Category Archives: Melodic Death 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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The Agonist – Lullabies for the Dormant Mind [Review]

Lullabies for the Dormant Mind is the sophomore release from Century Media metalcore band The Agonist. It’s quite clear from their sound that they hail from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The album was released February 23 in Europe and March 10 in North America by Century Media Records.

the agonist lullabies for the dormant mind cd album cover art

Given that their vocalist, Alyssa White-Gluz was a contestant on Canadian Idol (like American Idol for Canada, for those who don’t get it), this band has some pretty intense screams and subject matter – on this release particularly. After Only Once Imagined I did not have very high hopes for this band. They were boring and unoriginal metalcore and had very one-dimensional vocals. The only appeal was that the singer was a chick, and a hot one at that (still the only reason I think Lacuna Coil has fans). As you can imagine, a fiery personality such as Alyssa would want to avoid this, and make sure that people know she has chops. She made herself quite clear throughout Lullabies for the Dormant Mind, and brought more of an arsenal than last time. Many of the songs are more progressive death metal, and black metal sounding than the tired metalcore sound they had last time. This is not, however, to say that the approach they have taken has changed all that much. It is still quite clearly the same band.

The first, and most noticeable difference is aforementioned style change, but is not the most noteworthy. The biggest turn off from The Agonist for me was the lack of good songwriting. They had a pleasing sound, and were decent to listen to, but far too predictable. They seemed to have thrown out whatever formula they had been using, and simply went for it this time around.

While not groundbreaking, Lullabies for the Dormant Mind is at the very least fresh and interesting. The biggest barrier for this band, however, seems to be a lack of creativity in the guitar section, as well as the constant over-production. There are so many unnecessary string arrangements laid over the tracks, the most glaringly obvious being in the second track of the album, “…and Their Eulogies Sang Me to Sleep”. Ironically enough, this is the song that most exemplifies how the band really can come together and make some seriously brutal metal (each half of the song is almost entirely different from the other).

The other notable point of the album that I cannot forego mentioning is the a cappella version of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. There is obviously a fair amount of studio magic on the track, and I am not very sure how much of it that Alyssa actually sang, but it came out perfectly. All the harmonies were spot-on, and it sits in just the right spot on the album. Whomever made the call to allow this on the album made a great one.

Given the fact that this is their sophomore release, it’s a good (but not great) one. They have avoided their sophomore slump, and have made great strides toward writing a seriously awesome metal album. If they continue to evolve and refine their sound, they will be unstoppable in a couple years.

Track picks: “..and Their Eulogies Sing Me to Sleep” and “When the Bough Breaks”

Overall Score: 7/10 devil horns

As a side note, the guys over in Derelict opened for The Agonist on the first show of their album debut tour, which would have bean a great show.

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

Into Eternity – The Incurable Tragedy [Review]

The Incurable Tragedy is the fifth studio release from Canadian Progressive/Power/Melodic death metal band Into Eternity. The release dates are: August 20 in Europe and September 2 in the US/Canada.

Into Eternity the Incurable Tragedy

At 38 minutes and 52 seconds, being 12 songs long, one could not call this a long album by any stretch of the imagination (granted, it still beats punk and grindcore albums in length). The thing is, this album doesn’t need to feel longer. It has so much going on within it, 39 minutes is plenty.

First off, I want to discuss that this is another one of those “theme albums” that you have heard so much about. I must admit, I have a soft spot for theme albums, but I am always quite skeptical. Most theme albums turn out to be boing, cheesy, cliche, etc. There are but few theme albums that turn out great [Leviathan by Mastodon is a shining example of this, themed after Moby Dick]. Into Eternity’s newest album really is none of these. It is tough to think of a metal album as a theme album if it’s theme is death, disease, etc. as this album’s theme is supposed to be. Quoting an interview with blabbermouth.net, “The incurable Tragedy was inspired by the deaths of [Tim] Roth’s two best friends, brothers who succumbed to cancer within two months of one another.” While I am not trying to take away anything from the fact that this indeed is a theme album, it would really not be too far-fetched to say that this deals with pretty normal subject matter for the genre they are in.

The second thing to address, and easily the most noticeable, is the incredible musicianship on this album. As always, Into Eternity delivers on all fronts as far as performance goes. All those long years (about 11 years now) of constant touring has really paid off in this department for the band. Each performance only gets better. Roth’s guitar work is above and beyond, and the vocals, as always, are enormous. Arguably the best vocals in the business are found in Into Eternity’s music (check out Stu Block’s wail, and tell me it doesn’t blow you away – you won’t, unless you’re lying of course). The new addition to the overwhelming musicianship are the interludes found on this album that were in very short supply on previous efforts, these interludes being the “Incurable Tragedy” series. THese are very ballad-like songs that follow the same general melody, then the weepy guitar chimes in, followed by the big vocals. These interludes are the emotion that this album needs to keep the “theme” in tact. Overall, the instrumentation is over the top and out of control in most cases. They tug on the reigns here and there just a little to keep the whole thing from just plain running away from them.

The biggest weakness of this album is quite easily it’s lack of originality. As I have discussed in previous reviews, this can be a double-edged sword. It helps some bands while it hurts others [sellout v. classic, losing fame v. evolving/improving]. In this case, it hurts the album a little bit, because the sound that Into Eternity has always had is not very cohesive, and changed pace quite often, with the pieces of each song jutting out. Trying to put together anything with this band is like having only square blocks to put into only round holes. Because they have so many influences, and play in so many styles, it gets to be a little much at times, and the dramatic and fast switch of styles and sound certainly adds to the fact. I happen to enjoy what it is they do, but it is a point in which deserves heavy criticism and notice. It is very much a love/hate point of discussion.

Because of this style, it is really tough to create a very cohesive album with your less-than-cohesive songs. Think of it in the way that grindcore is. Grindcore is typically all songs built section by section, with no real chorus or repeated sections, just stacking riffs and breakdowns end to end until it is a series of stuff that the band thinks sounds good. In a less extreme way, that is what Into Eternity’s sound is like. Because of this, the first couple of listens are sort of tough until you get used to what is going on, but then it quickly grows on you. The first instance in which I heard Into Eternity, I simply had no words to describe what I had just experience, none good nor bad – I was utterly speechless and confounded, sonically and aurally assaulted. THe more I listened, though, the more I love it.

All in all, the album is great at what it is good at, and awful at what it is not good at – typical over-the-top album style.

Track picks: “Diagnosis Terminal” and “Prelude to Woe”

Overall Score: 5/10 devil horns

I suggest you give it a listen just to experience the pure sonic power and diversity that this album brings to the table. Overall, it’s nothing spectacular, but does provide moments of excellence. It’s worth a listen for the absolutely bonkers melodic vocals, but little else.

Twilight of the Thunder God – Amon Amarth [Review]

Twilight of the Thunder God is the seventh studio album by Swedish Melodic Death Metal giants Amon Amarth (I like to categorize them as the ever-popular Viking Metal genre). The set release date is September 30 here in North America, but is released in Sweden/Finland first on September 17.

Amon Amarth Twilight of the Thunder God

First off, I want to tell you that when I saw the album artwork, it kicked my ass. Then, when I got around to listening to the album it kicked my ass even harder.

The first track on the album, the title track, sets the pace wonderfully. It’s the same Amon Amarth riff we’ve heard a thousand times now, but it gets better every time. The drums are in full form, lots of pounding, driving rhythms – perfect for headbanging and hair-flailing. My neck still sort of hurts from rocking out too this song too hard. The thing is, the album does not get any worse from here on out. Most albums around these days (or what seems like it anyway) usually start off strong, then the tracks get a little weaker toward then end [e.g. All That Remains’ The Fall of Ideals – I loved the album, but the second half was lacking in comparison to the opening six tracks]. This album brutalizes you from start to finish. When it’s not brutalizing you, it’s making you feel like you want to wage war with something, or conquer some far off land – inspiring you for the next moment when it kicks in your face some more.

So, when hearing this album, the thought ‘Wow, this is just like every other Amon Amarth album!’ might very well pop into your head. Well, no one can fault you for that. They really haven’t changed their game for a long time, but why the hell would they need to? When you are this awesome, there is no point in changing. Instead, they took the Motörhead, AC/DC, etc. approach and just got really ridiculously good at what they do, and I think them for that. Each album of their last few releases has been better every time.

As far as the album production goes, it falls right in line with With Oden on Our Side, having a very unique, deep sound without being too muddy (slightly deeper this time around, though, and lsightly less booming/bass heavy). It is a little “distant” sounding, but I am almost positive it was meant that way. It gives a great feel to the album. Nothing is mixed to take command over anything, it’s not overly bass-heavy, or light and fluffy. The drums sound especially good on this album. By now, I think it would be fair to say that they really own their own sound, one in which provides great timbre to set the mood for the lyrics along with the pounding music that lies under the vocals. It is always an amazing feat to have as much going on in the same general tone range without having anything become buried.

After a few listens through, the only thing I can find about this album that is not near-perfect would be the fact that is does not stray too far at all from the Amon Amarth “thing”. Not a problem, but not a strength. People will argue either way, and I am pulling for an “Objection your honor, irrelevant” plea. No one would dare criticize the aforementioned bands for not changing their model, why point the finger at Amon Amarth? No one really praises the aforementioned bands for not changing, other than the “stayed true to their roots” ideal, which is neither here nor there.

An interesting fact about this album is that it is the first to feature guest musicians. The tracks “Twilight of the Thunder God”, “Guardians of Asgaard” and “Live For the Kill” all feature guest musicians. Before doing a small amount of research, I found out about the first two, since they are not very obvious. When I heard “Live For the Kill” however, I really assumed it was Apocalyptica, since they pretty much are the guest musicians for most metal tracks featuring cellos. It is a damn good thing, too. Those boys in Apocalyptica know their way around a cello, and in quite stellar metal fashion as well.

All in all, Twilight of the Thunder God is not much different than anything Amon Amarth has ever done, sans working with guest musicians, but it is simply better. Like an artisan honing their craft, they will only get better with time and practice.

Track picks: “Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags” and “Live for the Kill”

Overall score: 10/10 devil Horns