Category Archives: By Genre

Razormaze – The True Speed of Steel [Review]

Razormaze has burst onto the New England metal scene with their first full-length release The True Speed of Steel, released by Hold True Recordings.

razormaze the true speed of steel

Thrash. Fucking. Metal. Those are the only three words you need to describe The True Speed of Steel. Regardless, I’ll give you some more insight.

From start to finish, this album rips open new assholes, bangs heads, and every other awesome metal cliché in the books. The album starts off on a really odd note, with a great bass groove – then shreds all over your face and moves onto some glorious riffage. The album traverses through anything and everything you have ever heard in a thrash metal song (from all corners of the thrash metal universe: teutonic, bay area, crossover, etc.). The album even has the wild west “showdown whistle” played on guitar in one of their songs (“Desperado”).

Thinking as has hard as I can, I cannot come up with a suitable comparison for Razormaze. They draw influence from early Metallica records, but are not nearly as long-winded in style. At times a Kreator influence is present, sometimes more of a Testament influence. I think, all-in-all, the closest relatable band to Razormaze would be Nuclear Assault – the problem is that Razormaze have only one album, and it is much better than any release Nuclear Assault ever put out.

Eight songs and 32.5 minutes after starting the The True Speed of Steel, I found myself at a loss for words. So much awesome had been pounded into my ears I knew not what to do, but listen again. Five times. This album is a perfect mix of shredding, great lyrics, gang vocals, riffage, and thrashing to quench the thirst of any metal fan, certainly anyone who considers themselves a thrash metal connoisseur.

A perfectly recorded, performed, and mastered album – this is an absolute must-have. It is amazing to think that this is the band’s first full-length (they only had one EP before this album). Barring any sort of huge catastrophe, this band really could make some waves. Needless to say, I am a “Slave to the maze.”

Track picks: “Slaughterotica” and “Slave to the Maze”

Overall score: 10/10 devil horns

GO BUY THIS ALBUM. I can assure you will not regret it.
(click the album art above, it will take you to the webstore)

Anomia – ESM [Review]

ESM is the latest record from Hold True Recordings band Anomia. The album was released on July 10, 2009 – in memory of their late friend, Eric Stephen Mitchell.

anomia ESM album cover

Not often does a record that could have the -core tag applied to it provide much of a “WOW” factor for me, but the boys in Anomia are far from the tried-and-true metalcore kids floating around the scene today. The album stars off the album with the standard crescendo-laden riffage as their opening track. One riff and a lead line for just shy of two minutes. On the first listen, I was almost bored with the record at this point. Then comes song two, “UVR” – at no point could I ever imagined the shift that would occur at this juncture. My excitement for the rest of the album was increased ten-fold upon hearing the first ten seconds of “UVR” when the clean guitar groove gave way to a chaotic and heavy guitar riff, and moved onto the first breakdown of the record. Very much like a PsyOpus record, it is hard to say what is coming or what just happened at any particular juncture on the album. Clocking in at ten tracks and a total of 36 minutes even, it would be hard to expect much more.

The production on this album is messy at best. Everything is mixed WAY too heavy and low, so it gets very muddy when there are the heavier breaks on the album. For those who like crystal-clean production like you would find on an All Shall Perish or Faceless record, steer clear of this one. For those who like something a bit more raw, the mastering quality on this album might actually enhance the experience.

The best part of the album without a doubt is the versatile guitar parts. Everything from breakdowns to clean grooves to pinch harmonics to angular riffing, this album has it all. Never doe the the guitar sound cheesy, over-done, or out of place. The guitar is always on-point, and sounds absolutely appropriate. The licks and breakdowns on the record are undeniably catchy, and the guitar tones deviate from the norm all throughout the record. Unlike many bands these days, the guitarists in Anomia make full use of the spectrum that are guitar tones.

All in all the album is a refreshing take on the generic world of -core genres these days, and excites me for whatever else these dudes have coming down the pipe. Definitely worth a listen. Seemingly unrefined, I think this album would have been a lot better if better recorded and mastered.

Track picks: “M51A” and “It”

Overall score: 7/10 spin kicks

The resurgence of thrash

For quite some time now, true thrash metal has been almost non-existent. In parts of the country, in the underground scenes, and even in the mainstream, more bands are bringing it back. From the big Thrash bands back in the day (Sepultura, Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer, Exodus, Overkill, Kreator, etc.), few are still active AND still making thrash metal. While thinking about thrash metal without the legends who made the genre what it is makes metalheads sad, there is still a lot to look forward to.

thrash metal bands

If you look around on MySpace music through the “Thrash” genre tag you will find many things, most of which are not thrash. Some things that aren’t even metal. If you look deep enough, there is some good old thrash metal to be found. Most of these bands were either around in the 80’s, or are made up of teenagers who look and act like they were teens in the 80’s. Fatal, Ravage, Evil Army, and Razormaze are just a few of the up-and-coming young thrash bands out there. It’s not just the new guys, either. Slayer is still going strong, Metallica’s Death Magnetic was clearly turning more toward their old school sound, and Kreator just started a summer tour with Exodus – all well known bands in the thrash scene from the 80’s.

Given all the changes going on in metal, perhaps the resurgence of traditional thrash is the largest. Instead of bands like Shadows Fall, Chimaira, and Unearth adding the “trash” tag onto their music, real thrash bands are taking it back. A lot of more mainstream bands have been trying to bring the thrash sound to their band, like Bullet for my Valentine, Machine Head, and Trivium. Tough to say where it goes from here, but it seems as though thrash will soon be back again, and in a big way.

(disclaimer: I did not make the image above, nor am I taking credit for it – here is where I found it)

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

Success Will Write Apocalypse Across The Sky – The Grand Partition and the Abrogation of Idolatry [Review]

The Grand Partition And The Abrogation Of Idolatry is the first full-length release from Floridian Death metal band Success Will Write Apocalypse Across The Sky. The album was released April 3, 2009 on Nuclear Blast records.


Success Will Write Apocalypse Across The Sky SWWAATS The Grand Partition And The Abrogation Of Idolatry album art

When I first heard of this band, I really thought it would be a band along the lines of The Devil Wears Prada, The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, or one of those other bands with silly names. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this band is pretty much straight up brutal death metal. IT is still a real pity that this band had to pick such long and ludicrous names for their band and album.

The Grand Partition is a particularly refreshing dose of Death metal in times where most available music of this intensity and power is littered with cliché breakdowns. The most comparable band to these guys might be Skinless. Constant blast beats and machine gun-sounding double bass, along with brutal guitar riffs and gutter vocals abound. At time the album can steer in the direction of deathcore with the amount of tempo switches, time changes, etc. but it always seems appropriate, and never switches into breakdown mode (a refreshing change from most bands these days). As far as death metal goes, this band has got the brutal type under wraps. Beyond the fact that this fits very nicely into the genre, it sounds fantastic. None of the instruments are buried in the mix, muddy, or indecipherable (something that happens a lot to bands like this).

From the second it starts, this album grabs it’s listener from the genitals, and does not let go. The intensity level knob must have been broken, because this album never comes down from eleven. That is perfectly fine, because in a brutal death metal album that is exactly how it should be. The only real downside of this album (and every other recent brutal death metal album) is that there is not a ton of originality. But, as with genres like Power Metal, this can be a big plus if that is what you are looking for. For those looking to hear some good ol’ fashioned brutal death, this is a winner. For those looking for a brutal death album that is a bit more progressive, you have best look elsewhere. Regardless, this is an album that fans of the more extreme heavy metal sub-genes need to blast into their earholes.

Track picks: “10,000 Sermons, One Solution” and “One Must Imagine Sisyphus Happy”

Overall score: 9/10 devil horns

Metallica – Master of Puppets [Retrospective]

Master of Puppets, Metallica. Just thinking of this album is metal. Master of Puppets is arguably the most famous and influential metal albums of the 80’s (and all time). Sure, there was Reign in Blood, Number of the Beast, Operation: Mindcrime and others, but none of those albums were comprised entirely of iconic songs, nor are they as easily heard throughout modern metal music.

Metallica Master of Puppets album cover

When you think of the big four in Thrash metal, each band really has their magnum opus, all of which are legendary in the metal community. For those uneducated in the lore of metal, the big four in thrash are/were: Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer, and Metallica. Among The Living, Rust in Peace, Reign in Blood, and Master of Puppets are the bands’ best albums (respectively). All undeniably great albums, but none with quite as much clout and following as Master of Puppets. None of the other albums are as complete, either. Longer songs, bigger solos, more memorable hooks and riffs, better production, and just as pissed off.

The best (and perhaps most ironic) part about Master of Puppets is that the three best songs on the album were co-written Cliff Burton. This is unsurprising if you know about Burton’s history, and how he helped James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett how to theorize and harmonize. As Hetfield says, “without Cliff, we wouldn’t be where we are today.” Beyond the songs co-written by Burton, each songs brings a lot of technical prowess and songwriting ability to the album. One of Metallica’s most popular songs, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” perhaps is a prime example of this. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” has a unique song structure, beautiful (and skillful) solos, and among the greatest metal guitar tones ever used. The thing is, every song has most of these elements, showcasing them in a different manner every time – making for an extremely fresh and interesting listen no matter how many times you do so.

A must-have for every good metal collection, and a must-hear for anyone who wants to like metal, Master of Puppets is nothing short of iconic. It is Thrash metal, and then so much more. Unlike the the other bands in the big four, Metallica (and this album especially) have the ability to appeal to metalheads of every type and age.

Track picks: All of them, fool.

Overall score: 11/10 devil horns

Psyopus – Odd Senses [Review]

Odd Senses is the third full-length release from avant-garde/mathcore band PsyOpus, hailing from Rochester, NY. Odd Senses was released on February 17, 2009 on Metal Blade Records.

Psyopus Odd Senses

Psyopus. Holy hell. This band might be the craziest band I have ever listened to. Odd Senses is a very fitting album title. The lyrical and subject content on this album is very peculiar. Being somewhat familiar with Psyopus before hearing this album, I had a basic grasp of what I could expect but this album somehow still managed to chock me on my first listen through.

From the out of control time signatures and drumming to the incredible guitar licks to the strange and creepy voiceovers, this album can be a bit much at times. Then, without a moment’s notice there is a track like “A Murder To Child” – a nine minute jazz guitar and violin adventure with no lyrics, and is in a major key (something that is against the rest of the album’s sound). After that is an awesomely hilarious parody track in which, for two minutes it is one plain riff and they lyrics “One way ticket to hell” repeated over and over. For the remaining eighteen minutes of the track things just continue to get more off-the-wall and strange.

This might be the most technically impressive album I have heard in a long time, as well. Amidst all the craziness and non-sensical banter, there are some of the most well-written and performed bass, guitar and drum parts I have heard in a while. If I ever saw Chris Arp (the writer for everything on the album), aka “Arpmandude”, I would bow to him.

Odd Senses is really an album that is brilliant in the way that Primus is brilliant. Incredibly technical playing, lots of strange themes, and you never can be too sure what you’re getting into. Odd Senses is absolutely a must-hear. It really could scar you for life, and you will be sure to end the listen with a fried brain and a lot of confusion. The more listens you give this album the better it gets.

Track picks: “A Murder to Child” and “X and Y”

Overall score: 9/10 devil horns

Brutal Truth – Evolution Through Revolution [Review]

Evolution Through Revolution is the sixth album from legendary Grincore band Brutal Truth. It’s release date is April 14, 2009 on Relapse Records.

Brutal Truth Evolution Through Revolution

It takes something really special for a grindcore album to be a lot better than the other albums in the genre. Bands like The Tony Tapdance Extravaganza have figured it out with their last release, Danza II: The Electric Boogaloo. Brutal Truth, however, haven’t quite got the “it” factor on this record. It’s a very solid and pleasing grindcore record, and living up to their name, it is truthfully brutal.

For a grindcore album, Evolution Through Revolution is about as long as they come, clocking in at just over forty-one minutes. There is a ton of material on the album, but nothing that is really too interesting or different. This is both good and bad. For those who are simply looking for an all out brutal face-tearing riff and breakdown festival, this album is just that. There are no breaks, no breathers, almost nothing that steps out of the very little grindcore box. For such a long grindcore album, there should be a little more going on with it.

In truth, this really is one of the most brutal records I have ever heard, but with that being said, it gets boring fast. It sounds very chaotic, but it is pretty systematic from song to song (as much as a grindcore album can be, anyway). In the end, I enjoyed the album, and recommend it to fans of the genre, but would not really recommend it to anyone else. If you’re looking to check out Brutal Truth, one of their first two records would be a much better idea. Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses is their first and best album, but their second album, Need to Control finishes a close second.

Track picks: “Detached”, “Semi-Automatic Carnation” and “Sugardaddy”

Overall Score: 7/10 devil horns

Blind Guardian – Imaginations from the Other Side [Retrospective]

Number 48 on Metal Storm’s Top 100 Albums, number 19 on RateYourMusic’s top albums of 1995, and one of the best power/speed/heavy metal releases for all time. That’s right, you guessed it (or maybe not), Imaginations from the Other Side by Blind Guardian.

blind guardian imaginations from the other side

Every legendary metal band from years past have one album that seems to epitomize and embody that band entirely. Perhaps the most prominent example of this would be Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. For Blind Guardian, Imaginations from the Other Side is undoubtably the album that epitomizes them.

In a year in which the Gothenburg sound was bursting on the scene and seemingly taking over, Blind Guardian (along with Iced Earth and Gamma Ray) delivered their greatest albums. For Iced Earth and Gamma Ray, it’s more debatable, but Imaginations from the Other Side really is Blind Guardian’s magnum opus. Hansi Kürsch delivers his best performance of his career on this album (even including his work in Demons and Wizards). The lyrics are incredible, and take the listener on a grand adventure. Beyond that, he pushes the boundary to the extreme with his vocal power and presence. The heat on his voice throughout this album is simply incredible. André Olbrich is on his game in this effort as well. While he may not be the fastest or best guitarist around, his creativity and writing for the guitar parts is on par with the best in metal – ever. Somehow André found a way to stay true to what power metal guitars were supposed to sound like, but still write something that was not like everything else out there. His solos on the album are absolutely perfect. They are not simply sweeping, blistering solos. They have feeling and emotion, which all guitar solos ideally should have.

Now that I’ve established that the album was near perfect in terms of writing, I want to comment on the production of the album. With such a huge vocalist in power metal, it’s a feat to have everyone in check, and no one getting snubbed for the spotlight. Power metal is somewhat notorious for this, allowing the vocalist to overshadow everyone during the more powerful vocal parts – this only happens where appropriate (and written) for the vocalist to be overshadowing everyone. Aside from the balance of the different elements on this album, the sound of the “choir” (the gang vocals) is the best I have ever heard for a power metal album I have ever heard.

From top to bottom, this album is a masterpiece. It capitalizes on every element necessary for a power metal album, and then some. Full of big vocals, fast guitars, pounding drums, and an epic story line – this is easily one of the most quintessential metal albums of all time.

Track picks: Don’t be a fool. On an album this good, every track needs to be listened to. I will say, though, that the two singles from the album were “Imaginations from the Other Side” and “Bright Eyes”

Overall score: 11/10 Devil horns

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?

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.

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…

God Forbid – Earthsblood [Review]

Earthsblood is the fifth studio album from Century Media thrashcore band God Forbid. This is the follow up to their very strong release IV: Constitution of Treason – an album that received very good reviews, but did not generate a large amount of buzz. Eathsblood released February 16, 2009 in Europe and February 24, 2009 in North America.

God Forbid Earthsblood

In stellar metal fashion, this album opens with a nice piano/orchestral piece to set a very dark, foreboding mood, about :30 into the song, — cue the big distorted guitar chords and melodies. As always, it sounds awesome. The best part about this song is that during the latter half, the guitars are mixed very low, and and shredding all over the place. It’s slightly difficult to hear, but they are there. After setting the mood, we’re back to the God Forbid we know and love (or not love, if you happen to hate the band). It is unmistakable, yet, the execution seems to be a bit more spot on this time. In previous efforts, it was chugging guitars, blistering solos, and the same monotone screams for a vast majority of the album. This album goes with a major direction change in that regard. There are much more varied vocals, with varying levels of heat, and the clean melodic vocals are much improved from previous efforts. The first example of this is :50 into “The Rain”, the second track on the album. This section, however, is just a taste. There are many good clean vocal melodies strewn about the album. Possibly what I consider to be the strongest element to the album.

The second area that surpasses the average God Forbid repertoire are the guitarists. They chose to vary up the structure and style of their solos on this album, most noticeably the solo half way through “The Rain” (there is a lot to be be said about this particular track). Beyond this track, there is little to nothing new from God Forbid. All the same chugging guitar riffs and monotone screaming, which is fine. The song structures are varied, there are some great clean vocal parts mixed in, and keeps attention well.

The next notable song on the album is “The New Clear” — this song is pretty different from the usual God Forbid schtick. This song is plain and simply a metal song, and has a very vintage feel. Guitar solos abound, almost no chugging, no broken rhythms, and this vocals are spot on for classic metal.

The easiest way to tell, for me anyway, that God Forbid are doing something a bit different is to look at the length of the songs. There are only three tracks on the album that top off at less than five minutes, one of those being the album intro. Five tracks on the album top off at over six minutes, including the whopping nine minute long title track, “Earthsblood”.

All in all, this album is fairly spectacular, and will more than feed the aural desires of old God Forbid fans, and I have the feeling they might garnish a whole bunch more fans in the near future.

Track Picks: “The Rain”, “The New Clear”, and “Walk Alone”

Overall Score: 9 out of 10 devil horns

Unspoken Words – Derelict [Review]

Unspoken Words is the first studio full-length from Montreal metal band Derelict (not to be confused with the other Derelict on Last.fm). Set to be released sometime near April/May. Somehow, the band is still unsigned (boggles my mind, honestly). As far as talent goes, this band ranks among the other Canadian juggernauts of Strapping Young Lad, Into Eternity, Annihilator, Quo Vadis, etc.

derelict unspoken words cd album cover art

Track list:
1. “Machete”
2. “Pirates”
3. “Summoning the Firestorm”
4. “Forth with the Herd”
5. “Polarized”
6. “Xenocide”
7. “The Blood of Life”
8a. “Unspoken Words Part 0: Ripe With Martyrs”
8b. “Unspoken Words Part 1: Demonizing”
8c. “Unspoken Words Part 2: Never Reborn”
8d. “Unspoken Words Part 3: Surrounded by Decline”
8e. “Unspoken Words Part 4: The Names of the Dead”

Derelict‘s sound is something like that of Strapping Young Lad, but their style is much different. It’s very much a melodic death metal style with a hint of progressive thrash. Grinding guitars, angular riffage, pounding drums, and all sorts of other fun stuff.

The album begins with what might be the album’s first single, “Machete”. This song really sets the mood excellently for the tracks that come forth and rip faces off. After the very serious sounding album opener, “Pirates” has a somewhat silly sounding tone to it — that is, until the distorted guitars kick in with a BIG scream. I was shocked at how brutal and brash that they made that melody sound.

The metal train just keep storming along through the next few songs, until the first breath of air at the track “Xenocide” which has a nice acoustic interlude using guitar tones and a style like you would hear from many different songs by Rodrigo y Gabriela. After the minute-long break, it’s back to face smashing.

The first section of the “Unspoken Words” isn’t even really a song, but just a small 40 second long filler track (I honestly don’t really get it, but it passes by fast). Beyond that song, this set of songs really showcase how progressive this band can be, whereas the first section of songs were pretty standard progressive thrash/melodic death songs. The last few songs are a bit more ‘mathy’ in nature, but still seem familiar to the fairly unique style that Derelict has constructed.

For a first full-length effort, this album delivers. I don’t know what it is about Canadian metal bands, but they all seem to have their own things going for them, and it almost always seems to work (namely Into Eternity and Strapping Young Lad) – Derelict is no exception to this. An incredibly strong effort from a band I firmly believe will explode onto the scene when they get signed, go on tour, and actually release this album come springtime.

Track picks: “Machete”, “Pirates”, and “Xenocide”

Overall score: 9 out of 10 devil horns