November 2008 Reviews & Interviews
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Slicks Kitchen - Half Evil Half Album
First off, I am extremely doubtful as to whether the album cover will actually make the shelves considering it shows a lady snorting copious amounts of Cocaine, I am getting a little vibe of Prodigy here even before listening to the first track. Not quite sure why!
The album starts with 'Cum In My Kitchen' which is a complete breathe of fresh of air and completely different to most sounds we hear nowadays and I was right with the Prodigy vibe, just melt them together with Murderdolls and you have Slick's Kitchen; for this track anyway.
But then the album continues resulting in a slight let down with pop punk which is my eyes a commercial cop out. Listening to the track 'Good Your Gone' is far too calm for the mix and spoilt the atmosphere after punking around and the latter of the tracks are more mainstream and commercialised with the use of more pop punk and a mundane tempo that punk usually portrays.
Yes, boring and in no way a comparison to the first track that got me excited about this release; what a let down.
Well, if you do fancy checking them out, they are on tour supporting The Damned in November at the following venues:
30 November 2008 Newcastle Carling Academy
02 November 2008 Cambridge 2nd Junction
03 November 2008 Derby The Venue
04 November 2008 Leeds Irish Centre
05 November 2008 Manchester Academy II
06 November 2008 Edinburgh Liquid Rooms
09 November 2008 Narbeth The Queens Hall
10 November 2008 Crewe M Club
11 November 2008 Norwich Waterfront
12 November 2008 Sheffield Corporation
13 November 2008 London (TBA)
14 November 2008 Bristol Academy
16 November 2008 Cardiff The Point
17 November 2008 Gloucester Guild Hall
18 November 2008 Bilston Robin II
19 November 2008 Oxford Academy
20 November 2008 Northampton Roadmenders
21 November 2008 Brighton Komedia
Maybe hearing then live will change my perspective.
Rating ** (2.0/5.0)
Forest of Shadows - Six Waves of Woe
Forest of Shadows is a solo project founded by Swedish Niclas Frohagen. Niclas composes, plays all the instruments and even does the engineering!
This is categorised as Doom metal, this album is very heavy in parts and is passionate. This album does portray depression, which is of course what Doom metal is all about, but I don't want to end up too depressed by listening to a CD.
However, I am in a low mood today, so I found the atmospheric depression pretty apt for the way I am feeling. I think I'd be a bit harsher on this review if I was in an angelic smiley mood, as this album would definitely bring me down with my mood.
The first track; 'Submission' wasn't really what I was expecting from a doom metal release, it's calm, quietly sung and even a bit 'poppy' in places. I thought for a moment that the doom metal 'filth' was missing from the equation, until half way through the track 'Selfdestructive' the low roars and filth finally appeared in true Doom spirit and continues throughout.
Correct me if I am wrong here fans of Doom - but it is a very rare occurrence to come across a Doom release that would be considered rubbish/awful/pants etc etc, and I remain correct so far. This isn't a bad album at all, it's not harsh on the ears, and my only main gripe would be the production, as it isn't as good as it could be.
Definitely worth a listen if like Doom, soft Rock or Goth; I believe that fans of Type O Negative will lap this album up due to the similarities of sound.
Thumbs up from me!
Rating ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
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Stuck Mojo - The Great Revival
If you're one of those people who thought that Stuck Mojo had split up years ago, well, you were right. However, they got back together a few years ago, and have carried on spitting out rap / metal crossover tunes as if the new millennium had never happened.
Of course, this is no "Rising" and Lord Nelson is no Bonz, so with only guitarist Rich Ward left over from the glory days it's debatable how much this has in common with their original incarnation. To be fair they have carried on their tradition of incorporating some mighty fine southern rock, none more so than on album highlight 'Friends', which is the kind of tune Kid Rock can only dream about. I've no idea who they're duetting with, but the woman in question does a bang up job. (Quick internet search reveals Christine Cook).
Elsewhere, you'll find slide guitar cropping up to give extra flavour to some of the tunes, although whether the world needs their version of the John Denver hit 'Country Road' is open to debate. However, if the aforementioned Kid Rock can get to number one with 'Werewolves Of London' / 'Sweet Home Alabama', anything is possible. Although I think they'd be better off plugging 'Superstar Pt 1' to country radio in America. Another tune to feature Christine Cook, it's an absolute gem.
I'll finish up with my usual dig at the voiceovers breaking up the songs. Like, I get it. but for goodness sake, does it have to be every bloody tune. Including the one you can download free from the record companys website. Gits.
© Stuart A Hamilton
Rating ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
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Last edited Thu Nov 27 18:48:32 2008
SIX FEET UNDER - "DEATH RITUAL"
METAL BLADE (2008)
If you were to ask me to name one of the most important attributes of the Florida-based Death Metal outfit Six Feet Under, I would find it very difficult to provide you with a simple answer, as I find this legendary outfit to be truly unique. Sure, their music is pretty straightforward, as it has always been based on simple guitar riffs and accompanying melodies, yet this noisy quartet has always managed to somehow surprise me with every new release and believe me when I say that their tenth studio effort "Death Ritual" was no exception to the rule.
The last Six Feet Under album that I had the pleasure of reviewing was "13", an effort that was released three years ago, and I believe that if you were to draw a comparison between that release and "Death Ritual", the first conclusion that you would almost certainly reach is that the band seems to have followed a 'back to the classics' approach this time round, as both the sound and the style of the thirteen compositions that are on offer is quite close to those found in classic albums such as "Haunted" (1995) and "Maximum Violence" (1999).
Does this mean that I consider "Death Ritual" to be a better album than "13"? Well, even though I slightly missed the Thrashy elements that could be found in abundance on "13", I managed to connect much faster and more intensely with "Death Ritual" and that is why it has scored slightly higher on my 'appreciation board'.
This back to the classics approach that I was referring to earlier is clearly audible in the opening track "Death By Machete" - a three and a half minute composition whose atmospheric intro and fast/rhythmical main theme will bring a smile to the face of every hardcore SFU fan.
Much as I loved every minute of that composition, it was the following composition, namely "Involuntary Movement of Dead Flesh", that really impressed me. I find it really difficult to find the right words to describe the effect that Steve Swanson's massive headbanging riffs had on me, but I can see myself visiting my local hospital's A&E ward if I don't take it easy.
An even more simplistic approach was taken when creating "None Will Escape" and "Eulogy For The Undead" - the former being a composition whose rhythmical guitars come across as being heavily influenced by the music of early Death (see "Scream Bloody Gore" & "Leprosy"), whereas the latter is one of the slowest and grooviest compositions of the album, following a direction that will certainly win the support of many of Obituary's loyal fans.
If I were to name two compositions as being my absolute favourites, those would certainly be "Seed of Filth" and "Shot in the Head" - the former simply because its slow but deadly headbanging riffs were the ones that I first got hooked on and the latter because...well, the same reasons, actually.
And now to explain: my 'surprise' earlier in my review was caused by the very existence of "B*stard" - on of the best cover versions that I have heard in ages, the original of which was featured on... brace yourselves...Motley Crue's classic album "Shout At The Devil" (1983).
An album as impressive as "Death Rituals" deserves a great ending theme and I cannot see how this important task could have been given to any composition, other than "Murder Addiction" - a four minute groovy-sounding monster which will ensure that the first thing that you will do, after the its final notes are performed, is to push again the 'play' button on your CD player and listen to the whole album again from the very start.
There is a very good reason why metal critics and fans alike have attributed legendary status to Six Feet Under, and that is because, when it comes to adding groove into Death Metal, it is only really them and Obituary that are capable of delivering the goods. “Death Rituals” is an album that will certainly live up to the expectations of the fans of this genre. Did this latest effort by Chris Barnes and Co manage to come close to openly being compared with the legendary “Haunted” (1995)? The answer to that question is 'no', but it did come really damn close!
Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)
Last edited Thu Nov 27 17:20:21 2008
Pantheist - Journey Through Lands Unknown
I always find it hard to review albums which I patently know I'm not going to like before I've even heard a note. How can I review the music fairly when I know I am never ever going to listen to the garbage coming out of the speakers ever again? Of course garbage in the subjective term specific to my ears as I will explain.
You see 'funeral doom' is a genre of metal which fills me with total dread. I can't even call it music to be honest and it really is very very far from the styles of metal I listen to and I see myself as havinf quite varied taste. I like Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus but they are the life and soul in comparison to Patheist!
In any case I have been handed the task of reviewing said disk and by golly I have to make a stab at it. So Patheist, do your worst and let me see if I can give you a fair review. As soon as the music starts I can hear the typical droning style of funeral doom/death humming morosely out from the speakers.
Seriously depressing shit with droning dirgy riffs and desolate soundscapes. The vocals are spoken dirges or growled with the atmosphere bordering on absolute desperation and never ending gloom. There are very minute chinks of light that creep in here and there. This manifests itself via the unexpected sounds of church organs which whilst they can be totally sombre are actually played with quite an upbeat feel.
The riffing sometimes takes a turn for the speedier, though these sections do not last too long and soon the pace is once again reduced to a crawl through the shadowy dark depths where Patheist wallow in their self inflicted misery. I must admit that it was a real chore to listen until the end of this CD. It is just not my cuppa at all. I often think to myself what sort of character or individual would listen to this type of music and get something from it, and I always come up with the stereotype of drunk Finns in the winter where it never gets light hardly or some dreary northern bastards from 'oop north' over here.
In any case if you are feeling a bit down and fancy putting something on to cheer you up, then please don't put Pantheist on, it'll only make it worse! However on the other hand, any doom junkie out there could well be in paradise listening to this or should I say hell?
© Pirage Forsi
Rating **1/2 (2.5/5.0)
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Last edited Mon Nov 24 20:26:35 2008
Severenth - The Age Of Paranoia
When I first heard this album I thought oh no not thrash but when you listen to it a few times you get to realise that there is more to this band than just loud screaming!
They hail from the North-Wales underground scene and look to burst out with this Album which moves from the brutally hardcore through to the melodic rhythms leaving you wanting more!
It starts with the haunting 'It Shatters' showing the tightness of the band with excellent guitar breaks from Stevie E. The next track 'Twisted' shows that you can be hardcore but still have a melodic feel about your music, this has the feel of a young Machine Head about it.
'Through Fear' starts off with some awesome guitar licks blending in with Dave's drumming to give you a crowd pleasing anthem like feel, that must go down well at gigs.
All in all this album shows that Severenth are certainly a band with a future as long as they mature at the rate they are going. Currently on tour with gigs coming up in Rhyl, Runcorn and Macclesfield - I advise you to check them out if you can and hope they are as good live as in the studio.
So if you like your rock leaving you breathless and wanting more then this is the album for you - It certainly altered my opinion after I listened a few times and now am well and truly converted.
The Unforgiven he say - 4/5
© Dave Morris
Rating **** (4.0/5.0)
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Ásmegin - Arv
Five years after the release of their debut album, "Hin Vordende Sod & Sø " and Norwegian folk metal band Ásmegin are back with a follow up.
And not a lot has changed in their world. They've still got the mix of male / female vocals, the clean singing and the growls, the metallic guitars and the hey nonny no's of the fiddles and accordion. The vocals, in particular, are a constant highlight, fully in synch with the changes in the song dynamics as they go from brutal to mellow to folk.
For sure, there isn't a great deal that makes stand out in a crowded field, but when they get things spot on, as they do on the title track and on 'Fandens Mælkebøtte', then they really are a little bit special.
There are also some nice keyboard touches dotted around, with some excellent Hammond touches, and some more of them would have went down a treat. However, a lot of the songs do seem to get stuck in the same mid tempo groove, and a wee bit more variety would have done wonders.
© Stuart A Hamilton
Rating *** (3.0/5.0)
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OPETH INTERVIEW 2008
There are not many bands in Extreme Metal who can be as powerful and as influential as Opeth, as to justify a Premiere in a prestigious London Cinema as part of a promotion for their upcoming DVD release. Well, then again, you can also rightfully claim that Mikael Akerfeldt's outfit is by no means just any ordinary band, right?
Moments before the venue's doors finally allowed the band's hairy and noisy fan base to enter the cinema hall, I managed to have a quick chat with the friendly frontman, as well as the skinsman Martin “Axe” Axenrot, not only with regards to the release of the live DVD “The Roundhouse Tapes” and the current tour in promotion of their latest studio effort “Watershed”, but also with respect to Bloodbath and the possibility of getting this Death Metal project again on the road... well, the answers I was given were encouraging indeed!
Interviewer: John Stefanis
Hi there guys- it is really nice to be able to finally do an interview with you, even though we have been given only ten minutes to talk. We are obviously going to concentrate on your band's most recent recording “The Roundhouse Tapes” and I have to say that I find it really interesting why you've chosen to release this live album at this specific moment in time, especially seeing as the gig took place almost two years ago.
Mikael: The live album is released now, finally! It's been hugely delayed, to begin with, and after that it was put 'on hold' as we had to take a break from things in general. Now that it is finally ready to come out, it feels slightly 'old' to us, especially as it's been two years since we did that show and we now have a new guitar player (Fredrik Akesson) in our line up...but it's finally done. It's a good DVD, I think.
Peaceville Records (the label under which “The Roundhouse Tapes” is to be released) has been really supportive of us doing this and they obviously want to launch its release in a fashionable way, so they found this place (Prince Charles Cinema- Leicester Square) and sold the idea to us that maybe we can do a cinema premiere for our DVD.
I don't know what the agreement is between you and your label Roadrunner Records, but I do find it strange how they 'allowed' you to release this album through another label.
Opeth is a very commercial band with many good albums and people are always interested in any release that carries the band's name, so how happy was Roadrunner with your decision to work with Peaceville Records this time round?
Mikael: We had it written in our contract when we signed to Roadrunner - a clause that would enable us to release a live album and a live DVD on our own, so we found the venue, the Roundhouse, shot the film and pitched it to Roadrunner to release it...but it's a big production, so we were looking for a company that would, first of all, finance everything, make a nice packaging for the subsequent release and finally promote it.
Now, people from Peaceville made the best offer as far as we were concerned, providing us with thirteen cameras, HD...it was a big and quite expensive production. In terms of packaging, Peaceville also did a great job, as they have released in recent time some really good stuff, something that has always been quite an important thing for us.
You see, we never really 'made ends meet' with labels in the past with regards to the packaging of albums, as everybody really wanted to provide us with the cheapest option possible but Peaceville showed us some really nice examples of how we could make this release look as nice as it does now - both with regards the audio CD and the DVD. So, we were open to pitch it to anyone and we did pitch it to Roadrunner, but Peaceville offered a better deal and did offer a great packaging. We don't feel loyalty to labels anymore...
It must feel like a real privileged for any band to be in a strong position of being able to say such a thing, don't you agree?
Mikael: Yeah...we used to (feel loyal to labels) in the past, but I have come to realize that it doesn't mean sh*t nowadays - it is just a label.
This next question is not exactly what one would describe as politically correct, especially seeing as I am a fan of Peaceville Records and of their overall attitude as a record company.
If I remember correctly, you did face some serious problems with the distribution of “Still Life” in the States back in the day, as it took almost a year and a half for it to become available to your American fans, correct?
Mikael: Yeah, yeah. Now it's finally available, I guess, but I do believe that the label is still struggling with regards its distribution.
So, with that in mind, you can justify me asking whether this past experience scared you to a certain extent - meaning whether you've made the right choice by releasing yet another album through Peaceville.
Mikael: Not really....I cannot lie here - a DVD is not for me as important as a new record is. I know that people who want to get it will get it, even if that means them getting it through Ebay,
as most people don't get things from record stores nowadays.
This album will only really be available to those who really want it - besides, I haven't really looked into what kind of promotion Peaceville is going to do to countries such as the US, which is indeed a big and important market for us, but it's really up to them, you know what I mean? I am only really becoming quite concerned when it comes to the release of our new album, to be blatantly honest.
Let's talk about the show that took place on November the 9th 2006, as this DVD is its visual representation. Which are the first things/memories that come to mind when you look back into that show?
Mikael: Fear (laughs).
Mikael: My intention was to look on it as being yet another 'normal' show - I think we all did...its one of those things that you want to get over with, you know? Like, the days before you would feel a weird sense in your stomach and you thing “oh, I don't really want to do this fu*king show”.
I wasn't particularly excited about it because it is quite stressful playing in front of many different cameras, as you do want to perform well, to look good and everything and you don't want to have to face any major technical problems on the day, so there is a lot of stress involved. I do believe, though, that our performance was pretty good that night and everything, still my memories of the show were me thinking “let's get this over with” (laughs).
If this show was to be performed with today's line up, do you believe that the end result would have sounded in any way different than the one that's audible in the DVD?
Mikael: Well, the main difference is that Peter (Lindrgren:guitars) was playing on the DVD and now we have Fredrik (Akesson) as our new guitar player. Fredrik is a better guitar player than Peter - it's as simple as that...
That is quite a strong argument there...
Mikael: ...well, Fredrik is a better guitarist than myself too, so it's not really like I am trying to diminish Peter's value and contribution to the band. Anyway, the DVD sounds good and you need to remember that this is a live performance so things are not supposed to sound perfect.
A question or two with regards the band's upcoming shows here in the UK. You will be sharing the same stage with bands such as the legendary Cynic and the highly acclaimed The Ocean. How did Cynic became part of the picture? Was that a decision that you guys were personally involved with, or was it purely a label-driven activity?
Mikael: Our labels are not involved in any decisions that have to do with us touring. If they have to do anything with such things it will be at times when we wish to borrow money from them to finance our endeavors, so you can say that labels do not have any input.
They may pitch bands from their own
roster, but they never decide things for us. This is something that we
normally arrange with touring agents and our management. We normally get
a list of bands that are interested in playing with us...
I cannot remember whether Cynic were on
that list, to be honest, but a friend of mine, with whom we go way back
and who is now the manager of Cynic, wrote me one day telling me that
they had reformed, that they were working on a new album and that we
should consider if we wanted to tour with them sometime in the future.
Cynic only ever had one album out (note: the amazing “Focus”) - an album which I really liked since it first came out and also the fact that Paul Masvidal (guitars/vocal) and Sean Reinert (drums) played with Death made this a very good idea for me. I believe that Cynic and Opeth make a good match, and my friend Leif did start pestering me when he found out that I was about to make this European tour, sending me e-mails such as “bring them up”, so we just made it happen.
Well, I am sure that every UK fan is looking forward to seeing you guys performing together on stage. Apart from these live dates here in the UK, what other plans do you have with regards the promotion of your latest album “Watershed”? You are already in the middle of a very extensive tour, as far as I know
Mikael: There is indeed a lot of touring involved. We just came back, well five days ago that is, from a six week tour in the US - a tour that began back in...
Mikael: Yes, April (laughs)...we are obviously still jet lagged as you have probably noticed (laughs)...we have done two tours now, as we have also toured Australia and Japan, and we still have a lot of touring to do.
Martin: We also did a few Summer Festival dates.
Mikael: Indeed - there were something like thirty gigs that were involved.
Martin: We also did a short tour in England and also toured the US in support of Dream Theater.
Mikael: We've done a lot of work so far, but we still have sh*tloads to do.
Now, my next question requires an answer by both of you, as you are both involved in the Death Metal project Bloodbath. I have to say that your latest effort “The Fathomless Mastery” was exactly what I was hoping to hear from you guys, so congratulations for that. Is there any chance that you may go, at some point in time, on tour in order to promote that release, or is this completely out of the question?
Mikael: Yeah, touring with Bloodbath is a very difficult thing.
Martin: There are so many things that we need to do nowadays that there is not enough free time that will enable us to go on tour with Bloodbath.
Mikael: I think that we might do a couple of shows sometime next year...Martin is obviously closely involved with Opeth, so he is quite busy, but the other guys, the Katatonia guys (Jonas Renkse: bass, Anders Nystrom: guitars) are not really busy with either bands at the moment, so they are more open with the idea of going on tour and doing as many gigs as possible.
You won't believe how many people thought I should ask you whether Bloodbath would finally go on tour.
Mikael: Well, you won't believe how many people ask me all the time (laughs). I love Bloodbath, I think that it's a great band and believe me when I say that I would have toured with them if we were not doing this tour now with Opeth, as you all realize what my main priority is.
Well, at least there is indeed some progress made here as in the band's live DVD “The Wacken Carnage” you mentioned a few times that that was to be your only live performance ever with Bloodbath.
Mikael: That was obviously a lie (laughs)...to be honest, if the choice was strictly mine, that would have been indeed the case and as I was going in and out of the band, I don't really see myself as a member- I am more like a 'hired gun'.
A very important 'hired gun', if you will allow me to say so (I laugh)
Mikael: I guess that that's true, but...I don't know. We did two shows last summer, and it was just one of those things that I really enjoyed doing - it was quite fun, though it was also quite stressful doing these shows. Jonas (Renkse) is my best friend and I have a really hard time saying 'no' to him.
Well, I can see Matt (Peaceville Records) indicating from afar that my time is up, so I want to conclude this interview by saying good luck to you guys, even though I feel that luck has little, or even nothing, to do with all things Opeth nowadays.
Mikael: No, we still need it (laughs).
Well, I do doubt it, but I do hope that you have success in any of your future endeavors and I also want to thank you for doing this interview.
Mikael: No problem - thank you.
Last edited Thu Nov 20 17:25:49 2008
BISON B.C - "QUIET EARTH"
METAL BLADE (2008)
I remember that, back in the 80s, strange as this may sound to young metalheads nowadays, one of the most difficult parts of the process of forming a band was to find a name that would both convey power and an understanding of what your outfit's music would be all about and that is indeed why words such as 'dark' and 'death' hold a predominant position in the names of many legendary bands of the era.
Things have changed quite a lot, though, over the last twenty or so years, and that is why I had to rely on instincts alone when I recently found myself in the process of guessing what a band carrying the name Bison B.C. would be all about.
There are two good reasons that made me decide to take on the task of reviewing this album- the former being the fact that Bison B.C were highly praised by a very dear friend of mine and the latter - the fact that the band's origins are from Vancouver/Canada, an area that's been the birthplace of some very high quality metal bands in both the distant and recent past.
As the information that I managed to gather from both the band's label and the Internet was somewhat limited, I decided to let the music do the talking and finally find out whether my friend was indeed right in claiming that "Quiet Earth" is an album capable of blowing me away. Was he right? Well, I am still here to tell the tale, and this probably means that this eight track release had a different impact on me than it did on him - yet there indeed quite a few good things that I can say about this band.
Mastodon came to mind soon after I heard the first few notes of the opening riff of "Primal Emptiness of Outer Space” and that is not only due to the sheer heaviness of the main riff of the composition or the highly distorted guitar sound that complements it, but also due to the choice of screamo vocals that frontman James Farwell chooses to adopt.
This five and a half minute composition features an array of catchy doomy/groovy riffs, numerous rhythmical changes and high levels of energy that you normally expect to find in the music of bands such as Hatebreed and Agnostic Front, so you can only imagine my excitement.
Unfortunately, the somewhat punkier "Dark Towers" brought forth some of the negative aspects of the band's music, as its constant rhythmical changes lacked direction, making it a difficult composition to relate to and that is also, to a certain extent, the case with "Slow Hand of Death", although its Celtic Frost aura and doomy/groovy Sabbathic riffs did manage to make it stand out.
It was at this moment, when I began loosing faith in this release, that the magnificent "Wendigo, Pt I (Quest For Fire)" graced me with its presence. Following a dramatic and painfully beautiful cello-driven introduction, this eight minute opus is graced by one of the heaviest doom riffs of the album and a mesmerising melodic theme.
The album features a number of rhythmical changes that seem to work perfectly this time round, moving from fast and rhythmical Panteresque guitar riffs to slow but powerful melodic breaks and also including an amazing guitar solo which you could easily have been performed by Kirk Hammett (Metallica), but sounds as if it was taken from the first Iron Maiden album.
Unfortunately, none of the remaining four compositions manage to make me feel similarly exited, however, compositions, such as the groovy Instrumental "Medication" and the multi-faced same-titled composition "Quiet Earth" will surprise you with their quality and finesse.
I am a bit annoyed that I can only grant a three and a half star rating to an album which features one of the best songs that I heard in recent times, but I do strongly believe that my rating is representative of what I feel that "Quiet Earth" is capable of offering to its intended audience.
Having said that, though, I also believe that Bison B.C are a band that can make a difference, so hopefully their future musical endeavours will enable me to provide them with a rating that will reflect their overall capabilities and sheer talent.
Rating: ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
UNEARTH - "THE MARCH"
METAL BLADE (2008)
Based on the various Metalcore album reviews I have done in the past that some of our readers might think that I hold some sort of grudge against the genre but I can assure you that this is by no means the case.
My main argument, one which applies to every genre of out beloved music, is that bands need to ensure a certain level of quality and originality with regards their work, not only out of respect for themselves as artists but, more importantly, out of respect towards those people, you, the fans, who will support them by buying their albums and attending their shows.
Well, it seems that Unearth have finally managed to reach that stage in their career where they can present us with an album that both respects the main principles of the genre, but also one that explodes with freshness, variety and originality.
I understood that I was in the 'presence' of something really special the moment I first heard the flamboyant Buz McGrath/Ken Susi twin guitar theme of the opening composition "My Will Be Done" and, as I write these very words, I am still amazed as to how well these two shredders managed to combine harsh Thrash/Metalcore orientated guitar riffs with numerous melodic
In Flames-orientated choruses/refrains. This battle between melody and aggression is consistent throughout this album, but it expresses itself in numerous different ways, making the process of listening to "The March" a highly enjoyable one.
I felt naturally drawn to songs like "Hail to the Shrine" and "The March", as the former is based on a dynamic Thrash riff that betrays the band's influence from the music of Testament, whereas the latter is supported by massive Pantera-orientated riffs and its lead guitar themes are reminiscent of modern day Annihilator and Destruction.
Those of you who love In Flames and are interested in experiencing a slightly more aggressive interpretation of their style will almost certainly enjoy compositions such as "Grave of Opportunity" and "Cutman", or even the slow paced and highly emotive "Letting Go" which could, strangely, be described as the album's 'ballad'.
The one song that does stand out, in my opinion, is "The Chosen", as I found the combination between the 80s Heavy Metal main theme, the groovy/Metalcore refrain and the brilliantly performed Maidenesque guitar solo to be simply out of this world!
If this ten track album managed to make such a huge impression on a person that is not naturally drawn to Metalcore such as me, then I cannot see any reason why it will not be treated as an absolute masterpiece by the supporters of this highly energetic scene.
Unearth have evolved much as a band since the days of "The Oncoming Storm" (2004) and I, for one, am proud to have realised their true potential back in the days when they were still struggling to make a name for themselves. Now, only the sky is the limit - good luck guys!
Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)
Eden's Curse - The Second Coming AFM 2008
A full power melodic metal album with a hint of classic 80's metal. Intense power, superior guitar riffs and quite a good clear production from Dennis Ward (Krokus).
Some catchy tunes here, including the track "Angels & Demons" which is a duet with Pamela Moore ('Sister Mary' from Queensryche), albeit this album to me seeps cheese from the 80's with a Whitesnake vibe nonetheless.
Keeping in true 80's metal theme, the use of keyboards on this album is evident and somewhat suck in my opinion, but also gives a progressive rock feel; which will make this album appeal to any fan of rock.
I really can't go with the Metal vibe here, not in the year 2008 anyway, metal has progressed - at one point in time Whitesnake were considered metal, but in this day and age, it is purely rock and lightweight.
An ideal album for beer swigging older bikers in the summer sun or local free festival, but certainly not credible to appear at the bigger festivals in 2009 without getting that little bit heavier.
The guitar work of Thorsten Keene (Code of Perfection, Aterial) is melodic with loads of heavy riffs and good leads which is definitely heavier than Eden's Curse last album.
For fans of Judas Priest, Whitesnake and Def Leppard. Nothing exciting.
Rating *** (3.0/5.0)
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Mind Gone Blind - Liars & Preachers
This is the eagerly awaited debut album from the North East of Scotlands finest - Mine Gone Blind (MGB), a four piece band consisting of Gary Moyes (Vocals), Shane Younie (Guitar), Michael Forrest (Bass) & Rob Hendry (Drums) that owes its roots to the clubs and pubs of Elgin, Banff and the like.
Well I wasn't disappointed - from the first track to the last this album hits you right between the eyes with excellent vocals and guitar rifts from days gone but brought straight up to date with the unique sound of MGB, beware because if you like your music more 'thrashy' then this isn't for you.
The first track 'Say You Will' could have come out of the back catalogue of the likes of Free & Hendrix - yes its that good, sound clear lyrics and guitar breaks with a catchy melodic beat. 'Fragile' is a rockier track best served loud with very good vocals from Gary Moyes reminding you of being on your bike on the open road.
'Somebody Else' has haunting melodic tones showing how tightly knit this band is. 'Liars & Preachers' is the title track and showcases how good a musician Shane is on guitar along with the rest of the band, as does the rest of the album finishing off with the awesome 'Just'.
What becomes apparent from the outset is that this is a band that can play good old Rock 'n' Blues with the best of them but, although similar in style to bands both old and new, have a sound of their own. I recommend you go to their website and listen to this album.
The Unforgiven he say - 4/5
© Dave Morris
Rating **** (4.0/5.0)
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Last edited Tue Nov 18 16:42:58 2008
Odin's Court - Deathanity ProgRock 2008
A new name to me and I guess many of this site's readers unless you happen to number among the keenest of prog rock afficionados out there. In any case Odin's Court are one of those American bands who are quite hard to pigeon hole, being blessed with a myriad of prog influences with one foot in the prog rock camp and a few toes in waters traversed by Dream Theater and the likes. Deathanity sees the band, led by Matt Brookins delivering a diverse and quite intriguing album that will find some favour I would hazard a guess from fans of Dream Theater and even bands such as Porcupine Tree and Arena.
The band is very proficient instrumentally speaking without being over the top showy and their talent shines through with considerable ease. Matt Brookin's vocals are soft and melodic but perhaps lacking in a little bit of oomph. To be fair, the songs do not really call for a vocal powerhouse to let rip or anything like that and Matt does a respectable job.
Although his somewhat awkward attempts at heavier vocalising is somewhat misguided in my opinion. Better to stick to the smoother and more melodic delivery which sounds much more soulful and fitting.
After the opening instrumental, the first song proper, Volatilestial, sets the pace of the album and let's the listener settle down for a relaxing listen. There are many parts to the song with instrumental passages galore.
The theme of the album also manifests itself in the lyrics which deal with mankind's actions and their detrimental effect on the planet. Yeah, another eco warrior rock/metal album with a conscience. Plenty of them about these days!
In any case this is a 'music' cd and however honourable the intentions of the band maybe they still need to deliver the goods musically. As the album progresses I find the album's charms beginning to show through.
Prog rock can be really tiresome personally speaking with the instrumental passages getting somewhat monotonous however I didn't feel this way with Deathanity although I far prefer the vocal parts where Matt actually sings some great melodies rather than soloing for too long.
The production on this disk is very nice with very clear separation between the instruments, if slightly lacking in crispness on the guitar parts. The bass playing is really superlative and will blow away prog metal fans with amazingly tasty bass lines to wrap your ears round.
They never forget to use a good dose of melody when it is called for either. which makes the songs that bit more memorable. The instrumental piece Oceanica Toxica is just wonderful to listen to and a real treasure. Following song Mammonific features an awesme guest vocal spot from Evergrey's Tom Englund and he goes down a storm in this song and makes you think how cool this album would have been with him singing all the way.
Odin's Court is one of those bands that challenges the listener with fantastic instrumental parts and emotional vocals, mixed with thought provoking and relevant subject matter.
This is one of those gems of the underground that prog rock/metal fans cannot really afford to miss to be honest. Personally I am not a massive fan of prog or music which requires me to engage too many of my few remaining brain cells, but even I have to admit that odin's Court have delivered a high class product here.
© Pirage Forsi
Rating **** (4.0/5.0)
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Paul Bostaph - Testament interview
Interview by Cameron Edney
Every now and then I get the true pleasure of speaking with an artist that isn't only a fantastic musician, but one that I grew up idolizing and influenced by. Recently given the opportunity to interview current Testament drummer Paul Bostaph, how could I refuse?
Born in San Francisco, California, Bostaph is one of the original bay area thrash metal legends; a man who has helped shape the thrash metal legacy we now indulge in on a daily basis. Growing up a young man with a passion for contact sports, Paul soon found a second love in rock n roll music and by the age of sixteen he was already belting away on his first drum kit.
Over the years Paul has played with some of the biggest and most influential metal bands of all time! He joined his first serious band Forbidden in 1986 and released two thrashin masterpieces in 'Forbidden Evil' and 'Twisted into Form' both of which are now classed as classic metal albums. Paul's stint with Forbidden lasted for five years and his reputation as one of the bay area's best drummers was now in full swing.
Shortly after leaving them, Paul was approached by thrash titans Slayer who were looking for a new skins man after the departure of Dave Lombardo. Recording three albums with Slayer 'Divine Intervention', 'God Hates Us All' and 'Diabolus in Musica', his new found home with Slayer now had Bostaph touring across the globe, playing to adoring fans in Japan, Australia, Europe and beyond.
As time has gone on, Paul's drumming and musicianship has earned him a place in the heavy metal Hall of Fame. Leaving Slayer due to an elbow injury that would see him unable to continue playing for a length of time, he never gave up on his dreams. His determined, positive attitude has seen Bostaph back behind the kit despite several setbacks.
Now back behind the kit and belting it out with Testament, one of the greatest thrash metal bands of all time, Paul is drumming better than ever and has plenty to be proud of!
They've released their first studio album in nine years and fans and critics around the world were quick to give 'The Formation of Damnation' the title of metal album of 2008. It is clear to see why such a title was given to this instant classic with powerful, hard-hitting, influential songs like 'The Henchmen Ride', 'More Than Meets the Eye' and 'Afterlife'.
The success of the band's latest album has seen them touring in the United States with legendary metal gods Judas Priest and Heaven & Hell I had the pleasure of catching up with this amazing drummer recently to talk about the bands most recent thrashing masterpiece 'The Formation of Damnation', life with Slayer and Forbidden and much more. Before the 'Killing Season' begins, kick back as we have a chat with legendary drummer Paul Bostaph.
Cameron Edney: Hi Paul, how are you doing mate?
PAUL BOSTAPH: I'm doin well man, I'm Just getting ready to run around like a madman on tour, we're heading out with Judas Priest, Heaven and Hell and Motorhead, it's going to be insane!
Cameron Edney: I want to thank you for putting some time aside to speak with me today mate and I want to congratulate you on one of the finest Testament albums ever made. Now that 'The Formation of Damnation' has been out for a few months and you have had time to digest it, is there anything you would have changed?
PAUL BOSTAPH: Yeah, probably a few more fast songs, a few more thrash songs. When we were finishing this record, I was thinking it would have been killer to write a couple more thrash songs, but that's good for the next record, we'll do it then.
Overall I'm really satisfied with the band and how the songs came out; the songs are a compilation of years of these guys trying to get this record done. Some were done while we were in this session writing. I wouldn't have really changed anything cause it shows Testament, at this time!
Cameron Edney: 'The Formation of Damnation' was the first studio album the band had done in nine years, how did you push each other musically and creatively to get the best results possible?
PAUL BOSTAPH: None of us really had to push each other; we all knew how important this record was to us. There was this feeling of excitement, we were doing this record together and we're a lot better than we used to be. There was plenty of excitement and enthusiasm that pushed us; we didn't have to push ourselves. We knew it had to be great.
Cameron Edney: Since getting the Cd, it has been on heavy rotation, and I love many of the tracks including the title track, 'F.E.A.R.' and 'The Henchmen Ride' what are the stand out tracks for you on the album?
PAUL BOSTAPH: I have to say 'The Persecuted Wont Forgot', 'F.E.A.R.', 'More Than Meets the Eye' and I love 'The Henchman' they're all great songs. We haven't played Persecution or 'Formation of Damnation' yet and they are the stand out songs for me!
Cameron Edney: Being your first full length album with Testament how much involvement did you have in selecting the tunes which made the final cut?
PAUL BOSTAPH: The songs that made the final cut are the songs we came out of pre-production with. We didn't have too many songs. As we were writing, ideas either just died in pre-production or they happened. Everything we walked into the studio with, we recorded.
Cameron Edney: As a drummer when it came time to enter the studio did you approach it in a different way to some of the albums you have recorded in the past?
PAUL BOSTAPH: Yeah actually I did. The last album I recorded, I did with a click track, this album I didn't use a click track. The other difference in my approach with this record was that I was trying to accomplish something entirely different with my style.
A lot of the drum ideas on this record are different, I honed in on a certain drum style that I do and I've done periodically in my career but one that has never surrounded an entire record. I think on this record, there is more ear drumming and that is something that I never really got the chance to fit into an album before.
Cameron Edney: When you hit the studio, did you have complete power over your drum tracks or did the band already have certain ideas of how they wanted things to go?
PAUL BOSTAPH: I had complete control over my drum tracks. At first Eric Peterson and I worked very hard on the drum tracks together. I would get the tracks to a certain point and Eric would come in and come up with some ideas.
There would be parts to do on the guitars and some of the guitar tracks hadn't been written yet so Eric would want the drums to follow the guitar and we would work on ideas together. I'd either say “okay, I'll do it that way” or I would change it to come up with something more suitable, as a result I think it made the drum tracks better.
Cameron Edney: Paul, over the years you have played with some amazing bands. Tell us, what has been your most embarrassing onstage moment?
PAUL BOSTAPH: Oh god, my most embarrassing moment would have been drumming with Testament back in 1992, when I filled in for them. It's actually on video tape somewhere and I was wearing these shorts that didn't have a tie on them.
Chuck Billy's wife, who is a friend of mine, told one of the guitar techs that when I got out onstage and threw my hands up into the air that she'd pay them twenty bucks to pull down my shorts down around my ankles. Of course I'm standing there doing the rock star pose and next thing I can feel this slight breeze downstairs [laughs] that's got to be the most embarrassing this that's happened.
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] There is no doubt you are an exceptional drummer! Do you do anything specific to warm up and prepare for a show?
PAUL BOSTAPH: I don't drink any alcohol before I play; it takes away from my edge. When I'm onstage I want to be the best that I can. I have these illumine drumsticks which are called Vater power wrist builders which I endorse, and I use them to warm up on a drum pad. I usually warm up for about half an hour before I play, besides doing stretches and whatever else.
Cameron Edney: You have shared the stage with many great bands over the years. Who has given you the best advice out on the road and what was it?
PAUL BOSTAPH: Wow, I'd have to say the best advice I've gotten on the road was probably from our tour manager and it was whenever you're flying overseas or flying anywhere, make sure you have all your shampoo and liquids in a zip lock bag so it doesn't explode in your luggage. That's the best advice I've ever gotten.
Cameron Edney: Mate, we have hit the part of the interview where our readers want to find out more about the real you! What have your parents thought about the music you played?
PAUL BOSTAPH: My dad doesn't like heavy metal at all, he's proud of the fact that I've been on the road, he has his friends calling him up telling him I've been on MTV or whatever. He's excited that I'm seeing the world but he doesn't like metal at all which is understandable.
My mum is more open minded towards music and she doesn't listen to heavy metal but she has listened to records that I've done and has come to tons of my shows. She's very into music and loves the fact that I'm a musician.
Cameron Edney: Growing up can you pin point the one moment you knew you wanted to be a musician for the rest of your life?
PAUL BOSTAPH: Yeah, I would have to say I really wanted to be a musician when I first heard rock n' roll. As far as what I wanted to do for the rest of my life... when I really started getting into Def Leppard in high school listening to Def Leppard's 'On Through The Night', Mötley Crue's first album and Iron Maiden's 'Killers' I knew that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Cameron Edney: From all the albums you have appeared on what one would be your favourite to listen to and why? Is it even possible to narrow it down?
PAUL BOSTAPH: Probably the latest Testament record and the reason I think that from top to bottom is I like the music, I like the vocals, the leads are great and I'm very happy with my drum performance on this record.
Usually, I walk away from an album thinking I could have done something better but, and with 'The Formation Of Damnation' I think I couldn't have done anything better on this album, there's only the next record and what I'd do differently. On this album and every one before it I've given 100% effort and this time I feel I left everything on the table and I'm happy with that!
Cameron Edney: Mate let's go all the way back to when you joined Forbidden back in the mid eighties. What comes to mind when you look back on those early musical experiences?
PAUL BOSTAPH: Oh wow, we were crazy, a lot crazier than I am now, we didn't know shit about the music business and from that point, being naïve played a big part in the music we create. The fact that we were one of many bands that came from a thriving bay area thrash metal scene, we had to try and stand out amongst our peers and that was almost impossible to do at the time.
Someone would always compare you to someone else that came before you. Looking back now, I think that we did stand out, sometimes good and sometimes bad, but I'm pleased that our albums have stood the test of time, back then if you had asked me if those albums would have been classic thrash metal records I would have said no! I would have said 'Reign In Blood' would be and 'Ride The Lightning' would be, but our albums no!
Cameron Edney: In the past you have sustained a few injuries which as a drummer had put you out of business for a while. Has there ever been a point of your career where you personally lost hope and thought everything was over?
PAUL BOSTAPH: No never, I've played sports all my life competitively at a very high level, and if you play week after week as a kid, growing up, you learn that injuries are a part of anything you do! You have to be smart in how you approach your goals.
I've learned to deal with my injuries and I've also learned to play through them. With my knee, I couldn't play drums for a year and I had to have surgery. At a certain point you have to realize that your health is more important than your music. Without your health there is no music, but I keep a positive attitude!
Cameron Edney: Paul, most artists are lucky to survive in this industry for 2 - 3 years and yet you have had an amazing journey up to this point. If you had to relive it all again, would you change anything?
PAUL BOSTAPH: Um...yeah I probably would. You can't and I'm happy with the way things have turned out, but I think if I would have changed anything I would have never have quit Forbidden.
Cameron Edney: Oh really!
PAUL BOSTAPH: I would have stuck through it and would have seen how far we could have taken that! People were just starting to figure us out, and we were starting to pack places, the music was getting better. I think we were just hitting the tip of the iceberg but, everything ends for a reason... I joined Slayer and that was an interesting ride and it made me a better drummer!
Cameron Edney: Let me stop you there... I have never heard any members past or present refer to Slayer as an interesting ride, how so?
PAUL BOSTAPH: Well, because if you would have asked me when I had left Forbidden what was next? I couldn't have answered you. I thought it was over. Back then music was changing, and I wanted to put a heavy metal band together but I just didn't see it happening at the time, I got a phone call the next day from Slayer and here I am!
Cameron Edney: Mate, who have you been surprised to learn is a fan of you work?
PAUL BOSTAPH: That's a good question... when I first met System Of A Down they told me they were all Forbidden fans, the guys from Slipknot. I am surprised when anyone walks up to me and tells me they are a fan of my work. I have been told that Neil Pert is a fan of my drumming but that can't be confirmed or denied.
The biggest surprise was Bill Ward from Black Sabbath! When I did Ozzfest with Slayer, Bill wanted to come and talk with me, so we sat and had a conversation for an hour and that conversation really kept the wind in my sails, in terms of music. He was a big fan of my playing and he was really complementary and I would have to say he was the biggest surprise out of them all!
Cameron Edney: What's the craziest rumor you had ever heard about yourself and or the band?
PAUL BOSTAPH: That I was retired from drumming due to an elbow injury!
Cameron Edney: What's the single best piece of advice you could give to upcoming drummers who were trying to make it in the business?
PAUL BOSTAPH: Practice, practice, practice! It's a party on the road and it can be a lot of fun, but don't let the partying affect your gig. People show up and pay money to see you play and that makes you an entertainer. I believe it's an entertainer's responsibility to give people their money's worth.
Cameron Edney: Mate just before we wrap it up, what's ahead for yourself and Testament now, I mean you are hitting the road for the album still but are there any other plans in the works?
PAUL BOSTAPH: After Australia we are doing some more touring in the United States, and then in the down time we will probably start writing again for the next album. I think we are heading into Europe next year also and wherever the wind takes us after that!
Cameron Edney: Paul, thanks again for taking the time to speak with us today; it's been a true pleasure.
© Cameron Edney 2008
'The Formation of Damnation' is out now, you would be crazy not to add this masterpiece to your metal collection!
To keep up with all the latest on Testament head to the following websites...
Official Testament website
Testament on Myspace
Last edited Sat Nov 15 10:00:22 2008
Axel Rudi Pell - Tales Of The Crown
Blimey, you can almost set your clock by them, such is the regularity of Axel Rudi Pell albums. Here comes, what, his twelfth studio album since he went solo and his nineteenthishrelease overall.
Now some folks will say that if you have one Axel Rudi Pell album, you have them all, but those of us quietly applauding from the sidelines will disagree.
There are minor changes from his last release of original material ("Mystica" from 2006), although I would take issue with his claim of "modern licks". Unless he was referring to something other than his guitar playing, in which case I don't want to know.
He's basically sticking to the tried and tested Blackmore template he's been working from since he left Steeler, something I have absolutely no problem with, and when he hits top form it's an exhilirating sound. try 'Crossfire', the big ballad, 'Touching My Soul' and 'Buried Alive' for examples of him at his finest.
I'm still not the biggest fan of vocalist Johnny Gioeli, but he copes well here, as do the rest of the band - Volker Krawczak on bass, Mike Terrana on drums and Ferdy Doernberg on keyboards. It's unlikely to convert any new listeners, but those of us who enjoy our metal done eighties stylee will find plenty to enjoy.
© Stuart A Hamilton
Rating *** (3.0/5.0)
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Last edited Thu Nov 13 20:06:40 2008
Coerced Into Battle - Enemy Mine
Scalpel-sharp and menacing by turns, "Enemy Mine" is a suitably ferocious addition to the death metal genre.
Kataklysm-like in terms of blistering speed and spine-chilling tone, "Erase The Mind" proves immediately engrossing, illustrating practiced musicianship and unbridled aggression. Sprawling, bone-crunching bass speeds to a blast beat-driven climax in the artfully-assembled, "Constructing A Demon", while "Buried In Desolation" pushes frontman, Chris White's vocal capacity to near-demonic extremes.
Showcasing a particularly unsettling aura of inhumanity, "Cursed With Love" is perhaps the Californian trio's most inventive offering with its faultlessly executed, serpentine riffs and majestic solos. Instrumental praises aside, the vocal element of "Enemy Mine" is admittedly found wanting and sadly inexpressive in places.
Though a potentially pleasing interlude, "The Addictions Dirge Part 1" is a rather lacklustre, acoustic meandering guaranteed to challenge the attention span of any extreme metal-hungry listener. "Part 2", however, features a gripping procession of low-slung, grandiose bass and percussion of an almost battle metal persuasion, lending to this release an enticing sense of chronology.
© Faye Coulman
Rating **** (4.0/5.0)
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Stonewall Noise Orchestra - Constants In An Ever Changing Universe Unit Music 2008
Oozing latter-day psychedelia with each monstrous, sludge-ridden riff, "Constants In An Ever Changing Universe" is the debut offering from Swedish stoner rock act, Stonewall Noise Orchestra.
The classic, caustic ambience of Black Sabbath and grimy, groove-laden essence of Clutch faintly apparent on occasion, "Constants..." proves indeed as painfully immobile and uninspiring as a giant breezeblock. Melodically-challenged and slothful, innovation is a virtue scarcely encountered, save for "Dedications'" momentarily pleasing piano solo and a smattering of random soundscapes throughout.
Despite these unimaginative tendencies, S.N.O exude an abrasive, inescapably commanding presence, which, together with Singe's rock god-like vocal exertions, comprises an altogether promising, potentially iconic sound.
© Faye Coulman
Rating *** (3.0/5.0)
Buy From Amazon
Last edited Wed Nov 12 09:44:52 2008
KAMPFAR - "HEIMGANG"
NAPALM RECORDS (2008)
When it comes to enjoying and understanding music, one of my faults is to be reactionary towards genres that enjoy mass popularity and constant support of the music press - I normally find that this support is not triggered by true love and passion for music. I felt like this in the early/mid 90s towards Black Metal, with True Metal in the early 00s and now it seems to happen again with regards to the genre that many fellow journalists describe as Pagan/Folk Metal.
I began asking myself the question whether all Pagan/Folk metal bands are products of a successful promotional campaign by the labels and the music press and not worthy of attention? Of course not - I do believe, though, that when it comes to this genre, there are currently only a handful of bands with something really interesting to offer. So, with that in mind, where do Kampfar rank on my 'appreciation board'?
Well, based on the strength of the band's latest studio effort "Heimgang", the answer to the above question would be 'somewhere in the middle', but let me explain why. Having not listen to any of the band's previous releases, and based on what the ten compositions featured in "Heimgang" have to offer, I really cannot think of the reason why the band's label Napalm Records chose to use the term Folklore Metal in order to describe Kampfar's music.
Perhaps for pure promotional reasons, as there are only a couple of occasions where such musical elements are clearly audible in this album. On the other hand, one cannot fail but recognise the strong influence that the music of bands such as Bathory and Darkthrone have played in shaping Kampfar's musical orientation and that is definitely a positive thing as far as I am concerned as I am a huge fan of both those legendary outfits. In that case, why give "Heimgang" a mediocre rating?
The main problem with "Heimgang" is that it is for some reason divided in two unequal musical 'units' as far as the overall impression and quality is concerned.
The album could not have really kicked off in any better way as the rhythmical headbanging mid tempo riffs of the instrumental opus "Vantro" gets you quickly into an energetic mood. It is soon followed by the R.Christ sounding fast paced riffs of "Inferno" - a three and a half minute composition whose relentless drumming and beautiful melodies will impress the most difficult of listeners. "Dodens Vee" may surprise you a little bit as its folky main melodic theme brings the levels of your adrenaline down, but this is soon remedied by the Epic Bathory-influenced riffs of "Skogens Dyp", by far the best composition of the album.
Half way through listening to "Antvort", a mid tempo rhythmical composition whose vocal and guitar theme sound terribly reminiscent of early 00s Darkthrone, I really felt that I was listening to one of the best albums of 2008, but unfortunately, with the exception of the Bathory-influenced epic composition "Vettekult", the remaining compositions of the album came across as too simplistic and uninspired, incapable of competing with their above-mentioned counterparts. I tried really hard to connect with compositions like "Mareham" and "Feigdarvarsel", but their repetitive themes and overall simplicity (not always a bad attribute, but true in this case) made this a mission impossible.
Somehow I feel slightly annoyed with myself that I cannot reward "Haeimgang" with what I would consider to be a really good rating, but I would be lying to both myself and you if I were to say that this is an album capable of keeping my interest going throughout its duration.
There are indeed moments in this album (the first half) where Kampfar come across as a band capable of creating compositions to stand the test of time, and with that in mind, I am already looking forward to listening to their future musical endeavours. Fans of bands like Bathory, Immortal and late 90s-early 00s Darkthrone will certainly enjoy this album.
Rating: ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
Magica - Wolves & Witches
This is the third release from Magica since 2002 and many fans have taken this band as very special as all three elements of Metal come together; Melodic, Epic and Powerful.
The first track started with true rock and I was waiting to be surprised....then 'Ana' started singing and my immediate reaction was "NOOOOO!!!!! She can't sing what the hell....?" But, the singing gets better when 'Ana' opens her lungs with more passion and "Don't Wanna Kill" is actually a very catchy tune, but that is it.
I find Ana's voice very touch and go and it appears that hitting notes is a little bit of a struggle, albeit there is no sign of voice tampering when the album was produced. However, her voice does bring certain individuality and is a change from the usual blokey gwars of other recent metal releases.
Metal being the operative word here, it is more like Rock in my book, especially with the use of a piano and an instrument I used to use at school - you rub a stick along a wooden fret board, I can't remember what it's called, but it sucked all the same.
The instrumental work of 'Bogden', 'Cristi', 'Vali' and '6 Fingers' is pretty standard and there is nothing here to make me jump about with glee and have a rock out - I just can't seem to listen to anything else other than the singing and it's getting right on my nerves. I can't help but feel sorry for band's neighbours who are stuck listening to this whilst the band practice in their garage.
I really can't recommend this album, to anyone other than a nasty bully who deserves an ear pounding. I'm sorry 'Magica' but it just doesn't work, maybe you should consider a new vocalist!
*ejected from CD player forever* Thank goodness.
Rating * (1.0/5.0)
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GAMMA RAY - "HELL YEAH!!! THE AWESOME FOURSOME LIVE IN MONTREAL"
I have attended quite a few gigs so far this year, but one of the few that really stuck in my memory, mainly due to the sheer amount of positive energy involved, took place on the 8th of January at London's Shepherds Bush Empire and included, amongst others, the Hamburg-based Power Metal quintet Gamma Ray.
If you've ever had the chance to attend a show of Kai Hansen's band in the past you probably understand well why I was so excited at the prospect of reviewing his band's latest live album "Hell Yeah!!! The Awesome Foursome Live in Montreal".
However, I am sure that there must be a few among you who really don't know what Gamma Ray are all about, so this two-disc album will give you an insight into the band's style and ability to perform in a live environment, as well as introducing you to some of the band's most celebrated compositions to date.
Even though Teutonic Power metal is now both celebrated and appreciated throughout the globe, I found the choice of Canada for the recording of this double live album to be not only unusual but also quite daring, especially since this was only the second time that Gamma Ray were performing on the 'new' continent and I had doubts as to whether the Montreal crowd would really be up to the challenge as an audience.
Well, I am really happy to say that Canadian fans proved my fears to be unfounded as they have created a warm and welcoming environment for the five Germans, often singing along to some of the band's classic long musical intervals, and thus making the experience of listening to "Hell Yeah!!! The Awesome Foursome Live in Montreal" quite an enjoyable one indeed!
It is a common problem for any band that has released as many studio albums as Gamma Ray to ensure that their set list is all rounded and interesting at the same time.
Even though Kai Hansen's outfit somehow managed to achieve exactly that, I am somehow reluctant to accept that "The Silence" was the best choice in terms of representing an album of such great importance in the European Power Metal scene, such as "Heading for Tomorrow", or that fans of the amazing "Sigh No More" will be happy with the selection of "Dreamhealer" instead of classics such as "Changes" or "One With the World".
Anyway, the important thing here is that the band indeed managed to pull off a great show for their fans - one that included brilliant performances of not only typical crowd-pleasers such as "Somewhere Out in Space" and "Heavy Metal Universe", both including the active participation of the crowd, but also of 80s sounding Heavy Metal opuses such as "New World Order", "Blood Religion" and "The Heart of The Unicorn", all proving the amazing influence that the music of bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest have had on Kai Hansen's approach to music.
As far as absolute highlights are concerned, I will have to single out the performances of "Rebellion in Dreamland" and "The Silence" - the former performed with brilliant accuracy and the latter providing not only Kai Hansen's best vocal performance of the show but also a tribute to those titans of music, Queen.
In addition to the songs that were performed in Montreal, a tour taking place for the promotion of the band's 8th studio album "Majestic", this double CD also features four additional live performances for "Into the Storm", "Empress", "From the Ashes" and "Real World" - all belonging to the recently release album "Land of the Free II" and proving that Gamma Ray continue to be a formidable live act in the year 2008.
When it comes to a live performance, entertainment value seems to be the main (and unfortunately in many cases only) goal for most Power Metal bands nowadays. Gamma Ray certainly belong to that category, but they are one of the few bands that I know who manage to do so without jeopardising the quality of their performance as catchy sing along tunes seem to co-exist perfectly with massive riffs and flamboyant guitar solos.
If you decide to invest in that live effort, which I really hope you will, I suggest that you go for the special edition which will also include a DVD of that performance, a band history, a road movie and seven music videos...I simply cannot wait!
Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)
Amon Amarth - Twilight Of The Thunder God
Hail Metal Brethern! The Lords of Viking Metal have returned. And in Thors name, it is good.
Of course, strip away the image and the artwork, and Amon Amarth are really just punting out some top quality death metal. But add in all the other bits and bobs, and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. This latest album also sees guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg raising their game to new highs, something that pushes the album on to another level.
The album really hangs together as a proper collection, rather than as a good EP, padded out with pap, as too many death metal bands think they can get away with, and on numbers like the title track, 'Free Will Sacrifice' and 'Live for the Kill', the latter augmented by those for sure crazy Apocalyptica guys and the title track featuring Children Of Bodom dude, Roope Latvala. Vocalist Johan Hegg has also been gargling with sandpaper, as he takes his growl to a new level of bowel inducing fervour.
Over the last ten years, Amon Amarth have been steadily improving, growing from album to album, to reach the new peak on "Twilight Of The Thunder God ". It's hard to believe they're the same band who put out "Once Sent From The Golden Hall", such is the improvement shown. If you yearn for top quality death metal and tales of Viking derring do, then you're not going to find anything better.
© Stuart A Hamilton
Rating **** (4.0/5.0)
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Artas - The Healing
Well by golly, a metal band I've never heard of before which is not that surprising as this is the Austrian's debut release out on Napalm Records. The Austrian metal scene is quite an odd one I guess. I've heard about quite a large hardcore scene but not much of a true or thrash metal scene, although there are a few underground Austrian metal bands dotted around that are worth a damn.
Artas unleash their brutal bone-crunching thrash metal debut on the masses and it sounds as though they are hungry for success. For a debut record, there is a fair amount of promise on display indeed. There are hints of metalcore mainly coming from the vocals, but I will forgive them this misdemeanour on his occasion!
Songs like Bastardo are very heavy with a slight Sepultura feel but with a much beefier brutal sound. Third song in and things take a turn for the rather peculiar - namely we have a brutal cover of Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise! Bizarre and very brutal take with a most blatantly metalcore feel but it somehow works. Of course it sounds really odd but the metalcorising of this poppy rap song is quite a left turn and not without merit.
Soon things return to more predictable fare with those rather massive gargatuan riffs returning to bash us over the head once again. The title track thunders out of the speakers and all hell is breaking loose with hammering and rolling riffs pounding away like there's no tomorrow. Ultra aggressive and very groovy too with hints of melody and plenty of pounding riffs to sonk your teeth into.
Although I am not loving the vocals much at all, but I can bypass and listen to the blistering ultra-heavy music and imagine a ferocious pit erupting with slam dancers flying everywhere. The music is very energetic and aggressive with thunderous riffs galore backed by a tight drum attack which reminds me of Fear Factory with it's somewhat mechanical feel. A couple of the tracks utilise German lyrics which are actually some of the best songs funnily enough, with some of their more inspired riffs bursting forth.
Overall Artas delivers 13 tracks of similar material which can be a little too much to take in one sitting but in small dose goes down pretty well. I normally seek more melody in my metal music, but I love a good dose of aggression as much as the next metalhead and Artas fill that need pretty well.
I guess what holds them back from greater recognition is the lack of greater vocal skill and more hooks in the songs although they lack for nothing when it comes to the riffs. A competent modern metal band indeed with a decent if totally unoriginal debut. A good start but next time a little more personality is needed with a touch more finesse please but a solid punch in the guts is guaranteed here on their debut effort.
© Pirage Forsi
Rating ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
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Shield of Steel - Communion
Well the name is very epic and I'm expecting some kind of true metal to come pounding out of the speakers but alas what is this weakly produced pap that dribbles out with a whimper? Shield of Steel? Shield of Piss more like! But what is this....3 minutes into the opener All I Need is You a cool melodic riff arrives, as if suddenly the guitarist found his metal balls from somewhere!
The song turns into a galloping true metal song with a really enjoyable melodic solo ala Maiden but soon the bliss of that middle section is over and we return to the pissweak beginnings of the song. Must say the singer also lacks power and sounds a bit like a 70s singer - Gillan without the power if you like.
Well I am not excited to hear song 2 but here it comes any how and it's much faster and at least shows some energy and it's actually an instrumental. I am sort of warming to the production too as I have remedied my expectation somewhat from true epic metal into a groovy 70s/80s NWOBHM outfit.
I think the metalhead or rocker of an older vintage may well appreciate the music SoS offer us more than me. I am fairly old but not THAT old! Plus I am definitely a child of the 90s when it comes to metal so maybe the appeal of this is lost on me somewhere along the line. Although as an example of my diversity, I love the new Uriah Heep album and I think it's the best thing they have ever done, so go figure.
One more thing I have noticed is the very loud and clean presence of clean bass lines which are pretty enjoyable indeed and very well played. Because the guitar lacks power and attack with really average vocals, the bass takes a much more prominent role than it would otherwise have done in a regular 70s or 80s rock metal band.
Fool's Gold is perhaps the coolest song here and another instrumental with some Maidenesque galloping rhythm guitar and bouncy Harris-esque bass lines with a Murray-esque ultra melodic fluid solo. Very cool guys!
SoS will definitely gain favour amongst the 40 and 50 something rockers and muso types out there that is for certain. Maybe I had the wrong expectation for this album, well I know I did - and listening to the music it seems to be much better than I gave it credit for. Instrumentally speaking the band is top notch and they can play rings round many younger bands that's for sure.
I just wish the sound was slightly more up to date, although maybe it's their intention to sound older and warmer and in that case the album is a big success. If Mr.Gillan himself had been on the mic himself that would have for certain been a huge plus although of course that's just wishful thinking.
The singer is ok but his melodies are not infectious and his voice lacks a little power and for that reason I find the wholly instrumental tracks much more palatable for my taste. For older and classic rock fans this album is a 4 out of 5, but I will settle for a slightly lower mark which I think is fair and reflective of the band's efforts over all.
© Pirage Forsi
Rating *** (3.0.0/5.0)
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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