Tag Archives: century media

Deicide – To Hell With God [Review]

To Hell With God is the tenth release by Tampa-based death metal band Deicide, and was released February 15, 2011 as the band’s first release under Century Media records.

Known as one of the original, best, and most brutal death metal bands in the history of the genre, Deicide have never ceased to assault and please ears with each new release. In their history the band has seen little transformation or deviance from their relentless sound, though the lineup changes post-2004 when the Hoffman brothers ceased their guitar-playing duties with the band. To many cries of “not as good as before!” Deicide have still managed to put out another album that’s stands true to the genre they helped pioneer.

There is but one unescapable truth regarding To The Hell With God: while it falls directly in line with the post-2004 releases it lacks a certain leaded fury that was delivered when Deicide enlisted the Hoffman brothers. Unlike many accounts I’ve encountered, however, I think this is both a good and bad thing. Let’s start with why this sucks. Deicide were most certainly one of the heaviest and most brutal bands that seemed to get as close as possible to the “over the top” mark into the “silly” territory, and seemed to be masters of doing so, but they’re no longer quite as close to that mark, almost as if they’ve let off the throttle a bit.

Outweighing the negatives of being heavy to the brink of silliness is that the production is leaps and bounds better than the band had once featured on their albums. Glen Benton’s vocals are perhaps the best they’ve ever been and you can actually hear them in the mix–as you can each of the instruments in the band. There is nothing lost amidst the overwhelming heaviness of the album that Deicide occasionally fell prey to. With this more modern sound for the band also comes a more modern style of death metal than perhaps diehard Deicide fans are used to, but it’s closer to the classic Deicide than Till Death Do Us Part and The Stench Of Redemption.

Quite literally, the only “fault” of the album is that it’s not exactly like the Deicide of old, but I’m not complaining. To Hell With God is a great album, and it is fantastic to hear a classic band staying relevant by bringing their creativity and influence to the table in order to help reshape the genre in which they were of the first contributors to. Song after song, album after album, Deicide continue to show us why they’re a deserving candidate for the throne of death metal king.

Song picks: “Empowered By Blasphemy” and “How Can You Call Yourself A God”

Score: 9/10 Devil Horns

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Crowbar – Sever The Wicked Hand [Review]

Sever The Wicked Hand is the ninth album from New Orleans sludge metal legends Crowbar and was released on E1 Music February 14, 2011, the band’s first release in six years.

In the history of metal, there are only a few bands who can really be attributed with being pioneers and landmarks in their respective styles and Crowbar are just that. In the early ’90s Kirk Windtstein and company cemented themselves as the premier sludge metal band of the time. Even at their worst, they’re still as good as any band to ever make sludge metal (after all, the did help make the mold).

Sever The Wicked Hand is exactly in line with everything that you’ve come to know and love about Crowbar, except possibly a bit darker this time. Kirk’s concentrated and powerful vocal delivery over constant fuzzed-out guitar riffs. The flavor of this album is very slightly different than 2005’s Lifeblood of the Downtrodden; a slightly different sound is to be expected after six years and, aside from Kirk, a totally new lineup.

There’s not a lot of speed in this record, it’s as slow as ever. Many songs employ Kirk’s more sorrowful and semi-clean vocals with more slick (but still fuzzed-out) guitar licks. Don’t worry, for all of you that like the thick and thrashy chugged out riffs, they’re still there. In general, however, Sever The Wicked Hand is still an incredibly heavy album, just not in a modern headbanger sort of way. It’s a slow, marching, and deliberate heavy at most times that feels more like a classic Black Sabbath sort of heavy.

The most interesting part about this album, though, has nothing to do with the music or performance itself, but rather the production and mixing. It sounds totally unlike a vast majority of metal records nowadays, outside of maybe some of the more obscure black metal bands. It’s an incredibly heavy sound without having a ton of sound packed into the lower register, most of the meat of these tracks are on the mids and so you really get to hear the full effect of the fuzz. It almost sounds rough around the edges, but deliberately so. There aren’t any fancy bass drops to add extra emphasis on chord changes, it’s all natural kick.

As a whole, as I mentioned before, Sever The Wicked Hand is everything we’ve come to know and love about Crowbar, perhaps this time with a little extra sorrow embedded in its sound and lyrics.

Track picks: “Liquid Sky And Cold Black Breath” and “The Cemetery Angels”

Overall score: 9/10 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

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?

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

The Heaviest Matter of 2008

So, before I list them, I just want to say that this is my personal list of what I liked them most in 2008 for metal. Sure, there will be things on here that you think shouldn’t be, and some missing. Give me a break. I can’t listen to everything, and this is my list. If you don’t like it, go make your own damn list.

So, here’s how it will work. I’ll count down from ten to one, giving a few words about each selection, and my favorite track from the album. Then I’ll give the release date and label of the band.

10. Relentless by Brother Von Doom released September 23, 2008 (Deathcote)

Brother Von Doom Relentless

These guys are easily my favorite newcomers onto the scene this year. This album rips from start to finish, blow after blow, filled with blistering and brutal guitar work abound. Track pick: “Eater of Days”

9. Zero Order Phase by Jeff Loomis released September 30, 2008 (Century Media)

Jeff Loomis Zero Order Phase

One of the only pure instrumental albums I can listen to for hours on end, and the only one that is metal. Though this album quite prominently showcases Mr. Loomis’s guitar prowess, it’s never overwhelming – quite a feat in my book. Track pick: “Race Against Disaster”

8. Twilight of the Thunder God by Amon Amarth released September 30, 2008 (US) (Metal Blade)

Amon Amarth Twilight of the Thunder God

This album is quite easily the pinnacle of Amon Amarth’s work for me. It exudes the very essence of metal and vikings from start to finish, and has what I consider to be the best album artwork of the year. Track pick: “Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags”

7. Watershed by Opeth released June 30, 2008 (US) (Roadrunner)

Opeth Watershed

I don’t think I really need to say more than this: It’s Opeth. For those who don’t know, listen to them. You’ll get it. This isn’t their best work, in my opinion, but it’s close. Track pick: “Heir Apparent”

6. Awaken the Dreamers by All Shall Perish released September 5, 2008 (Nuclear Blast)

All Shall Perish Awaken The Dreams

This is the third release from ASP, and their least brutal. Technically, I think it is their most complete album to date, and edges out The Price of Existence by a very small margin. Chris Storey shreds many a face on this album, and is quite worth checking out if you like deathcore with a TON of crazy guitar work. Track pick: “Awaken the Dreamers”

5. obZen by Meshuggah released March 7, 2008 (Nuclear Blast)

Meshuggah Obzen

Best metal drummer out there: Thomas Haake. It’s quite apparent what he can do on this album. A culmination of older and newer Meshuggah. This is by far the most rhythmically complex album of the year, and has been pulled off nearly flawlessly. Track pick: “Bleed”

4. We Are The Nightmare by Arsis released April 15, 2008 (Nuclear Blast)

Arsis We Are the Nightmare

This is the epitome of what technical death metal should be. They rip through all sorts of styles on this album; flawlessly, might I add. This band keeps getting better and better it seems. Track pick: “Servants to the Night”

3. Iconoclast: Pt. 1 (The Final Resistance) by Heaven Shall Burn released February 5, 2008 (Century Media)

Heaven Shall Burn the Iconoclast part 1 the Resistance

This album is pure intensity. The vocals are demonic and spine-chilling. Could be a contender for best production in metal for 2008. Track pick: “Endzeit”

2. The Way of All Flesh by Gojira released October 14, 2008 (Listenable/Prosthetic)

Gojira the Way of All Flesh

Breaking onto the scene this year, the fourth album by Gojira is a MONSTER. They have a pretty unique sound and style, one that drags you in and stomps onto your head until the album’s over. Then you come back for more. Track pick: “Toxic Garbage Island”

1. Traced in Air by Cynic released November 25, 2008 (Season of Mist)

Cynic Traced In Air

Now, I’m sure a ton of people will agree with my decision to drop this beast at #1, but this album is incredible. It is less brutal and intense as the rest of the albums on the list, but is ground-breaking. Unique vocals, wonderful instrumental work. This album reminds me a lot of Rush and Pink Floyd, but with a few extra dashes of metal blended into the mix. Track pick: “Integral Birth”

So there it is. My list of top metal in 2008. Let me know what you think!

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