Monthly Archives: January 2009

I hunger for… POWER METAL!!! (see also: Heavy Metal)

Heavy Metal, Power Metal, Fantasy Metal – they’re all a lot alike. Sometimes, you just want it, whether you admit it or not (it’s merely a guilty pleasure for some). Not I!

So, we have all been there – we know what style of music we want, but can’t seem to find just the right band to quench that thirst. Hell, maybe you can – that doesn’t mean you should check this stuff out anyway.

Here’s a list of five power metal and heavy metal albums that I’ve been listening to lately that have tickled my fancy, and could potentially do the same for you.

5. March of the Saint by Armored Saint

Armored Saint March of the Saint

Pretty great Heavy Metal album with some power metal style and influence. Almost always hits the spot.

4. Follow the Blind by Blind Guardian

Blind Guardian Follow the Blind

A great Heavy metal album with, again, power metal influences. Blind Guardian is a pretty famous band, also pretty legendary. This is a must have for any metalhead’s collection.

3. Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1 by Iced Earth

Iced Earth Framing Armageddon

This is a great power metal album from start to finish. Part one of a two-part theme album speaking of an imaginary people who go through great struggles, wars, etc. Standard power metal topics, though not as fantasy-driven as many.

2. Triumph or Agony by Rhapsody of Fire

Rhapsody of Fire Triumph or Agony

This is your quintessential fantasy-ridden, Dungeons & Dragons-playing, Tolkien-styled, power metal album. Now, there’s a lot of material on this album that just doesn’t cut it as metal, but it’s a great album that falls right in line with a lot of power metal.

1. Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken by HammerFall

Hammerfall Chapter V

In terms of heavy metal and power metal, it all comes together on this album. Wailing, shredding, speed, pounding drums – all great. This one is a great recommendation, and you can’t go wrong with anything else HammerFall has put out.

So there it is. I hope you might like at least one of these suggestions. They sure hit the spot for me!

Advertisements

Evisceration Plague – Cannibal Corpse [review]

Evisceration Plague is the eleventh studio album from Buffalo (New York) natives Cannibal Corpse. The album release date is February 3, 2009 on Metal Blade records.

Cannibal Corpse Evisceration Plague

Having been a fan of Cannibal Corpse for a long time now, I was EXTREMELY satisfied with their last release, Kill. Alex Webster has been quoted as saying “In Cannibal Corpse, our goal has always been to try and make each new album we record our heaviest. That goal was a bit more challenging this time since we were extremely satisfied with our last album Kill, but we knew that by working with producer Erik Rutan at Mana Recording Studios again, we would be able to start at that same level of heaviness and take it even further. Now that we can hear the finished product, I would say we’ve been able to achieve this goal, and I think our fans will agree. ‘Evisceration Plague’ has the best guitar sound we’ve ever recorded, and the entire band has never played with more precision and power. We can’t wait until you all get a chance to hear the album in early 2009, because we think you’ll be as happy with it as we are.”[1]

Now, I can’t say that he’s entirely right, but this album is definitely close to on par with Kill. It has the same crushing riffs that Cannibal Corpse always employ, and they have simply more finely tuned the sound for this album.

Straight from the first crushing track of the album, “Priests of Sodom”, this album is overpowering. It’s an all-out aural assault, really. This is not to say, however, that it is difficult to listen to. This album is simply made to sound huge. More big and loud than you can imagine. 10,000 marshall stacks loud. The greatest part about the production is the mere fact that no clipping occurs, all of the instruments are balanced, and it is not tiring to pick out each band member in the mix – until you get to the mini guitar solos. The small guitar solos featured on the album are somewhat buried. It appears that burying guitar solos a slight amount in the mix is becoming slightly more prevalent in the heavier, more brutal, styles of death metal (this includes, of course: Deathcore, Brutal Death, etc.). In terms of the “guitar sound” Alex mentioned, it’s true. The guitar sound on the album is fantastic. The rhythm guitar is absolutely crushing, and the lead guitar is crunchy, and sounds great in the shredding moments of the album.

In both Evisceration Plague and Kill the lyrical content has been a bit different than the lyrical content that Cannibal Corpse once had. It is easiest to see this by simply looking at the titles of their songs and albums. In their last two efforts, Cannibal Corpse have used less “Gore Obsessed” (sorry, could not help it) themes are less graphic. Still as brutal, but a little more serious.

Overall, Evisceration Plague is a good album – not great. It is a typically good release from Cannibal Corpse, almost their best to date. There was nothing overly awe-inspiring about the album, but is one hell of a listen.

Track picks: “Skewered from Ear to Eye”, “Unnatural”, and “Priests of Sodom” (it was hard to choose only three)

Overall Score: 8/10 Devil Horns

[1] CANNIBAL CORPSE: New Album Title, Track Listing Revealed – Nov. 3, 2008

The Heaviest Matter of the Universe Awards 2008

So, I thought it might be cool if I came up with a bunch of superlatives for metal albums in ’08 to showcase more than just my top ten. So, for those who don’t know what a superlative is, you most likely had nothing to do with a high school yearbook. They’re like awards that you give to people in your class, like “class clown” or “best smile”, etc. These will be music/band related ones. I hope you enjoy!

Bests:
Vocals: Iconoclast – Heaven Shall Burn
Drumming: Planetary Duality – The Faceless
Shredding: Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Newcomer: Relentless – Brother Von Doom
Production: Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Lyrics: The Way of All Flesh – Gojira
Comeback: Traced in Air – Cynic
Style Change: Scream Aim Fire – Bullet for my Valentine
Name (album): Lost in the Sound of Separation – Underoath
Name (band): This is Exile – Whitechapel
Album Art: Twilight of the Thunder God – Amon Amarth
Album opener: “My Will Be Done” from The March – Unearth

Worsts
Production: Death Magnetic – Metallica
Style change: Midheaven – The Human Abstract
Lyrics: Scream Aim Fire – Bullet for my Valentine
Name (album): Love and Other Disasters – Sonic Syndicate
Name (band): Scream Aim Fire – Bullet for my Valentine
Album Art: The Incurable Tragedy – Into Eternity

Mosts
Overachieving (bad): Midheaven – The Human Abstract
Overachieving (good): We Are The Nightmare – Arsis
Controversial: All Hope is Gone – Slipknot
Brutal: This is Exile – Whitechapel
Shredding: Zero Order Phase – Jeff Loomis
Overrated: The Incurable Tragedy – Into Eternity
Disappointing: Overcome – All That Remains
Erratic: We Are The Nightmare – Arsis
Technical: obZen – Meshuggah
Surprising (bad): Overcome – All That Remains
Surprising (good): Dreamer – Haste the Day
Progressive: Traced in Air – Cyinc
Complete: Holographic Universe – Scar Symmetry

Leasts
Surprising (bad): A Sense of Purpose – In Flames
Surprising (good): Motörizer – Motörhead
Technical: Torn – Evergrey
Shredding: This is Exile – Whitechapel
Controversial: Watershed – Opeth
Progressive: Motörizer – Motörhead
Complete: Torn – Evergrey

Miscellaneous
Album of the year: Traced in Air – Cyinc
Single of the year: “Vacuity” from The Way of All Flesh – Gojira
Riff of the year: at about 1:10 of “Servants to the Night” from We Are the Nightmare – Arsis
Guitar solo of the year: at about 1:23 of “Awaken the Dreamers” from Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Interlude of the year: “Memories of a Glass Sanctuary” from Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Fastest: Ultra Beatdown – DragonForce
Biggest wannabe: Shogun – Trivium

So, yeah, that’s what I have come up with. Let me know how you feel! Got some you think I should add or change? I’d love to hear the criticism.

The Heaviest Matter of 2008

So, before I list them, I just want to say that this is my personal list of what I liked them most in 2008 for metal. Sure, there will be things on here that you think shouldn’t be, and some missing. Give me a break. I can’t listen to everything, and this is my list. If you don’t like it, go make your own damn list.

So, here’s how it will work. I’ll count down from ten to one, giving a few words about each selection, and my favorite track from the album. Then I’ll give the release date and label of the band.

10. Relentless by Brother Von Doom released September 23, 2008 (Deathcote)

Brother Von Doom Relentless

These guys are easily my favorite newcomers onto the scene this year. This album rips from start to finish, blow after blow, filled with blistering and brutal guitar work abound. Track pick: “Eater of Days”

9. Zero Order Phase by Jeff Loomis released September 30, 2008 (Century Media)

Jeff Loomis Zero Order Phase

One of the only pure instrumental albums I can listen to for hours on end, and the only one that is metal. Though this album quite prominently showcases Mr. Loomis’s guitar prowess, it’s never overwhelming – quite a feat in my book. Track pick: “Race Against Disaster”

8. Twilight of the Thunder God by Amon Amarth released September 30, 2008 (US) (Metal Blade)

Amon Amarth Twilight of the Thunder God

This album is quite easily the pinnacle of Amon Amarth’s work for me. It exudes the very essence of metal and vikings from start to finish, and has what I consider to be the best album artwork of the year. Track pick: “Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags”

7. Watershed by Opeth released June 30, 2008 (US) (Roadrunner)

Opeth Watershed

I don’t think I really need to say more than this: It’s Opeth. For those who don’t know, listen to them. You’ll get it. This isn’t their best work, in my opinion, but it’s close. Track pick: “Heir Apparent”

6. Awaken the Dreamers by All Shall Perish released September 5, 2008 (Nuclear Blast)

All Shall Perish Awaken The Dreams

This is the third release from ASP, and their least brutal. Technically, I think it is their most complete album to date, and edges out The Price of Existence by a very small margin. Chris Storey shreds many a face on this album, and is quite worth checking out if you like deathcore with a TON of crazy guitar work. Track pick: “Awaken the Dreamers”

5. obZen by Meshuggah released March 7, 2008 (Nuclear Blast)

Meshuggah Obzen

Best metal drummer out there: Thomas Haake. It’s quite apparent what he can do on this album. A culmination of older and newer Meshuggah. This is by far the most rhythmically complex album of the year, and has been pulled off nearly flawlessly. Track pick: “Bleed”

4. We Are The Nightmare by Arsis released April 15, 2008 (Nuclear Blast)

Arsis We Are the Nightmare

This is the epitome of what technical death metal should be. They rip through all sorts of styles on this album; flawlessly, might I add. This band keeps getting better and better it seems. Track pick: “Servants to the Night”

3. Iconoclast: Pt. 1 (The Final Resistance) by Heaven Shall Burn released February 5, 2008 (Century Media)

Heaven Shall Burn the Iconoclast part 1 the Resistance

This album is pure intensity. The vocals are demonic and spine-chilling. Could be a contender for best production in metal for 2008. Track pick: “Endzeit”

2. The Way of All Flesh by Gojira released October 14, 2008 (Listenable/Prosthetic)

Gojira the Way of All Flesh

Breaking onto the scene this year, the fourth album by Gojira is a MONSTER. They have a pretty unique sound and style, one that drags you in and stomps onto your head until the album’s over. Then you come back for more. Track pick: “Toxic Garbage Island”

1. Traced in Air by Cynic released November 25, 2008 (Season of Mist)

Cynic Traced In Air

Now, I’m sure a ton of people will agree with my decision to drop this beast at #1, but this album is incredible. It is less brutal and intense as the rest of the albums on the list, but is ground-breaking. Unique vocals, wonderful instrumental work. This album reminds me a lot of Rush and Pink Floyd, but with a few extra dashes of metal blended into the mix. Track pick: “Integral Birth”

So there it is. My list of top metal in 2008. Let me know what you think!

Iconoclast: Pt. 1 (The Final Resistance) – Heaven Shall Burn [Review]

Iconoclast is the fifth full-length studio album from German Metalcore/Melodic Death Metal band Heaven Shall Burn. The album was released on January 28/February 5, 2008 on Century Media.

Heaven Shall Burn the Iconoclast part 1 the Final Resistance

First off, I want to comment on how absolutely awesome this album art is. One of my favorite styles of album art, and looks sort of like the cover art for Roorback by Sepultura (though it’s a bit of a stretch). Awesome work, whomever you are. I’ll look in the liner notes eventually to actually check the artist’s name.

Anyway, on to the music. As an album, this one is in the top ten metal albums of 2008 for me, easy. As with many of the bands I review here, this was my first taste of the wonderful german musicians. From start to finish, this album blew me away. I immediately went out and purchased the rest of their albums. Well, went to Amazon.com anyway.

I’ll touch on the few things this band do wrong on this album first.

… Oh wait, I can’t really find anything. There are no actual “flaws” in this album. I’ve heard people complain about the “Static X-esque” dance part of “A Quest For Resistance” but I don’t see the upbeat rhythm a problem at all. I personally like it, and think it fits in quite well with the album.

Now, since there’s not really anything I can see that they did wrong with the album, there are some things that weren’t perfect, and there were a few things that were done impeccably.

The single best part of this album is the vocals. Marcus Bishchoff has found one of the coolest recorded vocals I have ever heard. A majority of the vocals on the album are recorded twice. Once with Marcus screaming in a high or low tone, and the other the opposite. The vocals sounds to visceral and dark. They can be spine-chilling at times. In the first vocal parts of “Endzeit” it is quite easy to tell that this is happening, and it works to perfection.

The next best part of the album are the lyrics. They are a bit cliché in subject matter, but are incredibly well written. Take this excerpt from “Joel”:

“A preacher in a palace, deriding Luther’s fight
jugglers rise to icons, fiddlers playing saints
selling hope and warship mammon
blindness, fear, delusion – their intrinity
as you have paid the price, welcome to paradise”

From song to song, this album delivers on all fronts. Each song as intense as the last (excluding the interlude toward the end of the album, “Equinox”), and never once do I get bored listening to this album. I don’t even skip the interlude when I listen to the album. Because of the way the album ends, on two separate instrumental tracks, the latter being more intense and unresolved, I always find myself wanting to listen to the album again. Now, many people might fins this as a problem, but I love the idea. It’s absolutely brilliant to end an album on a slightly unresolved note (hypothetically) to keep the listener’s attention. “Atonement” is filled with such build up, such power, and such dissonance it always leaves me wanting more, even though I an never unsatisfied. There have been very few albums that have truly brought out my inner music glutton, this being one of them.

So, this is a great album. Perfect? Of course not, don’t be silly and naive. This album has hooked me, however.

Track picks: “Endzeit” and “Joel” – “Atonement” gets an honorable mention.

Overall score: 10/10 devil horns

The New Game – Mudvayne [Review]

The New Game is the fourth studio release from Nu/Alt. Metal band Mudvayne, released November 18, 2008 on Epic records.

Mudvayne the New Game

My first impression of this album is: clone of Lost and Found

Anything that could be said about Lost and Found can be pretty much said about this album. The only difference is that they seemed to get it right this time, as opposed to the pile of heaping feces that was Lost and Found. This does not by any means that it’s good, but it’s better. This is still a million miles behind L.D. 50 and The End of All Things to Come, but, I’ll break it down for you.

The best part of this album is that Mudvayne seemed to remember what groove and heaviness were on this album. Granted, they don’t use it to the full effect that they once did, but at least they got me a bit interested on the track “Have it Your Way” – though I am a bit ashamed to admit it. As always, Ryan Martinie is spot-on in his bass work. It’s a deep and technical as ever, but it doesn’t have the push, drive, or intensity it should. In fact, almost nothing has that raw energy that Mudvayne once possessed. There’s a little bit in the song “The Hate In Me” that reminds me of what this band is capable of, and what they should be doing. There are a few glimpses throughout the album, making me hate this album because they’re holding back (at least that’s what it sounds like).

Now, for the worst part of the album is the songwriting. It’s just plain boring. Unless you’re going to write something truly good, you can’t get away with plain songwriting. The only song on the album I exempt from this is “Dull Boy” – the lyrics aren’t so good, but this song is a good song. Actually, the lyrics are absolutely terrible. Like most of the other songs on the album. The groove in this song just past the opening vocals is plain dirty (in a good way).

This album simply sounds like they are underachieving, just as it did on Lost and Found. Maybe the second full album they have been quoted as saying will be released sixth months after this one will be better, but I do not have my hopes up. After all, I have little to nothing to say good about their last two releases. Oh well. Just another band I liked in the 90’s to suck now.

Track Picks: “Fish out of Water”

Overall score: 3/10 devil horns

Interview with Michael Romeo of Symphony X (4/4/08)

So, I know it’s a bit late to be posting something like this, but I found it kicking around my computer and realized it had not been posted anywhere. So, here she is:

Interview with Michael Romeo of Symphony X (Guitarist) – 4/4/2008

On a night at the Middle East (downstairs) in Boston where Symphony X was on the bill with Epica and Into Eternity , I sit in the dressing room/lounge area, waiting with my photographer for Michael Romeo . After a couple of minutes of listening to muddled sound checks, in walks Mr. Romeo, guitar-waving, half open silk shirt-wearing Michael Romeo. At first, I was unsure what to think, until he opened with the words: “Hey there, Michael Romeo. Jordan right? What magazine are you with?” So, I gave him a little preface, and we were off to the races.

[Jordan Munson] – So, we’ve got an interview here with Michael Romeo of Symphony X. So, first off, where did you get your name for Symphony X?

[Michael Romeo] – Where did we get the band name? Uh, well, the keyboard player, me, and the original bass player would pretty much jam in bands in high school. Well, me and the old bass player did at least. We got the keyboard guy later. And we decided to put this band together, and uh, we were writing songs and everything – not even thinking about a name. We didn’t even bother ‘til we had to, when one day we were like, ‘Oh, shit, we don’t even have a name’. So, we started kicking around some names, and to be honest, it didn’t even take much thought. We were more worried about the music, we were more worried about what we were doing. So, you know, the music we were coming up with had the keyboard thing and the guitar, and some classical elements, so the word ‘Symphony’ came up and, so the dramatic thing, you know? So then, somebody said ‘Symphony X’ and we were like, ‘yeah, that’s cool’ it is that kinda thing, and the ‘X’ is the unknown and all the other stuff we do. And so that’s what it was, We didn’t put too much effort into it, and we just went back to writing tunes.

[JM] – So, I read on your biographies that you guys have so many influences, like classical, progressive stuff, some metal and rock stuff back in the day, so do you find it hard to play to all of those influences?

[MR] – Eh, well not really. I mean every album that we do before we start we kinda talk about the direction of the record, you know? With the new record it was more like, let’s go back to some more metal stuff, the real stuff, like [Judas] Priest and [Iron] Maiden and Ozzy and all that stuff. So then for every album we do have a direction. So there wasn’t a need to have any other kind of influences except what is best for the song. And when we were talking about this record we wanted to have more metal tunes and more riffs and guitar-oriented kind of things but at the same time have some of the orchestral stuff you know, like the intro, so there’s a little classical influence on that thing, but you know, it’s a metal tune. It’s always different and you use what you need.

[JM] – So, I noticed all of your albums have their own distinct “flavor” like your last two albums have been themed about epic poems. Do you plan on doing this in the future, making themed albums?

[MR] – Nah, nah, it’s like we’ve been there and done it kind of thing, but it’s cool, though; it’s cool to write like that. Writing more like, for me anyway, you kind of have a direction, and with the material you have something you want to say. So, it is kinda cool, and it is easier for me as a musician, to say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re gonna do this Paradise Lost thing’ and it’s gonna be the theme of the record, not a concept thing, we’re not gonna say you know, ‘the devil’ and that kind of thing, or try to tell some cheesy story but you know it is more about good and evil and betrayal, an revenge and that stuff so it kind of paints a picture of the music. The riff’s dark, and maybe some choirs, but we kind of did it already, so maybe next time on to something else.

[JM] – So, you’ve compared yourselves to the Pink Floyd’s and the Rush’s of back in the day, being really progressive and pushing the genre. Do you see yourselves down the road, say, 20 years still making records and touring?

[MR] – Well, we’ve been touring for about 12 years now, or something, 13 or whatever the hell it is. I mean, yeah, as long as we’re still passionate about it. You know, and I think we will be, we love what we’re doing. I mean, we don’t think about shit like that. You just have to think ‘Do we feel like doing this?’ or writing, does it do something for you? That’s all that matters.

[JM] – So how do you feel about the Europe tour you just finished up, like, do you think it went well?

[MR] – Yeah, it was good. Everything always gets better I think. You can seethe progress. Doing tours with bigger bands definitely helps. We did Gigantour here with Megadeth and then we went do do our own thing and you could see more fans and its the same thing in Europe. I mean, we always did well in Europe and Japan anyway. We just did a tour with Dream Theater over there, so going back now it was like, oh yeah, there’s a lot of new fans, a lot of new people coming in, it’s always good. And plus, we’ve been touring for a while and the albums were out, there before anyone else in Japan, so we already had a head start. Here we’re trying to catch up a little.

[JM] – How do you feel about the progressive metal and power metal genres these days?

[MR] – I always just look at it as metal, you know? Cause there’s so many bands and sometimes if you try to break it up too much in all the little sub-genres it’s like, like, to me I just look at it as the whole metal thing. We’re all kinda in it together, whether prog metal, or death metal, or whatever hell else there is, it’s our thing and like [Iron] Maiden and any other thing, yeah it’s different, but I try to look at it as a whole. Because then you have Rap and all this other garbage, but the metal thing is our thing. But, yeah, you see a lot of the bands that are doing the metal thing doing well. And you see bands like [Iron] Maiden coming back, and Heaven & Hell, Dio, you’re seeing stuff. I see a lot of younger kids at the shows, kids with the ‘Led Zeppelin’ t-shirts, you know? They’re just finding out about this stuff. It’s cool man.

[JM] – So, for some standard interview questions, do you have any songs that are your favorite to play live?

[MR] – I think I kind of have some favorites, and we’ll try to get ‘em in the set, but usually when we work out a set we try to find the overall set that feels good,you like the flow, we’ll be able to start strong, and maybe come down and play a few mellow songs, and some rockers at the end. We always want some kind of a flow. At that point, it doesn’t matter favorites or not. Whatever song is good. You know, and there are some nights too, where you see the crowd reaction and you know, like, maybe we’re not gonna play this tonight, but what the hell, and the reaction is great, so we’re like ‘shit we gotta play this song more often’. It’s just like we kinda know which one to throw in there. And some we’ll just try. We always try to break it up, too, tonight we’ll play some stuff tonight that we didn’t play last night or whatever.

[JM] – I gotta ask, do you have any crazy stories from the road?

[MR] – {Laughs] There’s just so much, so it’s like… To be honest, it’s not lately either. In the beginning a lot of stupid shit happened, we were young and reckless, we were not… smart about shit, you know what I mean? Doing stupid shit. I think now we’re pretty mellow, we’re pretty comfortable with everything, I mean, there’s always stupid shit that goes on, but there’s not one stories that’s just like ‘My god’ you know? We’re pretty normal dudes, we’re pretty … not too out of control. But we know when to put the reigns on, you know?