Monthly Archives: March 2009

Queensrÿche – American Soldier [Review]

American Soldier is the tenth (yes, tenth) full-length release from the US prog metal band Queensrÿche. The album’s set release date is March 31, 2009 on Rhino Entertainment.

This album might be the most bland and boring album I have ever reviewed. This is the first album in recent memory that it took me multiple tries to simply listen through it. It simply did not draw my attention. Before I had even heard the album, though, this is aout what I expected. After the letdown that was Operation: Mindcrime II, and the fact that this album is a concept album themed about American soldiers (go figure), I was ready for a thrill ride of suck. To my surprise, however, there was no suck to be had, nor is there any good to be had. There’s simply nothing.

Queensrÿche seem to have wandered far off their unbeaten path from the days of the original Operation: Mindcrime and found their way on to the highway that is modern-day cock rock (with added wailing vocals). Queensrÿche, in my mind, was a purely progressive metal band. Over the years, they have not really lived up to this, it is even more clear now. The most progressive element on this album is the use of a saxophone for about four seconds to round out one of the solos on the album.

It’s always hard to come up with anything to really write about an album with no real notoriety. I can deal with an album that doesn’t being anything new to the table, but when you use old and tired material with no passion or excitement, it makes for an extremely boring listen. Almost unbearable at times. I’m sure there are people out there who will love this, people who will hate it, but I can find any basis for either emotion.

Track picks: “Man Down!” and “Hundred Mile Stare”

Overall Score: 5/10 devil horns

Candlemass – Death Magic Doom [Review]

Death Magic Doom is the tenth studio album from the Swedish doom metal outfit Candlemass. This is the second album by Candlemass featuring Robert Lowe on vocals (no, not the actor), as opposed to Messiah Marcolin. Death Magic Doom‘s release date is April 3 globally, and is under the Nuclear Blast record label.

Candlemass Death Magic Doom

In the doom metal word today, Candlemass might be king. It is true, doom metal is a bit of a dying breed, but if one band has the ability to change that, Candlemass would be the one. This album is not as much tradition doom/epic doom as their past releases – they have incorporated a lot more elements of standard heavy metal (not a surprise after their last album or their self-titled). This is most definitely not a bad thing. Through the simple addition of more heavy metal styles their music gained so much more power.

Since Robert Lowe stepped in at vocals, it seems, the band has taken a bit heavier sound. It’s unclear whether this is because of Lowe, or because Leif Edling has decided to simply write heavier music (for those who don’t know, Edling does a cast majority of the writing for Candlemass). The only problem is that with the heavier writing, they have forgone some of the more “doom” sounds, and the music has a less dramatically depressed sound (what makes doom metal as awesome as it is). It is clear that this album is the beginning of a new era for Candlemass.

From a production standpoint, this album is spot-on. There are a lot of section with non-standard instruments used, such as a Wurlitzer organ, chimes, bells, etc. Those are the things from epic doom that Candlemass are doing as well as ever. It’s really a tough decision to say whether the vocals from Lowe, however, are better than the vocals from Marcolin. Perhaps technically they are better now, but I’m not sure that anyone could beat the timbre of Marcolin’s voice for doom metal.

For those who are fans of Candlemass, this is a must-have, because they are as good as ever. For those who like heavy metal or doom metal, this is also very much a winner. From top to bottom, there is nothing wrong with this album. The songwriting, production, performance, etc. are all spot-on. Aside from the opening track of the album, though, there are no show-stopping songs on the album.

Track picks: “If I Ever Die” and “The Bleeding Baroness”

Overall score: 7/10 devil horns

Architects (UK) – Hollow Crown [Review]

Hollow Crown is the third full-length release from UK metalcore band Architects. Released on Century Media January 26 in Europe and February 10 in the United States.

Architects Hollow Crown

There have been a lot of things dubbed as “metalcore” in the last decade, but most of it is melodic death metal, or some other bastard child of metal, normally incorporating a break down here and there. Architects, however, are the real deal. This album is as purely metalcore as I think I have ever heard (not by the widely accepted definition). The first track from the album has the ever familiar guitar tone from The Agonist, Derelict, and Strapping Young Lad (these guys aren’t Canadian though, they’re English). Throughout the album, the incorporates things from metal, hardcore, and even post-hardcore (namely the clean vocals that sound straight out of the newer Underoath). They move through many different sounds throughout the album for a metalcore album.

There are so many time and rhythm changes on this album it makes my head spin. It seems incredibly cohesive considering this fact. All the sections in each song, and from song to song, it all transitions quite well. The best part of the album, however, are the overly hardcore lyrics. Beyond that, and a more interesting talking point, is the guitar work. There are a lot of really great harmonies,riffs, and fills all throughout this album. The other notable piece of this album is the production. I happen to enjoy it, but it’s technically not all that great. There’s a lot of stuff that sort of gets lost in the mix, and it’s all mixed really loud (lots of compression, like everything out there these days sadly). I mean, it works, because this album is clearly meant to be loud, but when the clean vocals are used, it would be nice to have some actual dynamic.

After listening to their entire discography, this band has really got me hooked. It’s a truly brutal album that doesn’t seem to complex or out of the ordinary, but it’s the little things that make this album great. The pinch harmonics, pic scrapes, cool harmonies, unexpected breaks, etc. This album kicked my ass the whole way through. I’m not sure this one will leave my regular iTunes rotation for a while.

Track picks: “Dead March” and “Early Grave”

Overall score: 8/10 devil horns

Mastodon – Crack the Skye [Review]

Crack the Skye is the fifth full-length release from Georgian Heavy/Progressive metallers Mastodon. This being their fourth release with Relapse Records. Crack the Skye was released globally on March 24.

Mastodon crack the skye album cover

It’s hard to find words that haven’t already been said about a Mastodon album this far, but Crack the Skye has presented listeners with an even more broad and lofty soundscape to enjoy and talk about that simply commands something new to be said. Having given many listens to each of Mastodon’s previous albums, Crack the Skye is not very surprising in terms of the direction, or the sound really, but the presentation and quality are simply beyond measure. Even the most simple and minute sounds on this album act like monoliths of sound.

Seemingly borrowing a bits of post-rock and post-metal styles, there is a lot of atmospheric textures on this album, “The Czar” showing the more prominent examples of this. They maintain this style without forgoing the Mastodon sound so familiar from Blood Mountain and Leviathan. The more coarse vocal approach has taken a bit of a back seat this time however. Mastodon also have many more angular, “twangy” guitar riffs, like those found in excess on Blood Mountain.

As always, Mastodon are technically brilliant with their instruments, most impressively – Brann Dailor on the skins. Using a veritable cornucopia of rhythms, time signatures, fills, etc. he really shows what it means to be a great metal (and even jazz) drummer. If there was ever a doubt in someone’s mind of the skill level of the members of Mastodon, this album should quite adequately quell the negative comments.

There is no doubt in my mind that this album (and band) will go down to be one of the most important metal acts in this decade. With remarkably well written, played, produced, etc. music Mastodon are bringing back a much needed prestige to the American metal scene. Where Americans were frowned upon for breeding the cancer that was Nu Metal, we have started to now be looked upon in a different light, and this album will only solidify the fact that Americans can indeed make great and pure metal.

Track picks: “The Last Baron” and “Oblivion”

Overall Score: 10/10 devil horns

Winds of Plague – Decimate the Weak [Review]

Decimate the Weak is the second full-length album by Century Media band Winds of Plague, their first with Century Media.

Decimate The Weak Winds of Plague album art

For the first time in a long time, I am confused by the contents of a metal album. When I first put on Decimate the Weak I expected to hear a pretty much straight-up symphonic black metal album, then out of nowhere they drop an unaccounted-for breakdown in the middle of a great metal song. Now, this would have not been a huge problem for me if it only really occurred once or twice, but it seems to be a reoccurring theme. I will give the guys a small amount of credit for being “original” and doing their own thing, but at some point should you not take a step back and think, ‘What the hell did we just create?’

There are moments of sheer metal brilliance, and moments filled with brutal breakdowns, but these two things never seem to have a happy marriage. It seems to be a strained coexistence that is, at times, painful for the listener. It is quite clear that Winds of Plague are influenced by a wide variety of bands, from Dimmu Borgir to something along the lines of As Blood Runs Black. It comes to no surprise to me that Century Media would pick these guys up, since they seem to like bands that stretch the boundaries some (see also: Zonaria, The Agonist).

The major problem with the album is that it is simply too short for the bands sound to manifest itself in your brain. With only 10 songs coming in at around 37 minutes (with an intro track of 1:17) it is tough to really gain any momentum when you are clearly influenced by two completely different styles of metal. Toward the end of the album you can finally start to get the sound that they were trying for, but missed the mark through most of the album. Beyond that, most of the lyrics are simply not very strong. The most wildly uninspiring of their lyrics are the more dethcore styled, where they recite things such as “You wanna see us fail? Not today mother fucker!” or “Fuck you! Get the fuck out! My face will be the last thing you see.”

Being that they are still a young band, and this is only their first major release, this band could do great things if they can get a hold on the sound they are looking for. Clearly creative and skilled musicians, once they get the reigns on the beast that is their sound, they might have something great.

Track picks: “Anthems of the Apocalypse” and “Legions”

Overall score: 6/10 devil horns

On a side note: It pains me to say this, but the album art for this album is awful. I love Samurai. Why did you have to have such a stupid album art depicting a Samurai?