Category Archives: CD reviews

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

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

Relentless – Brother Von Doom [Review]

Relentless is the first full-length studio release from Deathcote records’ own Brother Von Doom. Released September 23rd, 2008.

Brother Von Doom Relentless

From start to finish, this album is a terrifying adventure through some pissed off, face-smashing riffage and solos. The opening track, “Barbarian Destroyer” starts out with some chugging and doom-impending symphonic leads. That’s the last part of the album that isn’t 110% shred. “Eater of Days” is the next track on the album, and starts out with some staccato riffs, and thus the adventure begins.

The vocals on the album aren’t all that good, however, with some of the worst enunciation I have heard in a while (at it’s worst at the beginning of “Eater of Days”). The timbre of Wilson’s growls are great however, and so are his higher pitched screams. seems to have the full arsenal of harsh metal vocal techniques, as well as the range.

The absolute best part of this album though, are the most pissed-off and brutal guitar parts I have ever heard (or, close to it at the very least). As I mentioned before, Relentless is a non-stop barrage of rape-tastic riffs, that will make you want to punch babies or something. Then there are the blistering guitar solos all over the place. The only thing missing as far as guitar goes are sections with chords in them. It’s an all-out riff-fest, all the time. I personally enjoy it a lot, but it leaves the album a bit empty at times, and makes the album seem shorter than it really is (it clocks in at around 37 minutes). Without breaks in the shredding, it all starts to sound the same by the time the end of the album rolls around.

As unrelenting and unidimensional the album it is, it’s still a great listen. What it is lacking simply seems to be the style of what they were aiming for anyway, similar to the Lamb of God approach. A good mix of thrash, technical death, deathcore, and a few other metal sub-genres, Brother Von Doom have found a sound uniquely their own. One hell of a first full-length, that’s for sure.

Track picks: “Judas Kiss” and “Echoes of the Undead” (though, there is not a single weak track on the album)

Overall score: 8/10 devil horns

Wrath – Lamb of God [Review]

Wrath is the fifth full-length studio album by southern metalers Lamb of God. Released on February 24th under Epic Records, Roadrunner Records outside of North America.

lamb of god album art

Wrath. There’s a lot of things that have been floating around with album, and there’s been quite a fair amount of buzz (unsurprising since Lamb of God are of the most famous metal bands in the US today). Randy Blythe hasn’t said much about the album, other than it’s not going to be a slacker album, and will be much heavier than recent released by the Virginians.

Wrath is quite clearly and emphatically a Lamb of God album. They have not changed their sound much at all really, but they have stepped it up a notch (or, a few notches from Sacrament). The guys seem to be in tip top metal shape for this effort, and I can really appreciate it.

As far as Lamb of God goes, there are really two “eras” – the early days and the later stuff. The first two albums were really rough and abrasive, and didn’t really have great production. The later two albums lost most of the abrasive sound for more groove riffs and stellar production. Wrath really is a genuine example of the perfect middle ground of these two. Lamb of God have gotten back to the face-tearing, genital-crushing sound they used to have, except it no longer sounds as though it was recorded in a tin can.

The album starts out with a very cliché acoustic guitar part that is okay. From there, they kick in the guitars with overdrive with the heart-wrenching weepy guitars. Just like every other metal album before it (fine, that’s an exaggeration, but we have all heard this a thousand times). While cliché, this is totally different than anything Lamb of God has delivered us before. The track immediately following it is similar, where we get to hear some vocal timbre that Blythe has not used. From the start it is quite obvious they’re taking Wrath in a different direction.

Following the tastes of new stuff are the first singles from the album, “Contractor” and “Set to Fail” – these songs are more up Lamb of God’s alley, and sound like something that could have been lifted straight from As The Palaces Burn or Ashes of the Wake. The rest of the album is still obviously Lamb of God material, but seems to have a bit more attitude and “fuck you” to it.

The last track on the album, “Reclamation” is a great pure metal ending track for an album. The sound of the crashing waves in the beginning/end paired with the down-tuned acoustic guitars is a great sound. A 7:05 epic to close out the beast that is this album, and it is more perfect than I could have ever imagined, employing a lot of interesting guitar work not featured in the rest of the album – from the harmonies to the melodies, it all has a different mood about it, perhaps one of a less aggressive and hateful mood, but more of a depressed yet hopeful mood.

As far as instrumentation goes, Chris Adler is bringing it as hard as ever on this album, and keeps climbing the ranks of metal drummers out there today (still has a long way to go, however – gotta get some speed and more technicality in there). Willie Adler and Mark Morton really aren’t impressing me any more than before, other than the guitar work in “Fake Messiah” – now that’s some good work, boys. Speaking of guitar work, there are some damn fine solos on this album. The best of said solos appear in “Set to Fail” – that solo melts face.

All in all, this album is the best effort from Lamb of God to date, in my estimations. They have finally gotten their sound down, and it feels so natural, as opposed to the forced feel of Sacrament and the practice-session feel of New American Gospel. From start to finish, this album delivers the goods – in a coarse and brutal package. Wrath is right, Lamb of God – you nailed it on this one.

Track picks: “Set to Fail” and “Broken Hands”

Overall score: 9/10 devil horns

Evisceration Plague – Cannibal Corpse [review]

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

Cannibal Corpse Evisceration Plague

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Score: 8/10 Devil Horns

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

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

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

Heaven Shall Burn the Iconoclast part 1 the Final Resistance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall score: 10/10 devil horns

The New Game – Mudvayne [Review]

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

Mudvayne the New Game

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

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

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

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

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

Track Picks: “Fish out of Water”

Overall score: 3/10 devil horns

underOATH – Lost in the Sound of Separation [Review]

Lost in the Sound of Separation is the sixth full-length studio album from the Solid State/Tooth & Nail act Underoath (or underOATH, or UNDERØATH). THe album was released September 2, 2008 (Us/Canada/Japan). The lineup for the album is the same as their last two releases, Define the Great Line and They’re Only Chasing Safety. This is another band that also falls in the horribly mundane and vague category of Christian Metalcore. The band has also been considered to be a post-hardcore band. In my opinion, the band floats in the grey area between the two genres.

Underoath Lost in the Sound of Separation

As with a few other reviews I have written, this is the first album I really sat down and listened to by Underøath. I did eventually listen to them, but this was their first of their albums I had been exposed to.

Upon my first listen, the album is sonically one of the best I’ve ever heard. There is simply no way to compare with this album in terms of the sound output. Take away what the music is and whether you like it or not, the production values on this album are perfect. Period. This is al album to be listened to with a nice pair of headphones, and deserves something far better than poorly compressed .mp3 file as you would get from say, the iTunes Music Store? Get yourself a nice pair of headphones and listen to this on a good vinyl setup if possible. It really is an experience.

Anyway, on to the music itself. Although I had not heard any full albums by Underøath before, I have herd songs. I sort of knew what to expect, but I had sort of discounted this band (regrettably) as another crappy screamo band, but with a little extra heavy. I was sadly mistaken. This band is a gargantuan band in terms of their musical performance. Great lyrics, and vocals that make me feel. Few voices I have ever heard have really spurred real emotion in me. Throughout Lost in the Sound of Separation I felt sadness, anger, hope, empathy, and so many more emotions. The rhythms and guitar melodies are always fresh, exciting, and interesting. The drummer doesn’t seem overly talented from what I heard on this record, but he sure as hell gets the job done.

The songwriting on this album is flawless as well. It feels like a gapless album when listening to it (well, other than the break between “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures” and “Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear” – that’s pretty obvious). The album really isn’t gapless, however, that is just how well put together the album is. Of course, they had to put the one song on the album that people who don’t like brutally heavy and raw music could enjoy… *cough cough* “Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear” *cough cough* Although it’s a good song, I wish that Underøath could just get rid of the soft, melodic songs they just stick into the albums. I guess it worked on the other albums, but it feels out of place on this album. At least it is at the end, and does a decent job at bringing the album to a calm, along with the last song (“Desolate Earth: The End is Near”). In my personal opinion, I would have been personally 100% content if the album had ended at the last note of “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures”.

The last thing I want to address is the album artwork. Now, is it just me, or does Underoath always have the best album artwork? I don’t have the slightest clue about what this album art is all about, but it’s awesome. There’s also no way to discount the album art for They’re Only Chasing Safety or Define the Great Line.

All in all, I absolutely love this album, and it is one that every fan of raw, heavy music should OWN. Yes, own as in BUY. If not only because the album is great, then buy it for the opportunity to get the “golden ticket” that allows free passage to every Underøath show form now until forever.

Track picks: “Only Survivor Was Miraculously Unharmed” and “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures”

Overall score: 9.5/10 devil horns

The March – Unearth [Review]

The March is the fourth full-length release from Massachusetts metalcore band Unearth, their third release on Metal Blade records. The March is the first release with new drummer Derek Kerswill. The album was released October 14, 2008 official, but was leaked a few weeks prior to the release date.

Unearth The March

To be completely honest, I have been awaiting the drop if this album for a long time, and I had high hopes for it. VERY high hopes. Then I heard the first track of the album when it was added to the band’s myspace, and it was simply incredible. Now, I wish I could say the rest of the album is that ludicrous, but it’s not. Nor could it ever be. It’s simply that good. The rest of the album’s pretty good, too.

I’ll say this, it is their most metal release to date. They’ve moved closer yet to the metal scene with their latest release, only furthering the progress from III: In the Eyes of Fire (although, nothing is as metal as “Sanctity of Brothers” on this album). The biggest aid to this venture is what the new drummer adds. Overall, the sound of the drums, and the style of the rhythms, is more metal than hardcore. I think it suits the band, as Buz McGrath can write some pretty fantastic metal riffs (aforementioned “Sanctity of Brothers” is a good example).

As far as production goes, this album is your standard well done album. Nothing really sticks out as bad or good, and it serves it’s purpose. I did notice, however, that the bass is pretty much buried in most of the tracks, which I am personally indifferent about. I can’t say for sure how good the bass lines are on the album, but I will assume for now that is the reason that they are not too prominent in most places on the album.

Arguably the strongest attribute of this album is the songwriting and album composition. There is a lot of style in the construction of this album, and works well as a unit. The songs all run together seamlessly, but are clearly separate songs. The nature of the beast is the abrupt beginning and ending of almost every song, which is usually a no-no, but somehow these guys found a way to make the album move alright even when doing so. I feel that this could be attributed mostly to the abrupt nature of the music itself, even without all the breakdowns that Unearth used to feature on their albums (there are still a bunch, though).

The final thing I want to comment on are the guitar solos and harmonies. Though most people won’t pick up on this, the sweeps that start the album off are harmonized. That means? Yeah, you guessed it, two separate guitar parts. Then there’s the chugging behind it. Doesn’t that just blow your mind? The solos throughout this album really are fantastic, and tasteful at that. Contrary to popular practices, they’re not only tapping and sweeps at the fastest speeds the guitarist can play (don’t worry, though, Buz still melts some faces with some blisteringly fast shredding).

All in all, this album is a great listen, even though it falls off significantly after the first track. The guys from Unearth really brought everything to the table this time around, and now we get to enjoy the sonic feast they have prepared.

Track picks: “My Will Be Done”, “Letting Go” and “Cutsman”

Overall Score: 8 out of 10 devil horns

Haste The Day – Dreamer [Review]

Dreamer is the fifth full-length release from Haste the Day, a band on the primarily Christian metalcore label Solid State Records. This is their second release with new vocalist Stephen Keech. Dreamer was released on October 14, 2008.

Haste the Day Dreamer

Being a fan of Haste the Day from the near beginning (Burning Bridges was where I picked them up), I was not sure whether or not the band would be ready to do something a little different this time around, especially considering the change in vocalists. Turns out that they decided to stick with the same old thing, adding a new cliché metalcore flavor to the mix. That is by far the largest downfall of the album. The songwriting sounds exactly like every other metalcore band out there these days (with very few exceptions).

Where they go right with the direction they took with Dreamer is the fact that it was executed PERFECTLY. They nailed down the sound to perfection, and it is all perfectly balanced. The album could have been moved around from song to song (the order of the track on the album is a bit strange), but each song sounds great. The new vocalist has the perfect voice for Christian Metalcore, and in my eyes is an improvement from Jimmy Ryan (don’t worry, Jimmy, you’re still great). I want to make special note of Devin Chaulk’s drumming on this album, though. Devin, that shit is TIGHT my friend. Crisp, clear, pounding, etc. Everything you could want in a drum sound for an album is right here (yeah, yeah, argue personal preference all you want).

Being the fact that it is a Christian Metalcore band, putting out a Christian Metalcore album, there is nothing more to be said. It is what it is – like most every other album in that category. At least that did it well, and did it right. It’s not a crappy hack job, and you can at least differentiate the sound from the mediocrity that is metalcore these days. A great listen, but nothing groundbreaking.

Track Picks: “68”, “Porcelain”, and “Haunting”

Overall score: 6.5 out of 10 devil horns

On a passing note, does anyone else think that the opening track sounds eerily like something from As I Lay Dying’s newest album, An Ocean Between Us? Creepy…