June 2008 Reviews
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36 Crazyfists - The Tide and Its Takers
This is my first listen of 36 Crazyfists and so far, I am wondering why on earth I haven't bothered listening to them before. I pondered off and found earlier tracks which only proved that my reason for not listening; was due to it being slightly dire and commercialised.
This album, sounds like the band have matured and become able to use their newly obtained skills to lay down tracks that actually kick you up the backside and metal out. It is most definitely an improvement.
The unique larynx growls of Brock Lindow have matured with more feeling and less screams, however, the slight change of vocals from the earlier releases did give 36 Crazyfists a bit of an edge from other bands making it easy to distinguish tracks when air played. The change of vocals has really just made it a common voice that can be heard in many of a metal track.
All tracks are well written intelligent poems that force their feelings upon you, whether it is shaking your fists in the air, or delving you into a dreamscape into your mind, or maybe an emotional rollercoaster would be a better description of how these songs are delivered. I do however feel that we still have an element of repetitiveness sounds; only setting aside the slower ballad "The Tide and its Takers".
This ballad track is good; however I am always a bit dubious when metal bands try and take it slow, after all only Metallica managed to release a sublime ballad such as "Nothing as Matters" and this track is nowhere near as good. Fresh maybe, but okay all the same. Maybe my bias attitude of metal ballads is getting in the way though.
"Waiting on War" is a song about a soldier getting ready to fight in war which follows with "Only a Year or So…" which is probably one of the most honest genuine stories of modern war impact I have ever heard.
I am not going to sing their praises too much……I'll decide that upon hearing them live - that's the purpose of bands nowadays!
To sum up: Melodic, metal, extreme and an improvement and most definitely recommended to any extreme metal fan.
Rating **** (4.0/5.0)
Buy From Amazon
MANILLA ROAD - "VOAYAGER"
MY GRAVEYARD PRODUCTIONS (2008)
British Heavy Metal made a huge impact on the American continent long before the mid 80s - a period during which legendary outfits such as Def Leppard, Iron Maiden & Judas Priest found themselves performing sold out shows in massive arenas such as the one which is located at Long Beach, California.
Suddenly the US witnessed the surge of numerous underground Heavy/Epic metal acts such Queensryche, Omen, Sword as well as the Kansas-based quartet Manilla Road - a band that has been providing us with a sea of well-crafted Epic/Heavy metal tunes for the last twenty eight years. It is really a sad state of affairs that Mark Shelton's outfit never really managed to make it big, but that never stopped him from recording his albums, the latest of which is the nine track opus entitled "Voyager".
Any new album released by the band whose 'musical arsenal' includes classics, such as "Crystal Logic", "Open the Gates" and "The Deluge", is bound to come under the microscope, not only by the music press but also from Manilla Road's loyal fanbase, the vast majority of which would give up everything if that meant that they could be miraculously transported back to the 80s - yet, if there is one Manilla Road release capable of satisfying both of these camps, then that album is definitely "Voyager".
There is nothing unusual about the general idea behind the creation of these eleven new compositions or the musical direction that the band chose to follow here, yet "Voyager" is a release that features many surprises, mainly due to the contribution of a man called Cory Christner.
The often challenging but to the point performances of this amazing drummer complement Mark Shelton's simple but enormously heavy riffs to such an extent, that every single composition overflows with energy and enthusiasm that you only really expect to find in the music of a young band nowadays. Yes ladies and gentlemen - Manilla Road have managed to create an album which respects the band's glorious past, but also one that is not afraid to spread its wings and fly off to uncharted musical lands.
All those elements that point towards an impressive album are clearly audible in the opening track "Tomb of the Serpent King/Butchers of the Sea": a dark/epic intro, simple but massive rhythmical riffs, variety of vocals stretching from typical epic/melodic choruses to Death Metal growls and and impressive guitar solo courtesy of Mr.Shelton.
The sound of the album may not be professionally comparable in either clarity or quality with that of some of the most commercial bands of the genre, such as Manowar, but is exactly what the album needs in order to convey the right messages to its intended audience.
Songs like "Frost and Fire", "Blood Eagle" and "Return of the Serpent King" (with its overwhelming Death Metal vocal performances) are filled with catchy heavy riffs and Maiden-inspired lengthy melodic solos, and so managed to win me over in no time - still, it was Mark's numerous performances on the acoustic guitar that make "Voyager" such an amazing and essential purchase.
I was lucky enough to listen to the Epic masterpiece "Tree Of Life" for the first time almost a month ago while at the top of Cadair Idris (a mountain in Wales) and I can safely say that I still haven't managed to fully recover from that experience.
This breathtaking composition is predominantly based upon beautifully crafted acoustic guitar melodies and is complemented by Shelton's oneiric vocals - that is till half way through the song when the appearance of an electric guitar provides one of the most amazing lengthy solos that I have heard in ages!
Following along a similar vein, the same-titled composition and the Latin-orientated "Eye of the Storm" provide additional moments of brilliance, leaving the considerably aggressive "Conquest" as the perfect representative of the existence of modernity in the music of the band.
It is quite shocking, but also enormously rewarding to witness a band that has been around for the last 31 years still being capable of releasing an album of such immense quality as "Voyager".
Yes, it is true that "Crystal Logic" is the best album that this band has ever released and it is indeed the only Manilla Road album capable of transferring me to different worlds each time I surrender myself to its charms, but I will be damned if I do not rate "Voyager" amongst one of the band's best releases thus far.
Will "Voyager" provide Manilla Road with the long overdue recognition that they so much deserve? Unfortunately, I am almost certain that it won't but, you know what? That is certainly someone else’s loss!
Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)
John 5 - Requiem
And so it comes to pass that the former Marilyn Manson, Rob Halford, Paul Stanley, David Lee Roth and Rob Zombie sideman releases his fourth solo album, following on from the not that long ago "The Devil Knows My Name". And it's alright.
I'm working on the principle that Mr 5 must use up all his melodic instincts as a writer / muso for hire, having participated in recent work by The Scorpions, Meat Loaf on "Bat Out Of Hell III" and even Lynyrd Skynyrd last year, because when he goes it alone, there is a serious amount of seriously widdly guitar getting widdled. Well, he was the 2007 winner of Best Shred Album of the Year for "The Devil Knows My Name" in the Guitar World Reader's Poll. And they know widdle when they hear it!
Which may be why "Requiem" seems a fairly appropriate title, in its traditional meaning of a prayer for the salvation of the soul of the departed, given that some will be praying for release. However, rather than this being a religious or spiritual experience, this set of instrumentals take their inspiration from an assortment of torture devices. Which is nice.
Nearly a true solo album, with only Rob Zombie colleague Tommy Clufetos on drums helping out, most of the songs apparently clock in around the 12-13 minute mark, so Mr 5 has put in markers to divide them up. Or something. I think that means that the nominal song titles see one song ending with the same riff as the next one starts with. Or something. Either way, it hurts my head to think about it.
There is absolutely no doubt that he is a very, very good guitarist, and when he finds a good groove, as he does on 'Sounds of Impalement' and 'Scavenger's Daughter', it's as good as anything the likes of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani have done.
Others like 'The Judas Cradle' sound like Marilyn Manson tunes in need of some lyrics. Something I suspect he will take umbrage at. Although, to be fair, his banjo (!) outing 'Pity Belt' is unlike anything that the vast number of competing shredders out there get up to. Maybe some Skynyrd rubbed off along the way.
It is an enjoyable, well produced album, but I haven't found myself rushing back for repeated plays, as I did with "The Devil Knows My Name".
© Stuart A Hamilton
Rating ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
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SOLEFALD - "THE LINEAR SCAFFOLD"
PEACEVILLE (Reissue 2008)
Two years ago, during one of my mindless music-related surfing sessions on the net, I came across a very interesting interview with Cornelius Jakhelln - multi instrumentalist and sole member of the experimental Black/Thrash Metal outfit Sturmgeist. What I read in that interview, with respect the 'band's' second release "Uber", impressed me to such an extent that I immediately contacted Season Of Mist, asking them for a promo copy.
That promo never managed to reach me and so I thought my chances of coming into contact with the music of this unique individual were limited. Well, that was before Peaceville records decided to re-issue "The Linear Scaffold", the debut album of Cornelius' first recording music project Solefald - a release that I was more than happy to receive.
Solefald have been characterised as an avant-garde Black Metal band by many of my colleagues in the past - a description that I found to be quite fitting based on what I was exposed to in this album. As a direct result of the great influence of Cradle of Filth's earliest material, Solefald's compositions are predominantly based on simple but catchy melodies, equally provided by both guitars and piano/keyboards.
What makes this band stand out as an outfit of strong character and artistic integrity is not only their ability to successfully incorporate many elements, normally alien to Black Metal, in their music, but, more importantly, the way in which these elements are presented to the album's 'unsuspecting' audience.
I remember thinking that I knew where this album was 'heading' the first time I listened to the welcoming and straight forward melodies of the opening composition "Jernlov", a mistake that I am sure most of the people who are acquainted with "The Linear Scaffold" made long before me.
Based on that, it is quite understandable that I felt my jaw drop the moment the beautiful progressive guitar melodies and brilliantly conceived hand clapping (!) session, featured in the main break of the following track "Philosophical Revolt", filled the room. In a blink of an eye, Solefald were transformed, from a band whose vocalist sounded like the twin brother of Danny Filth, to an outfit that deserved both my respect and my full attention - attention that was greatly rewarded, especially by the last four compositions of the album.
Don't get me wrong here: the more 'traditional' Symphonic Black Metal compositions such as "Red View" and "The Macho Vehicle", with their numerous rhythmical changes and catchy choruses, are indeed quite pleasing to one's ear, but it is the unique nature of songs like "Countryside Bohemians", "Tequila Sunrise" and "When the Moon is on the Wave" that helps them win the fight 'hands down'! "Countryside Bohemians" brings the best out of Burzum and Cradle of Filth in the way it combines atmosphere and rhythm, but even that great opus cannot compare with what the band has conceived in "Tequila Sunrise".
What starts as a melancholic piano theme, reminiscent of mid-era Anathema evolves in a breathtaking Epic theme comparable to the one featured in Ancient Rites' magnificent effort "Dim Carcosa" - one that is being supported by the narration of a poem in Norwegian, courtesy of Cornelius himself. Finally, one can only be left speechless by the band's ability to conceive a Black Metal musical piece worthy of supporting Lord Byron's beautiful poetry but that is exactly what was achieved in "When the Moon is on the Wave" - the most fitting end to a very impressive debut album.
Fans of typical Symphonic Black Metal may feel slightly intimidated by the band's liberal interpretation of the rules of the genre, but it is those of you who are interested in a more personal and experimental approach to music who are really going to appreciate "The Linear Scaffold". My experience listening to this eight track release has been thoroughly enjoyable to the point that I have no other option than to seek out their remaining five studio albums - hopefully they will be as surprising and impressive as this one!
Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)
Obtest - Gyvybes Medis
Ah, Lithuanian pagan metal! Don't you just love it. Obtest first appeared with a debut demo way back in 1994, and have been slowly plodding their way through the pagan metal underground ever since, singing in their native tongue of 'Vedlys', 'Sakalo Vaikai' and 'Geležinis Vilkas'. Yup, that 'Geležinis Vilkas'.
It's certainly interesting as they put their own spin on a sound rooted in Primordial. There is a good deal of excellent riffing going on, although it's a million miles away from their Black Metal roots. These days they're trading in a dark form of Folk Metal, although don't go thinking it's going to be the hey diddly diddly style of Korpiklaani. Nope, it's still hard and brutal round here.
Vocalist Baalberith is more of a shouter than anything else as he he bangs on about the tree of life (that's 'Gyvybes Medis' for all you Lithuanians out there), and the guitars sometimes end up a bit close to Iron Maiden for comefort, but that's a risk you run when you go for the twin axe approach undertaken by Messrs Evaldas and Enrikas.
An album that has a multitude of pleasure tucked away, it does take a couple of spins before things really hit you. Stick with it, it's worth it.
© Stuart A Hamilton
Rating ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
Buy From Amazon
Obtest - say hallo to Pure Metal
With a new album, "Gyvybes Medis", out now, Pure Metal caught up with guitarist Sadlave, to talk all things Obtest.
Interview by Stuart A Hamilton
SAH: Who are you and how would you personally describe your music?
Sadlave - We are OBTEST, a pagan metal band from Lithuania, the last pagan state of middle age Europe. The band formed in the end of 1992. The first rehearsal tape was recorded in summer of 1994. It was raw and furious black metal tunes. In 1995 we recorded two demo tapes "Oldness Comming" and "Pries Audra". The last one was distributed well onto underground world all around the planet. The next step was "Tukstantmetis" album, which was released on April 23rd of 1997 as a tape-album. The MC album was released in Lithuania and distributed locally.
The first 7"EP "997" was put out by German Miriquidi Productions (Hail!) in 1998. After the realization of EP Miriquidi agreed to put out CD version of "Tukstantmetis" album, so it was distributed worldwide from 1999. In the year 2000 OBTEST played a tour in Germany as a support band for Eminenz. One more 7" EP "Prisiek" was released in Germany in 2001. In the end of the year OBTEST signed to Ledo Takas and recorded second full-length album "Auka Seniems Dievams".
The album was released as LP/CD and distributed worldwide. In autumn of 2002 OBTEST toured in Europe with Skyforger, Sear Bliss, Grief of Emerald. In 2003 "Dvylika JuodVarniu" 7"EP was put out by Ledo Takas Records, in memory of Lord Ominous (Anubi). In the fall of 2005 the third album "Is Kartos I Karta" (From generation to generation) was released.
The promotional concerts began in winter, OBTEST played in Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Germany, Czech, Ireland, Portugal. In January of 2007 two gigs happened in U.S., one of them at the "Heathen Crusade" festival. The latest, fourth album "Gyvybes Medis" was recorded in April of 2007 in Poland. Due to the mixing and mastering works and negotiations between record labels and the band, this album realization date moved to April of this year, 2008.
SAH: When writing, where do you begin?
Sadlave - In most cases, some vision of main theme or/and refrain is playing in the head, then I have to record it with guitars and to program drums. Second step is to arrange second guitar and bass, then to compose the vocal parts, after that finish the drums and write the lyrics. And it's not over, because you have to listen to it for thousand times, and be sure, that this is it.
SAH: Which groups, artists and/or bands inspire you?
Sadlave - Gr.Ob., Tormentor, Enslaved, Kreator, Dead Can Dance, Thin Lizzy, A-ha, Mark Knopfler, Mary Boine, Mike Oldfield.
SAH: Are you influenced by art and literature at all?
Sadlave - Inspiration comes from different sources, and I think writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Hermann Hesse, Mikhail Bulgakov, Axel Münthe, John Steinbeck, Salmon Rushdi, Strugacky brothers made a remarkable and indirect influence on creation of music and lyrics, as well as works of great historians and antique authors like Homer, Herodotus, Publius Cornelius Tacitus. The cult movies and ecranizations too like "Braveheart", "One Flight Over The Cuckoo's Nest", "Seven Samurai", "Deadman", "Andrej Rubliov", "Stalker", "Baraka".
SAH: Are there any songs/tracks that you have heard and thought, I wish I'd written that?
Sadlave - There are some. For example Lisa Gerard "Seanvin", or Kreator "Agents of Brutality", Gr.Ob. "ja neveriu v anarchyju".
SAH: Do you push yourself to write, or do you have to wait until you're inspired?
Sadlave - I only work with the music when I'm inspired, that is the reason why our albums have the distances of 4-3 years in between. The only push is some details of lyrics, written the last minute before recording.
SAH: What was it that made you go into into making music?
Sadlave - The first concerts of the metal bands. When I saw metal heads on stage with the guitars, loud sound, thundering drums, I said for myself - I will set up my own band, it happened in 1991.
SAH: Do you feel the internet is a good way of helping/promoting your music?
Sadlave - Yeah, it's a good way of promotion. Internet created new forms of virtual communities, which changed the old underground postal relations.
SAH: Has the computer age, and its use in creating, editing and manipulating music helped you in any way?
Sadlave - Actually yes, computers and hi-tech made a big impact on our band. Our first and second album were entirely recorded using PC and software, at our "home studio", and that was the only way back in time, unfortunately, to record our music and then to release it on media formats. Using professional recording studio, I still use PC for demo recordings.
SAH: Give me three good reasons why someone should buy your CDs, barring threats of bodily harm?
Sadlave - Because it's fresh, it's heavy and melodic, it's undefined completely, so you should try it yourself after all..
SAH: Finally, If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you?
Sadlave - Probably yes, but it's a faking twisted question, isn't it?
The new album is out now on Osmose and is available from Amazon
© Stuart A Hamilton 2008
Soundshok - The Bringers Of Bloodshed
I like to think I keep up to date with all things new and metal, but I have to admit I have never heard of Scottish band, Soundshok where they hail from the coastal town of Arbroath. Now I may be wrong about this but all I seem to know about Arbroath is that they are famous for having some type of smoked fish whose name escapes me and also for having a really shit football team!
Please don't send the heavies round Arbroathians or whatever you like to be called, that was just a joke - it's not every day you get to a review band from your neck of the woods is it now!
Anyway on to Soundshok now. The press sheet mentions some rather well known names in the extreme and brutal metal field so I am expecting a certain level of quality here.
First thing I notice is the production being rather average though heavy but very murky, with vocals of the growling variety and rather buried to be truthful, or maybe it's just his tone and monotonous delivery. Can you tell I am already not so enamoured with this?
They have some obvious influences and the largest one is definitely Sepultura circa the Chaos AD/Roots period, especially the vocals which are like a lower more brutal Max. They use the same simplistic riff patterns that the Seps used on those extremely successful albums with a touch more speed at times. So why shouldn't Soundshok use them too? Well because they just can't really carry it off with the same level of skill or production values.
Sure the riffs are heavy and pound and might sound ok in a club after a few beers, but listening on a stand-alone basis doesn't really do it for me. They steamroller along but there is very little variety or melody or catchiness that appealed to this reviewer. Not to say that a younger fan might get more out of the heaviness or simplistic brutality.
The riffing in general is just bland and heavy. Sure it will probably crush live but on cd it's just boring and flat without much spark. They have a few decent grooves here and there will get a few headbangers nodding along but I think they don't really have anything to make them stand out from the hundreds of other bands doing the same thing.
They follow well-known simplistic death/thrash metal clichés and don't throw you any curve balls or anything unexpected. Most of the tunes sound pretty similar to one another and tend to merge together to make a heavy, bruising death groove metal album.
Sure it has some bad attitude and the band has some ability and for a debut I should be kinder, but I guess this type of extreme metal just doesn't do it for me anymore.
To end on a positive note at least, I will say that the band is not totally hopeless and with more experience and a better recording budget, can possibly make a few waves in the extreme scene. But there's a long way to go laddies...just like Arbroath, your chances of playing in the Scottish Premier League look slim.
© Pirage Forsi
Rating **1/2 (2.5/5.0)
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HAIL OF BULLETS - "...OF FROST AND WAR" METAL BLADE (2008)
During my recent trip to beautiful Germany I managed to catch up with my good friend David and, as it normally happens with people who are equally passionate about the same kind of music, we immediately started talking about the numerous albums that had caught our attention in the recent weeks.
There was no particular reaction on my part when David brought the name Hail Of Bullets, a new band which had only just signed with Metal Blade, into our conversation, but I did feel as if the ground was moving underneath my feet, the moment I realised that this outfit featured in its line up Martin Van Drunen (Pestilence/Asphyx), Paul Baayens (Asphyx) and Ed Warby (Gorefest).
Now, there is no question as to the significant role that all of the above-mentioned bands played in establishing European Death Metal in the conscience of metal fans throughout the world, but in the ruthless environment that is called the 'music industry' no one is going to grant you any favours based on your past endeavours, but only if you prove that you have something really interesting to offer.
Taking full advantage of the experience that they have gained throughout the years and with sheer passion and energy that only a few bands are capable of matching, the members of Hail of Bullets managed to create what I consider to be an extreme metal masterpiece - an album that sounds both 'classic' and fresh and one that brings down musical boundaries with the same ease that the King Tigers brought down anything that stood in their way while advancing towards Stalingrad.
The above metaphor is indeed quite fitting in describing this release, seeing as "...Of Frost And War" is a concept album about World War II, starting with Operation Barbarossa and ending with the fall of Berlin in the hands of the Soviet Army.
To many musicians, finding the right musical formulae capable of conveying the powerful emotions that this subject requires would be 'mission impossible' but the more I listen to the twelve compositions that are featured in this album, the more I realise that for Martin Van Drunen
and Co it was probably something as simple as taking their dog for a
walk in the park after dinner.
Following a very fitting intro, namely "Before The Storm (Barbarossa)",
the album kicks off with two equally powerful compositions, "Ordered
Eastward" and "The Lake Ladoga Massacre" - both bearing influences from
the musical savagery of albums such as "Scream Bloody Gore" and
One of my favourite songs of the album is "General Winter" - a slow tempo masterpiece that features what I consider one of the best vocal performances that Martin has contributed in recent years. Can you imagine a song that combines the grooviness of Obituary with the brutality of Death?
Yes, there is such a song in this album, namely, "Red Wolves Of Stalin", as there is also the highly addictive/melodic "Machthexen" - a song that fans of Amon Amarth will find no difficulty in appreciating. More groovy/headbanging riffs can be found in songs such as "Advancing Once More" and "Inferno at the Carpathian Mountains" whereas both "Stalingrad" and the closing opus "Berlin" (brilliant vocals by Van Drunen) stand as proof that a composition doesn't have to be fast to be heavy.
I have thought long and hard before reaching the decision of granting "...Of Frost And War" the highest possible rating and that was because I was afraid that my great admiration towards the musical contribution of Martin Van Drunen would somehow manage to undermine my critical judgement.
The fact remains, though, that every time I listen to this album, there is not a single moment that I don't feel the urge to either scream my lungs out or headbang to death and you know what - if that is not a clear indication of things, then I don't know what is! Long live Death Metal - long live Hail of Bullets!
Rating: ***** (5.0/5.0)
Zero Hour - Dark Deceiver
Lasers Edge 2008
American technical progressive metallers, Zero Hour, have been doing the rounds for a good while now and have managed to make a decent name for themselves in the progressive metal underground. Zero Hour have always been at the more technical end of the prog metal sphere and this new platter proves no different in that sense and in fact increases the level of instrumental skill from previous efforts.
Their brand of metal requires deep concentration and works best when you can immerse yourself fully within the music. It won't work as background music that's for sure.
This has always been a slight problem with prog metal for me. I have quite a short attention span and if the band starts to meander within songs, I start to lose interest.
However this is just a trait of this reviewer, prog aficionados are actively seeking these tangents, as this is what makes the music progressive after all. Well Zero Hour will surely not let them down on this release judging by the technical and advanced musical landscapes they traverse on their latest offering.
The Tiptun brothers, who are the masterminds of the band, have really made a great effort this time to bring the best out of themselves.
Complete with new vocalist, Chris Salinas, who sang on Power of Omens' last disk, Rooms of Anguish who adds a new dimension to the proceedings. In fact the vocal position has taken on quite a change.
Chris has a high pitched wail at times which is not really that far removed from a King Diamond falsetto, but in the main, he maintains a midrange tone to his vocal delivery. These high-pitched vocals are actually a welcome addition and sound quite cool and add a needed new twist.
Jason Tiptun is the star of the show though and he turns in a sterling performance on his guitar. The riffs flow and ebb with a crisp technical edge and leave you wide-eyed and open-mouthed with their rhythmic dexterity and fluid crispness. Really excellent work I must say.
The title track is a case in point, with roaming, wiry cold riffs, snaking their way here, there and everywhere. Melody is used sparingly but the album is not a melodic prog metal cd but more of a cold and technical kind of prog with quite a bleak feeling. Imagine if Dream Theater were spiced up with elements of very early Fates Warning and a touch of early Pain of Salvation or even Psychotic Waltz's early works.
But ZH also has many traits of their own that distinguish them from their peers. They are more technical and darker than many bands of their ilk. They also have a distinct sound which is quite recognisable with their fluid style. This is perhaps their most evocative release too, with interesting and dark cover art with suitably morose lyrical matter.
The song-writing is good but can be better in order to create more memorable sections or more in the way of a vocal hook. However I guess that ZH is not really that kind of band and I should lower my expectation with regards to what I consider catchy. ZH is totally not that type of band.
They are a prog metal force to be reckoned with musicianship that is second to none. Having said all that, this is not the best prog metal album ever released and maybe not even be the best album ZH has ever released either, but it surely is a worthy addition to any prog metal fan's collection. The musical skill is there in abundance and you can tell a lot of thought has gone into this album, in order to deliver what the progheads want and need in a high quality prog metal cd.
© Pirage Forsi
Rating ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
Buy From Amazon
JIM LAMARCA - Chimaira - interview
Interview by Cameron Edney
Chimaira formed back in 1998 and early on in their career the band would be booed offstage for adapting a more hardcore style of music rather then playing straight edged heavy metal! It didn’t take too long for the American audiences to come around and within two short years Chimaira were signed to Roadrunner Records and winning over a legion of fans.
Shortly after the band released their debut E.P. ‘This Present Darkness’ the band underwent their first of many line-up changes. In 2001 the band released their first full-length album ‘Pass out of Existence’ and hit the road with two brand new members JIM LAMARCA (Bass) and Chris Spicuzza (Electronics). By late 2002 Chimaira had returned home to begin writing and recording for their second album ‘The Impossibility of Reason’ unenthusiastic about constantly being on the road drummer Andols Herrick decided to leave the band. It wouldn’t be too long before the band would find a worthy replacement in Swedish drumming sensation ‘Ricky Evensand’ but due to visa problems Ricky’s part in Chimaira was unfortunately cut short.
Since the band's beginnings they have had more than their fair share of ups and downs. In 2006 the band parted ways with Roadrunner Records, and signed with Ferret records in The United States. The band had also struck up a deal with Nuclear Blast for international distribution.
After all the set-backs and line-up changes last year Chimaira released their forth full-length album ‘Resurrection’ which is no doubt their heaviest and most technical album to date! One year on the band are still out on the road promoting ‘Resurrection’ an album that has firmly earned Chimaira a place in history books! I took the opportunity last week to speak with Chimaira bassist JIM LAMARCA about the success of ‘Resurrection’, Jim’s management company, the state of the music industry and more!
Cameron Edney: Hi mate, hows things?
JIM LAMARCA: How ya doin buddy, im well!
Cameron Edney: Firstly I want to thank you for putting some time aside to speak with me tonight. I believe you are currently in U.K., how have the shows been going?
JIM LAMARCA: The shows have been awesome, today is our first day in the u.k.
Cameron Edney: Oh, cool! You just finished a run through Europe right?
JIM LAMARCA: Yes we did. We hit a bunch of places like Poland, Check Republic, Slovenia, a lot of places we have never played before!
Cameron Edney: When you hit the stage over in Europe, how different are the fans compared to those back in the states?
JIM LAMARCA: Some of them are better; sometimes they’re not so good. The U.K. is always good place to comeback to!
Cameron Edney: What has been the most memorable moment of this tour so far?
JIM LAMARCA: Um…. Let’s see, Monopoly on our tour bus!
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] oh you’re kidding!
JIM LAMARCA: No, we had a Monopoly tournament on the bus, which was pretty fun. The shows are always great! You get up, do the shows and put your best on and then to the bus for Monopoly!
Cameron Edney: I do want to speak to you more in regards to life on the road but for now let’s talk about the latest album ‘Resurrection’, no doubt the bands best work to date! Looking back is there anything you would have changed.
JIM LAMARCA: Oh no not at all. We’re an extreme metal band so you take what you get. We’re not tryin to write radio hits or anything like that!
Cameron Edney: When you prepare to do an album such as ‘Resurrection’, what comes first the lyrics or the music?
JIM LAMARCA: We write the music first and then the lyrics. I’m not a main writer. We write the songs and I have a part in that process, and I throw in my little ideas. When it comes down to the lyrics none of us except for Mark have anything to do with that!
Cameron Edney: Mate, in a few words tell us what comes to mind when I mention the following tracks from ‘Resurrection’:
Empire: Actually one of my favourite songs to play live.
End It All: We haven’t played that one live yet, not a live song!
Killing the Beast: We haven’t played that one live yet either, I like that song a lot.
Worthless: Definitely a fun song to play live, it gets the crowd pumped up!
Cameron Edney: Even though you are currently touring, are you working on any new material?
JIM LAMARCA: Not while we are on the road, but there was something written just before! There was some stuff written but nothing to extreme, nothing that’s technically worth talking about just yet!
Cameron Edney: Getting back to touring for a moment… Can you remember the hardest time you had as an opening act?
JIM LAMARCA: I don’t know; everything has been pretty cool in my eyes. Everyone had told us that touring with Slayer would be hard, but technically it wasn’t, we thought winning over the crowd would be tough but they liked us!
Cameron Edney: Which is great cause as we know their fans are unforgiving! Jim, you have shared the stage with so many great bands Slayer being just one of them. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most?
JIM LAMARCA: I’d have to say Slayer, Slipknot, and Machine Head. I’m really looking forward to playing with Korn. We have toured with them before, but it will be great to hang out with them in Australia!
Cameron Edney: As a bass player, do you do anything specific to warm up and prepare for a show?
JIM LAMARCA: Yeah a little bit, stretching and so on. I just do my own thing really, then get out there and play!
Cameron Edney: It’s no secret that Chimaira have undergone a few line-up changes and there has been plenty of ups and downs through-out the bands career! Has there ever been a point where you personally lost hope and thought everything was over?
JIM LAMARCA: Not really! It’s one of those things where you don’t really know 100% for sure what’s going on anyway! I do joke about it, but not seriously.
Cameron Edney: Mate, tell us something about the other guys in the band that we may not know!
JIM LAMARCA: Everybody in the band has small weenies except for me!
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] who have you been surprised to learn is a fan of you work?
JIM LAMARCA: Kerry King was probably the biggest one for me! It’s really weird I mean, we are friends with them and he knows my name and we hang out with them and yet it’s like holy shit Kerry King knows who we are, its pretty big man!
Cameron Edney: Most metal fans have at some stage grown up listening to Slayer so I can imagine how blown away you must have been to find that out! Dude, we have hit that part of the interview where our readers get to find out a little more about yourself and growing up! What is the one album that changed your life?
JIM LAMARCA: Probably Slayer’s ‘Reign in Blood’ for metal! It was one of those records that I could never stop listening too and then someone would borrow it and never return it. It is one of those albums that I have lent out over the years and had to replace a number of times!
Cameron Edney: Who was the first band you witnessed live and how much of an impact did they have on you musically?
JIM LAMARCA: Mötley Crüe was the first band I seen live, and it was so cool to see. Going from our little jam room in a friend’s basement to going to see this huge spectacle in a big venue, it was pretty crazy!
Cameron Edney: Growing up did you always envision yourself as someone who would be in the music industry or were your goals very different?
JIM LAMARCA: Nuh they were different, I wanted to play American baseball when I was younger, then I got into music. For me, it was much more interesting to do that!
Cameron Edney: What have your parents thought about the music you played?
JIM LAMARCA: They like it; they come and see us live. They don’t get into the lyrics or anything like that but they’re just proud that I have done what I have done and been able to take my music around the world!
Cameron Edney: What’s the craziest rumour you had ever heard about yourself and or the band?
JIM LAMARCA: I don’t know… people saying they are my cousin and things like that! People who are thinking and saying they are friends with you and their not!
Cameron Edney: What's your take on this downloading and file sharing? Do you think it hurts an artist like yourself, or do you look at it as a great way to get your music out to so many more people around the world?
JIM LAMARCA: Me personally, I’m so over it now and I don’t even care anymore! I have never downloaded any music, I’ll maybe get something for free from somebody, and if I like a Cd I’ll go and buy it. Lars Ulrich [Metallica] fought that stuff for a while, but he’s not going to win. It’s just going to keep on happening. If you go up against one company [such as Napster], all of a sudden there are ten more companies to download from!
Someone in the industry needs to figure out a way where you can have a Cd that can’t be duplicated! The people in the music industry that are higher up don’t have a clue of what they’re doin, and they are losing their jobs because of it, so fuck em!
Cameron Edney: When you look at the way the whole music industry has evolved over the last ten to fifteen years it’s really amazing! I used to remember waiting for the next issue of Kerrang and Rip magazines to find out the latest news, these days bang its all at the click of a button, new music can be heard the same way!
JIM LAMARCA: That’s what myspace is there for, which is really a key thing! I have multiple myspace pages that I run. I promote local bands and bands from all over the country that I want to start managing as well. I also have a management company which is cool and you can check out the bands I have been workin with at www.myspace.com/lamarcabass2. That’s the best thing about the internet, you have that leisure. You do lose money on that stuff but you can also promote bands, and get new bands out there.
Cameron Edney: Are you currently looking for any new bands to work with!
JIM LAMARCA: I’d love to work with new bands, but I only work with bands who want to go through my production. We want to try and get them all a record deal but beforehand we want to try and get up the production value of the band, this way when a label does look at them they will be impressed and want to snap them up. We don’t want to throw them straight into the deep end!
Cameron Edney: What is the one band you never want to hear again and why?
JIM LAMARCA: Let me think! There are a lot of them, Puddle of Mudd! One band I would like to hear more of is Limp Bizkit. The band is great!
Cameron Edney: It seems the American people just don’t have the time of day for Fred Durst, there is this love, hate relationship between the United States and Limp Bizkit!
JIM LAMARCA: Their first two records were good; I’m the kind of person who loves the underdog! I’d love to see him back in action with Limp Bizkit!
Cameron Edney: Dude I want to thank you again for your time today.
© Cameron Edney 2008
The Official Chimaira Website
Chimaira on Myspace
Jim on Myspace
The More I See - The Unholy Feast
The more I hear - The more I like! That's as good a start as any that I can come up with my metal brothers. The More I See are led by Gizz Butt, the ex English Dogs/Prodigy guitarist and led bloody damn well I might add. This Gizz boy can play like a monster let me tell you straight off.
He may not be a household name in metal circles and his name alone screams punk to me rather than actual metal, but the lad is no stranger to a killer riff or a tasty lead-break or two. His background doesn't lead us to believe that he is a thrasher but the reality proves that this is indeed the case.
Anyway I must stop beating about the bush and get to the point, this here is a fine sophomore release from TMIS. First of all I do remember their debut album and I recall liking it, but not all of it I must say. It was a bit hit and miss for my taste but they had a lot of potential.
There were a few modern elements which I was not so fond of, however the good far outweighed the bad, and it was a real surprise for me to be honest - that an ex-Prodigy guitarist could come up with music that would have appeal for the metal community in any way, shape or form. Well it seems the band had some minor success with the debut, but all in all, more or less disappeared off the metal map for 4 years, until now that is.
This album is everything that the debut promised us it would be and more, ladies and gentleman. This is really high-class thrash metal with a slight melodic edge but a total show stealer in terms of guitar acrobatics.
If this thing said Metallica on the cover and was released straight after And Justice For All, the 'tallica fans would lap it up all day long. Hell, if the Metcrew released something like this NOW, people would be doing handstands in the streets with joy, that the kings of thrash had come to reclaim their throne!
This really is an old school thrash fan's dream of an album. It is modern and yet steeped in the old feeling without sounding dated. It has a crisp and modern shiny production and mixed with tautness and perfect sonics by Andy Sneap. The instruments are recorded cleanly and allowed their own space. However in the end this is a guitar-fest of an album. You like riffs and more riffs and yet more riffs? Well Gizz and Co won't let you down.
There are literally tons of riffs here to pore over and diessect. They never play the same riff for too long and have plenty among their arsenal of riffs to bash you over the head with. Fast ones, rocky ones, groovy ones, all sorts to get your teeth stuck into. They allow their songs to morph and build from groovier passages into almost technical wizardry level thrash from the likes of Megadeth et al.
Let's talk a little about the individual songs. Well first of all there are
no throw away songs to be seen. No fillers. Every song has a riff that
will get your adrenaline pumping or your fist in the air and your head
The opener, What is Worse than Truth starts things off
with a mid-paced hammer and has a great technical midsection that will
get the greatest of air-guitar players thinking twice.
The title track hits you immediately as it has a totally
awesome steamrollering groove riff, leading on to the first real
memorable chorus on the album. Empty has acoustic moments which I am not
so fond of, as vocalist
Chad Sunderland, doesn't sound comfortable singing quietly or gently if you like. In fact I should mention that Chad is not the best singer in the world by far.
He has a shouty delivery, sort of like Hetfield, but can't quite carry a really classy melody. But not to say he lacks power, as he does belt out a good fast thrash lyric, but perhaps, just perhaps a stronger vocal performance would help the band to achieve a higher level.
Bloodline is another one of those groovesome thrash assaults that can only get the blood pumping even more. Igniting the Flame is a rip-roaring thrash anthem that will get the horns up from the thrashers and pits rabidly active.
Perhaps the best track is saved till last in the shape of Veiled by Greed. I think this is my favourite track on the album. Intricate and semi-technical riffing, a soaring well sung chorus hook, perhaps Chad's best performance on the cd, and not forgetting a furious lead section from Gizz and Gav the other guitarist. Great Stuff!
Whilst not perfect in the sense say Rust in Peace or Master of Puppets are, TMIS can be highly pleased with themselves with this album. With further improvement, they have it in them to release their own 'Master' or 'Rust' disk given more experience and better song-writing.
If they could gain a higher profile here in the UK and abroad, they would gain many, many more fans as they have the tools in place for fame in metal circles.
This type of metal is getting popular again thanks to the many thrash bands popping up from out of the woodwork. So finally, TMIS deserve your time and attention, thrash fans; they may not be household names in this scene yet, but once you have raised a fist or banged a head or air-guitarred like a maniac to these guys, you will be fully hooked on to their sleek and pristine brand of fiery, thrashtastic mayhem.
© Pirage Forsi
Rating **** (4.0/5.0)
Buy From Amazon
Revenge - Infiltration.Downfall.Death
Oh, mercy me, it's those brutal black metal boys, back with another force feeding of hate. Thirty five minutes where you feel like you've been taken back in time to a Vietcong prisoner of war camp, strapped to a bamboo frame, then beaten remorselessly from head to toe. Yes, it's that good.
No, seriously, if you are one of those people who lament the passing of true black metal, cursing all and sundry for dragging the BM name through the cursed lands of melody, then this is going to be an absolute delight.
Revenge are one of those bands where there is no middle ground - it's love or loathe. Me, I fall into the former camp. I have nothing but admiration for those with an unshakeable belief in their own artistic vision.
It's a world of bass heavy muddy mixes, blastbeats, demonic screams, guttural growls and a constant feeling that everything is teetering on the edge of complete and utter chaos. Which it probably is, as Revenge storm through a set of eight fairly indistinguishable tunes like 'Blood Noose (Hog-tied Like Swine)', 'By Force (The Only Option)' and 'Cleansing Siege (Take Them Down)'. But we're not here for tunes, we're for for atmosphere and rage. Something "Infiltration.Downfall.Death" has in spades.
© Stuart A Hamilton
Rating **** (4.0/5.0)
Buy From Amazon
CANDLEMASS - "DACTYLIS GLOMERATA" / "ABSTRAKT ALGEBRA II"
When Messiah Marcolin (vocals) decided to leave Candlemass for the first time back in 1990, I remember feeling as if I had lost the ground beneath my feet. In my then young mind, the possibility of accepting any other person as the frontman of the band was simply non-existent and the consequence of that decision was my stubborn refusal to listen to any of the band's albums that were released after "Tales Of Creation" (1989) - strange, considering the fact the band's main composer had always been it's bassist Leif Edling.
Almost nine years ago, I finally made the decision to buy "Dactylis Glomerata", but that 'love affair' only lasted a couple of days, leaving the CD to collect dust in the 'dark uninhabited corners' of my extensive collection.
Though the initial experience of listening to this album was not one that you would describe as successful, I was happy to receive a copy of the "Dactylis Glomerata/Abstrakt Algebra II" album - not only because I felt that I was given the opportunity to either strengthen or dismiss my initial attitude towards "Dactylis Glomerata", but also because I was to finally listen to the original versions of the songs that are included in Candlemass' sixth studio release - songs which were originally intended to become the second studio album of Leif Edling's side project Abstract Algebra.
So, it was under these circumstances that I first listened to the "Abstrakt Algebra II" album and decided to re-discover "Dactylis Glomerata", believing that it would not be long before I was to write my review. Well, to my great surprise, I ended up spending two enjoyable weeks listening to both albums and I now feel confident enough to accept "Dactylis Glomerata" as a rightful representative of the Candlemass name.
One would rightfully wonder 'why such a sudden change in attitude"? Well I believe that this is mainly attributed to the fact that I finally managed to listen to this release without subconsciously trying to compare it to classics, such as "Nightfall" and "Ancient Dreams". "Dactylis Glomerata" is not only a far more experimental album in comparison with both previously mentioned releases, but it's also the most varied and innovative release ever recorded by the band.
Songs like "Dustflow" and "Abstrackt Sun", two of my personal favourites, are filled with simple guitar riffs and beautifully crafted keyboard melodies and the skilful way with which they combine their long atmospheric parts with explosive moments of Heavy Metal madness make them not only impossible to resist, but also portray them as the source of inspiration behind some of the band's most recent material, as presented in "King Of The Grey Islands".
Mike Amott's contribution/influence is clearly audible on the Doom/Stoner rhythmical monsters "Wiz" and "Karthago", both of which could qualify as Spiritual Beggars compositions, and even the use of non-conventional instruments, such as the Piano in the Jazzy sounding "Thirst" and the Claypot (!) in the dark & moody "Apathy" have managed to add some character to the album rather than undermine its unity.
As far as the nine "Abstrakt Algebra II" compositions are concerned, they come across as rougher and slightly more 'confused' versions of those featured in "Dactylis Glomerata" and that is mainly attributed to their rough, almost demo, quality sound.
Even though I am a great fan of Mats Levens' voice, especially his contribution to the late Therion albums, I have to admit that in "Abstrakt Algebra II" he sounds less inspiring with the exception of "Thirst" and "Lidocain God" where he provides a more dramatic performance than that of Bjorn Flodkvist's in "Dactylis Glomerata".
It is really funny how it is often in the name of our love for music that we decide to raise our protective barriers against any musical innovations and also choose to dismiss the rightful claims of every musician for artistic/expressive freedom. It took me ten whole years to realise that I simply owe it to myself to enjoy an album like "Dactylis Glomerata" and if it just so happens that your attitude towards this album was similar to mine, I suggest that you give it another go - you could be surprised by the result.
Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)
Zenithal - Vendetta Casket 2008
It seems old school thrash is making a huge comeback here in the UK. Thrash gigs are selling fast and lots of young bands are taking their lead from the Municipal Waste school of retro-riffing and donning their bullet belts once again for more metal mayhem 80s style. Now you can add Zenithal to that list. Their new album comes out on Casket Records in late June and I have had the privilege of lending an ear to it pre-release.
Well I can safely report back with a thumbs-up old schoolers. Sure the album is not perfect but you have to look at the wider picture and judging the album as a whole entity I have to come down on the side of the positive. Normally I judge thrash albums by how quickly I am nodding along and with Zenithal I was nodding and banging to he opening riff of the first song. Always a good sign with me!
It seems the guys have taken their time with this CD and worked hard to make their riffs sound pretty fresh and not hackneyed or rushed. They have a reasonable technical level in the riffs too which always helps. They don't sound throw-away or limited in their ideas either and are not raw or helter skelter thrash. Each track has a plethora of startling riffs which sometimes groove or in other sections tear it up.
They also know how to pace a song really well. The second track Mad Shadows is a point in effect. From mid paced clever riffing to faster headbangier passages which remind me of Testament or Overkill. They have a hint of melody but I wouldn't call them a melodic thrash band like say, Annihilator.
They are very much Bay-Area influenced and have a strong Overkill vibe. The vocals are roughly shouted and ok for thrash, though sometimes I prefer a slight melodic edge. The guitar leads are reasonable but perhaps the guitarists lack the real flashy guitar skills to take them to the next level. The song writing from these guys is solid but needs work to be a little more concise and memorable.
The sound of the album is ok though once again not perfect but I can get by. I enjoyed this thrash metal throwback. They have a decent riff or two in their arsenal and should appeal to any old school thrash fan that wants to check out new bands in that style. Just don't expect the world!
© Pirage Forsi
Rating ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
Buy From Amazon
Nephwrack - Once and Future King 3-track sampler Self released 2008
A straight-ahead and no nonsense heavy metal band from Hampshire with a distinctly old school feel. Judging by the promo sheet this should be slightly more up my alley hopefully.
So what do Nephwrack sound like? They have a very NWOBHM base on which they build their songs. The guitar riffs are steady and stomping with a nice old school melodic feel. Another important factor, which makes them appeal to the real heavy metal fans, are the inclusion of foot-on-monitor lead guitar sections.
These parts always help us feel at home with the music. I think the lead playing is actually the best thing about this CD. The guitarists definitely know how to put a tasteful lead break to spice up the tunes.
Let's talk a little about the vocals. I have to be a little bit negative here. I don't feel the singer has confidence in his ability to actually sing. He sounds a little bit awkward and I feel the vocals need a lot of improvement before they gain more success. he actually sounds quite a lot like Blaze Bayley at times.
Some of the more aggressive vocal lines are not really to my taste either. The sound of the CD whilst clean and reasonable, also seems to lack a little bite or energy. Lacking in colour or sharpness if you like. I guess if you like your bands earthy and homely, the sound maybe good enough as it is.
I must admit that the band does have a knack for a catchy chorus here and there but they still need to work on the delivery and production. The album has a whiff of the second division about it, but they have a lot of talent that is for sure and must be praised for releasing an album with a very old school metal feel.
They just need to hone their song-writing a touch more to bring them to a higher level. All in all, a solid offering from "a meat and potatoes" British metal band with one foot firmly on the monitor.
© Pirage Forsi
Rating *** (3.0/5.0)
visit the band here
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**** Out of this
world | **** Pretty
damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly