soon found out that in deathmetal terms the album isn’t as excentric as the artwork may suggest.

Come Death introduces a new vocalist by the name of Vald. I hadn’t heard Blood Red Throne before, but when checking out their previous album, Altered Genesis, I found that Vald’s voice is not only deeper, but the production of Come Death goes much deeper than the very mid-range sound of its predecessor, and I think those have been good decisions. The album features a cover of Gorguts’ classic track Disincarnated, which sounds much clearer and less underground than the old original. I think it’s a worthy tribute to the band who lost their drummer five years before in a tragic manner.

The album starter called "Slaying the Lamb" initially sounds like pretty straightforward blastbeat-fuelled craftsmanship with some nice and uptight riffing, but halfway the surprise element arises of a modest yet effective melodic twin guitar solo (this also happens in "Rebirth in Blood"). Also well into focus is the excellent mix of the drums, of which notably the double kicks are present with a pleasantly deep and natural sound. It think it would be fair to say that Come Death could have been the sound of a less speed-obsessed and more groove-oriented Deicide, as Vald does sound a bit like Glen Benton, especially at times when the growls are going simultaneously with demonic scream-singing. This is quite pleasing to yours sincerely, but they could have left out the moment with spoken transistor sound vocal bits in "Slaying the Lamb" and "Taste of God," an effect of which I have never quite understood the appeal.

This notwithstanding, Come Death is a well-executed, 42-minute assault. It’s almost hard to believe that Blood Red Throne come from a black metal country like Norway and not from Florida, but I’d prefer it hands down over anything recent by Carpathian Forest, whose brand of black metal Tchort got fed up with at some point. And yes, it is possible that some may find their approach somewhat formulaic with regard to the song structures, but in response Blood Red Throne could dedicate a song title to them, namely "No New Beginning." It’s just a very good slab of unpretentious death. Let it come your way and lend your ears to their pathology department. (7.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Affiliated with the Suffering (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
5.5/10 Brandon
 

CADAVEROUS CONDITION - To the Night Sky - CD - Oak Knoll - 2006

review by: Brandon Strader

It’s a funny joke that’s been flying around metal culture for a while… To quote Brian Posehn, "If I tried to sing clean it would make your ears sad!" Well, vocalist Wolfgang Weiss doesn’t even try. I must admit, a folk guitar progression with growled vocals over it is not something you hear every day. In a way, it’s unique. But it’s also pretty funny.

Luckily, the majority of To the Night Sky is death metal."Fireship" introduces the beefy distorted guitars and surprisingly punchy kick drum after a short dialogue sound clip. I’d say the thing that really surprised me the most with this album as a whole is how great the guitar tone is, the clarity of the production, and that strong, organic, punchy kick drum.

However, the best production in the world can’t save a slow-paced, simplistic death metal album. The production is so clear that, in fact, I can tell that the vocalist layers his growls multiple times to give them that thickness. The sad thing is that they aren’t even as thick or decipherable after the layering as my poor friend from a local band who’s basically had no training whatsoever.

"Destroy Your Life" makes me want to destroy this album. It’s an acoustic piece that sounds so damn happy like a river dance tune full of major chords, sunshine, and daisies… yet all of the vocals are growls. If this song were created by a different band with clean vocals, it would be awesome. The lyrics are uncharacteristically dark for this incredibly happy song, which makes this one of the most cheesy "metal" songs I have EVER heard, hands down… and I’ve heard a fair share.

Usually albums are labeled as a hit or a miss… Well, this one is both. The death metal portions are fine, and sound great, but the acoustic folk songs ("Destroy Your Life," "Black," "I Woke From a Sleep That Lasted All My Life") with growls on them are just too nonsensical. The music is pretty simplistic as well, yet it doesn’t sound like every other death metal band that crosses my desk, so that is a solid plus for effort. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Brandon
 

COLD EXISTENCE, THE - The Essence - CD - Open Grave Records - 2007

review by: Brandon Strader

Yet another melodic death band, again from Sweden! The Cold Existence make their roots very apparent as they go into a very brutal yet quite melodic arrangement on the title-track, complete with blast beats, hawk screams, and even guttural growls. The band’s ability to mix melodic arrangements with the sudden burst of speed and aggression is something that makes The Essence a CD worth checking out.

"Cynical World" starts with a very nice melodic lead upon a sliced time signature that eventually evens itself out to regular pace when the band really begins to jam harmoniously. The chorus is catchy, which is quite a feat considering it uses low growls throughout. At times, the band actually sounds like Cannibal Corpse. During more melodic moments, they sound like Hypocrisy, yet they are able to do harmonic solos like In Flames did at one time. This is really a talented group of individuals.

You can definitely hear the influence that the Gothenburg area and its musical spawn has had on this band. The Cold Existence has crafted a really awesome work of melodic death with The Essence. I find it odd that I haven’t heardabout these guys anywhere yet apart from what I’ve discovered on my own. There should really be more public acknowledgement of such a fine band. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
4.6/10 Mladen
 

CREST OF DARKNESS - Give Us the Power to Do Your Evil - CD - My Kingdom Music - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

It thrashes, screams, blasts, it has something to do with vampires and it has tits on the cover. And no, it's NOT the new Cradle of Filth album. It is Give Us the Power to do Your Evil, the fifth album by Crest of Darkness.

Although they are from Norway, the music doesn't really sound Norwegian. Crest of Darkness travel the well-trodden paths between ancient German thrash and more modern blastbeats, playing all of them quite expertly. The thrash parts are ferocious and snappy, there are some brief solos and melodies, the bass guitar has a nice metallic sound and the vocals are quite bloodthirsty. Yet, there's not much more than that. All the rifferama seems to be there only to make the songs longer, and although the nervous breaks and unexpected, spastic tempo changes sound good, and are executed with precision, it's hard to find a reason to come back to this album.

Maybe it's the lack of atmosphere, maybe it's because all of this has been done before, but mostly it's the fact that the composition isn't on par with the technical skills. The parts come one after the other without an apparent logic, and any part of one song could have been combined with any part of another song and it would probably feel the same.

Aggressive blackened thrash it might be, but Crest of Darkness don't really convince in trying to sound evil. A collection of half-interesting moments assembled in a non-interesting way. (4.6/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Project Regeneration (issue No 5)  

 

 

 
3/10 Mladen
 

DARK THE SUNS - In Darkness Comes Beauty - CD - Firebox Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

What would you do if a "civilian" asked you to play him some of this "underground metal" music you're into? Not an easy task, right? It is easy for "fans" of other types of music — they'll just pop in a CD, turn up the volume, play it for a few seconds and say — "Here, this is rap." But we aren't that lucky. We don't judge a song by a beginning, we don't judge an album by one song, we don't judge a band by one album and we don't judge a genre by a band. And we certainly don't judge a genre by listening to a few seconds of one song.

Fortunately or not, at least we can explain gothic metal by using a few seconds from this Finnish band's debut. Try any song. It starts, goes on, and ends with a simple driving piano melody (if you remember Robert Miles and his "Children" you're just about there). The band wastes no time, as the thrash rhythm and the default middle tempo enter straight away, and all the concentration you need for listening to Dark the Suns boils down to noticing if the next thing is going to be whispers, bass, drums and no guitars, simple rhythm with growls and guitar downstrokes or an "attack" with two bass drums. All in the same tempo, all using the same construction principles and the same ingredients. The sound is admittedly perfect, but the songs sound as if someone had ordered forty minutes of consumer-friendly, radio-edit, gothic-lite material.

If you're really into this kind of music, try to find one song by Dark the Suns. Any of them. But just one. And you'll think they are fairly interesting. But listen to TWO and you're probably not going to want to hear three. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

DAWN OF RETRIBUTION - Blood Drunk - CD - myspace.com/dawnofretribution - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

We have absolutely nothing against MySpace bands sending us demos. Hell, we have an unsigned MySpace band, too, so let's help each other, shall we? Blood Drunk has reached us from Geelong, Victoria (Australia) and consists of three demo tracks by Dawn of Retribution, a band of five men who previously gained their experience in Befallen, Intrepid, Veil of Anguish, Scale and Domineaon.

The experience shows, definitely. Blood Drunk doesn't sound perfect, but it's just a demo, so let's skip that. The three songs show obvious influence by the bands Dawn of Retribution quoted as their influence — namely Lamb of God, Pantera, Dream Theater, Unearth and others. The musicianship is tight, and the songs are rhythmically strong, which shouldn't be a surprise since Dawn of Retribution have had positive feedback on their live performances. The thrash parts are right there, a few The Haunted beats surely sound good, the drum rolls and fills are countless and the songs are fairly complicated.

But, if the aim was to strike a record deal on the account of Blood Drunk, maybe it's too early. Modern melodic death-thrash does have its audience, but there's not much on Blood Drunk that hasn't been heard before. If you really want to make it, it would help if you had some personality, and in that compartment, Dawn of Retribution still have a way to go. Of course, if you're playing live, and you're good at it, none of this would really matter, but played in someone's home, Blood Drunk mostly goes unnoticed. A part of it might be the vocals (sounding like Phil Anselmo doing growls, but quite monotonous). The mid-tempo Cannibal Corpse hammer-ons and pull-offs are solid, the riff and rhythm changes go flawlessly, there are some blastbeats and up-tempo beats... but it seems as Dawn of Retribution are merely treading water and never reaching a conclusion. Almost like the songwriting was a chore instead of a pleasure.

As their first recording, Blood Drunk is fairly good from a technical viewpoint. With some more experience, maybe Dawn of Retribution will learn that there's more to music than just playing it. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

DEINONYCHUS - Warfare Machines - CD - My Kingdom Music - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

No surprises from Deinonychus this time. You expect doom, you get doom... and nothing more than that. Their seventh album, Warfare Machines, is a war-themed slice of unadventurous doom, even though some faster parts hint at attempts to be more elaborate. But it doesn't work. Who knows where exactly the point is where doom stops being doom and becomes boring?

One clue might be the composition. Surely, if you want to musically describe a post-nuclear atmosphere or desperate feelings after a terrible defeat, the music should contain more hints than just the slowness. And how about a bit more elaboration than just starting nearly every song as if you've cut out the intro, or the introductory chords, or whatever else that might have suggested that the song had a beginning? The same goes for the endings.

What the listener is left with are just basic chords going up and down, without making a structure that could really have left an impact. Then there are slow, almost tribal, thrash parts apparently just serving the purpose of being there, and there are equally unimpressive goth-flavored downstrokes and uninspired doom melodies. None of them memorable. If you're playing slow music, it's not a cardinal offence to let your feelings out through at least something that might give the music some personality.

The sound is good, downtuned, full and powerful, and Marco Kehren's growls can't be perceived as anything but desperate, but maybe Deinonychus have relied too much on just those. As mentioned above, Warfare Machines deals with war subjects, but by the time of the third track, "Manoeuvre Fast," even the lyrics become too bland to be believable. How original is to repeatedly growl "Why... must we die..."? Point proven. Doom for the sake of being doom. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Chaim
 

DEKAPITATOR - The Storm Before the Calm - CD - Relapse Records - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

Ah, it's the mid-eighties again, and all the gratuitous bad taste that goes with it: bad taste in everything; bad hairdos, bad clothing and bad music. Time to embrace those bullshit years for yet another round of watered-down retro-thrash output: As if we have not suffered enough…

Worn-out, tried, chewed-up and spat-out riffs we have all loved to love over and over and over again in those happy days, anyone? Every goddamn band yielding the exact same formula of staccato rhythms and laughable vocalists.

Relapse Records speaks of the thrash metal renaissance in relation to this album. I say: there can be no renaissance for ‘80s thrash metal, because everything should be in its context. Those were the times where thrash metal fitted everything else in existence; it was in accordance; in conjunction — IN CONTEXT.

The renaissance of thrash metal is as valid as is the re-creation and comeback of the 1980s — unless you own a fucking time machine.

I say, Dekapitator are alright in what they do, but what they do is obsolete and tried-out and done so many times before, it's embarrassing. I say, sticks to your authentic ‘80s thrash metal albums, the ones you still play once in a while on a much worn-out vinyl record.

Oh, almost forgot: track 6 is really great instrumental piece. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
6.9/10 Pal
 

DEMIRICOUS - Two (Poverty) - CD - Metal Blade Records - 2007

review by: Pal Meentzen

Demiricous may have three guys with beards, but they are nothing like ZZ Top or any boogie blues band. The guys from Indianapolis are a bunch of hairy, rowdy Jägermeister junkies who seem to have a mission to become Florida’s scruffiest looking band of the decade (and the amount of sugar in their drug of preference won’t be doing any good to their teeth, either). There is no real significance to the name Demiricous but they just liked the sound of it.

This second album was made in the Mana recording studios with producer Erik Rutan and mastering engineer Alan Douches. With the backing of those men, even the most average kind of band can be lifted above sea level, by which I mean they won’t stay submerged and keep floating around invisibly like all their fellow metalplanktonites.

The music of Demiricous is a bit of a cross between Entombed, Slayer and elements of the US hardcore metal scene. It’s played very tight and disciplined and fronted by Nate Olp’s top-of-lungs-strength shouting in a most ill-tempered manner.

"There is no value! I have no trust! I represent nothing! there is no common bond!" is slung towards the listener and, well, how could one possibly decline such a bonafide and commonly shared manifesto?

The subtitle of the album is "Poverty" and the follow-up to the first part called "Hellbound." As many people worldwide assume, artists are supposed to suffer for their work, which is what Demiricous had to do for their true passion, in this case by holding down the crappiest jobs in order to prevent total starvation.

And did it pay off? Yes, because their eagerness and determination seems to outweigh the rather easy accusation of them acting as mere Slayer adepts. The accusation is way easier than to be as devoid of a sense of humour as Slayer are (who are not likely to come up with a sleeve design as funny as Two’s). Besides, Demiricous is still more a mix of thrash metal and hardcore and are by far not similar and fanatical bible bashers. Instead we can sometimes even encounter some real world awareness like in "Leprosaic Belief": "fuck a martyr, take the time / to know your enemy / the threat is synthetic / worldwide chemical imbalance / when someone else’s god makes you a target."

The energy emanating from this release is tremendous. The real focus on this album is not Olp’s upfront and present screaming or the meaty layers of guitar riffs. It’s the drumming of Dustin Boltjes (a Dutch surname, I suspect) which is simply amazing, especially on the drum intros and kick drums. The songs often have frequent shifts going from headbanging mid-pace to sudden violent blastbeat eruptions ("Language of Oblivion" is a nice example) and Boltjes’ handles them with flawless yet hyperactive precision.

Demiricous have gone a step forward and have created quite a solid album that will help them secure a place in the contemporary thrash metal scene of Florida. They are getting closer to what it takes but it’s down to them whether they want to figure out what is needed to innovate the genre, if that is possible, and if anybody cares. For now, they have captured their sound very adequately and provided they keep everything as mean and dirty as their ugly mugs they have some promise to show for album #3. (6.9/10)

 

 

 

 
7.2/10 Brandon
 

EPHEL DUATH - Pain Remixes the Known - CD - Earache Records - 2007

review by: Brandon Strader

Ephel Duath is one insatiable band. The group updated and improved the black metal masterpiece Phormula with Rephormula, then released another incredible, jazz-tinged album called The Painter’s Palette. In 2005, they unleashed Pain Necessary to Know, which was a very free-spirited, disjointed work of jazz screamo. Now, they have chosen to view a fresh angle on Pain Necessary to Know with Pain Remixes the Known.

Pain Remixes the Known takes on a new form and doesn’t sound like the structure of Pain Necessary to Know whatsoever, yet you will hear familiar bits and pieces spread throughout the computerized chirps and drum beats. Will Pain Remixes the Known appeal to fans of techno? It probably won’t. However, if you’re a fan of Ephel Duath and enjoy techno or heavily electronic music, you will probably enjoy this remix album a lot.

It is definitely less chaotic than Ephel Duath’s usual jazz escapades, as the drum beats stick to a pretty tame formula of seemingly regular time signatures, but the vocals and performances from the album are edited in such a fashion that all of the chaos within the performances is kept intact, if not heightened! Various elements throughout Pain Necessary to Know are spread throughout Pain Remixes the Known; it doesn’t flow in order, and each remix isn’t based off of a specific song. It’s a really cool and strange experience that should be witnessed at deafening volumes, and is quite fun to dance to. (7.2/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Rephormula (issue No 9)  

 

 

 
8/10 Brandon
 

ETERNAL DESCENT - Losing Faith - CD - Incendium Records - 2007

review by: Brandon Strader

Losing Faith is an impressive album from a lone musician with a guest female vocalist. The artwork is a cartoony anime style, and the presentation of the digipak container is welcoming and original. It also establishes a fantasy imagery to go along with the album.

All of the music and lyrics were created by Llexi Leon, and the guest female vocals were provided by Elysha West. Her voice is soft, pleasant, and on key.

Eternal Descent is not quite metal, holding rock vibes mixed with cinematic, theatrical arrangements. The guitar work is very impressive. "Into Darkness" is a great, epic opener, but "Whispers" introduces a more active drum beat and a majestic arrangement with unusual key changes accompanied by nice solo work that makes this a fantastic song. The songs on Losing Faith are mostly short, around the three- to five- minute length, but the grandiose presentation never falters.

Leon really has great composition skills, and West has made the material all the better with her performances. It never seems cheesy, and it never loses that spark that causes it to be a very memorable debut. There was mention of a 2D side-scrolling action gamemade about Eternal Descent. It’ll intriguing to see where the band goes from here. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.4/10 Mladen
 

EVIL MASQUERADE - Third Act - CD - Nightmare Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

"This product is no longer intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases. If that is what you need, you should immediately get Evil Masquerade's second album, Theatrical Madness. If you are a poor music critic, otherwise narrow minded, a terrorist, or just plain stupid, we also strongly advice (sic) NOT to listen to this album."

This Danish mob really knows how to connect with the listener, don't they? Since it obviously doesn't matter what the poor narrow-minded music critic says, here: guys, grow some hair. Lose the goatees. Tell the vocalist to stop wearing that cross, and if at all possible, don't pose trying to look like magicians. It just made the singer look like he's holding a giant pair of invisible balls. And, please, continue making albums like Third Act.

It's never too late to be introduced to another real guitar hero. This one's name is Henrik Flyman (easily recognized as being the only guy with long hair and also known to play the guitar in Quicksand Dream, Moahni Moahna, Zool and Wuthering Heights). Evil Masquerade is almost entirely his own work. On Third Act, he wrote and arranged all the songs, wrote the lyrics, played the guitars, keyboards, and the bass on a few tracks. And he has done the production job... and perfectly, too.

Third Act is a continuation of the plot started somewhere in 2004... sorry, in the distant future. The concept album ends the story about the clueless, lost human race, and the revelation of the one who has been pulling the strings the whole time. The story is divided into eleven perfectly balanced progressive heavy rock tracks (an intro and an interlude called "Orchestration for More Than One Horn" included).

Considering the amounts of effort that has gone into making Third Act, it's a relief to see that Evil Masquerade still feel like joking. The substantial complexity of the music could have driven them insane, and the diversity of the songs proves that they know more than one trick. Hell, they know all the tricks there are. The title songs kicks off a bit like Stratovarius — descending guitar scale accompanied by a drum roll — but all the similarity ends here. Better start thinking what could be the reason that Yngwie Malmsteen got it wrong while Flyman got it just right. The guy doesn't stop playing melodies, the rhythm guitar is almost absent and the two bass drums stay for the whole song — yet it doesn't feel like there's anything missing or overdone. A classic power metal track. Then it's "Black Ravens Cry," with a simple thrash rhythm turning into a gorgeous chorus.

It's time to mention the new singer, Apollo Papathanasio (Time Requiem, Meduza, Gardenian, Majestic, Sandalinas, Firewind) whose voice ethereally floats over the other instruments and perfectly merges into the overall sound picture. Also, it might be important to mention an extremely fluid instrumental section — notice the two seconds of the "Hall of the Mountain King" theme thrown in just for the fun of it — with keyboards doing even more wizardry than the guitar. Actually, pretty much all the instrumental sections are like that, extremely elaborate and diverse.

Fortunately it's not all about the guitar — Flyman knows how to stay in the background when needed, but pay more attention and he's doing something even during those parts. Dennis Buhl is a solid and tasteful rhythm provider, almost making a trademark out of short bursts of cymbal sounds, and Thor Jeppesen's bass lines are clearly audible, proficient and unobtrusive. The rest of the songs vary between slow parts resounding with Black Sabbath spirit and more lively progressive metal, and keep the listener occupied so much that the playing time seems much shorter than it actually is.

Flaws? Just a few: in Flyman's case, the genius is perhaps made out of more perspiration than inspiration. In other words: some themes sound like they have come out of calculation, or trying to invent something new by force, rather than just coming up with a killer tune. But, give Evil Masquerade ANY theme and they'll weave wonders around it. Another distraction comes from Papathanasio — maybe he has listened to too many Dio albums because he tends to overdo it with all the "mmm-hmmms" and, at times, showing off disguised as fake sensitivity. But, since the guy obviously can sing, why not let him?

The melancholy of "The Final Goodbye," with almost a stadium-sized sing-along chorus, nicely ends the concept part of Third Act. An even nicer gesture follows after that: two bonus tracks, one song from each previous album. Okay, you may call it advertising, but... wanna bet you're going to want to check out those albums as well? (8.4/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Mladen
 

EVILE - Enter the Grave - CD - Earache Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Evile are living the dream of a thousand cover bands. The UK quartet first started as a Metallica tribute band (then-employing the equally silly name Metal Militia), then started writing their own material, and now they are signed to Earache with all the label support they could wish for. Apparently thrash metal is back. Again. One has to wonder if it has ever really been gone.

However, it has never been back quite like on Enter the Grave. It's like listening to a cross of 1987 Metallica with some Slayer and Exodus from the same era. But mostly Metallica. Evile have nailed the musicianship, the image and the '80s lyrical subjects (death, war, murder, blood, schizophrenia, armored assaults... and look, there's one about sharks). And, if it wasn't written everywhere on the promo, you wouldn't have to guess twice who they got to do the producing stuff... Flemming Rasmussen (yes, he did Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets). Getting the same sound that two of the probably most influential (or best sold) thrash records of all time had might be a blessing. Or a curse.

It depends on your own views on thrash metal. You still listen to old Metallica? Then, by all means, check out Evile. They sound exactly the same, they have very decent songs and the crystal clear guitar solos are something you haven't heard in a while. Matt Drake, luckily, doesn't sound like James Hetfield but more like Tom Araya with a British accent. The galloping riffs, the electric-sounding hooks and the song structures will make your heart warm as your ears recognize them as something very familiar, something you've grown up to.

But then, what's really the point? Even if Evile aren't exactly copycatting any of their idols, all the time it seems as though they are just about to. Shifting between Metallica and Slayer, Enter the Grave always gets close but never really decides where to go. Every minute or so there'll be a moment where you'll expect Drake to shout "Whiplash!" "Face the thing that should not beee...", "Fight fire with fire!" or "Damage incorporated!!!" but, no. Nothing. Then, there are the Slayer high-speed parts where you'll expect a brutal Slayer chorus, but Evile go for Metallica mid-tempo thrash instead. Plagiarism is masterfully avoided, but beyond that, there's not much left.

Evile are definitely talented musicians. But their idols made it not only because they had the sound and the musicianship, they also had memorable ideas, first and foremost. Enter the Grave is obviously a product of love and passion for the old school, but let's put it like this: if it was released in 1987 it still wouldn't have been in the major league of thrash metal. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Larissa G
 

EXODUS - The Atrocity Exhibition - Exhibit A - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2007

review by: Larissa Glasser

It seems funny that the new Exodus should fall into my sound bin. I’m supposed to gauge this? For those of you living on the dark end of Kabul for the last generation, Exodus are one of those original Bay Area thrash bands who kept going and refused to ever hang it up... for long, anyway. This listener is guilty of being pretty much sidetracked after the "Fabulous Disaster" release (you know, "Toxic Waltz," meh), and that was twenty years ago. There is no alternative than to approach this thrash "exhibit" on its own merit, and with almost no frame of reference.

First, we have Andy Sneap. Such is the state of affairs, you know anything he produces is bound to have JACK-KNIFE sharp guitar tone and downright seismic heaviness. Accolades on that count, alone.

This is a really strong metal release. Exodus have just as strong chops as Slayer on thrash opener "Riot Act," an infectious and driving riff that pounds abrasively. Perhaps most importantly, this is also a very mosh-friendly record. I know many of us cringe at the concept of "breakdowns," but Exodus are among the progenitors of this principle, as opposed to the trendfuckers who seem to be making the best living at it.

Lead axeman Gary Holt and Lee Altus (ex-Heathen) display a viable Tipton / Downing dynamic here, their tones for Exodus remain unquestionably metallic.

Follow-ups "Funeral Hymn" and "As it Was, As it Soon Shall Be" are a bit slower and heavier, a good pace of gear shifting before "The Atrocity Exhibition" returns the nasty thrash to the batter.

Exodus have often been judged (unfairly) on their choice of lead vocalists. I must admit my affinity for Paul Baloff’s (1960–2002) echo-drenched introduction for "Pirahna" on 1985’s "Ultimate Revenge" videocassette (fucking hilarious, "This ain’t about no trout-out-out…"). But current singer Rob Dukes is a great fit for Exodus’s current mode — a shrill, serrated, pinched edge that cuts through pretty well.

A strong release by a strong band. Expect "Exhibit B" sometime this year. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

METALMESSAGE - Metalmessage IV - CD - metalmessage.de - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

When was the last time you heard a decent compilation? Once again, Metalmessage, a German webzine run by a fanatic with more than just some passion for all things pagan, folk or black, proves that there's more to life than just trading mp3 DVDs, casual listening and instantly forgetting of what you've heard. This is the way it should be done: a careful selection of featured artists, a fine thread connecting all of them and a proper presentation.

The fourth way round, the impressive artwork has been done by Jean-Pascal Fournier. Aside from the cover picture of "Druid's summoning of the Celtic god Cernunnos within the cauldron," there's an aura of mystery surrounding all the bands. Look at the pictures and the logos and you just have to wonder who those people are, and where they came from. Look closer, and reveal that there are also the bands' line-ups, web addresses and contact e-mails. But still, for most of them, you just have to wonder, again, who are those people?

Gjenferdsel are from Norway, and "Svik" is a strange choice for an opening, but their galloping, simplified black metal is as raw as it is charming. Before you realize it, it turns into a carefully controlled war march, but still... strange. Forefather (UK), on the other hand, are just what you'd expect on a disc such as this: a dreamy, foggy soundscape resembling Primordial and perfectly crushing nearing the end.

The acoustic intro by Tharaphita (Estonia) brings more melancholy, but when this quintet kicks into a direct black attack, "Lidsetel Sunkjatel Radadel" exposes itself as quite an interesting storytelling song. Compared to them, Galar (Norway) aren't as slick-sounding, but after a few seconds of accustomizing, they are not unlike recent Enslaved, but without the electronics and with some interesting guitar melodies.

The more folk-inspired part of Metalmessage IV starts with Oakenshield (UK), a one-man band playing something akin to Bathory with a folksy flute melody making a contrast to Ben Corkhill's rasps. The track is called "Ginnungagap," yet the melody seems too happy. Interesting nonetheless, but Irminsul (Sweden) got it dead right: acoustic and electric guitar together, convincing bellows, medieval melodies and a heavenly clean vocal chorus make "Vinterskald" a minor triumphant epic.

Slechtvalk (The Netherlands), apart from looking like warriors (swords, shields and all) give the term "battle metal" another meaning with their energetic take on two bass drum-driven black metal. There are epic choirs, fatalist throat abuses and a beautiful piano outro. Just one question... how long can the drummer do that two kick thing without getting tired? A maniac.

Although Folkearth (international) have about twenty band members, on "The Riding of the Queen Boudiccea," luckily, you can just hear what you need to hear: flutes, loud and proud guitar melodies and convincing vocals, though with so many members, the drums still suspiciously sound like a machine. Maybe it was just a bad choice of a trigger sound, but they do detract.

"The Journey to Lyngvi," by a Belgian band called Theudho, mixes classic black and dreamy, spoken interludes enveloped in swathes of keyboards and real drums, for a change. The track sounds like a part of something, and no doubt their full-length would be worth investigating. Eight and a half minutes by Alkonost (Russia) are progressive metal rooted in Russian folk, filled with great guitar melodies and licks, and inventive drum fills. The screams are good, but we do love the Russian female vocals. Alkonost probably know that, as they are everywhere. Although "Darkness" passes mostly in the same tempo, it's possessing.

It's time for the bagpipes! Also, learn a new word — dudelsack. That's what they're called in German. We haven't heard something this powerful since In Extremo's debut, but Slartibartfass (wait... let's check again - S-l-a-r-t-i-b-a-r-t-f-a-s-s... yep, spelled it correctly) are a bit different, but equally amusing. Gotta love those Medieval outfits, too.

Oh, finally a band we know — Skyforger. "A Crested Bird Sings" (don't worry, that's just a translation) is a vocal choir mourner with a bare minimum of drums and those wooden-sounding pipes. Simply a beautiful, solemn serenade, but we wouldn't expect anything less by those Latvians.

Apparently too soon, but there's just one more track to go — "Forsaken Shores" by Sirocco (Ireland). A driving guitar melody, clean distant vocals and some decent solos make them sounding like a NWOBHM band with a progressive folk attitude. Actually, by the end of the eighth minute, it almost makes one want to wave goodbye to Metalmessage IV.

So, for a change, forget about how much music you can cram onto a CDR or a DVD, forget about your own playlists, and, if you have any interest in this kind of music whatsoever, treat yourself with something real. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

MAGELLAN - Innocent God - CD - Muse-Wrapped Records - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

We at Maelstrom love it hard, heavy, blistering, intense and insane. But just to prove that we’re not single-minded, we’ll also recommend the pansyest, wussiest, gayest albums as well. Just to prove we’re on the level, we think checking out albums like Knight Area, Black Bonzo, and now, Magellan, are good ideas. We’re extreme like that, bro.

Innocent God, stylistic preferences aside, and forthcoming critiques notwithstanding, is overall a pleasure to listen to. This is overwhelmingly from the sense of harmony the three-piece infuses its pieces with. The music is unilaterally tuneful and brimming with expertly-performed musical sense. It’s readily apparent that Magellan knows very well what it’s doing in presenting highly palpable melodies and warm, agreeable music within a progressive rock context. And it’s in the wonderful vocal lines and interplay with the instrumentation that Magellan is a winner.

That last stylistic denomination gets a little blurred, though. For all the elements that wave the prog flag, like retro keyboard tones and passages, there are reddish flags that pop up, such as scat parts and elements of funk or lite rock. These sections would be far ickier if they also didn’t benefit from the above harmoniousness, but they’re still at least slightly cringeworthy... maybe you can laugh it off with a shake of the head and a declaration of cheesiness, but maybe not.

That’s what obviously makes Innocent God a wuss affair, but the less apparent element is how the percussive element lies as close to electronica as it does to rock. The drums and percussion never sound fake or stale, but they are obviously highly processed and are there mostly for pacing. The guitars share these characteristics as, again, not being stale, per se, but largely stripped of forcefulness or intensity. Likewise, the music itself, although having some intricacy with little breaks and shifts, is mostly about backing up the vocals, which makes sense as they are marvelous: deeply trained, yet not going for the show-off histrionics that metal fans have largely become accustomed to.

Magellan is a trio, and aside from the vocals, who does what in the band is largely unspecified. Although that’s of little consequence, the characteristic of the music’s sonic qualities and roles give some insight as to the nature of Magellan’s dynamic: It seems like a very much studio project — not a band that practices and comes up with songs, working on them to improve their flow. Innocent God’s tracks lack a completeness, a sort of authenticity one can sink his or her teeth into. This loose sense of band-ness doesn’t make Innocent God fail, but it does give something more coherent to point at when things don’t quite work.

Considering the albums great strengths and obvious weaknesses, it is odd in the extreme how track 6 is an instrumental. "Sea of Details" benefits from none of Innocent God’s superb vocal work, but suffers from all its pansy, inconsequential thinness.

It’s around here that the album begins to lose hold. The last song regains a good deal of what makes Innocent God work, but when the track ends, there’s an empty, incomplete feeling, like there was something accidentally left out, or that Magellan didn’t quite see the writing of the album all the way to the end.

It’s been several months since we first got Innocent God to review. I liked it a good deal at first, but found that the album erred in repeating lyrical themes within each song too much — and as much as it was a delight to take in Magellan’s superb application of harmony, the repetitive nature of the songs prevented the album from becoming a lasting favorite. Coming back to it months later, I am again struck with how wonderfully the band has crafted its sound, but the album’s shortcomings are as clear as ever. With all this said, Innocent God has made me enough of a fan that I have lala.com’ed two other Magellan albums, and enjoyed those. Can you take your prog with a very heavy dose of wimpiness? Give this one a try. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
5.9/10 Mladen
 

EYES OF EDEN - Faith - CD - Century Media Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

This kind of "metal light" should have no problems fitting into the scheme of any European TV station's rock hour. Symphonic, bombastic, female-fronted... ring a bell? What separates Eyes of Eden from the rest are the quality of the sound and the arrangements, as well as easily discernible and memorable songs. What doesn't raise them above are the obvious pop pretences, as nine out of ten songs stay safely within the pop songwriting cliche.

Eyes of Eden don't come out of nowhere — they have a pedigree of sorts. The main man is none other but Waldemar Sorychta. Of course you've heard the name, and it's hard not to remember a name like that. The man is famous for his producing (and sometimes co-writing) albums for names such as Lacuna Coil, Sentenced, Moonspell or Samael. Just for the studio, they hired Gas Lipstick of HIM to do the drumming, and the rest of the line-up is completed by not one but two women — quite talented (besides being blonde and curvaceous) singer Franziska Huth and the bassist (the same but dark-haired) Alla Fedynitch.

Every song on Faith just begs for a presentation in video form. They start seductively, with Huth's vocals sounding like an Oriental-tinged version of Lacuna Coil. Then, they engage tension-building keyboards, samples or violins, and turn into a full, catchy chorus. All of them are original, memorable and unique, but sadly none of the songs are so as a whole. You've heard it before: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, a breakbeat section, chorus, chorus, outro.

And what if you actually saw one of the imaginary videos and wished to hear more? It's common knowledge that some bands use shortened versions of their tracks just to keep the videos' lengths TV-friendly. Eyes of Eden don't have to: three or four minutes is all you get, every time. And it turns out that Faith is actually just a collection of "hits" but nothing more than that. Sure, they are nice to listen to, and if you've heard one on the radio you wouldn't want to turn it off. But if you wanted to hear anything more engaging, adventurous or emotional, you'd have to look elsewhere. Even the ten-minute tenth track, an exception to the rule, just passes by like all the others before it.

Then again, if you feel like watching a goth-metal competition with just one band doing all the tracks, go for it. (5.9/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Brandon
 

FALASCHI, EDU - Almah - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Brandon Strader

Edu Falaschi, the current vocalist for the brilliant power metal group Angra, has come out with his debut solo-album. Thankfully, his solo project is not an Angra clone as you probably would have guessed. Of course, his voice is quite familiar if you’re a fan of Angra, but that is really the only thing that creates any similarities.

"Take Back Your Spell" in particular sounds like something from Angra’s Rebirth, as the chorus section is very happy and triumphant. Falaschi’s vocals are as great as ever.

Strangely enough, this project does feature three members of Angra in its ranks: the bassist, keyboardist, and drummer, yet they have managed to create something distinct and fresh with this project. "Forgotten Land" is a pleasant ballad with a soft vocal performance, and the round chirp of a fretless bass guitar swimming in the background.

Each song is incredibly melodic and layered to such a large extent that it really creates a very engaging experience. It’s been along time since I’ve napped in the dark with headphones on, and Almah was totally worthy.

Possibly the only complaint I could really claim for Almah is that the nerdish song entitled "Scary Zone" is not quite scary enough. Even this song manages to sound happy. That dynamic of darkers ounding material is vacant, yet it is not a problem with this album.

You can’t be depressed all the time, and the performances — especially the guitar and keyboard solos — sound like they were incredibly fun to pull off. That’s the word: fun. The keyboard elements add a bit more emotional value to the songs during their melodic climaxes. As a result of this, the music becomes a very powerful experience. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Pal
 

FARSOT - IIII - CD - Lupus Lounge - 2007

review by: Pal Meentzen

Farsot is Swedish for "epidemic." As if evading the disenchantment of real life in all its mundane-ness, all the band’s members have chosen to encode their common names: The vocalist goes by the name of 10.XIXt . The others have the lesser appealing names of 3818.w and Pi: 1T 5r (the 2 guitarists), v.03/170 (on bass) and R 215k (on the drums). It’s obvious that the choice for the coolest name with roman numerals went to the vocalist. The other names may not sound very wild, but there surely must be something intellectual, mysterious and sexy about the profoundness of such semi-kabbalistic nicknames. It seems to indicate a desire to re-define the term underground and avoid tired old clichés like members calling themselves Lord Goatmaster or Count Hellhammer or Captain fokkin’ Scarlet.

However, this is a great sounding debut (by the help of V. Santura from Dark Fortress). Farsot are certainly comparable to Lupus Lounge stablemates Secrets of the Moon, with lyrics that are highly philosophical, though much more accessible, except for those who don’t understand the German lyrics.

There are four main themes on this album: hate, fear, death and sorrow. Hence the simple title IIII. The main themes are connected with three short atmospherical interludes, thus being called Hate-Fear, Fear-Death and Death-Sorrow. Yes, many will think this doesn’t seem to be quite the showcase for originality and it isn’t particulary proven otherwise by the presence of plenty of those tired, old Darkthrone beats. There are also some parts where the vocals are delivered full of anguish and despair in the style of early Burzum. Unfortunately, those particular moments are so derived and downright silly that each time the notion of skipping ahead can barely be repressed.

Farsot’s philosophy deals about the human psyche and the negative emotions resulting from the passing of someone who is close to the heart. These emotions blur the ability to distinguish right from wrong and just from unjust, yet while considering death to be the final stage of things.

It is good that within the realm of black metal we can encounter more and more reflective variants like Farsot, but before the listener would feel an urge to delve into the psyche of the band, Farsot should be sure that their music is sufficiently up to par. I think that production-wise it certainly is, but musically I don’t think they have pulled it off as much as they could have. The musical ideas are there plentiful and highlighted in the massive 20-minute long final song, but Farsot’s music doesn’t (yet) stand out in the variant of intellectual black metal. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
9.3/10 Ignacio
 

END OF LEVEL BOSS - Inside the Difference Engine - CD - Exile on Mainstream Records - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

End of Level Boss, or the bastard child of stoner rock, grunge, Tool and Meshuggah-styled polymeters, has released a new album, after their seriously underrated debut that stunned definitely too few people when compared to what it should have done if more people had heard it.

They haven't lost their touch, thankfully. Even while they are more influenced by modern stoner bands now, they still hold those tastefully crafted harmonizations over the monster riffs they've played for just a few years. They also have the polymeters that basically set them away from the lump of stoner rock bands copying the same four or five bands (say, Unida, Kyuss, Nebula, Queens of the Stone Age, Acid King...) and made them far more appealing to metal nerds than to metal tough guys in leather jackets and chains.

End of Level Boss is still a nerdy band, videogame-related name and all, and that's precisely what's good about them: they can play metal without being faux-satanists, "I'mma beat you up" airheads or cliquist trend-followers. And don't forget the whole "End of Level Boss plays a lot more than open-low-E-string-bashing riffs," either. Speaking of which, I dare you to find a normal riff here. You won't. And that's why you’ll love End of Level Boss.

Their songs? Still as good as ever, full of riffs as heavy as a sumo wrestler each, with the punch of a three-time heavyweight champion and the counterpoint-sense of a professional musician on LSD. You've heard things remotely similar, but you haven't heard anything like this until you've heard both Prologue and Inside the Difference Engine. And there's a humongous difference between their debut album and this one: it actually feels like an album. So take almost everything that was good about Prologue, polish it, remove most jazz interludes (the only bad move of the album, I'd say) and you've got Inside the Difference Engine.

But what takes the cake are the progressive polymeter-based riffs on the first and fourth track... and the whole face-splitting, earth-shattering monster of a closing song. Goddamn, stoner's never been quite like this. No, really, get it if only for the those three tracks, although their other tracks are totally great as well. (9.3/10)

 

 

 

 
8.4/10 Ignacio
 

BLACK SWANS, THE - Change! - CD - La Societé Expeditionnaire - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

It's always nice to hear an artist that doesn't need to tie himself to whatever age he's living in. Objective analysis aside, the world has enough bands playing retro-garage or whatever, so Change! comes off as a great, albeit not perfect, change of pace.

Leonard Cohen-ized Bob Dylan mixed with country, traditional folk and Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd, it can't be said that Change! is normal, but it's certainly easy to understand. Simple song structures and brilliantly crafted string arrangements turn something potentially boring into a perfect album for those nights where you just don't want to sleep. It's almost as if rock would have never happened and big cities just didn't exist. Change! is atemporal, but not anachronic.

But even if it seems simple on the outside, it is not. Nothing at all is done in the usual "rock-gone-country" way, since arrangements are perfectly fit for every instrument (and not just transposed to its range) and the songs are not just made for the vocals specifically, or to be heavy or crazy for the sake of having a "full" sound (like we've seen many rock bands doing as of lately). The songs are obviously composed in particular, not just batch-produced. And it shows, since every single one of them features something for you to remember after you've listened to it, be it a great violin part or a vocal line so good you just want to listen to it again. Even when sometimes it doesn't sound full at all (in fact, it often sounds like there were more musicians but some left the venue), the empty feeling of the music ends up being positive for the album as a whole. Change! really is a change itself.

Change! is the outsider version of those pre-rock troubadours that were well-known just because their lyrics were intelligent... except that in this case, it's the music that counts. But that also means the vocals, like in those times, are a little bit uncared for and take many spins to get used to. But ignoring that, The Black Swans’ Change! is a damn good record, fun but also polished and mature. Fans of outsider music will love this. (8.4/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Mladen
 

BRING ME THE HORIZON - This is What the Edge of Your Seat Was Made For - CD - Earache Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

No, don't go to school. You could die tomorrow and, on your deathbed, wouldn't you regret the time you wasted? Don't get a job. Play hardcore instead, live every day as if it was your last, sleep wherever they want you, fuck groupies, party and don't care about the future.

It's probably easy for Bring Me the Horizon. Their expensive-looking instruments and tattoos have probably fallen from the sky (except for the bassist, who doesn't thank God but Satan — he probably worked for them). So, what did they do with them? They filled the 18 minutes of their CD — no, not gonna write all that again — with pretty much one chord, playing percussive hardcore breaks, and added a hardcore lick or two between those. One groovy part per song (four of them). The singer does his nasty screams to complete the sound picture, and that's it.

It takes more time to read all the juvenile statements written inside the booklet, including quite educational instructions about bloodletting (Really, if you cook HIV-infected meat, is it still dangerous to eat?) than to absorb the music. Basic hardcore stripped down to percussion, guitar squeaks and screams, played by the band, who apparently enjoys their "meaningful" noise. It's a pity that Bring me the Horizon know of only two alternatives in life, and it translated into only two ingredients to make songs of. Kids, enjoy it while it lasts. (3.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Ignacio
 

AIR - Pocket Symphony - CD - EMI - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

Air's career has been accompanied by a fair amount of hype, but their constant style changes have rendered it a little useless. After all, their releases are nothing like each other. 10,000khz was grandiose, while Talkie Walkie was a three times more polished version of their poppiest attempts. Pocket Symphony is no 10,000Hz Legend, no Talkie Walkie, and no Moon Safari, that's for sure, but it's no Virgin Suicides either, even if it bears more resemblance to the American film's soundtrack than to those other "stand-alone" Air releases.

Pocket Symphony works like a soundtrack, not like a symphony. It's not a concept album, but it certainly feels like one. There's a sense of progression from song to song that wasn't found at all on 10,000hz Legend, and even less on the pop-oriented, song-based, Talkie Walkie. Not to say that it's not a pop album; Air's always been a pop band, like it or not, but they are not, well, commercial; they don't need to shove cheesy love songs down your throat... just snob love songs or songs about Japan's sea... or something. But anyway, Pocket Symphony is one of those albums that works only if you're paying attention, and if you listen to it from beginning to end more than once.

Both stylistically and compositionally, Pocket Symphony is quite a big departure from the catchy songs and simple but effective hooks of Talkie Walkie: this is everything but simple. It is effective and catchy, too, though not as much as before, but even the simplest songs are made by layers and layers of acoustic guitars, vocals, the typical Air synths and whatever else they felt like playing. Also, the chord progressions are more Erik Satie or even more like their own "Surfing on a Rocket." The biggest change, however, is that their sound is way more organic than their previous albums. Synths are now in the background, guitar playing on the foreground, and the multilayered vocals on top of it all. Even in the songs where they would have used synths as the lead instrument, like on "Mer du Japon," the guitar's still at the center, and it works.

Well, the whole album _works_, it's just a little bit less Air than anything else they've done, even if just as brilliant. The only problem is that the singing on about half of the songs is there just so they can say their album isn't mostly instrumental; songs like "Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping" didn't really need vocals.

Fans of their first releases might like Pocket Symphony more than Talkie Walkie, but fans of their "Surfing on a Rocket"-like stuff will probably hate the technically much superior Pocket Symphony because it doesn't really have the same accessible, ‘80s-gone-French-pop sound. (8.5/10)

PS: Note: I totally hate the Opendisc crap they put on Air albums. You know, I bought Talkie Walkie so I could listen to it on my own PC, but it was easier just to listen to the MP3 version of it, and it seems like they pulled off that shit here too. Gah.

 

 

 

 
2/10 Mladen
 

ANNIHILATOR - Metal - CD - SPV - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

How many similar albums have Annihilator released since, say, King of the Kill, way back in 1994? Was it seven or eight... wait, scratch that. How many EXACTLY THE SAME albums did they release? Enough is enough. Even Jeff Waters realized that. For Metal, he teamed up with some of his equally famous friends to make things a little different this time around. The names are well-known: Jeff Loomis (Nevermore), Angela Gossow and Michael Amott (Arch Enemy), Alexi Laiho (Children of Bodom), Jesper Stromblad (In Flames), Anders Bjorler (The Haunted), Danko Jones, Corey Beaulieu (Trivium... hey, two guest appearances for this guy in the same issue of Maelstrom). There's Dave Padden behind the microphone, and whoa, Mike Mangini on drums! And Waters states that Metal was written in the same mindset he had while writing legendary first four albums. Sounds cool?

No. It still sounds THE SAME. Exactly the same. The same robotic hyper accurate rhythm guitar, the same riffs, the same downright stupid lyrics, and if there are any guests they don't make a significant difference. In extreme music, being cold and emotionless is okay — it's one of the extremes — if there's a purpose behind it. But not if you're just going on and on about how you love metal using a robotic voice and backed up by... something.

Most of the music on Metal sounds as if someone had taken a MIDI sequencer, done a lot of copying and pasting, and played it through a shoddy synthesizer. But music this bland wouldn't even be suitable for a videogame soundtrack. If you've heard any Annihilator released during the last decade you'll know exactly what the composition will be, where the solos enter and how many times will something be repeated. Yes, the solos are fantastic, but is this anything other than some sort of a guitar-karaoke contest? You know, there's the drum machine, the guitar machine, the bass machine and the singer machine, now take the guitar and shred!

Any drum machine you've heard plays more innovative than Mike Mangini does on this album. Worst drumming ever, no contest. No fills, rolls or unexpected crashes either. I can't believe what I'm saying, but... may I have AT LEAST some metalcore instead? Just embarrassing. (2/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Carnival Diablos (issue No 2)  

 

 

 
3/10 Mladen
 

ARISE AND RUIN - The Final Dawn - CD - Victory Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

It won't make a big footnote in music history, but one of the things 2007 will be remembered by will be numerous metalcore bands struggling to remain important by incorporating more and more old-school influences, technical competence and more diverse song structures.

Latest example: Arise and Ruin. Even looking at the artwork, it's clear where these five Americans try to go — pointless band name, a dark digital image with some kind of a coat of arms... and two horses — okay, one point in originality for the horsies. Other than that, it's the same old same old. You've got Swedish riffs and sound, you've got Meshuggah riffs, you've got the mouthy growler and finally the confused drummer.

What you don't get is the songs. Now, at least twice in this issue I've complained how the bands with basic pop structures ought to be shot. Now it's time to complain about the opposite: playing one part after the other without noticeable dynamics, tempo changes or just some plain old adrenalin exhilaration is just as bad. Don't do that, either.

One example would be the opening track: Why bringing false hopes and starting a song like fast openings of Gorefest or Vomitory if you're just gonna go into some staccato, then slower and slower into "powerful" slow chords and end it like there was no beginning at all? And that's the one good song on The Final Dawn. The others just go in their set tempos and still everything seems static. The structures can be diverse, as already said, but the parts don't really have a connection between each other. Sincerity and memorability are non-existent, and the only points of some interest will be the Meshuggah parts, admittedly quite imaginative. But they sound like they don't belong on The Final Dawn. Now, make an album from just these and we'll talk.

For just some non-demanding thrashing, Arise and Ruin do a decent job. Now someone tell me what's the point in waiting for all those bands to finally admit that there's better music right now, just like there was before, and that they are really going nowhere. Will all this simply disappear the way nu-metal did, or slowly evolve into something unexpected? Keep an eye on the reviews in 2008. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

ARTISIAN - Seargte Le Reothadh - CD - Infernus Rex - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Strange. Artisian are trying to do one thing but they semi-inadvertently end up sounding like something different. Listening to Seargte Le Reothadh feels like discovering a prosperous young Pagan band. There are heathen charges, marches and battles, accompanied by battle shrieks and packed into short, easily discernible songs. The riffs are sincere and straightforward, the composition is a bit haphazard and the sound is raw, warm, underproduced and thick. The drums are barely audible when going for blastbeats, and unproduced altogether. The guitar sounds quite unusual: not great, but with a distinctive distortion and a curious midrange buzz. Artisian could be an interesting newcomer playing very convincing Gaelic black metal.

But they are not. Actually, Artisian are a London-based trio trying to play classic black metal, inspired by Satan, sex and sodomy. In spite of the album title, there are very few Gaelic references — namely the titles of two instrumentals and a couple of lyrical parts dealing with nature. They had a couple of releases prior to Seargte le Reothadh, which means that they aren't exactly a new band.

In the end, it's hard to tell whether the music and sound are in fact intentional, or altogether a product of a sloppy accident. Maybe Artisian just don't know what they are trying to do, and the forests and landscapes in the artwork prove that they are suggesting one thing and singing about another. A slight reassessment of intentions could do wonders. The audience deserves to know what exactly they are listening to. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
2.7/10 Ignacio
 

CALIBRE ZERO - Derrotando Miedos - CD - myspace.com/calibrezero - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

I'd love to know where the machine that pumps out generic traditional heavy metal bands is, just to turn it off for some years. Dammit, it's almost 2008, do we really need NWOBHM, Ride the Lightning Metallica clone bands and boring Pentagram soundalikes? That whole period ended about 20 years ago, we should be quite a bit past that. I mean, imagine if I copied a review I wrote two years ago, changed some words, changed the band's name, and put it here?

Wouldn't it be...you know, kind of unethical? Well, that's precisely what I think about bands that do that kind of stuff, and it's worse because they actually spend hours and hours working on their version of an old band without ever getting near their level. Now, if they actually did get as good as them, it'd start being worth it.

So, yeah, Calibre Zero is just that, a faster Pentagram that sometimes sounds just like a refined amateur Metallica cover band. The drums, the riffs, the bass playing, everything's generic, the vocals are quite unpleasant, and the songwriting, as uninspiring as the genre has seen. The lo-fi production is actually good to hear, since the guitar tone gets quite doomy, but as soon as the vocals start, everything gets torn into pieces and it's the same old boring badgroovefest of every track. Don't forget the fact that every single song is the same, save for some isolated moments of decent music on less than three tracks, and you've got a metal album that lacks in every single aspect. Also, overdubbing, equalization, any kind of effects or production... those are clearly all faggot, non-metal things! It’s a way better idea to make a record that sounds like it was recorded on the fly with Garage Band. So good luck trying to distinguish song from song... and trying to remember this band some weeks from now.

I could be idealistic and say that Calibre Zero might suddenly start playing original music, but I doubt it; most traditional metal projects never change. Playing traditional metal often ends up being a mindset, not just a genre choice. After all, doing unoriginal music is about the easiest thing you can do. As it is, Calibre Zero is not good, maybe only for hardcore completionist fans of mid period Black Sabbath, but it certainly doesn't work here. Not at all. (2.7/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Pal
 

COLOSSEUM - Chapter I: Delirium - CD - Firebox Records - 2007

review by: Pal Meentzen

This is the debut from the mastermind of Finland based band called Yearning, with the aim to create the most bleak and funeral atmospheres through music — darkest hymns for a forlorn soul, diving into the deepest abyss of the mind. Colosseum presents doom metal with the strong influences from both dark ambient and orchestral works melted together. Some of the musical influences cited are acts like Dead Can Dance and Lustmord.

Not too long ago a friend of mine, to whom I demonstrated the drone metal of Sunn0))), asked me to notify him when I would come across stuff as similary eccentric. I think that I will have a willing ear for the work of this peculiar band Colosseum. Never before have I heard a band playing at a pace as "crippled pedestrian" as on Chapter I: Delirium.

While the cover design of Chapter 1: Delirium looks as drab as the name sounds, there is an immense and dreamlike world hiding underneath. Right from the start, the listener is welcomed by a swelling and deep monster-of-a-grunt that guides him through six spheres of terrifying, orchestral and monolithic sadness and desolation. And to my great pleasure, those deep vocals from Juhani Palomäki are consistent throughout and are never alternated by unwanted cleanliness or any other mood other than what is appropriate. Very, very good. Palomäki’s depth is of a quality seriously challenging those of Chris Barnes from Six Feet Under.

The lyrics are about wandering in the realms of suicidal depression, delirium and (for those in the know) Sumerian / Lovecraftian myths and ghastly depths evoked by the dismal atmosphere of the music.

I’d heartily recommend this to all you misery-loving wretches hailing the likes of Xasthur, yet not waiting for a mere disciple. The sadness and beauty of these dirges dragging along at a dazzling 20bpm can do nothing but entangle you in a black shroud. The musical pieces are quite long, ranging from 6:40 to a massive 13 minutes.

It’s possible that some may not like the extreme slowness, but I’d suggest the listener to digest Chapter 1: Delirium like one single piece divided in sub-sections, similar to concertos in classical music. Every subsequent song serves to delve deeper into the mood Colosseum tries to convey. One may argue that the album suffers from a general kind of uniformity, but I think it is pretty evident that this album wasn’t intended to be a work of dazzling variation.

There are plenty of very serene melodies combined with the carefully dosed grunts that keep me satisfied in these dark evenings of a cold and rainy winter time. Top stuff. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.9/10 Chaim
 

FEN - Ancient Sorrow - CD - Northern Silence Production - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

Ah, what a lovely mini album!

Fen’s Ancient Sorrow abounds with the granular, hazy guitars of shoegazing rock intertwined with black metal rasps and dark, beautiful harmonies.

Imagine Slowdive playing a brand of ethereal black-oriented metal, or, alternately, if Arcturus had only dared to move another step further on Aspera Hiems Symfonia, slowing down their fast parts and sort of "dirtying" their sound a little bit. Are Fen such good a band that I even dare comparing their three-song album to mighty Arcturus's debut? They definitely are.

Fen have recorded a fine and singular mini album whose characteristics are both class, catchiness and a rare take on the aesthetics of sound and production. This is musicianship at the crest of its creation, where both this reviewer and underground music is concerned. Not necessarily in the sense of execution or grand, pompous arrangements, but rather in the ability of capturing the essence of atmosphere and melancholy and delivering them in the form of the most beautiful of musical packages. (8.9/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

FORESHADOWING, THE - Days of Nothing - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Days of Nothing has everything: the sound, the melodies, the diverse, compact and well memorable songs, the musicianship and the arrangements. Everything is as good as it can possibly be. Really. But it won't let you near. If there's one thing it lacks, it's hope.

Hopeless is the key word in trying to enjoy The Foreshadowing's debut. You can't. It is beautiful, no question, and you can listen to it many, many times and every time there'll be a new subtle, slow melody waiting to be discovered. In time, Days of Nothing will grow on you. You'll know exactly where and how all the details will come. But... should you, or would you want it to grow on you? That's a different affair.

The press material mentions something about "atom-sphere of apocalyptic tragedy and alienation from humanity and everyday life with a moody and powerful music" and for a change, this time it's true. An Italian band made out of (ex) members of Klimt 1918, Grimness, Spiritual Front and How Like a Winter, The Foreshadowing vaguely sounds like something between My Dying Bride, Anathema and Katatonia. The quality is the same, but the mood of desolation and pointlessness almost surpasses them.

Where the aforementioned bands still have some catchy parts, or at least bring their misery in gusts of power, The Foreshadowing avoid any attempts at such things. The music is powerful, but not in a positive way, rather trying to make its point by staying distant and just describe the feelings of sinking into oblivion. There are some things on the way down, some things that look like you could grab them and save yourself, but they all turn out to be just games of light and shade. Sure, the repetitive guitar or keyboard melodies are sort of catchy, the drums, in places, can even be described as wild. But once they get your attention they won't make you feel any better. To be blunt, let's simply say they are miserable and good at being it.

Marco Benevento is a superb singer. The vocal lines float somewhere in the darkness, occasionally closing in to make a really standout phrase, yet this voice has no warmth even when it is doing things that would normally make you grab a lighter and sing along. It's not irritating, affecting or trying to cause compassion. Benevento just sings what he feels, like it or not.

Liking Days of Nothing or not could turn out to be a tough decision. It really deserves attention, but the more it reveals, the more it alienates. Get it, just in case, and when you start thinking the things are coming to an end, you'll have a trustworthy companion. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Mladen
 

GENOCIDE - Apocalyptic Visions - CD - Ván - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

According to Encyclopaedia Metallum, Genocide (Ger) from Germany should not be confused with Genocide (Ger) from Germany or Genocide (Ger), also from Germany. Got that?

Now let's see what this Genocide is about:

"We must secure the total extermination of ALL RACES and a future for NONENTITY."

Nice.

"This piece of blasphemous intolerance was recorded and mixed at Studio Panzerklang within three days beginning with the 1974th anniversary of the bastard's crucifixion."

Well said. What could the lyrics be about, then?

"In agony the bastard cries, My god, why did you leave me? Your god is dead and will forever be." "Suffer shall the lambs of god, while we're spilling holy blood. Tormenting the holy trinity, torturing in infinity." Curiously, there are no lyrics for the last track apart from "Eternal Holycaust. Dedicated to all church-burnings worldwide."

Life just wouldn't be the same without knowing this, right?

And what about the music? Absolutely standard (read: classic) lo-fi black metal. Either Darkthrone on speed, or Hellhammer with an extra bass drum and very persistent cymbals. The scream delivery is quite sparse and early Burzum-like. There's not much to be said about the sound apart from the facts that you can hear everything, and the volume levels are just right. It's not that your life wouldn't be the same without it, but there's just about enough diversity to keep a misanthrope occupied for the whole eleven tracks.

The songwriting and musicianship are on the sloppy uncontrolled side, but that's one part of the charm. No need to point out the target audience an album like The Final Dawn would be aimed at, right? You could do much worse than checking out Genocide (the German one, of course). (6/10)

 

 

 

 
7.9/10 Mladen
 

GRÄUEN PESTANZ/MIASMA - Into the Fire of Isolation - CD - Black Plague Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Into the Fire of Isolation almost doesn't feel like a split release. In spite of their opposite approaches to black metal, Gräuen Pestanz (Florida) and Miasma (Canada) perfectly complement each other. Wisely, the CD was not split into two halves — instead, it features tracks by both bands alternating.

When Miasma starts with "Into the Fire," it's a slow, misanthropic, hardly listenable (in a good way) hell. The simple drumbeat never changes the tempo, but the two bass drums that come in after a while add all the necessary intensity. But it's all about the trebly guitars. In their own dimension, jangling and painful, highly distorted but very sustained, they are a first-class black metal nightmare. Along with the spiteful, distorted screams, they create an environment in which everything slowly, hypnotically, marches into oblivion...

...and in the oblivion, Gräuen Pestanz await. Deep, abysmal rumbling noise, howling winds carrying the voices of the condemned. A counterpart to Miasma's painful sound, the Gräuen Pestanz lower-frequency atmosphere is almost a relief. Or it could have been, if it wasn't so short and unpleasant. Then it's Miasma again, and "Reaching for Choronzon" sees them change into something quite similar to Gräuen Pestanz, but echoed against the wall of fire — this band really deserves the name.

Gräuen Pestanz respond with even more demonic voices on "Ritus Excessum," evoking the apocalypse — and, with apocalypse, Miasma responds. Obviously, it's a drum machine, but the hyper-long hyperblast of the bass drum(s) serves the purpose, just as the classic opening black metal melody of "Formless Reflection" does.

Finally, on the last track, called "Shadow's Being," Gräuen Pestanz show that they are not just an ambient drone band and introduce guitars, blasts and screams to create the culmination point of Into the Fire of Isolation. Completely unexpected, misanthropically perfect, the track almost sounds as merging of the two bands into one.

A very curious release it is, and, as such, Into the Fire of Isolation will no doubt get way more spins than some usual split-CD. And deservedly so. Although they have some releases on their own, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea if Gräuen Pestanz and Miasma did some more work together. (7.9/10)

 

 

 

 
3.3/10 Ignacio
 

GREAT DECEIVER, THE - Life is Wasted on the Living - CD - Deathwish Records - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

Tough guy hardcore and metalcore are just like those cheap Coke rip-offs: you might find a good one once every some years, but most of the time it's not worth it, as you'd have to go through millions of shitty brands just to find that one. Those rip-offs also tend to be mass-manufactured for fast and cheap income, with little to no attention to details like the package, efficient design or, well, the fact that it surely tastes like shit, and it'll surely leave a bad aftertaste. So... why not just buy Coke?

See the relation? This particular brand of tough guy hardcore and metalcore is mass-manufactured for the sake of easy profit with no attention to the fact that the music is as bland as humanly possible, and the genre's big names are good enough as to not need the clones. The Great Deceiver is just a clone, nothing more. The saddest part about it, and you might get a shock here, is that The Great Deceiver's vocalist is... At the Gates', Lock Up's and Skitsystem's vocalist, Tomas Lindberg. Yep, the band responsible for some brilliant melodic death metal albums, the great death / grind band and the punk band. Right.

Take mid-period In Flames or At the Gates, remove any single trace of actual riffs, add cheap generic metalcore vocals, cheaper mosh breakdowns and the cheapest songwriting you can find and there you go, Life is Wasted on the Living. See those harmonizations over there? Totally lifted from At the Gates.

I'm guessing that there is in fact just one metalcore band producing all those records, seeing as they are all so generic that I doubt their fans even remember their band names, let alone their songs. So, yeah, even ignoring all that, The Great Deceiver’s music is full of lackluster riffs, uninspiring melodies, horrible one-note vocals, nu-metalish rhythms here and there, and some really terrible choruses. And don't you forget: actually tonal rhythms are banned by metalcore law, your riffs must be as dissonant as possible, but only by repetition you can turn them into actual riffs. And, of course, well-done dissonance is prohibited as well, so you can only use drop-d powerchords with no relation whatsoever between them (you're too tough for coherent chord progressions, remember?) and leads that go nowhere (sense of direction? that thing's for music majors, you're a METALCORE MUSICIAN!). Trust me, you'll want old At the Gates back as soon as you press play, and you'll only get it back for... three minutes, at most, in total.

Anyway, cheap jokes aside, Life is Wasted on the Living is bad. Or maybe not _that_ horrible, but overly generic, with no redeeming value, boring, filler from start to end save some select few songs, and dammit, I've heard those songs some hundred times already — make some new ones. I'd understand it if this were just an amateur band, but they are not. (3.3/10)

PS: "intensity of hardcore, the power of metal, and the hook-laden repetition of industrial, into a new kind of musical apocalypse"? More like "the retardation of tough-guy hardcore, the worst elements of post-2000 metal, some random background noises of industrial, into the same kind of melodic death / metalcore you've heard for years, with just some decent parts here and there."

 

 

 

 
4.7/10 Mladen
 

HÄIVE - Mieli Maassa - CD - Northern Silence Production - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

It's unmistakably Finnish, from the beginning to the end, but Mieli Maassa could have been better. Considering that Häive is a one-man band with Varjosielu playing the electric and acoustic guitar, bass, drums, piano, mouth-harp and a self-made 10-string kantele (Don't know what it is but it sounds vicious, doesn't it?), one would expect much more. For the first official release, Varjosielu has done only the clean vocals, and a session member called Noitavasara was in charge of the screams.

There's nothing terribly wrong, but after the first couple of songs, Mieli Maassa just seems to slowly fade away. In the beginning, there is an ambient clean instrumental clearly evoking all of the thousand Finnish lakes, and there are a few more interludes of the kind... but just interludes. The opening riffs hint at glorious things to come, slow, folk-inspired and powerful. And then you spend the rest of the playing time waiting for something equally memorable. But all the doomy parts follow one by one, and none of them overly memorable or original. Just standard. And the interludes just prove to be empty.

So, all the time you are getting something resembling Moonsorrow or Bathory — which should have had yours truly salivating over Mieli Maassa — and the vocals are admittedly very interesting (well Finnish, is a very interesting language when you hear someone scream it) but the story doesn't progress or reveal its intentions. It's almost as if Mieli Maassa is deliberately lazy when it has to be — and also when it shouldn't.

There should have been more of the revealing details, really. The artwork (also done by Varjosielu) is very nice, indeed: light-brown impressions from nature and the countryside. The atmosphere is also very appealing, with a sincere, not overproduced but powerful sound. And the song titles come in six "rainas," whatever that is — but that's all.

Curiously, Häive translates into "trace," but if the intention was to leave significant traces, or at least traces by which the listener would be drawn into investigating the story a bit further, there should have been some inside the actual music as well. (4.7/10)

 

 

 

 
6.7/10 Mladen
 

HAVOC UNIT - h.IV+ (Hoarse Industrial Viremia) - CD - Vendlus - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Admittedly, the first contact with the new incarnation of ...And Oceans, Havoc Unit, wasn't promising. There was one song called "With Discipline Upon Mankind" on the Synaesthesia compilation, reviewed in Maelstrom #56. It was an exercise in average militant industrial, and, frankly, anyone could have done it. It's a relief to report that it was just their first track and Havoc Unit very well know what they are trying to do. For most of their debut album, h.IV+, there are no traces of that track whatsoever.

And what do Havoc Unit do? Employ machines against Christianity. The first track has an Arabic title (in Arabic writing as well), beginning with some (Islamic?) proclamation and kicks into a thoroughly surprising industrial soundscape. The rhythm machine plays almost scattershot beats, the half-growls, half-screams follow their own patterns, and the guitars and synthesized noises whirl around, squeezing and releasing, saturating and desaturating the sound... the rhythm... everything.

On "I.esus," the mid tempo grinding attack continues to amaze, leaving the listener with not a single second of easiness. "When Snuff is not Enough" follows, and by the time it ends with some old guy's speech about raising the highest of all accusations against Christianity (yes, we know it's a quote from Nietzsche), h.IV+ sounds like one of the most exciting, innovative albums of the year.

But only until the fifth track, unfortunately. "Viremia" is a nice slow mechanical ambient track, but six minutes is just too much. The follow-up, called "Kyrie Eleison," raises up the speed stakes with some damn fine sounding blastbeats and h.IV+ regains its impact. After another two-minute interlude, track number eight, "Man vs. Flesh," sounds like a brutalized version of Fear Factory, but far too simplified when compared with the first four tracks. Still, if h.IV+ ended right here, it would have been a far better album.

On this kind of an album, clean singing is bound to sound inappropriate, especially if introduced as early as four tracks before the end, and "Ignoratio Elenchi" sounds like a loud pop song from out of nowhere. And, slow Die Krupps songs are quite fine if you're Die Krupps, but not after the intensity fest that was the beginning of h.IV+ — "Kill All Nations" wasn't necessary apart from the title. A piano instrumental and two tracks to go, but it is questionable whether Havoc Unit kept them for the end just because they were uninspired and simplified or the nature of the album really demanded it.

Be it this or that way, Havoc Unit have plenty of potential and a somewhat clear vision, but apparently not enough for a whole album. (6.7/10)

 

 

 

 
8.6/10 Roberto
 

BELENOS - Chemins de Souffrance - CD - Northern Silence Production - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Black metal fans are all well-versed in the existence of one-man bands. It’s to the extent that it’s become a pseudo-genre upon itself: the musicianship tends to be decent at best (particularly if the dude also plays the drums), and there’s a heavy focus on "atmosphere" to fill in the gaps of technical proficiency. And that’s cool.

Belenos is way different. It’s sole member, Loic Cellier, plays all the core metal instruments, and plays them to a very high degree of skill. It’s like he must have dedicated himself to being a one-man black metal band ever since his pre-school days when adults would ask what he wanted to be when he grew up. There’s no doubt Cellier must have come out of the womb, inverted, and with horns raised.

Belenos’ music is a tight blur of black metal that draws much of its ideological — and therefore musical — inspiration from Paganism. (Belenos himself was one of the Gallic pantheon’s primary gods.) As such, Chemins de Souffrance’s songs are aggressive and proud hymns of worship to fantastical, culturally ancient times.

Practically, this translates to dense, high-speed melodies driven by blastbeats, and healthy doses of gang Pagan / Viking background choruses, that bring to mind another brilliant Francophone one-man project, Mirrorthrone. Wisely, Cellier doesn’t pace his music at full-blast all the time, and includes some time for reflection during ambient breakdowns with an almost brittle, shifting, shimmering guitar tonality, that remind of the foremost one-man black metal band of them all, Burzum, from the quintessential Filosofem album.

Chemins de Souffrance nails a wonderful mix of intensity, control, and stirring cultural pride within a scathing black metal context. Wonderful. (8.6/10)

 

 

 

 
3.9/10 Mladen
 

MONARKH - Rites Profanes - CD - Numen Malevolum Barathri Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Maybe the diehard horror movie freaks could be able to find something interesting on Monarkh’s Rites Profanes. Even better if they are on drugs. Listening to Monarkh's debut is like watching a horror movie, minus the picture, minus the plot, and minus the action.

Maybe the horror black ambient thing has been taken too far, as on the Canadian one man's project, there's nothing but the ambient. Yes, it's done correctly, sounds adequate and it obviously took some effort and imagination to do it. What Monarkh (also a member of Blackwind, Monarque and Carrion Wraith) hasn't taken into consideration are two tiny things:

First: not everyone finds the usual horror soundtracks believable. Listening to 45 minutes of artificial or digitally enhanced sounds such as low, slow rumble, more low, slow rumble, and even more low, slow rumble might not trigger everyone's imagination. There are also some distant female cries, metallic sounds, slow piano, sudden clasps and wind, but it's too much Hollywood and too little anything resembling real life (or real nightmares).

Second: from the beginning to the end, there's hardly any development unless someone finds it exciting to wait and hear what the next "unusual" sound will be. One really has to be in a special state of mind to be able to feel as if he or she is having a dark, twisted hallucination.

This writer listened to Rites Profanes about ten times, while doing something, or nothing at all, concentrated or deconcentrated, and still nothing happened. Most of you will endure the first ten minutes and run for an Elend CD instead. (3.9/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Alisa
 

NOCTURNAL RITES - The 8th Sin - CD - Century Media Records - 2007

review by: Alisa Z

It doesn’t look as if The 8th Sin will be included in the albums of the year list. It doesn't demonstrate particularly interesting traits and the singing is perhaps one of the most disappointing factors about the record. The style shifts from category to category: power metal decorated with techno beats and pop-ish features.

There are some attempted emotional parts throughout the album, but during a number of those there is simply the tangible sense of a droning sound. Just when the emotion is almost tangible, it appears to be snatched by some invisible mutant, as is the case with "Tell Me" and "Never Again."

It's a shame that this album is only mediocre, because it seems like these Swedes have talent. It's also a shame that it is a tad too dolled up. (5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Shadowland (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
7.7/10 Alisa
 

NOMINION - Remnants of a Diabolical History - CD - Pulverised Records - 2006

review by: Alisa Z

Messy and filthy, this old-school death metal record is injected with black metal junctures. While other bands are perfecting death metal into a block of sterility, Nominon remain as unkept as ever. Fast-paced guitar riffs, chunky and groove-infused at times, are accompanied by diseased vocals and a good raw drum sound.

"Invocations" and "Cemetery of Life" are both songs that incite headbanging with their violent groove. "Spit on Your Grave," a Whiplash cover, is beautiful in its fierce and swift mayhem. The album also features covers of "Live for Violence" by Voivod and "Decomposed" by Repulsion. "Diabolical Bloodshed" and "Blessed by Fire" are both schizophrenic and frantic, an element shared by all the songs to a certain extent.

No, old-school death metal is not dead. Nominon are one of those bands that makes sure that it isn't. (7.7/10)

 

 

 

 
8.3/10 Mladen
 

NIGHTS LIKE THESE - Sunlight at Secondhand - CD - Victory Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Listening to Sunlight at Secondhand feels like having pile upon pile of a damn heavy, sludgy mass shoveled upon you. I don't know what Nights Like These’s eponymous 2006 debut sounded like, but, if the reviews were correct, it was metalcore. Not any more.

The Memphis, Tennessee quintet has definitely matured. Nights Like These have found their identity within modern atmospheric hardcore, if we can call it that, and it suits them perfectly. Mostly slow-paced, the guitars have a deafening sound, and while they're going for heavy, they achieve it without losing their momentum in any of the ten songs. There aren't many classic riffs here. Instead, you get carefully layered, diverse and persuasive percussive thumps driving you through the depressive, sunless mess and building the expectations for what's next to come. And it never disappoints. Simple downstrokes sound perfectly natural and logical, and the patterns in which they exchange with the doomy thrashing make Sunlight at Secondhand an attention-grabber right from the start.

Yet, heaviness isn't the only thing Nights Like These excel at. While the guitars and the drums couldn't be any heavier than they are, the thin, crystal-like melodies take Sunlight at Secondhand into yet another direction. Innovative and curious guitar ornaments appear and disappear, mathematical in shape but natural in the way they blend in. How they manage to blend in while remaining ever so distant can remain Nights Like These's little secret. They just seem to do it.

Between the desolate gentleness and endless pressure of the music, the vocals deal with losing faith of any kind or degree. Billy Bottom's throaty growls are apparently sparse and monotonous, but in reality just persuasive in making their point. After a few spins, they just add to the general equation and make Sunlight at Secondhand a rounded, full experience. Not of a pleasant kind, granted, but you need a rude awakening once in a while. (8.3/10)

 

 

 

 
8.8/10 Roberto
 

LOCUS MORTIS - Voust - CD - Aeternitas Tenebrarum Music Foundation - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Locus Mortis’ Voust is an absolutely torrential, outstanding collection of black metal songs. The music is presented so that every note and element, either blatant or implied, comes across, resulting in a superb mix of impressions both implicit and explicit. Locus Mortis made a wise decision by not giving in to the urges that so many high-speed, technical black metal bands go for and making the sound production fancy pants. It’s precisely the amount of the implied that gives Voust so much of its success.

Locus Mortis keeps the intensity cranked up pretty much all the way throughout Voust, but it gives its music dynamics with its version of the blurry black metal melody. If Mayhem hadn’t made Chimera such a safe, simple record, it might have sounded more like Voust. Pick this one up. (8.8/10)

 

 

 

 
4.8/10 Ignacio
 

HORRIFICS, THE - Now Fear This - CD - 1031 Records - 2006

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

The Horrifics is one of those bands that are so strongly influenced by other bands that they don't show a style at all. Cliched horror punk at its best, Now Fear This is just a compilation of songs in the styles of other bands, be it Misfits or Pennywise, that are enjoyable but get tiring after a while.

See, every song here is good, albeit miles away from being perfect, but you've heard them already. I know, I know, punk often works like that, but you know it is way too much when you don't know what band you're listening to, or even if the album isn't just a compilation CDr you made some hours ago. Hell, half of the time I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't listening to Misfits or a slow-paced Dead Kennedys with far less historical importance.

But well, to be fair, The Horrifics themselves aren't bad. In fact, "Uzumaki"'s a great song, just like their faster songs, but they are not that far from being an early horror punk band or an early Japanese hardcore one. Except that there are thirty years of difference between The Horrifics and, say, The Stalin.

Also, Now Fear This suffers from the "every member only knows how to play one genre" syndrome, also known as the retro-punk syndrome, so all those riffs, melodies, vocals and drum patterns are mostly interchangeable. They do sound good when you don't listen to the whole album, but when you're listening to them for more than one track, you'll realize that they have a serious lack of variety, and they never ever do anything different from the average punk band. Which is why I say that every song is good, but they fail horribly when played together, and they lack the minimum dose of originality just to say that this album is a The Horrifics album and not a Misfits tribute album. It's been proven that you can make punk nowadays and still be good, this just isn't the way to go. (4.8/10)

 

 

 

 
1/10 Chaim
 

KNIGHTS OF THE ABYSS - Juggernaut - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

Juggernaut's self-titled opening track is a promising, ominous and dark instrumental prologue to the album.

Alas! It is only an illusion. Not long thereafter the album dwindles and becomes a pathetic display of what is called "deathcore."

It could have been half decent a recording, had Knights of the Abyss not used an inadequate vocalist (how inadequate? He tries so hard to growl and sound threatening, it's ridiculous).

What's more, they use the predictable rhythm-breaks and the typical metalcore guitar playing structure. Ultimately, they sound like (a slightly heavier version of) Korn or Coal Chamber, or even worse: the parody of which.

Avoid if you can. (1/10)

 

 

 

 
6.1/10 Mladen
 

KULT OV AZAZEL/VROLOK - Feast of Sacrilegious Impurity - CD - Arctic Music Group - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Someone should be apologizing here. Whoever thought up the term "Norsecore" as a derogatory description for Swedish black metal bands with too many blastbeats and apparent lack of depth, never saw this coming. Kult ov Azazel, American response to Norsecore, makes the usual suspects (Marduk, Dark Funeral) sound like Vivaldi.

Part one of this split release consists of five Kult ov Azazel tracks: one old, three live recordings (which are also added in video form as bonus multimedia material) and a ripping cover of Sodom's "Blasphemer." Apart from the cover, the other four tracks are typical Kult ov Azazel — full speed ahead. No intros, outros, no song developments, just start the track with blasting, then add more blastbeats, before you go into another blastbeat section to finish the song nicely with more blastbeats. Next Song. Well done. And Hail Satan.

Seriously, the music is so primitive and simple that one must scratch his head in sheer bewilderment. There are the guitars playing simple chord patterns at high speed, and the drums doing blastbeats (of an extremely fast kind) for nearly three quarters of the time — the rest goes to equally fast two kick drums. And just listen to Xul (bass and vocals) on live tracks, damned if you can hear anything but "Rahhh, rahhh, ra-ra-rahhh!" repeatedly. Not exactly "Norsecore" but definitely something-core.

The sound is crisp and sharp for the studio tracks, and the live tracks are decently recorded. If there's one thing Kult ov Azazel should be proud of, it is Hammer's drumming speed and curiously clear, sharp cymbals providing the only element of surprise every now and then.

The video tracks weren't really necessary as all you can see are the Kult ov Azazel members standing and playing, and only they know why. Okay, the music is too fast for them to be doing anything else, anyway. But, if you're really having a bad day, feeling like screaming at nothing, or simply all dressed up and nowhere to go, Kult ov Azazel are definitely your band and you should own at least one of their releases. Who needs subtlety?

What Kult ov Azazel are for Norsecore, Vrolok could be for Darkthrone, but they do it in a more interesting way (than Kult ov Azazel, not Darkthrone). The first track sounds like something off Transilvanian Hunger and introduces a different kind of sound: loud, real drums and an interesting full-hollow guitar distortion sound. Not bad, not original, but then the surprises start: "Lord of Spite" starts with an evil, slow, menacing riff (more recent Darkthrone) and exchanges with an equally interesting up-tempo riff... but it could have been much more since it's less than two minutes long.

Finally, the last two tracks: exceptional. Not only compared to the rest of Feast of Sacrilegious Impurity, but on their own as well. On "Peccavisti" and "Devotion" Vrolok unleash evil in the form of slow, marching riffs closing in on the listener, stuttering but stubborn drums, and razor sharp guitar and bass melodies. The melodies and screams develop and turn to painful, bitter and crude, and end the experience as an unpleasant slice of primeval black metal.

Feast of Sacrilegious Impurity isn't the best black metal split-release ever made, but the stubbornness emanating from it still makes it an interesting listen. Just 36 minutes long, yet there's quite enough to be said about it, and that fact alone has to account for something. (6.1/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

PULLING TEETH - Martyr Immortal - CD - Deathwish Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Blink and you'll missed it. The twelve tracks of Pulling Teeth’s Martyr Immortal feel like one twenty-five minutes long one, and the twenty five minutes seem like there couldn't have been more than ten.

Not to be confused with the Japanese thrash band of the same name, Pulling Teeth come from Baltimore and bring furious hardcore. Starting with something between Slayer and Dead Kennedys, and occasionally returning to it after a Morbid Angel blast, most of the time Martyr Immortal seems like it's about to burst at the seams.

The up-tempo punk beat is a solid basis for the numerous hyperspeed bluesy solos, blastbeats, breaks and returns to swirl around it. At times the music assumes a completely different direction, becoming even more dense, and the feeling of listening to two bands at the same time could cause a vertigo, but the tracks are so short and snappy that their shortness actually makes them more coherent. Even more wisely, the order in which the tracks appear is so logical that, whether they are one half — or three — minutes long, it doesn't matter. It's all one solid piece of nervous noise. Pulling Teeth even managed to insert a couple of dreamy clean interludes without making Martyr Immortal lose momentum.

The fury is not just about the music, because through effective lyrical lines such as "Too fat to fuck, too slim to fight? They've got a pill that can make you right." Pulling Teeth complete their point. "Cats, dogs, cows, pigs — dead is dead. You gorge on the chemicals they're being fed, satisfied with your selfishness. Dead is dead is dead." Talk about being down to the point, huh? And don't worry, Mike Riley probably hasn't seen the "Zen of Screaming" video — this guy doesn't spare his throat. You're advised to pick Martyr Immortal up before the sheer intensity splits Pulling Teeth into pieces. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.2/10 Mladen
 

SPACE EATER - Merciful Angel - CD - I Hate Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

No, eighties thrash is obviously never going to go away. Maybe, in the eighties, it really was all that good and special that we have to be reminded of it for the rest of our lives. Or, maybe, it was as serious as most of the metalheads — both the bands and the audience, will ever go?

Well, if you had to choose between "new school" commercial (metalcore, emo, whatever) and old school thrash, you'd probably take thrash any day. But the question remains: how much of it before you've had enough?

Instead of futile debating, let's spend some time with the latest old school effort, this time from Serbia. Judging by my own country (Croatia), there should be plenty of people welcoming something like Space Eater with open arms. They are old school to the bone, their instrumental skills are quite amazing and they can actually write diverse and memorable songs. Merciful Angel, their debut, has been released on a foreign, Swedish, label — which, so far, only a handful of bands from these areas succeeded in. Congratulations, guys!

Merciful Angel isn't anywhere near original, but it stubbornly refuses originality anyway. There is not a post-1990 riff or melody in sight, and Space Eater have actually taken advantage of that. While modern bands usually get away with simple, uninspired playing through modern sound, Space Eater haven't chosen that option. The guitars sound like decent, sharp, Bay Area thrash guitars, and they manage to convince with a vast range of playing styles, never ceasing to change and never playing filler parts.

They don't rely on sound alone. It's intense thrash all the way, be it galloping Iron Maiden, classic spring-loaded Overkill, or full-speed Slayer (as exemplified on "Operaphobia" — silly lyrics, murderous riffs). Especially convincing are the parts where Space Eater decide to slow down and gradually speed up — obviously, they are a very interesting live band. The guitar solos and twin melodies are exceptionally fluent, and there's a certain contagious honesty in them.

While the elaborate style that Space Eater pursue can — and does — bring more rewards than the more simple, straightforward speed thrash, it also hides some traps. For most of the time, the melodies are carried by the vocals. All the vocal melodies are noticeable, but not all of them for their quality — some of them are endlessly naive. Of course, if a band is trying to achieve the '80s "sincerity," it can be forgiven. But the fact remains that some of them could have been better arranged and the songs lack something to make them more fluent as a whole.

Then, Bosko Radisic's vocals — really an acquired taste. If you're willing to accept Merciful Angel as an insane thrash feast from the past, you shouldn't have problems with high-pitched, off-key vocals without vibrato. Think of a combination of Overkill, Anthrax (Joey Belladonna) or Forbidden with even a slight touch of Helloween (Michael Kiske). Good or irritating, depending on your own preferences, but slightly lacking conviction. Also, the vocals come across as too thin in the mix, while the only other sound problem regards the bass drum sound: the "typewriter" clicks are just too loud and annoying. That's thrash. Warts and all.

"Operaphobia" aside, Space Eater's lyrics deal with some pretty diverse subjects, false messiahs, landmines ("Death From Below"), afterlife, love (love, landmines, what's the difference?) and the opening song, "Bombs Away," was inspired by NATO bombings of Serbia. Before jumping to conclusions, a quick examination says that there is truth in it, and they are wisely avoiding pseudo-political crap. Fair enough, although if Space Eater were a band from Bosnia or Croatia they'd have enough material for a concept double CD. Considering their talent, they could probably do even that. But Space Eater will probably choose to stay safely in the eighties and be perfectly decent at sounding like they are coming from then. (7.2/10)

 

 

 

 
7.2/10 Roberto
 

SPHERIC UNIVERSE EXPERIENCE - Anima - CD - Laser's Edge - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

In terms of convoluted clunkiness at the hand of hifalutin progression, France’s Spheric Universe Experience might have found the untoppable name. Mental Torments, the band’s debut release, was an unexpected prog metal gem. Long, highly adventurous and showcasing tremendous skill, Mental Torments is great fun, and gives the overall impression of a young, wide-eyed band so eager to get their music out there that they’ll just about burst.

SUE’s (yes, they actually go by SUE) second album, Anima, is what the word "sophomoric" is truly intended to mean: intellectually pretentious, overconfident, conceited, etc., but immature. The band has taken its already signature sound (highly commendable that such a thing was achieved on the debut), kept it, but seems a little at a loss at what to do. Anima largely comes across as a band that tried to quantify its magic into a formula and thereby deadened a good deal of what made it work. The adventure is strongly lacking — the sense that although damn fine musicians, Spheric Universe Experience kinda sorta didn’t exactly know what it was doing on the debut, and in that case, it translated into more fun and wonderment.

It’s not that bad. The first few songs on Anima have got some great hooks. The sound production (as to be expected from a growing band) is bigger and fuller, and thankfully the drums are a little more balanced than on the debut (although it’s more obvious than ever that anything beyond kick and snare is superfluous to these guys), but largely, the instruments sound like Spheric Universe Experience’s, and that’s a good thing.

But the French boys’ latest album comes across as not being ready. Much of the material seems as if it’s running through the motions of a highly competent prog metal band. The debut was nigh 70 minutes; and so must Anima be, but the last track+ is as filler as you can find. The loss of attention occurs far before that.

Don’t buy Anima before you get Mental Torments. If you’re a big prog metal fan, you’ll be unable to not get Spheric Universe Experience’s second — and subsequent — albums, but you won’t be overjoyed at the second installment. In spite of that, it’s hard to deny that even a less than optimally-inspired prog metal band of this caliber can still make a recommendable album, even when firing on about half of its creative cylinders. (7.2/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Pal
 

STILLBORN - Manifiesta de Blasphemia - CD - Pagan Records - 2007

review by: Pal Meentzen

"It’s time to break the silence and proclaim the Aeon of Evil: Begin!"

Are you ready for some fast, satanic and rousing blastbeat insanity? Then please read on.

For one decade, Stillborn have been stirring the black metal scene in Poland, and on Manifesta de Blasphemia, they are doing it with a vengeance. If you’re into stuff like Gorgoroth, Belphegor, not to forget Behemoth — one of Polands finest black / death metal bands — then this release absolutely warrants your attention.

The bandname is quite unremarkable, just like the title is. And fast blastbeats, destructive, fast riffs, and possessed vocals spitting lines like "Fuck you all!" isn’t Terra Incognita either.

They are the familiar ingredients that can nonetheless create something great, however many times they may have been used before. A way to distinguish –– metaphorically speaking — fake bullets from a clusterbomb depends on musical skills and the way the production is handled. There may not be a shadow of a doubt about the importance of August’s drum parts.


It’s Stillborn’s second full-length, but it’s not hard to tell they are already well-experienced, or August is just being worked up by a devil stinging a fork in his bum (notice the drum intros and you’ll understand what I mean).

There’s nothing subtle about this dark, grim and utterly aggressive album. The pace is as merciless as could be generally encountered within the genre of grindcore. It’s a different style, I know, but it is equally fast nonetheless.

A few points of criticism: The production could have even been a little grander, a little more over-the-top and fuller in sound. Another thing is that sometimes the growls are sided with some theatrically shouted lines (almost as if a Shakespearian king waved his sword around solemnly and SPOKE!), which is something I could have done without, but this occurs too little to truly annoy me. This album also features the guest vocals from Destroyer from Kriegsmachine (on "Infernal Goat Worship" and Nekromassakr").

I have no doubt that Paganrecords reflect the Polish black / death metal scene very well. Recently I gave favourable ratings for releases from two other bands on the Pagan Records label, Non Opus Dei and North, and Stillborn are easily in the same league of quality. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Chaim
 

TANGORODRIM - Justus Ex Fide Vivit - CD - Southern Lord - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

It seems that the best selling point Southern Lord uses for this band is that it is both from Israel and plays black metal. Wow! Big deal, indeed!

The fact is, Israel is NOT a religious country by any means; never has been, never will be. (I want to hear more about this -- ed.)

Even though the authorities find it hard, 60 years after the country's establishment, to completely separate state from religion, it is doing a good job in progressing in that direction.

Conclusion? You can play black metal from here till kingdom come in Israel. You can play it in the middle of the street if this is your kick.

Fact number two is that where metal music is concerned, Israel is not the epitome of originality. Of course you have anomalies such as Orphaned Land, but most are truly unimaginative "artists" with an even poorer sense of creativity and authenticity.

Now, I'm not sure whether the above statement wholly applies to Tangorodrim or not (because I'm not sure whether they consciously have chosen to play what they have or that it is a classic case of too few Israeli creativity brain cells) but their approach is an acquired taste to say the least and not at all bad.

They openly admit to be sort of an homage band to Darkthrone and the likes. At least they admit so; the majority of what is known as "raw" black metal bands just unscrupulously copycat Darkthrone and think nobody notices, ha!

Tangorodrim are good song writers. And Justus Ex Fide Vivit can easily attest to that claim. It reeks of basic old-school black metal, the way it was played in its infancy, where and when punk rock and plain good ol' rock n' roll were thrown into the cauldron of basic metal riffs and scrawny-sounding, distorted guitars.

When you spin the album once, nothing really happens. When you spin it a couple of more times, you get hooked. The crystal yet gritty production, the non-typical lower-pitched spewing vocals (that often verge on the laughable but are quite fitting to the infantile riffs), the slow and dragging doom-oriented parts (where the band is really at its best display); these all make Justus Ex Fide Vivit what it ultimately is: an innocent, enjoyable and nostalgic punk-meets-black metal sort of thing. It is neither tedious nor derivative, although that might be the initial impression.

Ironically, the metal underground almost has neglected this type of black metal and therefore it is somewhat original in that sense. I mean, look at what Darkthrone have been doing these recent years. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Chaim
 

THORNAFIRE - Exacerbated Gnostic Manifestation - CD - Ibex Moon Records - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

Thornafire’s Exacerbated Gnostic Manifestation is dark death metal the way this reviewer likes it, without the abundance of blast beats. The nonetheless insane drumming gives way to the building up of dark atmosphere and classic death metal pseudo-melodies.

The two presiding characteristics of this recording are the low, half-whispering ominous vocals which are, in no way, your typical death metal guttural grunts or monster cookie emanations, god forbid, but are actually something more sinister, for lack of a better term.

The intricate guitar work is incessant and elaborate with a strong atmosphere-inducing ability. The drums and bass lines are solid back bones and lend the brutal extra twist this recording was in need of.

Ultimately, if you stumble upon Thornafire's Exacerbated Gnostic Manifestation, give it a chance. It may initially not sound like the ultimate death metal offering, but during your second or even third spin, things will start to happen, as great things revel themselves slowly. Good stuff. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

THRUDVANGAR - Zwischen Asgard Und Midgard - CD - Einheit Produktionen - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Bad is good, boring is exciting, old is new and poor is rich: Welcome back to the world of German Viking metal. Even though I had to write 31 reviews for this issue of Maelstrom, Zwischen Asgard und Midgard was one promo I'd always been looking forward to listening to again. In the meantime, I've had the chance to listen to the new Manegarm album and couldn't make it to the end of that one. Now let's explain why...

Simply because it's Thrudvangar? This certainly calls for an explanation. Their debut, Ahnenthron, was devastating. Walhall, the follow-up, was too inoffensive, and some of the songs just couldn't have been taken seriously. It was like Thrudvangar were trying to become more commercial and polished. Enter Zwischen Asgard und Midgard and the "difficult" third album proves to be Thrudvangar's easiest yet, in a sense that they just did what they know. No calculations.

Blunt and direct to the core, Zwischen Asgard und Midgard is one hell of an exciting ride. If we once said that being a Viking is about doing the best you can with what you have, it couldn't be more true than it is here. The sound belongs to the eighties, with all instruments clearly audible and distanced (although we received a CDR a month before the official release so it might have been a pre-master copy). Even if the official release ends up sounding exactly like this, it's okay. That's what we expect from Einheit Produktionen, and if the last Trimonium sounded like this, it would have been better. Not expensive, not overpolished and awesome in its warm directness. Pure old school. Play it way loud and none of the above matters — it's awesome.

Whatever it ended up sounding like, Zwischen Asgard und Midgard had to have songs. And it bloody well delivered. "Thor" begins with a few keyboard seconds; and when the bands kicks in, they literally KICK in. Torsten, the drummer, knows his stuff: one snare beat for three kick drum beats, do it very fast and make a Thrudvangar trademark out of it. The man sounds like a stubborn machine changing beats at the flick of a switch, but listen carefully and it's still a man. With inhumanly loud bass drums.

Matze's introductory scream is another trademark: yes, still hollow and almost gargling, and all that in German, but by now it's instantly recognizable and absolutely persuasive. If you've heard the other two Thrudvangar albums, you'll welcome the big lunatic as an old friend.

And so the music goes. The structures are clearly defined, with not very subtle and even less predictable changes. If there's a point to be made, Thrudvangar will repeat two parts one after another for as long as it takes. Combined with the basic sound, it sounds like a recipe for boredom — until you've realized just how glorious those parts are, and the way they interact causes endless instances of tension / release. Maybe Thrudvangar don't really know what they are doing, but we wouldn't bet on it.

"Bärenpelz und Wolfsmantel" begins with another Thrudvangar trademark: a gentle, poignant keyboard melody. The keyboards are almost inaudible, and very minimal, but absolutely contributing to the atmosphere. Strangely for Thrudvangar, this time the mood isn't very bright.

Zwischen Asgard und Midgard doesn't sound like yet another Viking raid. It is solemn, serious, melancholic, almost bitter and lost in its own, distant, space and time. While still kicking ass, naturally. But who'd have expected such seriousness from a simple, beer-worshipping German crew? Surprise, surprise.

"Heimwärts" begins with a simple guitar melody. It's a melody to die for. More galloping guitars, more soft synthesizers and Matze sounds like he's about to pass away and has something important to tell you before he crosses to the other side. Still simple, but the next guitar melody sounds like a revelation. The fourth track, "Runenstein," brings Thrudvangar back into life and when you hear the only "heys!" on the album you have to wonder why there weren't any before — and how come you didn't notice? The two guitars still do their own thing, either thrashing or playing black metal tremolo melodies, together or contrasting each other. There's no originality here, it's almost awkward, but you just have to listen. And smile. Non-Vikings would never understand this.

Back to the full speed on "Midsommernacht" and a semi-ballad called "Zwei Raben," and observing how the simple and ominously effective melodies can be created by using staccato chords. See, Thrudvangar aren't trying to be smart or inventive. They are simply being honest and the rest took care of itself. Although straightforward, "Siegvater" is nearly epic, but the final track, "Frostland," is just brutal... one guitar playing black, the other playing thrash galloping and finally — where have the blastbeats been hiding ever since the first track?

With so much to say about an apparently simple, poor-sounding and unoriginal album, we haven't even touched the lyrical subject. Since the lyrics aren't available at this point, we can only guess what Zwischen Asgard und Midgard is about. Oh, it's about being between Asgard and Midgard? It has to be. It definitely feels like it is. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.2/10 Mladen
 

TRIMONIUM/PLAGUED - Blood League/Fire Still Burns - CD - Einheit Produktionen - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

The man behind Plagued is A. A. Nemtheanga (Primordial), and apparently this side-project has been around for quite a while (six or seven years), awaiting to see the light of day. This is the first official release, appropriately on Einheit Produktionen, because, as much as it shows who's behind it, the sound and spirit are more in the Einheit vein.

Starting with evocative clean guitar strumming, "Fire Still Burns" turns into eight minutes of bliss. The strumming tempo continues, and the unique sound just doesn't let the listener go. The only solid point are the programmed drums, and the stubborn, repetitive bass only strays away for the crucial moments. Everything else is comes and goes — literally. The guitar has a quite remarkable sound, an almost through-the-water feeling probably achieved through some constant wah effect, and through the carefully chosen chords, it drives the song all the way to the end, always re-newing itself.

Add to that Nemtheanga's rasps coming only in instances, as if trying to catch a breath during a battle, making "Fire Still Burns" one hell of a heathen fists-in-the-air hymn.

Trimonium's side isn't too far behind. As opposed to most of the songs from Son of a Blizzard (their latest album) "Blood League" is a nearly perfect track. Maybe it's because the Plagued track has set the mood, and Trimonium just followed in the footsteps, but probably not, because it has quite a lot to say on its own. From an equally evocative thrashing beginning, it turns into something similar to Plagued's track but achieved by using different means. There's the same story-telling, marching feeling, the battle-worn vocals going through a number of color changes and a constant drive throughout the song, with numerous suggestive thrash riffs and melodies wisely following one another. Trimonium have the riff-writing style and the sound of their own and one could only wish that there were more tracks of this caliber on Son of a Blizzard.

Apart from the collectable value, being a 7" picture disc limited to 500 copies, Blood League / Fire Still Burns is a great introduction to a "new" band — let's hope we'll get more Plagued in the future — and also an interesting insight into Trimonium's potential, and as such it's highly recommendable. (8.2/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Alisa
 

TILL WE DIE - Pressing On - CD - Locomotive Music - 2007

review by: Alisa Z

There is something limp about this record. A perceived level of debilitation is noticed throughout the songs, be it the music, the vocals or the overall impact of the band. The flatness of the sound is daunting. Hopefully, this wasn't something that the band desired, and that it is something which will change on upcoming albums.

The softer melodies and the coarser metal instants do not seem to have a successful transition, which adds to the lowered quality of the sound. However colourful the songs are meant to be, the diversity cannot be fully appreciated. Almost lifeless, the vocals aren't the most suitable for this type of music. There is nothing largely wrong with the voice itself; the downfall lies in the fact that the singer just doesn't appear to know how to use his voice to its full potential. The song "That Day," for example, could have sounded so much better if only the singer had not wallowed in a stale environment. "Do It Again," meanwhile, features off-key singing that is painfully tedious.

Flat, unexciting and uninteresting, Pressing On isn't the best catch from the screamo / hardcore genre. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
9.4/10 Ignacio
 

TIME OF ORCHIDS - Namesake Caution - CD - Cuneiform Records - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

Listening to Time of Orchids is just like listening to Russian (or insert your favorite hard language here) people talk: you know they are talking, and you know they understand each other, but you don't have any idea of what they're saying until you care enough to start either learning or paying a whole lot of attention to it. Now, the whole idea can be either entertaining, appealing, or just awful, depending on the situation.

Well, Time of Orchids is the best kind of what-the-hell-are-they-saying possible, the one you can enjoy even without understanding everything, and that after some time, you'll start getting it. And that's where magic happens and Namesake Caution turns from a good disorientating album into a, great, original, atmospheric, avant-garde rock album.

It's not really a matter of just understanding, though, Time of Orchids is great because it's both aesthetically pleasing and conceptually advanced (maybe even too advanced of unseasoned listeners), so even if you hate it, it's worth your time. The songs, actually more worthy of the "composition" title, are perfect examples of non-linear development with most time signatures and rhythms being 110% weird, and those melodies... well, maybe 200%.

Weird and all, the most surprising thing is that they don't really use any instrument that rock bands don't normally use. Guitars, drums, bass, harmonized vocals and synth, pretty much, but nothing like gamelan or shamisen.

Even the way the instruments are used is a typical rock one: drums for the rhythm, guitar for rhythm and melodies, etc... But it's not a typical rock band because their songs are not typical rock songs. They don't use any melody cliches, and it all sounds like the creation of a genius madman with a talent for music more than just guys kidding around with their instruments.

In what it is, we could safely say that Namesake Caution is a damn near perfect record. Especially for fans of Magma, Koenjihyakkei or more adventurous modern Zeuhl like Ruins, even if it doesn't sound much like them, but it's a similar kind of brain explosion-inducing composition. (9.4/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Mladen
 

TRAP THEM - Seance Prime - CD - Deathwish Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

It's hard to see Seance Prime as much more than a five song, fifteen minute Entombed tribute. The Seattle quintet has almost the identical Sunlight Studios sound, accomplished by using an 8-track recorder, and growls and the death 'n' roll riffs are right there. And that's about it.

Sure it's brutal. It had to be. But it didn't have to be this generic. Although the six tracks differ from one to another, each of them basically contains two or three standard Entombed riffs, repeated in nervous patterns and enriched by a few, just a few, Entombed licks a la "Seeing Red." So you have two grinding rock songs, two songs with disjointed blastbeats (if there only were more of the kind...), and a song with pretty much two slow borrowed melodies and no real development. And that's it. Wham, bam, we've gone and you never noticed we had anything to say.

Trap Them do have some things to say, judging by the lyrics. It's just that you can't say much when you're musically limiting yourself to a few borrowed sentences. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Chaim
 

VOODOOSHOCK - Marie's Sister's Garden - CD - Exile on Mainstream Records - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

The term "doom metal" is highly volatile; into that, the actual term "metal" is liquid and very much open for many an interpretation. If it weren't, Voodooshock might not have been considered a doom metal band.

Sure, they implement some traditional doom etiquette, but the doom vibe is elusive and not easily heard as emanating from the band's music; at times they are quite elusive. Also, their style features too many elements found in grunge bands (Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, et cetera) to be considered "pure metal" if there ever was such a thing (but then again, isn't metal itself an amalgam of styles, a hybrid, musical mongrel of sorts, to begin with?).

Classifications aside, there is some quality music found on Marie's Sister's Garden, Voodooshock’s sophomore album. Often compared to Saint Vitus, The Obsessed and Spirit Caravan, Voodooshock's traditional doom roots are evidently heard in every note.

The songs alternate between the more rock-ish and a bit more up-tempo, to almost sluggish a pace, where classic traditional doom riffs are being utilized to the fullest.

Sometime the melodies are laid back and hazy, and some of the time ominous and dirge-like.

The music does not lean towards any given direction; it is neither fully traditional doom in essence, nor classic heavy metal nor even stoner rock. It walks a line that crosses through all those approaches to music and yields something else, different; like a strange synergy between grunge, stoner, traditional doom and heavy metal.

The semi-high pitched, clear and charismatic vocals are something to behold; one of the strongest voices in music I have ever heard and simply awe-inspiring.

The result is simply stunning; the song-writing superb; catchiness and melody, a perfect balance between old and new, the darkly crude and the sublime.

Marie's Sister's Garden is excellent stuff for the lovers of pure, simple, no-frills rock/metal of the highest caliber. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
7.7/10 Alisa
 

WASP - Dominator - CD - Demolition Records - 2007

review by: Alisa Z

W.A.S.P. is eternal. While Dominator is somewhat modern in a sense, it is still the same sleazy metal bastard, just like it was in the 1980's. The album features the gravelly voice of Blackie Lawless. Charming, yet vulgar, this voice is what makes W.A.S.P. what it is: fun.

The album has a great sound, catchy guitar riffs and melodic fragments, which combined, allow for it to be labeled as "above average." The first track, "Mercy," is a fantastic start to the rest of the album, overflowing with musical fortitude."Teacher" is another cut, which like numerous W.A.S.P. songs, embodies a form of magnetism. "Heaven's Hung in Black" is perhaps one of the most powerful hard rock ballads to be exuded during the last few years.

Perhaps Dominatordoesn't feature any excessively whimsical elements, but that doesn't mean that the record is bad. On the contrary, we have a case of a band that employs successful methods from the past and molds them into a creation that is, in a way, different from past ones, yet remains in the same vein. (7.7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Dying for the World (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
Avi
 

WINDS - Prominence and Demise - CD - The End Records - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

While the earlier Winds releases promised, Prominence and Demise fulfills. The new album was initially received at our residence with a slight disinterest due to the repetitive previous album (The Imaginary Direction of Time), but proved, with repeated listens, to be a storming release.

The potential was always there: an attempt at blending romantic classical movements and orchestration with serious, moody, metaphysical metal songs. Yep, sounds like another spin on progressive metal, but Winds attacks the whole thing from a different, much more rounded angle: the songs are reasonably structured and confined, the classical themes are kept on a low flame, and the metal is rooted in avant-metal, with both extreme and ambient flavors, rather than being influenced by traditional heavy metal.

The major improvement here (over previous work) is exactly where we hoped: the songwriting! The songs sound less formulated and less predicted this time around, and there are prominent features that distinct one song from the other: a memorable melody here, a strong harmony there, lightning fast solos, emotional peaks throughout and quite a few unexpected twists (such as sudden endings and structural disorders).

Winds’ unique character remains intact, or in fact improved: Hellhammer’s nonstop drumming seems freer and less like showcase of virtuosity (rest assured — it is still impressively technical), alternating between its supportive role and its triggering counterpoint to the beautiful, tempting melodic lines; Lars E. Si might not be the most distinguishable vocalist around, yet his performance is devoted and emotional, and the clever vocal arrangements and guest vocalists cover for his limitations; and the clean, melodic piano and guitar leads are simply a treat. All of these cling better than ever, with refined orchestral touches (by members of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra) and mind blowing arrangements, making the album a pleasing, well packed experience. (8.25/10)

 

 

 

 
8.8/10 Ignacio
 

OGRE - Seven Hells - CD - Leaf Hound Records - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

It's been about 10 full plays, and I still can't find a single flaw on Seven Hells. Not to say it's a transendental album; after all, Seven Hells is not groundbreaking, but what they do, way too traditional, yes, similar attempts already been done, yes, is one of the most perfect versions of traditional doom metal that have been released, ever, with the right amount of personality and originality.

Consciously or not, every single detail of Seven Hells is thought in context. None of those riffs were made just to sound heavy, there are no filler songs and definitely not a single weak one. It works because it's all together, and it works because Seven Hells is a how-to manual on Pentagram / Black Sabbath-like doom. But there's one thing that sets Ogre apart: harmonization. They aren't afraid of not having a rhythm guitar sometimes, instead overdubbing their guitar to play dual leads, because they have a bassist, you know? And, surprise, he's not just another guitar all the time, he can be a Geezer Butler sometimes too.

And damn, they feature some stupendous climactic solos that subtly change the song into a whole different one (see "Woman on Fire"'s wah solo -> solo -> bluesy jam progression). If you don't like those, stop reading the review and go play your first press limited edition Britney Spears album some more.

Ogre’s riffs are some of 2007's finest, ranging from groovy to skullcrushingly heavy, and they can do it all, slower parts and faster parts, crazy parts or even normal parts. You just can't ask for more in a traditional doom band. Except originality, but Ogre didn't really try to be original here.

Even if it sounds just like all the other albums like it at first, deeper analysis reveals a far more mature approach with a taste for blues and classic rock as well, but all neatly arranged into seven long, complex but coherent songs that are, at the same time, quite accessible for hardcore, or not, doom fans or even classic rock enthusiasts. And oh, holy shit, those riffs, and those instrumental passages, and those vocal lines... (8.8/10)

PS: Scratch that, 15 full plays.

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

NUCLEAR BLAST ALL STARS - Out of the Dark - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Out of the Dark is the second CD released for Nuclear Blast's 20th anniversary. As a "darker" counterpart to Into the Light, this time it features guest vocal appearances by the vocalists of more "brutal" bands on that label, and the style, this time, is predominantly melodic death-thrash. So, don't confuse the two CDs, and don't expect it to begin with Tobias Sammet (Edguy) or feature Tarja Turunen. This time, expect Soilwork.

The opinions about Out of the Dark are very divided. And they should be — check this out — Nuclear Blast hires a guy (namely Peter Wichers, ex-Soilwork) to write and record songs for other Nuclear Blast singers to sing, so that the CD would sell, bring Nuclear Blast more money and promote other Nuclear Blast bands. How money-grabbing is that? Don't talk about integrity, honesty and emotions here, right? But then why is it, for what it is worth, almost as good as Soilwork?

There's nothing groundbreaking on Out of the Dark. It sounds like Soilwork, definitely (one of the drummers is another ex-Soilwork guy, Henri Ranta, and the other, Dirk Verbeuren, has been in Soilwork and about 15 other bands), but Wichers has managed to give each song its own identity. So, if Anders Friden sings, the music sounds like... ummm, okay, In Flames-Soilwork, that was easy. Peter Tagtgren is singing over Soilwork with a slight touch of Pain and Jari Maenpaa's song isn't exactly Wintersun but there are more blastbeats and distinctive melodies than you'd expect from Soilwork.

And there you go. The rest are Soilwork with light touches of Scar Symmetry, Anthrax, Soilwork (well duh, Bjorn "Speed" Strid is singing on that one), Kataklysm, Death Angel, Sonic Syndicate and Mnemic. Everything sounds powerful, polished, diverse... and the same. Diverse in a sense that there is an ever so slight feeling of listening to different bands, but again, if there was just one vocalist on all of them, you'd say that it's just another Soilwork album. Like them or not. If Soilwork don't always use the same, safe, song structures — and Wichers, here, does — Out of the Dark's diversifying element are the vocals.

All fine and well, and actually quite listenable. But, being what it is, Out of the Dark isn't a proper album — and it isn't a compilation, either. Something like this has been done before (think Probot), but not for the sake of making money. One should also wonder about the state in which metal is, when you have one guy writing songs for 10 different singers and actually almost managing to give the songs a flavor of their original bands. Do we really want professionals doing something that should be done for love? And yes, the same can be said for any proper band doing their fifth or sixth album. Whatever you say you can't win here.

Neither here nor there, Out of the Dark will find many fans just as it will find haters. If you want my opinion: it's like listening to a compilation of high-quality Soilwork clone bands. It's not like there already isn't quite enough of those around. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.9/10 Ignacio
 

MANUFACTURER'S PRIDE - Faustian Evangelion - CD - Off Records - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

Must be hard to make melodic death metal now that everyone expects Gothenburg-influenced metalcore out of it, but it must be even harder to make worthwhile melodic death metal without sounding like every single band before. Manufacturer's Pride accomplishes just that: they're enjoyable while still being original.

Not to say that they aren't influenced by Gothenburg; they are, a lot, but they manage to develop their music much farther than the usual In Flames / At the Gates clone.

Their brand of melodic death is definitely not what you're used to. Instead of dual-lead guitars, they use a combination of multiple rhythm guitars, abnormal harmonizations, abundant atonal riffs like you’d find on Meshuggah’s Nothing (but done right, surprisingly). On the other hand, the vocals are much lower than most bands, and they are varied enough to create a more theatrical feel. It's not just common death vocals, it's also grunts, metalcore-ish high death vocals, and clean singing.

Even with all those angular riffs, Faustian Evangelion features mostly traditionally structured songs, not feeling so different structure-wise from anything in the genre, besides its obviously more developed technical aspect. There's even an obvious absence of showing-off segments, even if they can obviously do it.

Easily the best part about it, however, is their futuristic atmosphere, quite similar to ...And Oceans' A.M.G.O.D one, but without all those synths. In a way, it sounds industrial because of that, but industrial in the literal sense: like taken out of a futuristic industry with machines and robots and all that you imagine being in one.

But well, not everything is perfect. Some rhythms on the first few tracks are way too nu-metalish for their own good, and often clean vocals are misplaced (for example, a really heavy guitar part might have calm clean vocals, and it just doesn't fit). But the great last few tracks far outweigh any vocal misplacement (especially tracks eight and nine, those are way too awesome), even when they should really include some more of those great solos next time... and exclude the boring outro.

If you liked Edge of Sanity but hated the fact that their songs are way, way too long, Faustian Evangelion should be your next stop, but really, any fan of the most melodic death metal should get it, or even fans of bands like Crematory. (7.9/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

LIZZY BORDEN - Appointment With Death - CD - Metal Blade Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

There are plenty of extreme metal people around who'll openly admit that there was at least one silly glam hair metal band that influenced them in their childhood. One example: Peter Tagtgren of Hypocrisy isn't ashamed of his Kiss stuff collection — how uncool is that? There was something naively outrageous about those melodic metal, guitar hero days and some will say that not much good melodic music has been released since then. Those days were in the eighties, admittedly, and Lizzy Borden were a sadly underestimated band back then. However, they are still alive and kicking.

Appointment With Death is what you'd expect from an old American heavy metal band: it’s highly polished. The sound wouldn't offend anyone if it was played on the radio and the songs all have classic, predictable structures. The emphasis is strongly placed on vocal melodies while the guitars sound so mellow that Pantera-like thrashing isn't actually thrashing anything. The drums are so basic that it's hard to believe that the drummer was actually involved in the songwriting process for at least one half of the album. Compared to, say, Manowar drums (already just a beat provider), Lizzy Borden's drums sound even more abecedarian — yes, that's a real word. Combine Judas Priest with Def Leppard and that's the general idea about Lizzy Borden's sound.

Now the good stuff. Appointment With Death is actually enjoyable. A lot. There isn't a bad melody in sight, and Lizzy's vocals are still as strong as they were anytime during the last 20+ years. If you haven't heard him, the man has the color of Motley Crue's Vince Neil while singing as high as King Diamond (although in key). Cheesy as hell, but admit it, it's metal. It once was metal, and why shouldn't it still be today? Some "whooa-hooa" parts are custom made for singing along, but each and every vocal line brings another sleazy dose of inoffensive but thoroughly enjoyable horror. The shock-rock skeletal image of the band (each of the four representing one rider of the apocalypse) adds a nice touch, but even more so do the guest musician contributions. You've got shredding solos by George Lynch, Erik Rutan (yes, of Hate Eternal — look at the introduction to this review again), Dave Meniketti (Y&T), and Corey Beaulieu of Trivium.

And the drums... well, they start improving after the third track and leave nothing to complain about. If you're not an eighties nostalgic or someone after guilty pleasures you'll probably think that Lizzy Borden must be one of those shock rock bands American kids go to see on a Saturday night. That's not such a bad idea, coming to think of it. Lizzy Borden is a much better introduction into metal than Korn or whoever is on MTV right now, but Appointment With Death will be as relevant in 10 years as it is now. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
6.6/10 Pal
 

LIVING HELL - The Lost and the Damned - CD - Revelation - 2007

review by: Pal Meentzen

Living Hell’s musical influences can be traced to bands like Minor Threat, Youth of Today, Integrity, Cro-mags, Breakdown, Pro-Pain and Negative Approach.


The band is fronted by vocalist Craig Mack whose voice is ugly, mean and convincingly fucked up. The structure of the songs are fairly common with the well-known neckbreak-speed 4/4 measures alternated by slower, dragging and more groove-orientated parts.

The theme of the album seems to deal with religion as the opening track "The Resurrection" speaks of things like "the Sins of the Father", the next one called "Mabrothrax" speaks of "a world beyound your shallow grave". Later on, "Parable of a Madman" tells us that "Humanity wallows in the stench of it’s sin" and "Malleus Dei" is a plea to God to "strike us down where we stand" because "we" (I assume humanity as such) are "beasts to slaughter, slaves to temptation." A rather nice line is "That Judas’ smile will drown in sin / before you nail me to this cross again" in the last song, "King of Kings."

All these religious references make me wonder whether one should interpret this as Living Hell being genuine believers or, just the opposite, challenging the wrathful father of "our Saviour." Where is the Apocalypse? Why can "sinners" continue with their despicable ways and make this world a living hell even before our lives are over?

The first person in the lyrics is feeling agonized, unrestrained and directionless and doesn’t seem to be very hopeful towards the future of man…or himself. Loathe thy neighbour!

But one thing is sure. Singer Craig Mack is a fierce Catholic patriot with a proud tattoo of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and sings passionately about the End of Eternity, so if you just Google "Apocalypse 2008" or "Smear Campaign USA" while listening to "The Lost and the Damned," there can be little doubt that his predictions on sinners in the world, especially in the USA, are of a grim nature.

The outro of "King of Kings" is indeed very spooky and if that is about the second coming of the Lord I wouldn’t mind if they let Him stay there and let humanity take care of the Apocalypse themselves.

To me it’s just another year, so I can carelessly enjoy the noise while it lasts. The Apocalypse is a never-ending story. And although praying means nothing to me, Living Hell’s way of praying seems like a good example of "Christian pessimism meets Satanic optimism." For their next album, I can imagine Craig Mack writing a string of songs about the events in Waco Texas, ‘93. Does anyone even know David Koresh once went to Hollywood to become a hard rock guitarist? Nothing came of that, but this debut comes definitely on the positive side of the scale. (6.6/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Pal
6/10 Roberto
 

OLETHRIO RIGMA - Anthology - CD - Burning Star Records - 2007

review by: Pal Meentzen

From Greece comes this retrospective of this five-piece hardcore band, with its origins going back as far as 1989. Their name translates as "devastating breach" and I am led to believe that they are a sort of cult band in their home country.

Even though I am very pro-Greece and fond of Mezedes and Sans Rival, I must admit that apart from Rotting Christ I know precious little about the Hellenic metal or old school hardcore scene.

However, since 1996, Olethrio Rigma have created no less than six full-length albums, with lyrics mainly in their own language.

Like referring to the old Sex Pistols song which had the line, "unlimited supply – E.M.I.," the ever-present, pesky voice of Emi rebels against anything sounding pretty or appealing, as her obstinate shouting is probably most representative of the punk attitude in contrast to the more metal output from vocalist Nikos.

It’s an uncommon mix of styles, but when listening to it I can easily imagine having it as musical wallpaper in a graffitti-covered squatters café where generations of anti-authority minded have-nots, wit-nots and what-nots alike buzz around a pool of a lukewarm substitute for Mythos beer.

And everyone shares a common dream or a headache. Conforming to the rules of punk, Olethrio Rigma’s earlier tunes sound thinly produced, but onward their technical horizon expands, a bit like the waist does over the years. The intro is a bit misleading, sounding like the intro of "One" from Metallica. In reality it’s the title track from their turn-of-the-century album "Cops Pigs Killers." The oldest song here is a track from a 7" from 1994 (before they took the name Olethrio Rigma) which sounds a bit like a muffled sort of Darkthrone. Later songs, like 2002’s "Skotoste Ta Paidia, Foniades!" ("Kill the children, murderer!") feature keyboards and a more progressive and even professional approach.

From the last album are "Iraq Ora 0" (Iraq Time 0) and "O Tromos Thi Exousias" (The Horror of Authority), but I believe it’s the 3 bonus tracks here which are the most recent ones. However, they didn’t strike me as anything outstanding or new.

As a Greek phenomenon (a beautiful word originating therefrom) Olethrio Rigma are a rare, long lasting bunch with Emi acting as a fanatic babbling fly in the ointment. To some they may sound like "street credible anarchists" (like, for instance the Exploited), just as they may sound hilarious to others (like the unsurpassed parody punk of Wat Tyler, but without the wittiness). This compilation is somewhat interesting to wade through, but no harm done if it’s reserved for those who can actually understand their Hellenic messages more precisely. Pass on the Sans Rival please! (5/10)

ps: In an attempt to make things more interesting, there is a digipack case version of this compilation featuring the entire 2005 Rockwave show of the band at which they performed some of their own tunes amongst many covers. It also features an interview with the band plus a video. All nice for those who still haven’t reached the point of saturation after the 77 minute long cd.

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Oh, come on. Olethrio Rigma rock. Sure, a 77-minute anthology can get tiresome, but there were a bunch of tracks that made me get up out of my chair. Thanks, guys. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
7.2/10 Ignacio
 

PAXIT - Left Eye Twitch - CD - paxit@walla.com - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

There's a very thin line between sounding post-modern and sounding stupid. It often seems that "art for the sake of art" has degraded into "art to sound like we don't know what the hell we're doing," and it's not so easy anymore to know when a modern composer or free jazz musician knows what he's doing, or when he's just bullshitting all of us, trying to sound modern when he's just a mediocre player with a bad handle on tonality. There was a time where just sounding stupid was a way to rebel against an excessively strict system and serendipity ended up being a common occurrence: but now it's not as strict anymore; even your grandma could start a band and be accepted in underground music circles.

So, to approach an album like Paxit’s Left Eye Twitch, the first thing to see is if they are weird for the sake of being weird, or if they do it because they know what they are doing. The Paxit guys, luckily, know their stuff well. And I won't say that they don't sound hilarious sometimes, but it's just their way of building an atmosphere. Stylistically, they are, at least on this album, sometimes Steve Reich's New York Counterpoint gone free jazz, with far less instrumentation, and sometimes a 50% Boredoms, 50% Gerogerigegege mix with a little bit of Ligeti and John Zorn thrown in. And way too many other things to name, but you should get the idea if you know those few acts. Of course, Paxit doesn't get near the levels of awesomeness of Zorn's or Gerogerigegege's stuff, but they try. And right, they aren't 100% serious about it all (would it be good if they did?) but even the most outworldish playing fits, nonsensical or not. Recorder, all kinds of brass, guitar, percussion, vocals, all of them are abnormally played on Left Eye Twitch, but they somehow sound recognizable if you're used to this kind of music.

There's only one thing getting in the way of the listening experience, and that's the awful production. I understand it's DIY, but it sounds like a bootleg most of the time, and while it does contribute to some songs' atmosphere, it mostly hurts to hear the brass recorded seemingly without equalization or any polishing. The music seriously deserves crystal clear production.

Anyway, Left Eye Twitch is great, not perfect, but definitely something for free jazz fans. It's not really a surprise that it comes from the same "circle" of the great DIY noise projects Gaop and Aboolele (Myspace says Aboolele, Gaop and one of the Paxit guys are the same guy, so it's totally understandable). But, as they say, their music "Sounds like Sounds. Sounds like Music. We like Music." (7.2/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

PENTACLE - Under the Black Cross - CD - Ibex Moon Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Pentacle should make a perfect opening act for a death metal night. The Dutch quartet isn't overly original, but the musicianship is tight enough, the songs have enough interesting elements to make the incoming audience notice them, and they sound like they like headbanging. And they could manage to hold the audience's attention for the regular 30-something minutes.

Unfortunately for Pentacle, Under the Black Cross is 45 minutes long. What it means is that, although the songs contain a solid number of riffs, after a while they come out as too predictable. For Pentacle's brand of death metal, it isn't quite an advantage. Mainly inspired by classic Obituary (or rather Celtic Frost) and early Death, Pentacle do everything by the book, and it's easy to guess for how many times they will repeat a riff before changing into another one. The (mid-)tempo nearly always stays the same, and the drums will too often opt for accentuating the final part of a repeating riff, rather than trying to bring diversity.

Being a concept album, diversity is a thing that Under the Black Cross would surely benefit from. Bassist / vocalist Wannes Gubbels sounds like a hybrid of Chuck Schuldiner and John Tardy, but instead fictional blood and gore he sings about the real deal, namely Operation Chariot (a British Commando Raid that took place at Saint Nazaire, France, in 1942). Apparently it was a suicidal mission, but the way the story has been presented, it isn't very cinematic. There are a few catchy parts during the third quarter of the album and it feels as if Pentacle were saving them for when the album starts to get boring.

Under the Black Cross was originally released in 2005, but the Ibex Moon US re-release has a bonus track — a cover of Necrovore's "Divus de Mortuus," and it's not a big surprise to find that it is the best track on it. Pentacle are not newcomers, but since 1992 they have released only one album and eight splits, EPs and demos. Instead of taking their time, there's a feeling that they would do better by trying to be more spontaneous. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.1/10 Ignacio
 

PET GENIUS - Pet Genius - CD - Hydrahead Records - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

Since I don't want to bore you with a fat paragraph about the guy leading Pet Genius, I'll just tell you one thing: he, Stephen Brodsky, leads way too many bands, and he's worked on many genres related to prog and the heavier side of rock. But Pet Genius will be reviewed as a stand-alone act, because it really is one.

And, well, Pet Genius is not really _genius_ it's just very good, but kind of inconcise. They obviously know how to compose songs in the style of the most famous ‘60s and ‘70s rock bands (The Beatles, Beach Boys, even some The Kinks and The Zombies here and there...) but they also know how to do something like Queens of the Stone Age (seriously, the first track on Pet Genius could be in an older Queens of the Stone Age album without anyone noticing). So, if you like Paul McCartney's songs, stoner rock, or classic rock in general, go on.

So, for someone with so many years of recording and recording and recording, Pet Genius sounds like it should. The tone is thick and heavy, clean and clear, or noisy and sludgy, whatever he feels the song needs. The vocals are vinyl-sounding, but not quite, and the drumming can go from power ballad drums and typical rock drums to whatthehellisthat drums. Technically, it's good stuff.

With such a 2007 production, 1967 composition and atemporal weirdness, Pet Genius ends up being a mixed bag. In short, it's too anachronic for its own good, so much that you'll probably need to check the booklet just to see if it was really released after 2000. It has merit, but there's something indescribable that, underneath all that talent, just doesn't quite work. Some parts will have you saying "holy shit, this album is great," but some others sound like forcefully modernized versions of things released about 40 years ago. Entire songs will have you thinking "well, The Beatles should have recorded something like _this_," but some others will sound just like songs The Beatles actually recorded yet nobody remembers.

Now, fans of Brodsky’s other work might, well, drool over it like they'd drool over anything recorded by him, but seeing it objectively, it surely isn't his biggest or best work so far, but a very good, albeit a little too inconsistent. Even so, there are many, many things for songwriters to learn from half this record. (7.1/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Avi
 

PINHAS, RICHARD - Metatron - CD - Cuneiform Records - 2006

review by: Avi Shaked

Metatron curls and unfolds, trapping the listener in a carefully woven fabric of sounds. This double album is much more than an ambient soundscape (as Pinhas' previous release, Tranzition, was, basically) – it is a masterful electro-acoustic listening experience that goes beyond the realms of the genre, one on which live instruments correspond attentively and wildly with the electronica, in the form of ever flowing, manipulated sound streams and gentle beats; outbursts of free music are captured within and deviate from reflective, transcendent, therapeutic, sinusoidal sonic waves.

The evolving guitar loops are essentially thin, playing the role of the line that keeps everything in life continuously together (a time line or some other thread of connectivity if you will, as the artwork possibly suggests), while the more natural sounds of electric and acoustic instruments (drums, guitars, voice and others) serve as the heartbeat, not only in its basic life-keeping form, but also in terms of reflecting the personal experience and level of excitement we undergo, covering a scope that ranges from the meditative to the racketing, as well as past, present and future. The wealth of ideas is as nonstop as the music, making this a sublime and invigorating exploration of our existence, in both the physical and the spiritual domains. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
5.75/10 Avi
 

PINHAS, RICHARD - Tranzition - CD - Cuneiform Records - 2004

review by: Avi Shaked

It shouldn't be surprising that three decades or so after leading Heldon (its Interface revisited in issue #56), Pinhas is not quite the renovator he once was, especially considering that this 2004 recording lacks the past-perspective to suit the judge-by-date-of-recording method rightfully embraced by Maelstrom’s own Ignacio Coluccio.

However, beauty and depth are (nearly) timeless, so we set our minds to focus on these. Pinhas is undoubtedly a disciple of Robert Fripp's soundscapes, his guitar lines (which are thinner than Fripp's) drone, smoothly curving and setting up an atmosphere of relaxation and peacefulness. But here lies a paradox: Tranzition's best moments are when the lazy ambience (that Pinhas produces together with the help of a violinist and a "laptop boy") is contradicted by Antoine Paganotti's tribal drumming, giving you the overall feel of being in the center of a mystic, sci-fi ritual.

Unfortunately, the drums-ambience integration is tried out only on the first four tracks (with the redundant vocals on the second and fourth track actually taking away some of the charm), as the drummer eventually abandons the scene, leaving the listener with the minor, flatlined, meditative ventures of the 24-minute closing piece. (5.75/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Brandon
 

POWERGLOVE - Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man - CD - vgmetal.com - 2007

review by: Brandon Strader

I grew up with video games, as I’m sure a lot of kids from my generation did. So naturally I was very excited when I held Powerglove’s new instrumental video game metal album in my hands. I’ve played most of the games that Powerglove have recreated themes for with Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man. As a result of that, I was able to pick out each familiar piece, and also recognize the Powerglove’s surprising compositional force.

The opener, "So Sexy Robotnik," uses a few themes from Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s an overwhelming experience to hear this great music recreated in a manner that actually makes it more exciting than it was when I was a child. The band uses elements like a funky wah-guitar breakdown and a saxophone performance that sound strange on paper yet sound so sweet to the ear!

"Mario Minor" features themes from — you guessed I t— Super Mario Brothers. Strangely enough, there’s a part in there that totally sounds like Children of Bodom! It’s a very recognizable tune from Super Mario, though… so that was a very funny revelation. The musicianship is fantastic, exciting, and the guitar solos are on a level with the aforementioned band. The shredding in the previous track was actually a bit reminiscent of Dragonforce! The breakdown half way through the song is the "Castle" theme, which is both completely and utterly awesome and a bit funny at the same time. Powerglove totally make this a convincing, dark, and grim progression to the untrained ear, yet anyone who has ever played Super Mario Brothers would definitely recognize it.

The third song, "Fight On," is from a game called Killer Instinct. I’ve never played this game before, yet the song is still very enjoyable for me. The song is more down-tempo than the first two, and features harmonic dual guitar leads and a darker theme as a whole. There’s a great progression that sounds vaguely classical in nature, which seemed to be a popular mechanic of video game music back in the old days. Some fast double bass and blastbeats in the song along with pummeling powerchords and more great solos is obvious proof that these guys are serious about their metal.

"Vanquish the Horrible Night" is a medley of tunes from Castlevania, which is a perfect series for metal both musically and conceptually, and Powerglove really pull it off. They use more of the adventurous material while shredding their rhythm a bit, yet they display some of the great melodic minor scales that we’ve come to love from this series’ music. The breakdown to blistering powerchords in this song is one of the heaviest breakdowns I’ve heard in a great while. It retains a level of dirt that really makes it strong and heavy as heck.

"The Duck Grinder" supposedly features music from Duck Hunt from the NES, but for the life of me I can’t remember any music in that game… The duck would fly out, I’d miss it, and the dog would laugh at me. Well, the use of the word "grinder" in the title is well-placed. The riffs are chaotic, the song is fast, and the beeps are very well-placed as well. It’s surprising how such a good song could come from such a low-concept game!

"Power, Wisdom, Courage" is a Zelda medley. The music in the Zelda series has always been epic, from the beeping adventure theme from the original game, to the orchestrated themes in Twilight Princess. This song cycles through a lot of songs, and has a great power metal vibe. They use the main theme from Ocarina of Time in a manner that I never would have guessed. It was such a happy song in the game, yet they play it with speed and intensity. The drummer definitely has a ton of work on Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man. On the longer, more Medley-type tunes on the album, that becomes very obvious! Powerglove cycle through a lot of memorable themes in a short amount of time. Luckily, they do find the chance to play the original Zelda theme from the first game!

"Omnishred (We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Sword)" is the boss battle theme from Final Fantasy VII, which pretty much defines the game for me. The version presented by Powerglove is pretty faithful to the original with a couple jams thrown in here and there. Powerglove pull this song off with more power than The Black Mages (which feature amongst their ranks the original composer of the song, Nobuo Uematsu)!

"Holy Orders (Be Quick and Just Shred)" is from Guilty Gear. This one must also be a bit on the older side, as it also has classical overtones and some fantastic melodic minor scales from the guitarists as well. Powerglove always has a solo or keyboard element at play that constantly keeps you intrigued with the music, and their skills are really incredible. You wouldn’t expect to hear such profound musicianship from a video game metal band!

The title track is a mixture of Metal Man from Megaman 2 and Mortal Kombat. I think it’s music from the motion picture Mortal Kombat, however. Powerglove are able to blend these two sources together with ease.

Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man is a massive undertaking. The performances are incredible, and each member is skilled beyond belief. I’d expect an act like this to be on a large label, yet they are apparently unsigned. That is insane. The production is perfect. It sounds as though they’ve spared no expense with this production, especially considering the beautiful artwork featured on their digipak as well.

The final song is a good choice to end it off. "Red Wings Over Baron" is a medley of themes from Final Fantasy IV, a game so popular that it has been re-released on the Gameboy Advance, and actually recreated in 3D for the Nintendo DS. I loved every second of this song, just as I loved every second of the entire album. Almost every song is a reminder of my childhood and the good times I’ve had.

I really loved Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man. It’s extremely busy, and there is always a new aspect to each song that Powerglove presents at each turn. It’s exciting, engaging, and really a lot of fun. For someone who has spent their childhood playing the Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Play Station, and more, this album is a really well-produced trip down memory lane. The effort here is simply incredible and flawless. Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man is one of the best albums released in 2007, so whether you’re into games or not, you should really check this out. (10/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
8.5/10 Brandon
 

PROJECT CREATION - Dawn on Pyther - CD - Progrock Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

The city I live in isn't much bigger than a regular American village, but it has almost everything a city should have. The library isn't that big; but it suits its purpose. For a really good choice of books, you still have to go to the next, bigger, city some five or six miles away. Now, they have a real library. There's even a music section there, and ten years ago it was quite cool to discover you could borrow CDs by bands such as Pantera, Pestilence or Deicide. It was a subject of a few discussions and noone could tell who could possibly be responsible for their CD selection. I still don't know, as the last time I went to the music section I found an old, gay-looking librarian sitting comfortably in his armchair listening to the floating, airy sounds of a Julio Iglesias record.

Dawn on Pyther brings back such memories — it's just too light to be considered metal, or even rock, and too unaggressive to seriously appeal to any of the fans of the genres. Project Creation is a brainchild of a Portuguese guy named Hugo Flores, and Dawn on Pyther is his second attempt at a massive, epic, progressive sonic journey. He sings and plays about seven or eight instruments by himself, and also there are four male / female singers and six other musicians playing twice as many instruments. There are ten songs and 76 minutes of music, but it's as though having to have all those instruments couldn't allow the music to really take off.

When we're talking "progressive," it doesn't necessarily have to be a Dream Theater clone or have extremely long songs. "Progressive" could be just about anything with innovative elements. Dawn on Pyther definitely has innovative elements, and it does contain long songs, but the stuff they are made from isn't very coherent. The only thing that appears to be holding the pieces together is the tempo — almost everywhere it's the same, medium-slow tempo. And there are subtle, gentle pieces of music coming, going and sometimes returning. Not too often. Every instrument has to have its solo spot, after all.

If the goal was to have long songs, and if you're into "progressive" just because of long songs, then look no further. For most of people, though, it would be hard to remain concentrated on Dawn on Pyther simply because it never really struggles to attract the attention. Yes, there are countless parts coming one after the other, but look at what they are — a part with keyboards or acoustic instruments and vocals, then a part with drums and electric instruments. Then a different part with "light" instruments, and yet another part with heavy instruments. Most of them have a storytelling quality: The subject is an imaginary world called Pyther, with Cheops living somewhere on it. But very few have the quality of being memorable or straightforward — there's nothing to hold on to.

After having listened to Dawn on Pyther twice, subsequently, I switched my stereo from CD to tuner and the classical music channel almost gave me an adrenalin rush.

All that Dawn on Pyther seems to be able to offer is enjoyment in listening to an impressive range of instrumental appearances, presented through a clean, natural and very spatial sound picture. But how much beauty can one stand before it kills him? (5.5/10)

review by: Brandon Strader

Apart from Project Creation’s main composer, Hugo Flores, there are nine guest musicians. This includes four vocalists, a classical guitarist, saxophone and flute player, a couple percussionists and a keyboardist. The inclusion of all of these musicians is immediately evident on the opening title track. The male vocals are topped by the higher-ranged female vocals, provided by Alda Reis, and the organic flute performances make the music sound so much greater and more extensive.

It is exciting to hear all of these separate elements come together. The wah guitar solos play with some light string ensembles from the keyboard, and the saxophone and flute create a unique sound. The saxophone solo at the end of the title track is simply awesome. However, Project Creation still manages to be quite heavy at times.

"Flying Thoughts" begins with a strong folk theme with a great flute performance, and acoustic guitar chords and leads on a 12-string guitar. It then drops into a melodic keyboard progression with a guitar lead fading in with some echo on it to create a nice, ambient sound. When the song becomes heavy, it features choir-like male vocals, and very well-sung female vocals. The way that these vocal performances fit together in harmony between the men and woman is good ear candy.

Each song is fairly long, and unfolds at a steady pace while building upon themes and summoning sounds and elements from the depths. Dawn on Pyther is a diverse and creative album that should lead to immense enjoyment for prog fans. The 76-minute length will give you plenty of material to digest, and you will want to listen to this multiple times.

There’s a nice theme overall of majesty, and medieval, or folk, sound. "Dragonfly Queen" almost flows like a operatic lullaby with beautiful vocals in a duet between male and female, atmospheric keyboards, and the return of the lovely flute. "The Voice of Cheops" is a great, heavy piece with some very nice guitar shreds. The song culminates in a rising wall of heaviness.

Calling the short break between songs on Dawn on Pyther intermissions is quite fitting. During our parents’ time, the cinematic experience would be split by a brief intermission during which you could take a break before your viewing resumed. Dawn on Pyther definitely unfolds like a theatrical experience. This is definitely an album that any prog fanatic should seek out! (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

PROJECT: FAILING FLESH - The Conjoined - CD - Burning Star Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

As opposed to the another "Project" band reviewed in this issue, there's nothing lame about Project: Failing Flesh. This one consists of only three members, but each and every one of them, on each and every song, crushes.

Given the nature of the recording process, apart from the two brothers Gutierrez, and the former Voivod vocalist, Eric Forrest, there might have been some other session members involved, because The Conjoined is a product of months of work in the studio owned by Kevin Gutierrez. In the breaks between working with bands such as Raven or Dysrhythmia, the brothers have been, for the second time now, recording their own ideas. Starting with the basic instruments, which, frankly, would have been enough to turn a few heads, they have also added some layers to twist the picture a bit.

In a nutshell, the result would be this: industrialized rhythmical progressive metal with almost absent — but subliminally disturbing — machinery. Read this word again: crushing. That's the guitar sound, if there ever was one to suit the description. Be it twisted thrash, Fear Factory on speed, Voivod progression, disjointed puppet marches or blastbeats, Project: Failing Flesh never fail to come up with a new idea for every subsequent song, develop it, distort it and make The Conjoined feel much longer than the 40 indicated minutes. Some of the drums have been played, some programmed, but it's hard to tell what and where because they, everywhere, hit like a surgically precise, meticulously programmed sledgehammer. Forrest, to say the least, doesn't feel like he's out of place on The Conjoined. This might be the best way he has ever used those hollow shouts.

And then there are the layers. Don't pay attention (or listen to The Conjoined too loud) and you won't know they are there. But they are — either playing along the crunchy staccato riffs almost as if being an end-part of each note, or simply a sweeping keyboard harmony instantly boosting everything to another level of intensity — Project: Failing Flesh know their way with sounds. Nothing has been left to chance. Even the song composition — if it sounds out of place, it's here to surprise you, but not by accident. Listen to The Conjoined for a dozen times but still you're just scratching the surface. And yet, all the ideas seem so simple. As if they waited for someone to use them the right way.

The Devil is in details, they say. This time, the Devil is a cyborg. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

RACING CARS - Second Wind - CD - Angel Air Records - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

I can't really remember the last time Angel Air had put out a brand new album, so this, a 2007 recording by the revived Racing Cars is already a cause for celebration.

The recently released live set of Racing Cars had already impressed us, proving that the band, whose previous studio album was released at the close of the ‘70s, is still in mint condition. Now, a complete package of ten, almost by the book, soft rock songs (one of which in two different mixes) further demonstrates the song writing capabilities and delivery of this group.

The songs, which range from mid-tempo rockers to ballads, are served with a rare sensitivity and a polished production. The vocals are dramatic yet authentic, never falling into the exaggeration trap; and the music is refined: solid, at times semi-R&B rhythm (some ‘60s styled organ grooves are amongst the strong and more distinctive features), seamlessly assimilated guitar solos, fine guitar and keyboards decorations every now and then. Everything is just so tasteful!

So, even if you doubt your ability to enjoy classic rock songcraft in the new millennium, this release should be consumed as a test case! (8/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Mladen
 

RESURRECTION - Promo 2007 - CD - Massacre Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

This four-track untitled promo disc is a sign of new life... wait, the jokes about the band name would be too obvious. Resurrection released their only album, Embalmed Existence, way back in 1993, and split up three years later. In 2005, they re-formed, and started writing the material for their next album. These four tracks should show us what Resurrection are about today. Actually, Resurrection today aren't far from what Resurrection were a decade ago.

All the time gone by doesn't really show, but a big part of that impression is the fact that right now Resurrection sound like a solid death metal band from anytime during the nineties. Nothing original — the songs are very much written in the vein of Obituary, although the sound (production having been done by James Murphy) is far sharper than on Obituary's last release. Paul Degoyler's vocals are another, although believable, Obituary interpretation and the riffs and rhythms could have been Obituary, except that here they are spiced up with more technical details, lively execution and precision.

With all the Obituary talk, it's reasonable to assume that the oncoming Resurrection album will please those who were disappointed by the last Obituary release, and those who want another dose of old school death metal won't be disappointed. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

REVELATION OF DOOM - Shemhamforash - CD - Pagan Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Never underestimate the power of the blastbeat. Revelation of Doom are from Poland, and they don't try to hide their main influence is Vader. The hyperspeed picked guitar sounds and plays like Vader, Analripper's vocals quite resemble Vader’s, and Amon's drum speed is as high as anything you've heard on Vader's albums. Who fucking cares.

What you WILL care about is the meaty, healthy satanic slaughter spread all over Shemhamforash. Blastbeats aren't such a rare thing nowadays. But they rarely sound this exciting. When they begin, you just have to wonder if this is for real, and why do they not sound like this on the other albums you have heard. The snare and the cymbals, in their perfect clarity, command special attention for their sound and almost tangible percussive dynamics. In other words: whoa, this drummer kicks bloody ass! He slays! All the time. Whatever he does. And somehow, when Revelation of Doom go for a slower, groovy part — and they're perfectly capable of making one — when the blastbeats kick in again, they AGAIN leave the listener breathless. Every time.

There's a tiny little thing built around the blastbeats too, namely the music. Full speed ahead, hit-him-he's-not-your-brother groovy death metal with an enviable amount of sing-along parts. Yes, sing-along and there's nothing embarrassing about growling mindless Satanic nonsense to those killer tunes, is it? 666!

Appropriately, Shemhamforash ends with a sample from Anton Szandor Lavey's The Satanic Mass, and everything before it is pure hellish fun. The Vader comparisons come up only if you really think hard, but Vader don't have this ugly evil distorted bass guitar sound, and to Revelation of Doom all the dirty, naughty straightforwardness seems to be so easy and natural it's just amazing. To quote an album title from this issue: this is what the edge of your seat was made for. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.8/10 Avi
 

RIDE THE SKY - New Protection - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

It is easy to butcher New Protection: this debut release by the band assembled by drummer Uli Kusch (ex-Helloween, Masterplan) is a mix of European pop metal with symphonic metal, that at times seems over pretentious and at others plainly catchy, recalling too many others (Europe, Yngwie Malmsteen to name a few) and lacking anything unique.

But that's just it: New Protection should be consumed as it was intended — an accessible, high-impact release, and as such it is a very successful one! The first few tracks reveal dense, ultra heavy and distortion loaded sound that takes away none of the songs’ catchiness, leaving them engaging both melody- and rhythm-wise.

A few selections into the album and the symphonic approach, accented by the keyboards (following in the band’s footsteps, we obey the cliché of name dropping, letting you know that Kaspar Dahlqvist of Dionysus is also on board) and the arrangements, surfaces more clearly: the less melodic and pseudo-epic "The Prince of Darkness" features splendid keyboard lines that hover over a rather simplistic yet effectively driving rhythm, as well as a hymn that seems to be taken off Malmsteen’s neoclassical outings and a breezy midsection that softens the take-no-prisoners rhythmic attack.

"Break the Chains" further demonstrates the orchestral arrangements while "The End of Days" relies strictly on a thin keyboard melody, resulting in a slight loss of momentum, which lasts until "Endless" restores it. "Heaven Only Knows" follows and it is the true ace here: a song that would have been famed worldwide had it been released in the ‘80s, mostly due to its majestic chorus.

With a high level of execution throughout, the functionally produced songs are memorable and there is enough variety to please fans of true metal, power metal and symphonic metal who don't take their music too seriously (or just know how to enjoy it!). This is pop metal at its best. (7.8/10)

 

 

 

 
5.1/10 Ignacio
 

ROBOTS AND EMPIRE - Omnivore - CD - Trip Machine Laboratories - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

Self titled-era Jesu meets sludgecore leaders Neurosis and Isis meets Acid King meets hardcore meets My Chemical Romance meets space rock, Robots and Empire could have been a weird beast. But the overly mechanized feeling at times and the obviously rushed feeling at others ruin its potential at being a pleasant album.

To a certain, really limited, extent, it works. It's not an amateur attempt, and Robots and Empire as musicians are good enough, but the constant barrage of different styles is hard to do well unless you really plan everything out, and some parts on Omnivore sound rushed. Now, when they don't, they're good; really, really good, but don't expect to see the good Robots and Empire for more than 20 minutes. Seriously, those My Chemical Romance-like parts don't really work in metal, sorry. When you go past the whole "this sounds weird phase," Omnivore falls on its own weight: nothing is as developed as it should be, and this is a record that deserves and needs a lot of development.

On the other hand, Omnivore has many dissonant-but-good-sounding riffs that make some straightforward songs weird sounding, definitely the album's high point, coupled with the odd time signatures and polymeters (similar in a way to Psychotic Waltz and Confessor). There are even great jam parts (or parts that sound like jams, don't know which), making you wish the poppier parts were more like that. Robots and Empire are definitely better at playing and jamming than they are at songwriting, it's just that they prefer not to show that, and instead choose to work by using straightforward songs that just don't fit them, while controlling the craziness that would have saved this album, or the academical composing that would have turned this into a consistent album.

Even with all those things, Omnivore is a big step forward for them. Their riffs aren't all the same like they were in previous recordings, the vocals and the instrumentation are more linked and you won't get that feeling that the whole album is just one riff repeated — it just sounds like a mixtape of similar bands now.

So... it has potential, but, like their previous effort, it's lacking and somewhat inconcise, even if it's far from it. Maybe Robots and Empire took the "omni" part of "omnivore" way too literally. (5.1/10)

 

 

 

 
5.9/10 Mladen
 

ROCK, ROB - Garden of Chaos - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

So, this is my Christian metal album for this month? Oh, well. Speaking of metal (right. Like this is a car freak site), it has always been about bands, and not very often about singers with session musicians. That would be pop music — how many pop fans actually know the names of their idols' band members? On the other side, how many metal fans object if a band changes a drummer, a bass player or a guitarist just as they object when a band changes a singer? In metal, singers are expendable just like any other band member (yes, there are exceptions, but this one is not the best example). Career-wise, it's best for a band that their line-up stays the same, certainly, but accidents do happen.

Rob Rock doesn't have to worry about accidents. He made a name for himself by singing with Impelliteri, M.A.R.S., Avantasia, Axel Rudi Pell and five or six other bands. The hired musicians have nothing to prove, either: They played in dozens of quite well known heavy, power or progressive bands (and remind me to never listen to any of them again). There's the omnipresent Roy Z, and the others come from Narnia, Wisdom Call, DivineFire, Saviour Machine, Planet Alliance... how about consulting an encyclopedia?

If the review started with pop, it might as well continue. Take the standard pop song structure: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, a breakbeat section and some more of the chorus. Garden of Chaos is made out of eleven songs with the same, predictable, structure... and two ballads. Spiced up with expert guitars, the song beginnings might even pass as solid, heavy power metal, somewhere between Keeper-era Helloween and Gamma Ray with a bit of Stratovarius. But then, you always get a bridge (oh, forgot about that part, but in pop, it's optional), a chorus and everything else necessary to complete the song as painlessly as possible and never make it too long. Although some parts are jaw-dropping, the feeling of listening to something manufactured is just too distressing.

Yes, Rob Rock has an enviable vocal range, and he knows who his audience is. Those who like listening to songs about king of kings and saviors, music with nice solos and without too many risks and... in the end of "Ode to Alexander," there are some baby "goo-goo"s. How touching. Nicely executed and instantly forgettable. Consumer-friendly heavy metal. (5.9/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Brandon
 

SCALE THE SUMMIT - Monument - CD - Prosthetic Records - 2007

review by: Brandon Strader

There are not a lot of instrumental metal CDs released these days. I believe the last one I heard was Blotted Science’s The Machinations of Dementia. Although the instrumentation is fantastic on Scale the Summit’s Monument, you can’t shake the desire to hear vocals all over this material. It sounds so built for a vocal performance, despite the music being pretty busy, and despite good use at replacing the attention vocals would command with pinch harmonics.

Monument is very technical, but not technical enough to stand on its own. Each song sounds too similar.

The rhythm guitars are nice and diverse, yet Scale the Summit really could have used solos more often. This may have been a good advantage, and would give the listener something more to grasp onto. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all instrumental bands… I guess you could conclude that Monument can get pretty boring at times. Just guitars, bass, and drums… even a bit of keyboards would have made the music more interesting.

The introduction on "Crossing the Ocean" is mellow and enjoyable. If only there were more material like this on the record. The song then goes into some guitar performances that remind of Cynic... minus the vocals. Instrumental music can be great, but the purpose seems somehow lost on this album. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.7/10 Mladen
 

SEAR BLISS - The Arcane Odyssey - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Brass instruments in a black metal band. Surprised? If you've heard Sear Bliss before — their first album was released way back in 1996 — you shouldn't be. But, being a band from Hungary, Sear Bliss didn't quite get all of the exposure that equally good bands from other countries did. The Arcane Odyssey is the sixth album into their career, and speaking of them just as "that black metal band with a trombone" doesn't feel right. Shouldn't we by now be speaking of dozens of bands using the same thing?

When listening to the way the trombones, trumpets and euphoniums are implemented into Sear Bliss' music, it isn't such a big deal: It's all so natural you almost don't notice. Instead of a guitar melody, a lone trombone melody can vastly improve the pensive, archaic atmosphere and give it a touch of surrealism. Considering the other way brass sections are normally used (like funeral marches or anthems) it's curious how noone else thought of using them in metal in this way. And those are metal instruments, after all, if there ever were any.

Also, they can be epic. One part of The Arcane Odyssey is inspired by a famous legend in Hungarian mythology called "Hadak Utja" (the road of the warriors) and what better way to evoke such an ancient myth than by using slow, menacing brass instruments to accentuate the things — even Bathory used fanfares to a similar effect, although maybe not combined with electric instruments.

But enough about those. The other instruments on The Arcane Odyssey sound raw and warm, adding to the general feeling. It's a feeling you get when you're being told about something monumental that happened ages ago and left sad and bitter memories, although the person speaking to you has survived them with pride and dignity.

If there's a complaint about the storyteller, it's the fact that he has probably been a participant in way too many such events, and it also left him a bit resigned. You can't expect him to tell so many epic stories with the same level of engagement, and there are only so many words he can use before they lose their meaning. Musically, it means that, The Arcane Odyssey, being Sear Bliss’ sixth album, doesn’t see the band really trying to impress with any gimmicks, extravaganza or brutality. It's just an album done by experienced musicians who love what they do. Although you won't find many extremely innovative riffs, the songs have a very compact feeling in spite of numerous changes and distinctive parts. Mostly mid-tempo, the songs manage to hold the attention through having careful structures, a distinctive, pensive atmosphere and the simple feeling of listening to something that is — or was — real.

Which is all you need, actually. Make yourself comfortable, sit on the grass under a night sky from about a thousand years ago, relax, and experience the journey. (7.7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Forgotten Symphony (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
7/10 Brandon
 

SHADOW'S FAR - Eleven Sins - CD - Stonepath Records - 2007

review by: Brandon Strader

Eleven Sins is the brand new debut from Shadow’s Far, a Swiss five-piece. Eleven Sins is a fine collection of melodic death with some acoustic interludes. Of course that description doesn’t sound too original, but the music is pretty exciting and the band doesn’t try to imitate or copy the sound of other popular bands in the genre.

Probably the coolest aspect of Eleven Sins is Däny Philipp’s vocal performance. After hearing his voice enter on "Tears From Below," I thought that this was another group following in the female-vocalist trend. Boy, was I wrong! You don’t usually hear men screaming with such a very high range.

Philipp does display some lower-range yell vocals as well, and the band shows that they’ve got the ability to also play more thrash-based material. The only complaints that can be made is that the guitars seem a bit weak when they should be assisting with the brutal thrash, and some of the songs fall on some material that is too overdone at this point. When Shadow’s Far enters a full-speed thrashing tremolo session, you can’t help but bang your head. They know how to rock, and the positive aspects of Eleven Sins outweigh the bad. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Brandon
 

SINGLE BULLET THEORY - On Broken Wings - CD - Crash Music - 2007

review by: Brandon Strader

Metalcore?

…sigh…

That’s what I thought. Boy, was I wrong.

In the ever-expanding universe of metalcore, there is a circular formation of pillars that state the laws and scripture of this genre. Most metalcore bands, during their pilgrimage to Mecca, come across these pillars and admire them. In a time when metalcore bands all seem to be following the same rules and trekking down the same path, it is genuinely refreshing to come across an act like Single Bullet Theory.

Sure, the name seems generic enough. The title, as well, seems generic. Listen to the first song on this album, however, and you will quickly change your mind about the band. Single Bullet Theory is a book that you would love to judge by its cover, yet the actual content of this "book" is completely different than your preconceptions about it.

Single Bullet Theory’s music is not full of breakdowns. It features low growls, and high, cat-like screams. The guitar work is incredibly intricate with very fast harmony performances and the occasional chord progression. The song writing is original and exciting, and is more spontaneous than your typical breakdown-covered metalcore.

The high, soaring clean vocals have a very high-treble sound. They cut through the metal nicely, and when used during melodic passages, they are extremely powerful. "The Reason," for example, has a passage that is only double bass, slap-bass guitar, and these clean vocals. This is one of those moments that really makes Single Bullet Theory’s On BrokenWings special. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8.9/10 Ignacio
 

WORLD-INFERNO FRIENDSHIP SOCIETY - Addicted to Bad Ideas - CD - Chunksaah Records - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

It's usually bullshit when bands invent a genre for themselves. If I start a band and say we play progressive spatulacore, it's just because my band sucks on so many levels we need to make people remember us for _something_. After all, genres are not something you can just set for yourself, it's a matter of context and sometimes even of geographical location (see kraut-rock), so spatulacore might be a valid genre name if every single person into music starts seeing my example of a band as spatulacore, for example. So, World-Inferno Friendship Society surprised me when they set a quite accurate genre for themselves, as much as I personally am against that. Cabaret punk.

World-Inferno Friendship Society is one of those bands that only started being well known after their third or fourth album. This one here is their sixth one. It's not a mystery, though, why they still aren't so famous, albeit they're recognized. Let's just say that their style is a little bit too bizarre for their "target." Mostly because the "cabaret" part is a big influence to their sound, and because their style of "punk" is not precisely what Misfits or Dead Kennedys did. In fact, their sound is, for the most part, much closer to a totally avant-garde circus Panic at the Disco! than to anything even remotely related to Great Britain or playing songs against Queen Elizabeth II. But, and it's a big but, they are not mainstream, so they don't need to add those typical Panic at the Disco! parts designed just to make the audience (or should I say the "female teenagers" part of it) scream, but they instead feature lots and lots of Broadway, jazz, cabaret and post-punk parts. And that's precisely what sets Addicted to Bad Ideas apart from... well, from anything. Oh, and forget about trying to find one cliche-melody here; chord progressions, choruses and melodies are not the typical stuff at all. In a nutshell, they sound like a punk band with lots of instruments that doesn't like playing punk: the base is there, but they're obviously heading another way.

It's not surprising that they describe themselves as an orchestra; Addicted to Bad Ideas is full of brass instruments, piano, harmonized vocals and even hammond-like organs like it's all a big punk Broadway musical (actually, it's a concept album), and I wouldn't be so surprised if they actually made a musical out of this, but they also use the typical punk, or pop-punk, instrumentation: drums, guitars, bass and vocals. So, if you like big arrangements or you just hate the fact that punk "is just three chords," then Addicted to Bad Ideas is what you might be searching for, but only if you like upbeat stuff.

I don't think I'm the only one that'd love it if the future of punk were like this. (8.9/10)

 

 

 

 
Monstruous/10 Chaim
 

WORSHIP - Dooom - CD - Endzeit Elegies - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

If to play the devil's advocate, Worship had needed to stop its activity right after recording and / or releasing their Last Vinyl Before Doomsday (initially a tape, then had come the vinyl pressing by Painiac records as part of the label's suicidal doom series, in something like 400 copies), which was more or less synchronized with the death of fucked-up Mad Max, the band's vocalist and drummer.

Had they done so, they would have reached a beyond-cult status and the aforementioned vinyl would have been the most sought after item in the history of metal underground.

However, Worship have lasted — and some will argue that they do so by taking advantage of Mad Max's death and / or dubious "legacy" — and continued yielding splits, 7" vinyls, in addition to releasing the aforementioned (demo) tape on any format available.

Enter the era of Dooom: it is as if the band had been frozen in time, picking up exactly where it had left Last Vinyl Before Doomsday, as if nothing has changed since.

But has anything really changed to begin with?

Worship's aural offering is not really music in its immediate sense; it is a journey through a thorny and jagged dark tunnel; the listener is being bruised, repulsed and almost sickened by the totality of this atonal, dissonant and excruciatingly slow "music." One is obliged to be equipped with the ultimate in patience and tolerance towards something like that. If you like doom metal — really love it, even — there is by no means a guarantee you will dig Dooom. Most chances are you will not (unless you want to get swept up with the current hype).

Worship devise their creation thoughtfully, and distance their existence further still, from the lot of other doom metal outfits, yet it is as if the music does not want you to hear it — as if the sounds do whatever they can to wriggle away from the human ear; they camouflage themselves as being really silence; when they emerge they try to bite, to make one cringe, they want you to hate them, and they, in turn, hate you so fucking much.

Dooom, ultimately, is one of the most non-flowing, anti-dynamic and restrained musical adventures. Its sloth-like pace and the overall extreme and sort of "ragged" unfriendliness make it hard a task to sit through the entire piece and truly "enjoy" it. Worship's music couldn't be farther from the concept of joy or enjoyment.

The visions, while listening, are almost horrendous and virtually too much to bear. If Skepticism's sounds emanate a funeral procession-like feeling, Worship's execute an end-of-the-world kind of drama; one feels, literally, that the fucking world is about to end. It is, I must admit — with all my pseudo-nihilism and quasi-misanthropy — by no means an easy feeling.

There has never been a band such as Worship, nor will there ever be another. If you have missed the experience offered by their Last Tape / Vinyl / CD Before Doomsday recording, you could check Dooom out, definitely. If you know Worship's music through and through, you may want to hear Dooom as well, but by no means is it mandatory for you.

The CD version comes in a luxurious digipack format and it is about an hour's worth of — well — experience (again, not music, per se). I only urge those who would like to put their hands on this release: even though Worship is a hot-topic band these days, the music is fucking acerbic and vile and difficult to handle, and really not remotely for everyone, even if you are a devoted doom metal fan. (Monstrous/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Chaim
 

DIRGE - Wings of Lead Over Dormant Seas - CD - Equilibre Music - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

Imagine you're in your mid-thirties, disillusioned, waking up from a (self-delusional) dream of goodness and ever-green pastures; a broken man, disheartened.

Imagine you are desperate for some sanity in your dwindling existence. Imagine you're downtrodden, playing your own vicious games in your very own vicious circle; your private hell, a game of failure pursuing failure; you are a failure, yielding another failed deed. Imagine.

Imagine you're engulfed in hatred; self-loathing and other forms of animosity, a consuming misanthropy so vile it is blinding-white.

What would you do then? Where would you turn? Who would soothe your aching, bleeding soul? You seek companionship? Security? In this crumbling existence?!

Before jumping off the highest bridge, take Dirge's Wings of Lead Over Dormant Seas. Put the headphones on. Sail away. It will soothe your heart, awaken you to life and accompany you through despair. Misery loves company, indeed. And what better company could anyone ask for than this magnificent album, through one's darkest hours? Dirge's Wings of Lead Over Dormant Seas is like an ocean: vast, concealing, friendly and treacherous.

It will enshroud with momentary affection, soothe you with its melancholic, quasi-familiar guitars like a home-coming parade; then it will crush your soul and leave nothing but dust.

Dirge's Wings of Lead Over Dormant Seas is dangerous; it induces self-mutilation, or immolation at that; it depicts the beauty that could not be reached, that could have been; the futility of trying to reach that perfection and the broken heart. Broken hearts are dangerous; they are mostly being broken by pondering about what could have been, if only… if only…

The sea of possibilities is always present here; the new versus the old, the human versus the mechanic, hope versus abandonment and ultimately a downfall.

Take Pink Floyd, for instance. Give them desperate guitars. Enhance their distortion effect to the fullest. Shoot them with the drug of pain and emptiness. Couple them with atmospheric hardcore and a touch of sludge and think: is this anything like what this album portrays? No, it is not, but a mere shadow.

A dichotomy, a paradox: although the heavy use of electronic aid and experimentation, yet the most organic album in recent times. Monolithic, inseparable, endless emotional riffs to fucking die for. Album of the year. (10/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Joshua
 

ZOMBIE, ROB - Zombie Live - CD - Geffen Records - 2007

review by: Joshua

I make no apologies for my unabashed admiration of Rob Zombie. C’mon. Any and every high school outcast who was into some or all of the following — heavy metal, professional wrestling, horror movies, hot-rods, comic books, exploitation flix and hot chicks whose mission in life is to make their way in the big bad world as pole dancers — ought to construct an altar in their house and give thanks daily to whatever guiding force in the universe occasionally gets this omniscience shit right. Zombie’s the quiet, scruffy pariah in all of us, sitting in the back of the classroom whiling away the tedious hours filling his notebook with drawings and stage-show schematics while wondering what the afternoon creature-feature holds once the final bell sounds.

And he made it, goddammit. His musical canon will never be considered art by most but he’s elevated sleaze and schlock to the standard of high art, written and directed movies that would’ve done the grindhouses of the ‘70s proud, created comic books and, most important, landed (and made an honest woman of) the stripper-girl of most oxygen consuming males’ wildest dreams. Sometimes the misfits actually get to win one. Bless.

Where does Zombie Live fit into the scheme of things? Well, it’s a live album, kinda sums it right there, generally a redundant cash-in utilized to milk a few more bucks out of the die-hards. There are always exceptions — KISS Alive! and Motorhead’s No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith spring immediately to mind — but it’s the rare live outing that improves or veers substantially from the studio versions. Zombie Live doesn’t transcend his recorded output with White Zombie and as a solo act but it’s not a total wash by any means.

So what’s the allure? It’s the overall sound: raw, stripped down, denuded of the sheen and densely layered production that’s inhabited every album from Astro-Creep: 2000 onward, Zombie’s vox relieved of the effects rack — a deeper, ragged croak. What’s left is a bunch of lean, mean numbers that retain their familiarity while deviating enough to persuade you to lend an ear.

Here, "Dragula" morphs from a bump-and-grind testimonial to a big stompin’ bit of aggression that’s too busy engaging in an arm wrestling competition and whiskey shots then the gyrating twins working the stage. Both "House of 1000 Corpses" and "The Devil’s Rejects" amplify their backwoods, gothic-country via southern rock creepiness factor with sparser arrangements, and "Demonoid Phenomenon" transforms from an already driving number into a toothy beast propelled by double-kick tattoos, depth charges of bass notes and Zombie shouting like a man possessed with a fury he barely comprehends.

At the end of the day, though, it all comes down to "Creature of the Wheel." The heaviest song in Zombie’s discography, in its live incarnation the sense of menace is upped, becoming an unstoppable procession of massive gears working in unison, driven by an army of slaves headed into a sunset of oblivion; just try and not get carried in its wake.

Zombie completists will lap it up. Those new to the show will find a decent cross-section of tracks. Everybody else? Suppose it depends on where you choose to sit in class. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Matt
 

CEPHALIC CARNAGE - Xenosapien - CD - Relapse Records - 2007

review by: Matt Smith

Cephalic Carnage is one of the rare bands whose albums keep getting better and better without straying too far from their original intention. Sick psychedelia adorns the liner notes as well as the gripping, ever-engaging sound the band produces. Since the beginning, Cephalic Carnage has blended diverging sounds into a coherent (or is it?!) whole. Experimenting with everything from jazz to sludge, the group's top-notch production, technical abilities and experimental qualities combine to make some of the most skillful and brutal metal out there.

Xenosapien seems like a natural progression from Anomalies, featuring thick grooves, punctuated growls and sludgy sections that really draw you in. As always, the interludes come out of left field and lead abruptly into pounding drum lines and chaotic guitars.

Cephalic Carnage's pure creative powers are the band's main strength. The ease with which drastically differing styles are summoned while songs still flow naturally and in a way that commands one's attention is almost singular to this group. Combined with the eagerness to test different styles, sounds and themes (and a humble, self-deprecating and simultaneously commanding stage presence), this is one group that should be making interesting music for years to come. I know I can't wait for their next one. (9.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Matt
 

AEON - Rise to Dominate - CD - Metal Blade Records - 2007

review by: Matt Smith

One thing I can say confidently about this band is that its members don't like Christianity or any of its offshoots. I mean, even Deicide takes a break now and then to talk about the "dark arts" or even violent acts in general. But Aeon used this album to take Christians head-on in every song. The band's observations aren't going to help you on any philosophical level (let alone change any minds), but the onslaught is relentless. The following passages are all taken from different tracks on Rise to Dominate (and I'll add a preemptive [sic] for the grammar used by these Swedes):

"Lucifer fallen angel / Cast out of they skies a threat in god's eyes"

"Death is what I wish for them / And their cult just a distant memory"

"I spit at the holy I revel in sin / I laugh at his children I repent nothing"

"Crush them all with Jesus they bleed / A paradise it would be / Hate them"

"Pray for your sins / Pray with the priest / Pray to the cross / You pray to nothing"

The title "Caressed by the Holy Man" speaks for itself.

"Never will I put money in the collector's plate / As I see it we don't need this house of greed … Burn the church down / Burn it down"

"If you'll pray then you will see who is right / Jehovah is nothing but a hoax"

"You are brave to confront me again / With your ten Jehovah men / Still you bleed hard from our first meeting / Are you here for another beating"

"The time is now / Dominate / Lambs of God / Terminate"

"The cross on your wall / Won't protect your soul / The bible by your bed / Will burn when you are dead"

So, as you can see, the frontal assault on the Christian church is in full effect. Surely it's a beautiful thing for anyone trying to shove the dogma away in a life where it's inescapable.

Musically Aeon only enhances its message. An assault is in effect here, too, as the band hits every chord as if to produce a wall against its enemies. Double-bass is a near constant, screams and growls are relentless, and the guitars pound away from start to finish. The musicianship is tight, and the guitars riffs and solos are especially virtuosic. The flavor is basically that of a boiled-down death metal with the clean production and continuous energy of a thrash group (and, of course, a crude black metal mentality).

Aeon will have to mature before its next release, but this one is an impressive effort. The group will have to learn to incorporate some different tempos and styles that aren't simply "as hard as possible all the way through." And, of course, to have an intriguing philosophy of life one must also include something positive. Tearing down Christianity has its limits — let's talk about the boundless power of Satan already, guys! Don't just take swipes at the existing religious structure without suggesting something with which to replace it: make Anton proud! (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.8/10 Matt
 

JUNIUS - Junius - CD - Radar Recordings - 2007

review by: Matt Smith

This emotion-riddled release has a slow, constant pulse that carries atmospheric guitar lines and anguished lyrics through waves of intensity and depression. Junius has a lot going on below the
surface, but this album may not be the best expression of the group's depth. The steady beat lulls one into an almost hypnotic state; the softly sung vocals compliment the subtle instrumental mix; the drums tread forward with repetitious rhythms — it's almost like a mixture of Pelican and Anathema, but toned-down.

Junius does do a good job of building tone and ambiance, and I could see how a live audience would be entranced at one of the band's better performances. However, this release isn't engaging or intense enough to really draw you in. Joseph Martinez's vocals are skilled but occasionally ill-fitting. Combined with the repetitious, thematic nature of Junius's style, there are certain sections of the album you just have to "wait out" until the next strong groove kicks in. This is a particularly glaring weakness in an album of this nature — it is hard to be fully engaged when you find yourself wincing a little.

Overall, this is a fun listen, especially for the depressed. Junius has the makings of a talented group, but it needs to work on translating its atmosphere more effectively to album format. (5.8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Joshua
 

CATHOLICON - Treatise on the Abyss - CD - Negativity Records - 2007

review by: Joshua

Judged solely on their album and song titles, lyrics, cover art, web site address (fuckyourgod.com), the ironically contradictive usage of the band’s name, and the aural filth reeking from the album’s thirteen (!) tracks, you’d expect the members of Catholicon to be nothing less than a posse of seven-foot behemoths draped in armor wrought from the skulls and bones of Christians, imbued with enough ill will to give a platoon of berserkers pause and wielding weapons forged in the sulfur pits of Hades and quickened in Satan’s unholy semen.

Ah, well. No.

Take a gander at a pic of the band (nope, I’m not helping out here, do your own damn web-surfing) and you’ll find yourself three (two of ‘em near-sighted) husky boys from down Louisiana way who are intimately familiar with their respective mamas’ jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, shrimp creole and pecan pie... lots of pecan pie. Pity the fourth member, all skin, bones and sharp angles; probably the drummer and they need to keep him lean for the live shows — kind of like Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

Shame, really, because the photographic evidence betrays just under fifty minutes worth of sonic mayhem — all gnashing teeth, severed limbs, disembowelments en masse, and bloodletting on a grand (guignol) scale. Treatise on the Abyss is fairly devilish stuff and you’d be hard pressed to find a recent album that conjures as much hellish imagery through sound alone.

Catholicon has got the groundwork covered: the instrumentation is uniformly tight, song structures avoid obvious progressions, the production has just the right layer of muck without residing in lo-fi-kult-nekro-troo territory and vocalist I.N.R.I. (really working that blasphemy overtime) cuts just the right ratio of stuck-pig anguish with seriously agitated demon.

The trump card is that they come at this black metal business from a different perspective. What with the inhuman tempos, start-stop riffery, and an atmosphere the veers somewhere between punishment and abuse, one could argue that Catholicon is a grind band masquerading as a black metal horde. And why not? If Cattle Decapitation can get away with dabbling in the blackened fields on Karma.Bloody.Karma, let’s allow Catholicon to devour the trope whole, slap on a fresh coat of keyboards and gussy up the charnel house as they see fit.

Get yourself a slice of King Cake*, grab a bleacher seat and revel in the carnage. Good chance you’ll be back for seconds. (7.5/10)

*an intriguingly simple ring of dough similar to a brioche, topped with colored sugars or icing with a trinket, often a plastic baby, baked inside. A Mardi Gras staple, denizens from across Louisiana attest that King Cake is a veritable party in your mouth.

 

 

 

 
Let there be doom/10 Chaim
 

SOL - Let There Be a Massacre - CD - Ván - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

You see, albums such as Let There Be a Massacre make me feel a bit of a hypocrite; sitting in the comfiness of my surroundings, sipping Earl Grey tea and listening to this filth. Do I relate? Can this album and I bond? Is there an environment filthy and rotten enough in which I could dwell and type my half-hallucinations regarding Sol's debut album and feel in accordance with it? I think I'd rather not...

This is sonic filth, you know: unadulterated, refined, concentrated grime; one that sticks not to the garment but rather clings to the soul.

Minimal weird (i.e., an Accordion, a banjo, martial drumming, spoken parts, suffocating ambiance) death metal played slow, hence adhering to the doom / death etiquette seemingly... only seemingly.

Sol explores the dissonant, unmusical chords and riff-arrangements executed by, let's say, Worship: bass-heavy, askew, unmelodious, snare drum-driven with hints of minimal repetitive and circular whining guitar stripped of any gusto or dynamics.

And yet, this album is strangely fresh and catchy... and so fucking despairing.

Removed from the doom / death romanticism completely, Sol sonically depicts the soiled canvas of death industrial, harsh industrial, goregrind, or extreme sludge, in the sense their ominous doom / death is so vile, hollow, and empty, emitting almost pornographic amounts of aural death (thinking of nuclear fallout and a following black rain from still blacker clouds would suffice). It dispirits even an enthusiastic doom metal-fan such as your humble servant.

Think of unpleasantly harsh and strange doom entities such as Visceral Evisceration in their Incessant Desire for Palatable Flesh glories and dry, encrusted gore; or Delirium's Zzooouhh extreme oddity; or Norway's Black Lodge's Covet (the kings and queens of dissonance) or the aforementioned Worship — and you can add Sol's morose, miserable, downtrodden, dispassionate and quirky-yet-catchy Let There Be a Massacre.

Ultimately, Sol's somewhat horror-filled, militaristic and semi-ritualistic minimal music epitomizes doom metal's vision, if there ever was one: let there be a massacre, of the soul, of the human spirit, of Earth's delights. Let there be a massacre!

Let There Be a Massacre is, hands down, one of the most genuine, authentic, sincere and ripping doom offerings for 2007; a terrific and terrifying album. (Let there be doom/10)

 

 

 

 
3.9/10 Mladen
 

SOMRAK - The Abhorred Blessings - CD - DTR Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Here's a nice looking CD for your true black metal collection. Somrak's debut comes with a highly elaborated black, white and grey booklet. The paper is matte black, the lyrics are in dusky grey and there's a shining white quote above the lyrics to each song. The ornaments in the corners of the pages are also a nice touch, and the band looks mean. There's also an important "Worship Satan and cut your veins" inscription.

The disc itself is simple and effective: all black with a lighter title. And finally, pop it in and here comes the music... but, may we skip this subject? It's not that it is bad, it's just been done countless times before. The sound consists of thin, glassy guitars and quite sharp drums. It might as well be a demo, but when talking black metal, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The music mostly consists of mid-tempo blastbeats and rocking two bass drum parts with occasional strays into other black metal stereotypes.

And, to say it directly — it just doesn't go anywhere. You've heard the tremolo-picked riffs before, just like you already know that music can be done by using the same chord shifted up and down the fretboard. The vocals are rhythmically predictable but the biggest issue is the tempo: whatever Somrak do, you can boil it down to the same thing. Which one? Just try counting: one-two, one-two, one-two... and you'll be counting throughout eight songs.

Lyrically preoccupied with evil and demise, Somrak don't quite make the music close to the subject. If you're willing to give a band from Slovenia a try, may we heartily recommend a convincing and quite original crew called Noctiferia instead? Those guys actually made a video with Jesus being chainsawed in half, so which band would you rather believe? (3.9/10)

 

 

 

 
Why?/10 Roberto
 

CHANGE! - Change! - CD - Sub City Records - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Change! is a compilation CD/DVD sold at Hot Topic stores. Purportedly, a portion of the $10 sale price goes to charity. At its core, this is a fine and laudable idea.

The problem with the existence of such a release is that its utility and necessity are questionable. This is especially the case in 2008, when tracks of bands such as those found on this release can easily be found and enjoyed on Myspace.com, for free. Likewise, the videos on the DVD can be enjoyed free of charge on YouTube.com, albeit at a much lower graphic quality.

Yes, Change!’s packaging is attractive, but why would you buy it? There is no content exclusive to this release. If the idea of supporting worthy causes appeals to you, why not take the entire $10 you’d spend on this album and donate that, rather than giving the majority of it to Hot Topic? Then you can go home and listen to all the same tracks for free on the Internet. If you’re really unscrupulous, you can then illegally download the albums from which the tracks were taken.

A much better idea would have been if Hot Topic had Sub City Records have a band — any band — sign up to offer a portion of the sale of their latest, exclusive-content album towards a charity. Then at least one would have a more meaningful body of work. Having a new studio album with packaging such as Change!’s would be exciting, particularly to those that such a thing would matter to, i.e. those who care about having an album in its entirety, with artwork, i.e. those who are disinterested by compilations that feature material found on existing albums.

The other issue with this release relates more to its inclusion on a mostly metal site like Maelstrom.nu. Change! is promoted as containing something along the lines of "the best in hardcore and metal," which is a cruel joke. With the exception of one or maybe two bands (I’m stretching to include As I Lay Dying, but I’m losing self-respect as I type this), there are no metal bands to be found on here. What you will find are pop punk, hardcore, metalcore, and what is largely referred to as "emo" bands.

But that’s cool. After all, "Hot Topic" is often said with a note of derision, it being synonymous with adolescents who are trying to be underground and rebellious, but are going about it with the same herd mentality that what they’re attempting to embrace in fact rails against. Let that company, its clients, and those that support it believe they are appealing to the metal crowd. It’s better that the world at large never get what metal is or sounds like. And if you really like pop punk, then no one should tell you you’re wrong.

At the end of the day, Hot Topic is trying to run a successful business just as well as AquariusRecords.org, but I wouldn’t buy a compilation CD from there, either. (Why?/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Larissa G
 

NEKRASOV - Into the No-Mans-Sphere of the Ancient Days - CD - Exotic Corpse - 2007

review by: Larissa Glasser

Well, yikes. It takes a lot to frighten me, but Nekrasov is intensive care unit waiting room-scary. Very heavily distorted feedback loops, extra-thorny samples, and despairing tribalisms alternate with gnarly two-chord black metal ritual, and some really — wel l— FUCKED incantations of darkness. Background information is unavailable at press time, but these eight tracks pull the best elements of early Bathory, Coil, Northhaunt, Immortal, and even Blut Aus Nord and meld them into a lasagna of almost impenetrable darkness.

Needs to be heard to be believed. I am all-too-aware that opinions are like assholes, and that human listening experience is a subjective endeavor. All I can try and do is warn those who approach this particular briar patch: Have some salve handy.

The only approach I disagree with is the straight-on switch off between ambient and black metal tracks, it makes repeated listens too predictable. But what this lacks in spontaneity it MORE than makes up for with intensity. Those who will not be saved by the Lamb will be torn by The Beast. Nekrasov. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Roberto
 

EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone - CD - Temporary Residence Records - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Explosions in the Sky is the shoegaze, "post-rock" instrumental group that has that je ne sais quoi that appeals to metallers. It’s searing, intense, and embraces the tone of triumphant melancholy that many forms of metal do. The music is packed with blurry, fast picked notes, and there are some parallels in atmosphere that can be drawn to metal.

More importantly, the music is poignant and evocative. Even for those who find music devoid of vocal content somehow lacking, Explosions in the Sky offers sounds whose instrumentation speaks volumes as if including a human voice. The music is tragic, romantic, ethereal and stirring. Moods can alternate between a triumphant march to a warbling, shimmering delight of melancholy.

All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone was released about a year ago. I loved it immediately, but I couldn’t listen to it for a while as I went through some personal trauma around the same time, and what Explosions in the Sky had to offer was too much considering the circumstances. More emotional stability has allowed re-found affection towards this band and its music, and All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone is a winner (and if you are drawn to this band greatly through the metal connection, be sure to check out How Strange Innocence). Get this if you’re into groups like Mono, Weakling, Stars of the Lid or Eluvium. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Roberto
 

PAGAN'S MIND - God's Equation - CD - Limb Music Productions - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

After a few years of research, Pagan’s Mind is officially this journalist’s favorite metal band. The Norwegian prog metal project’s fourth album, God’s Equation, sees the band enjoying more promotion than ever. The unfortunate thing is that the timing could be better, for God’s Equation isn’t their best album.

That said, less than best for a wonderful band can still be pretty great, and God’s Equation certainly is. The album continues in Pagan’s Mind’s signature, spacey, ethereal meets rock and metal sound, which complements their penchants for writing about extraterrestrial subjects.

Thing is, though, it’s probably a red flag when the track dead in the middle of a studio record is a cover song... like the core material isn’t so strong or enthused this time, so here’s a cover to divert some attention. In this case, it’s David Bowie’s "Hallo Spaceboy." The song certainly sticks out as not meshing entirely in style with Pagan’s Mind’s own tracks, but it is a fun song, and, like with any Pagan’s Mind track, it becomes a welcome, integral part of the record.

God’s Equation features some superb Pagan’s Mind songs: the title track and "United Alliance" stand out the most. But like all of this group’s work, the more you let the album mature with you, the more you grow fond of it, and parts on songs such as "Evolution Exceed" become genius.

But it just feels like there’s something missing compared to the first three records. It could be that this one is at least 10 minutes shorter, but that’s not necessarily it. The final song, "Osiris’ Triumphant Return," seems all wound up to deliver a proper album finale, but it’s merely passable. Previous Pagan’s Mind albums, particularly Celestial Entrance and Enigmatic: Calling, finished strong from around the 2/3 mark. God’s Equation does not.

This is particularly mysterious if one buys the limited edition 2CD God’s Equation set. The second disk features a new studio track, the nigh-eight-minute "Shine Eternally," which not only would have fit in beautifully on the main album in style and sonic quality, but also would have been one of the more pleasing songs. Also present on the bonus disk is a wonderful live cut, and four demo versions of songs from the second album. These are a minor thrill for major fans of the group, as one can hear multiple sections in which Pagan’s Mind tried out different ideas for vocal lines and transitions (thankfully, the album versions are all better).

Another point of interest is the sound production. Album #3, Enigmatic: Calling, was the group’s best, having been once again credited to Fredrik Nordstrom. God’s Equation sees Pagan’s Mind’s sound production now entirely in the hands of Pagan’s Mind. It’s on par with Enigmatic: Calling, but perhaps slightly less bright and crisp, and more muddy — not quite the work the previous album was. Then again, that’s the unilateral case. Looking again, God’s Equation, as truly highly recommendable as it is, is Pagan’s Mind’s least good album — even the debut, Infinity Divine, with a more relatively simplistic, generic, power metal approach and more of a canned sound, feels more like an album that tells an interesting tale from beginning to end.

Regardless of these shortcomings, and thanks to the extremely strong talent this group has, God’s Equation is still one of my favorite albums of 2007... just not of all time, like the previous couple are. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Chaim
 

TUSK - The Resisting Dreamer - CD - Tortuga - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

Remember the amazing band Across Tundras? Good. If not, go and read my review about their Dark Songs of the Prairie dated a year ago or so.

Tusk's sophomore effort, The Resisting Dreamer, shares many qualities with the above mentioned album; the insubstantial, hazy and dreamy qualities; the drunkard's oriented tunes; the mild experimentation; the flirting with both avant-garde post-rock and metal; the nonchalant, I-don't-give-a-fuck attitude both bands administer and share.

Yes indeed, Across Tundras will be the first thing that pops into one's mind when hitting the play button on Tusk's The Resisting Dreamer. Southern rock and post-rock admixture with a hint of metal, delivered courtesy of members of atmospheric post-hardcore band Pelican, to whose qualities nobody needs an introduction.

Four lengthy tracks, filled with alternating celestial and hellish atmospheres with a minimum of sordid and acidic vocals that oscillate between the despaired to the torturous, some droning and feedbacks and a thick blanket of doom-like, melancholic rock to cover it all with its eternal night. Excellent stuff! (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Chaim
 

V:28 - VioLution - CD - Vendlus - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

V:28's VioLution is the epitome of apocalyptic death metal, if there ever was one.

V:28 has captured the essence of rot and the downfall of humanity; not by reducing their sound to utter noise — the sonic equivalent to physical eradication, as some artists may interpret this vision — but rather the opposite. They have inserted sickly sweet keyboards that act as the antagonists to the (seemingly) simple — and to some length also very melodic — death metal at display. However, the sum of all this: the saccharine, quirky tunes stitched into the harsher aspects of these very tunes (the black / death metal vocals; the blazing, buzzing guitars; the blasts) are what make this album tick.

Heavy on samples courtesy of personas from MZ.412 and G.G.F.H. as well as featuring Garm (Ulver, Arcturus, Borknagar) as a guest vocalist, these musicians has upgraded V:28's music into the realms of excellence.

VioLution is not a progressive album per se — nor is it remarkably innovative — however, the wise choices and delicate balance on display, between the melodic and the vitriolic; the mechanized, the industrial; and the organic and human — is what ultimately makes VioLution such a good album (all that and those monstrous riffs) and the perfect embodiment of the band's agenda.

VioLution is a manifest for man's and Earth's downfall, portrayed and executed by crafty hands and of the highest order. Imagine what Arcturus' timeless masterpiece La Masquerade Infernale would have sounded like had it been infused with some slow, ultra catchy, vitriolic and melodic death metal, sparse blasts and an extra dose of industrialization. Is VioLution that good? Not as good as the aforementioned, but almost and very much more bitter. (9.5/10)

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

...AND OCEANS - The Symmetry of I, the Circle of O - CD - Season of Mist - 1999

review by: Roberto Martinelli

You might see quick descriptions of ...And Oceans’ The Symmetry of I, The Circle of O as being like Dimmu Borgir, but that’s a shame. In reality, there is no other album that sounds like this one.

Sure, ...And Oceans has got the fast, buzzing guitar lurking underneath grandiose, melodic keyboards while the bright snare drum blasts on, but the Finnish band had its own thing going, and going strong. The guitars, bass and drums tend to tear along, while the keyboards and piano provide the melodic anchors to the songs, sometimes allowing for invigoration via breaks featuring tasty, clean piano tones that continue on as the more visceral instruments start up again. The album is a unique sound amalgamation that’s as interesting to listen to as the compositions themselves, The Symmetry of I, The Circle of O is fairly avant-garde, but never lets that get in its own way of staying on course in delivering energetic, dynamic songs.

Which is what makes ...And Oceans so frustrating. Their debut album, The Dynamic Gallery of Thoughts, hinted at what was to come, but is tepid in comparison. The third album, A.M.G.O.D. (don’t ask what it stands for, it’s nonsense) showed this once great band starting to slide... although the album is much better than our review way back in issue #1 said it was. And don’t even bother with the couple or so albums ...And Oceans released after that (Cypher and some other one... documented in our pages). And unlike what our dear Mladen Škot says, the post-...And Oceans band, Havoc Unit, sucks big time.

So as it stands, ...And Oceans peaked at their second record, then for all the world seem to have gotten too wrapped up in themselves and how quirky and avant-garde they were, and progressively lost it, and lost it, until all that was left was the volition to be different and interesting, but no actual product to back it up. At least this second album does exist (and also exists in a very rare 2CD set, with "The Symmetry of I" being the main album, and "The Circle of O" being a second disk of ambient tracks, which I have not heard.)

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

DUBAI DESERT ROCK 2007
March 9-10, 2007 - Dubai Country Club, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

review by: Alisa Z.

When people hear about Dubai, they normally think of the Burj Al-Arab, the immense seven-star hotel, or the numerous real estate projects that are being constructed. Dubai's modern and cosmopolitan appearance hardly masks the fact that it is still an Islamic country, whose system of government is monarchial. Being one of the seven states of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is home to a large foreign population, taking into account that the nationals of the country make up fewer than 20 % of the inhabitants. Annual events, such as horse racing, tennis championships and jazz festivals, adorn the city with appeal, and attract thousands.

Since 2004, the Dubai Desert Rock Festival has become an annual event, previously having included the likes of Testament, Megadeth, Sepultura, Within Temptation and Machine Head. Dubai's metalhead community is not as prominent, and apart from random concerts featuring Deep Purple, The Scorpions and Aerosmith, the city hardly provides events that might appeal to metalheads. The Dubai Desert Rock Festival can be described as being a general parade of metal fans, the pretension and the flaunting sometimes so prominent that it makes one wonder what the word "integrity" means.

 

The venue, the Dubai Country Club, is not located in a stunningly beautiful part of the city, far away from the posh and the elite buildings of the lengthy Sheikh Zayed Road. Rubble and rust embellish the region surrounding the festival area. The heat scorches your skin, dehydrating you and forcing you to stagger, and the chaotic organization of the event hardly makes the situation better.

After waiting for over an hour for the person responsible for the press in an unbelievably sizzling room, one cannot help but wonder about the levels of disorder that are allowed to exist during such a festival. Our cameras were about to get confiscated, because the security guards at the door were not informed about the fact that press are in fact allowed to take photographs. Prior to entering the barricaded territory, a banner hangs with an imposing message: "No Stage Diving, No Moshing, No Unsafe Activities." Of course, to adhere to the country's laws, alcohol was not allowed to be sold to those under 21, obliging people to stand in a queue in order to get their "Over-21" bracelets.

On the first day, the 9th of March, the opening band was Junkyard Groove, winners of Shamal, which is a talent show that includes bands primarily from Asia. Overly enthusiastic, the local crowd showed support for the band, excitement and folly palpable in the atmosphere. Many individuals, including myself, took breaks in order to hide in the cold, clean bathrooms. The devastating Middle Eastern heat is perhaps the most irritating factor, making it rather difficult to concentrate on the music. One interesting factor that provides amusement is the sea of unofficial Dimmu Borgir and Cannibal Corpse shirts, sold at a low price in an obscure part of the city.

 

Next on stage was Lauren Harris (above) and her trifling, inchoate voice. Consternation was both visible and audible in her performance, and the guitarists served to divert attention from that. Mastodon (below) delivered a spirited show, animating the audience in a somewhat more diligent manner; even though the sound quality was seemingly subpar. Swedes In Flames (two below)further energized the crowd, the members clothed in identical outfits bearing the band's logo. The sound of their guitars was faltering at certain instants, and the bass was at times too high; in spite of any sound mishaps, the band still left portions of the denizens in awe.

In a place where female cleavage is crossed out with a black permanent marker when it is present in any magazine as a form of control over sexuality and lust, it seems interesting to notice the clever, however lame, attempt to infuse the festival with diversity. A Wet T-shirt contest, only with reversed roles. Girl splashing boys with water. Yes, how interesting that is... in particular for the largely male population of the festival.

What was confusing about Stone Sour's set was that the input and the output of energy levels did not add up. The vibrancy of the band members spawned a performance that was not all that exceptional, and to an extent, lukewarm. Next on stage was The Prodigy. Yes, that's right, the electronica group. Whether it was a trick to attract more people or whether it was for the purpose of diversity, their presence at this festival was disturbing to some. Once the electronic pumping was over, a significant percentage of those present left the venue, which suggests that a considerable number of the tickets were bought by people who had only came there to see The Prodigy.

Backdrops and props... Iron Maiden (above) attacked the stage! The band made an effort to please, abandoning the habit of playing many songs from the latest album and only a few older ones. Instead, the set list included "The Number of The Beast," "Fear of the Dark," "Run to the Hills," "Two Minutes to Midnight," "The Evil That Men Do" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name" after the encore. A stunning concert, featuring Bruce Dickinson's insane running around the stage and his trademark "Scream For Me" phrase. In addition to that, Eddie appeared on stage in a tank. There is a diminishing number of countries that Maiden have not conquered yet.

The day was over, the heat had subsided and the festivalgoers seemed to be content with the day's outcome. The security guards, with their beefy forms and intimidating eyes, had urged people to empty the venue in a traditionally rude manner. While this festival is far from standard, when compared to European ones, it has its charm. Hopefully, the organizers will make sure that this annual event will evolve in the upcoming years. It is, after all, the only one that fosters the interest of local metalheads.

The freedom that the Western world knows is not the one that exists in Dubai. Censorship is common, whether in the cinema, in magazines or in real life. At times, it seems illogical that a country with such strict laws regarding public exposure would allow for such a festival to take place, keeping in mind that debauchery and misconduct are typical elements of an event like this.

The next day's events had started a little later, featuring Junkyard Groove once again. This time, there were less people present. Those who were there were mostly there in order to enjoy the seemingly mellower atmosphere, devoid of heavier guitar riffs and instead substituted with simplistic ones.

South Africans Prime Circle were on next, a tiresome band whose members at times looked like they would rather be out drinking beer and watching a football game than be on stage. Small smiles could occasionally be seen, especially when the band announced that Dubai and its people were beautiful. The Bravery stepped on stage, radiating some kind of trendiness. They strike one as a band that is well-loved amongst those who wear chessboard-pattern clogs or massive, coloured sneakers.

For many, Incubus was the star of the night, even though it was Robert Plant who was headlining. A lot of people sang along and looked ecstatic, as Incubus played well-known tracks such as "Whatever Tomorrow Brings" and "Wish You Were Here." The lights were spectacular, painting an interesting quilt of colours across the stage.

At last, the festival was coming to an end. Robert Plant emerged in a surreal fashion, soothing out nerves and paving the way to nirvana. This music speaks to you, not only on the surface but in depth, too. The notes are spun and linger, penetrating the spirit and imbuing the mind with a peace that we rarely get to experience. "This is a song about our little friend Donald Rumsfeld and his gang," he says, "Freedom Friends." The hero of the day was drinking tea, talking in an English accent, and blurting out random phrases like "Thank You" and "Good Evening" in Hindi and Arabic. He made sure that we thanked everyone in his talented band, and made sure that we all went back home with the aura of serenity and good karma that he strove to project upon us.

For those who are used to the large-scale party atmosphere of European metal fests, Dubai Desert Rock may seem like a strange experience. Freedom is relatively limited and care is taken to make this a sane, peaceful festival with no excessive partying, no excessive public display of affection, and no excessive violence (see sign above). It is "frowned upon," especially by the police that are present there, to have two people kissing each other. It is "frowned upon" to have a girl wear a short skirt because that means she must be a prostitute. It is "frowned upon" to be wearing a pentagram, because someone can mistake it for the Star of David, which may be insulting to Palestinians.

So while the customs might be a little out of date, the people manage to live in some kind of peace and prosperity. It is interesting to note that in a society that has strict rules and a rigid governing system, metal resides and is as strong as it is elsewhere. It is not a matter of why you like the music, since we all have our different reasons, but a matter of standing up for yourself and going to a largely metalhead "convention" in order to show that you are not the only one.

 

 

 

 

NEUROSIS/MASTODON
January 25, 2008 - Brooklyn Masonic Temple, Brooklyn, New York, USA

review by: Larissa Glasser

The discography of Neurosis speaks for itself. Their soundscape undulates in the jet stream, moving between subtle, tickling octaves and super-downtuned, heavy Sabbath riffing, reinforced tribalisms driving the narrative of space into your soul’s core. According to past accounts, live Neurosis performances push sensory ingestion to the limit: the massive volume coupled with the video backdrop pulls the audience through their subconscious, rendering a murky ecstasy that borders on the religious. I had to see this for myself, even if it meant I would be in New York for less than 24 hours.

The Temple was PACKED for a place not normally slated for rock shows. Openers Mastodon were a favorite for the younger hipsters in the crowd, but I don’t quite see the appeal. I’ve tried listening to the band for years, and not a single riff has ever reached me. But then, listening is as subjective as DNA. Mastodon’s popularity is impossible to downplay, and if they can turn some people onto heavier and darker shit, then I can abide the countdown.

This listener thought it better to have zero preconceptions about what Neurosis would be like in the live setting. Last year’s triumphant Given to the Rising looped for my aching heart all these months, a dreamlike caress of everything mysterious. Nothing touched my darkness so closely since Leviathan’s "Unfailing Fall into Naught."

After a lengthy set up, Neurosis launched into massive, Motorhead-heavy column of volume, backed by ghostly video of wolves closing in on their prey. Lighting kept to a bare minimum, so focus could be drawn in at its fullest. Steve Von Till commanded most of the lead vocals, his Lemmy-rasp getting more distinctive with age. The band included the majority of tracks off Rising, plus an occasional ritual from Eye of Every Storm and Enemy of the Sun, before closing with "The Doorway" and a massive breakdown of drums, feedback, and majesty.

Certain live artists like Tori Amos (gasp!) have a similar effect, whereby the audience becomes the hive working in unwavering and unquestioning deference to the queen. Neurosis splits the hive, then draws us all into their fire.

 

 

 

 

BEHEMOTH/GOJIRA/BENEATH THE MASSACRE
November 9, 2007 - Mr. Small's Theater, Millvale, Pennsylvania, USA

review by: Brandon Strader

The first thing you’ll notice about Mr. Small’s Theater is that it used to be a church. It has an ancient appearance from the outside with one of those large church signs that you usually see outside of a regular church… Instead of this one reading "Jesus saves," the message was "Behemoth – 7pm."

I stood in line with the local folks, who looked like poster children for Goth and emo. A lot of them smoked, and it stank like a mucky hole full of weed in that small waiting area just outside the door. I was surprised to see how everyone was so kind to each other. Everyone was entering into conversation with other random people, and laughing merrily. When the doors finally opened, we entered into the main room. It wasn’t a very large room, as the website said that it could contain 650 people. It didn’t appear as there were that many, yet we were all stuffed into each other like puzzle pieces.

As Beneath the Massacre opened, it became obvious very quickly. They definitely had the power to get the crowd moshing, as it began about half way through the first song. It barely stopped throughout their whole set. Beneath the Massacre’s music seemed like one idea played over and over. If they wouldn’t have stopped and announced song titles, I wouldn’t have noticed a new song. The volume was so intense from those speakers that the distortion seemed to mask what the guitarists were playing. It seemed like the breakdowns were the most comprehensible parts… and usually the time when the crowd was most violent.

During this set, I spotted two dudes: One large, smiling, typical metalhead that paced back and forth in a masculine manner within the large, circular mosh pit. The second guy wore a grey hoodie so you couldn’t see his face. Later on in the show when his hood fell off, we all saw him. He was about 40 years older than your regular "karate kick" mosher should be. He waved his arms, kicked his legs, flopped around, and actually looked pretty funny. I don’t think I was the only person who laughed aloud when he was finally unmasked. Also, he was quite short, so we all thought he was a kid.

When Gojira started, I was shocked at the clarity of their set. They must have made friends with the sound guy, because they sounded nearly as good as they do on CD, except with the power of a live show… It was like a life-altering experience. When the vocalist / guitarist began performing the vocals on "Ocean Planet" with his definitive yell, all hell broke loose. What I saw on stage was a band in their prime, and there was no stopping them.

Of course they must have realized this too, as they really began jumping around and interacting with the crowd, instead of shoe gazing. A woman was thrown into the air and was crowd surfed during their set. After Gojira were finished, I wished I could relive the experience. It was a stellar performance

Behemoth was loud. They were theatrical. They all had their familiar costumes on, and would leave the stage basically after every song to retrieve some more props. Nergal called attention to the fact that Behemoth were playing in a church, which was a first for them. After some blaspheming, they played a couple brutal numbers like "Christgrinding Avenue" and "Christians to the Lions," which fit that church theme. They also pulled off "Prometherion," which was probably the opener for their set. It was hard to hear the melody in their songs, which I really love, because the show was so loud and distorted. However, they really kicked my ass and everyone’s around me with their bombardment. Everyone loved Nergal, and he towered cockily above the front of the crowd.

Of course Behemoth didn’t move too much, but it was cool to witness them. They looked like action figures straight from a factory that ran out of color paint. Their grayscale costumes looked fantastic as they were the "real deal" featured in artwork, music videos, and posters in the past. On the last song, in a moment of brutality, the band spit a vertical stream of blood all over themselves. Nergal sipped his blood from a wine glass with class. The others apparently walked out on stage with theirs in their mouths. Although it is odd to see a band escape and return between each song, it is probably a necessary snag.

I returned to my multi-colored world, battered and bruised, slightly moshed, and unable to hear for a few days. It was a great show.