Category Archives: Heavy Metal

Favorite Metal(ish) Albums Of 2012

‘Tis the season for year-end lists of what everyone and their dog thinks are the best albums of the past year, as well as the incredibly pretentious and elitist mindsets that come with them. I’m not going to pretend I know what’s best for anyone, but I do know that there are definitely albums I enjoyed much more than others, despite some critical flaws in some of them. My tastes can be a bit whacky at times, but I’m pretty sure that there are at least a few people out there who will be curious to know what my favorites are, so I will be sharing them.

But not here.

Instead, I’ll be doing a series of posts over at Under The Gun Review that will double as a countdown to when we’re free of the holiday hell that is the month of December.

Because they’re happening one at a time, I’ll be posting the list as it goes live day by day over at UTG in list form here.

#25: RIITTIIR by Enslaved (read it)
#24: Results by Murder Construct (read it)
#23: Awakened by As I Lay Dying (read it)
#22: Ex Lives by Every Time I Die (read it)
#21: Failed States by Propagandhi (read it)
#20: Eremita by Ihsahn (read it)
#19: Dead End Kings by Katatonia (read it)
#18: Les Voyages De L’Âme by Alcest (read it)
#17: Autotheism by The Faceless (read it)
#16: All Hail The Void by Enabler (read it)
#15: Legend by Witchcraft (read it)
#14: Death Is The Only Mortal by The Acacia Strain (read it)
#13: No Matter Where It Ends by Black Sheep Wall (read it)
#12: Book Burner by Pig Destroyer (read it)
#11: Parallax II: Future Sequence by Between The Buried And Me (read it)
#10: Monolith Of Inhumanity by Cattle Decapitation (read it)
#9: Incongruous by Beneath The Massacre (read it)
#8: All We Love We Leave Behind by Converge (read it)
#7: CVI by Royal Thunder (read it)
#6: Danza IIII: The Alpha – The Omega by The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza (read it)
#5: Hasta La Muerte by Xibalba (read it)
#4: A Flash Flood Of Color by Enter Shikari (read it)
#3: Yellow & Green by Baroness (read it)
#2: Koloss by Meshuggah (read it)
#1: L’Enfant Sauvage by Gojira (read it)

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Heaven and Hell – The Devil You Know [Review]

The Devil You Know is the “debut” album from Heaven and Hell. In all seriousness, though, it’s basically a Black Sabbath album (thankfully under a new moniker). The Album was released on April 28, 2009 on Rhino/Roadrunner Records.


Heaven and Hell The Devil You Know album art

Firstly, I want to comment on the awesomeness that is this artwork. It is everything album art should be: both visually appealing and informational. The art itself is fantastic (and goes well with the name of the album) and it tastefully and legibly gives you all the info you need. Two thumbs up for this one.

As far as the music goes, it is just what one should expect from Dio and the rest of the guys from Black Sabbath. This album is pure old school Heavy/Doom metal. I am still surprised at how good Dio sounds even this far into his sixties. It is pretty obvious that he struggles a bit for the really powerful wailing notes, but he still sounds amazing, and has a ton of attitude and character to his voice. In fact, he almost sounds better for the lower vocals than he ever did. The problem with Dio still being the same old Dio are his ridiculous lyrics. The most hilariously bad example on this album is in the song “Eating the Cannibals”. Let’s just say that the line ‘We’re eating the cannibals” is repeated numerous times throughout the song.

The best part about this album is that I have not heard this many Tony Iommi solos on an album in a long time (perhaps ever). Iommi is at the best I have ever heard him (to clarify: not better than the old stuff, but just as good). This album has more great riffs and solos than any Black Sabbath fan could ask for. Even Geezer Butler gets in on the fun and has some great bass parts throughout the album.

Quite easily the biggest flaw of the album is that it’s predictable. For anyone familiar with Black Sabbath and the Doom Metal genre, you can almost bank on the fact that you know the next part of each song already. It is nice, though, that some bands are staying true to the old heavy metal formula (granted, Sabbath were really the inventors of this).

All in all, I am quite pleased with the album. It’s not as memorable or legendary as most of the Black Sabbath stuff, but it’s still better than a majority of the heavy metal out there today.

Track picks: “Double the Pain” and “The Turn of the Screw”

Overall Score: 8/10

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

HammerFall – No Sacrifice, No Victory [Review]

No Sacrifice, No Victory is the seventh studio full-length from Swedish heavy metal band HammerFall. Set to be released February 20, 2009 on Nuclear Blast records.

hammerfall no sacrifice no victory cd album cover art

This album is another one I have been waiting on for quite some time, with high hopes that it would be another great release from HammerFall. Sadly, it did not live up to expectations. No Sacrifice, No Victory, huh? Well, maybe they should not have followed that mantra and parted ways with their old lead guitarist. That’s the only thing that the band has changed since their last album, but have somehow fallen very far into the depths of mediocrity that are modern heavy/power metal.

While the album is technically good, and has great productions values, the songwriting is not there — nor is the fire, passion and attitude that heavy metal needs to bring to the table. The first three tracks on the album (“Any Means Necessary”, “Life is Now”, and “Punish and Enslave” respectively) are an utter bore-fest. The songwriting is bland, the guitar solos are routine, and there seems to be no passion in the vocals. With moderate tempos and simple songwriting, the spot you absolutely need to excel in would be the sheer power of your sound, which HammerFall simply missed the memo for on this album. The first track with any balls at all is “Legion” – and even then the song is not all that great.

The first part of the album where I found myself interested was the organ piece in the beginning of “Between Two Worlds” – then as soon as the guitar chimed in I was instantly turned off. It sounds as though the guitar was recorded in a tin can, and is difficult to listen to. All the other elements to the song are over loaded with reverb and echo, and as a whole the song is a production mess.

“Hallowed Be My Name” (no, not a Maiden rip-off, though I wish it was) is yet another boring song, that happens to have a really nice solo in it. Usually, in slow heavy metal songs, a great solo can save you — not this time. The first good song on the album is “Something for the Ages” which, sadly, appears seven songs into the album. Oddly, this song has the least vocal presence of all the songs on the album (none, to be exact). Do I sense a trend here? Of course. Simply put, the vocals really hurt this album a lot. They are dry, boring, and without power or attitude. For a heavy metal album, this simply cannot do. If all the songs on the album had vocals like the title track, “No Sacrifice, No Victory” this might not be a problem.

The last three songs on the album are actually excellent, in almost all respects (this does not include the Knack cover, “My Sharona”). Sadly, the first 3/4 of the album was such a bore-fest, it doesn’t matter what the last songs were, they could not make this album good.

As I said before, most of this album is boring, dry, and uninspiring. While not difficult to listen to, I might not ever feel the need to put this album on — other HammerFall albums will quench your heavy metal thirst in a much better way. Now, before you all start yelling and screaming, I’m not saying the vocals are bad at any point, they just aren’t big, ass-kicking, and awesome as HammerFall (and heavy metal) vocals should be. After a couple listens, it grew on me, but still is nothing spectacular.

Track picks: “Something for the Ages”, and “Bring the Hammer Down”

Overall score: 6 out of 10 devil horns

In case you were wondering, they did to a pretty awesome rendition of “My Sharona” — why exactly is way beyond me…

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!

Iced Earth – The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part II [Review]

Set to come out on September 5, The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part II is the tenth studio album from Iced Earth, this one being the second in the “Something Wicked” series (it’s the second and final installment).

Iced Earth Crucible of Man

Anyway, I listened to the CD through once, and felt incredibly indifferent about it. I feel that mostly this is because the first album I had heard from Iced Earth was Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1, and the vocals on that album were gargantuan, for lack of a better word describing the incredible size of the vocals on that album. Granted, the vocals on Crucible of Man are not bad by any means, they simply do not live up to Framing Armageddon with Tim Owens (they now have ex-vocalist Matt Barlow back on board for this album) [See example: “Crucify the King”]. On a second listen, I noticed all the other areas in which the album had been altered from part 1.

In true power metal fashion, this album has balls. Sometimes they’re to the wall, and sometimes they’re nowhere to be found, but you know they’re there. [See example: “Gift or a Curse”] This is your typical power metal ballad type song, one with no fancy pounding rhythms or big vocals, but still manages to have some pretty big cohones for being a ballad (granted, I can’t see it’s balls, but they’ve got to be around here somewhere!).

The lyrics are as well typical power metal lyrics: absurd, epic, and phantasmal. The subject of all the lyrics are of grandiose adventures, oppression of a people that doesn’t exist, and of course, lots of conquering. This in conjunction with the fact that the album flows from end to end quite well, even though you can tell that each song is a separate song works very well for a theme album. In the ‘theme’ aspect, this album is near-perfect.

All in all, the musical performance is far superior in Crucible of Man than it has ever been. The guitar work, the drum work, and the new bassist all put in a very solid performance. Not too much, but still over the top. Not boring, but serene at times. The ebb and flow of music really works, which is all brought in by the aforementioned Matt Barlow vocals. It may be a typical album in nature, but is executed in very good fashion.

Track picks: “Harbinger of Fate” and “Divide and Devour”

Overall score: 8/10 devil horns