Category Archives: CD reviews

Converge – Axe To Fall [Review]

Everyone, go home, Converge is officially this year’s winner. Few albums have floored me so immediately, and from start to finish, as Axe To Fall has. From the opening bass line to the serene ending songs, this album teeters on the edge of being completely overwhelming, but never crosses that fine line.

converge axe to fall cover

The first track of the album, “Dark Horse” couldn’t do a better job at setting the pace for the entire album. It features grooves, riffage, and everything Converge does perfectly on this record. If somehow, at the 1:57 mark of “Dark Horse” you are not kicking holes in walls, smashing your keyboard, or at the very least metal thrashing mad – you either aren’t human or you hate heavy music. From there on out, the album only further careens into the dark depths of chaos, beating your soul into submission with furious riffage and raucous rhythm changes. It’s amazingly cliché to say such things, but this album really will strike terror into your soul with such painful discord in each and every note.

Beyond the furious riffage and bludgeoning rhythms, the songs are written with very diverse structures, and flow amazingly well. They’re connected to the point where the line between songs is blurred, but not so much that it is unclear when you’ve hit a new song. It’s not foot-to-the-throat the entire time, either (something I feel limits many bands and albums in terms of actual songwriting). On my first listen through I was extremely shocked by the last two songs on the album, “Cruel Bloom” and “Wretched World”, and how they’re considerably less ballistic than the other eleven tracks on the album. Though a bit suspicious, once the album subsided to silence it all made sense. My ears were tingling, my blood was pumping, and I was completely and utterly speechless. I can say without doubt that I have never heard an album as emotional as this album. I don’t mean that in the “our girlfriend of two weeks broke up with us now we wanna cry” way, either. This album from top to bottom is filled with rage, pain, joy, fear, pride, and most of all passion. This truly is music you can feel.

Sonically, this album is near perfect. Nothing is too much or too little, and it is meant to be played way too loud. You can pick out each and every single instrument at any given moment, and can hear each and every nuance that is contained in the album (and boy are there a lot of them). To be completely truthful, I was never quite sold on Converge before Axe To Fall. I enjoyed Jane Doe and No Heroes, but this album is truly in its own league. I’m unsure if people who loved the old Converge stuff the best will like it, but Axe To Fall certainly cannot disappoint and will most definitely score the band troves of new fans.

Song picks: “Dark Horse” and “Reap What You Sow”

Overall Score: 10/10 devil horns

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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

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

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