Tag Archives: cynic

From Exile – Monolith [Review]

From the heart of the south, Atlanta metal band From Exile are one of the few bands out there that refuse to be pigeonholed. Self dubbed as “progressive thrash metal” they truly transcend that, touching nearly every style of melodic metal out there on Monolith, the band’s second full length album. Currently, From Exile is only comprised of two members, and the band is without a label.

From Exile Monolith

Instantaneously when I began playing Monument I knew I was onto something interesting. Upon the first guitar chord, my only thoughts were about how horrible the recording/mastering work on this album was going to be. Fortunately, it was just an adjustment/placement issue. Upon further listening, the sound of the album turned out to be the defining factor for the album. When I spoke with Eric (guitars, keys, vocals), he said “it is truly a massive record” – something I was immediately skeptical of. I wish that I could come up with some better way to describe the album as succinctly as Eric, but I can’t. I simply concur, and state: this is one massive record.

More interesting than the sound itself is the styles the band plays in, and the incredible songwriting on the album. Unlike band such as Opeth, metal bands regarded as incredible songwriters, From Exile does not need fifteen minutes to write an incredibly deep and engaging song. The whole album spans only a mere 32 minutes, but is some of the most dense and prolific composing I have heard in such as small time frame. Monolith features a substantial amount of complex guitar work, including guest solos from Eyal Levi and Emil Werstler (of Dååth). Among all the dense and complex musicianship on the album, there is a lot of material I feel as though I have heard before. Not in the sense that it is old and played out, but a warm and familiar way. From Exile have presented many themes from their various influences with a fresh take, almost in a nostalgic way at times.

Easily the most shocking part of the album is the incredible lack of vocals. Amidst the fourth track on the album, “Exhumed”, I realized I had only heard a small handful of vocal lines, none of which were memorable or recognizable, even after a few more listens. At such a short length, the lack of vocals is the biggest downside of the album, though does nothing to lessen the listener experience. In fact, the lack of prominent vocals on the album only solidifies the band in their niche among the “post-metal” and “instrumetal” acts that play off the ambience factor.

Even after sixteen listens through the album, I always run into the same problem: there needs to be more. When the last second of the last track ends, I am not ready or prepared, even given the feel of “In The Faded Silence”. During the album it feels stretched out and that more time has elapsed than really has, but upon finishing the album it is noticeably too short. This is not to say Monolith is an empty or incomplete work. Imagining anything else on this album would ruin it, much like it would ruin Cynic’s Traced in Air to add anything more to its 34 minutes of music. A full and complete work that is compelling enough to deserve more time, but leaves the listener unsatisfied enough to be hooked like a junkie.

Crushing blows followed by majestic and glorious guitar solos, this is most definitely an album that fans of quality shred must hear. For those who are fans of brilliant songwriting, this is also a must hear. For those people who like hook-laden and vocal-centric metal, there is nothing at all here for you. Little to no vocals or obvious hooks can be found on Monolith. When you put this album on, be sure that you have set aside time to listen to it in its entirety, both to do it justice, and because you won’t be able to stop listening until the album is over.

Track picks: “Apparition” and “Veritas”
For fans of: Kris Norris, Dååth, and good quality guitar work
Overall Score: 8 out of 10 devil horns

If this review has piqued your interests, you can buy the album from the band’s MySpace page for only $7.

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Thirteen bands that don’t suck.

To no surprise, there are metal bands that I don’t know, some of which I probably should know (yeah, I can admit it). I am positive you are the same way. While I cannot take some valued one-on-one time to run down a list of metal essentials (you can actually find these all over the ‘net), I can provide you a list with some pretty rad bands you should check out if you do not know them already. If you have heard a band before, but formed an opinion about them already, please feel free to share your thoughts. Think I should have included another band (or two, or three)? Let me know! Anyway, here’s a list, in no particular order, of thirteen metal bands you should know:

  1. The Black Dahlia Murder
    The Black Dahlia Murder are a perfect example of dudes who just get it. Their music is pure metal, and the guys in the band clearly love to do what they are doing, but still have a very good sense of getting done what needs doing. I first heard these guys when Miasma came out, and was not too impressed. I listened to Unhallowed, which is quite a good album. Nocturnal, which came out in 2007, really sealed the deal for me. From start to finish, Nocturnal is pure, unadulterated, metal. Since I first heard that album it has been in constant circulation in my listening habits. It also doesn’t hurt that their most recent DVD, Majesty, might be the best metal DVD I have ever seen. Yet, some people still discount them, and lump them in with all the -core genres out there. Clean your ears out, folks.
  2. Textures
    I first heard Textures a few weeks back on Last.fm Radio iPhone Application. The first song I heard was “Circular” from their 2006 release Drawing Circles. There are only a small handful of bands out there today that I can say truly do their own thing, and Textures is for sure one of these bands. Combining all things heavy and brutal about metal and combining it with all things catchy in extreme music – flawlessly. Naturally, once I heard one song I like, I felt compelled to check out the rest of their stuff. I don’t really care for their first full-length all that much (Polars in 2003), but Drawing Circles and Silhouettes are both amazing albums suitable for the metal fan of all tastes – especially fans of the more progressive stuff. Wish I would have heard them sooner, Silhouettes would have made my top ten of 2008 for sure.
  3. Himsa
    Originally lumped into the “Metalcore” crowd when the scene was emerging, Himsa really did foot that bill with their first full-length, Ground Breaking Ceremony, this was really their last Metalcore album. From there on out, starting with Courting Tragedy and Disaster, the band was full-on Melodic Death Metal (or something awfully close to it). Better with each record, Himsa was one of the best bands on the scene with their 2007 release Summon In Thunder. Unfortunately, that was their last album, as the band officially broke up in mid 2008. With great solos, and great videos, Himsa really were well-equipped to be one of the best metal band of the last couple decades.
  4. Razormaze
    A new and awesome band from Boston (as you can find out from my review of their album I recently did). Amazing live show, played with Revocation before Relapse signed them. This is what metal is supposed to be: awesome, badass, fun, thrashing, etc. I would tell you more, but I covered most everything there is in my review of The True Speed of Steel. One thing to mention, though: at their last live show, the rhythm guitarist/vocalists’ guitar broke, so they continued the set, playing 1-guitar covers of Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy” and Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” – BAD ASS. The crowd was absolutely insane. Never experienced anything like it in my life. I still don’t really know if this band has some footing and is gaining popularity or not, but I can’t see them staying unknown for much longer (if they are). With a new album on the way, who knows where they’ll go.
  5. 3 Inches of Blood
    Songs about destroying Orcs and mythical beasts from the year 4055, you might not exactly expect to hear what you do from this band. A mixture of all things heavy and thrashing in metal, vocalist Cam Pipes (yes, Cam fucking Pipes is the vocalist’s name), sounds similar to Rob Halford at times, but does so much more on the mic. Every song is big, loud, furious, and balls-to-the-wall. Their most recent album (but not for long) is called Advance and Vanquish, which it most definitely makes its listener want to do.
  6. Arsis
    I am pretty sure this band fits into the “technical death metal” umbrella, but I feel like that doesn’t at all describe their sound. If I had to name their sound, I would say “blackened technical thrash death” if such a thing exists. If it didn’t before, it sure does now, thanks to Arsis. They are certainly technical (James Malone is an expert in the field of shred), and every song is completely unrelenting. Somehow, amidst all of the shred and brutality, this band manages to be catchy (e.g. the chorus of “Maddening Disdain” from 2004’s A Celebration of Guilt). If you have been checking my blog for a while now, you may recall that this band made the top five for my albums of 2008 list with We Are The Nightmare, which is quite a feat considering most Arsis fans thought it was their weakest effort to date (somewhat true). Any fan of the heavier thrash bands, death metal, or extreme metal in general are almost guaranteed to like this band.
  7. Into Eternity
    The second Canadian band on this list with an absolute monster of a vocalist (Stu Block in this case). Before 2005, Tim Roth was on lead vocal duties. Both dudes absolutely wail. Need proof? Check this outrageous number. For added effect, he executes it FLAWLESSLY live, which is pretty amazing – always makes me love a band more when they are awesome live. Not really a fan of their latest album The Incurable Tragedy but it has a couple great cuts on it. All five of this band’s albums are at least above par, and all uniquely theirs. Definitely a band for fans of melodic death with a hint of Geddy Lee/Rob Halford.
  8. The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza
    All you really need to understand this are this and this. For those not not in a situation bone-crushing videos at the moment (and for the sake of consistency), I’ll fill you in. TDTDE are a bunch of hick kids from backwoods Tennessee. Because of this, they have become obscenely proficient at their instruments. With lots of hilarious jokes at the expense of hicks, as well as a whole lot of musical chaos, this band is clearly head and shoulders above the rest of their “grindcore” and “deathcore” brethren. Danza II: The Electric Boogaloo does two things: brutalizes you with music, and gives you a second to breathe with hilarious skits of a pissed off alcoholic midget who knows too much about pool. If that doesn’t sound like a good time, you have a poor taste in life. New album soon, I can only hope for record levels of depravity and chaos, as well as hick-ery.
  9. The Faceless
    Upon a first listen, The Faceless might seem like your average, friendly neighborhood technical death metal band – and you might be right to an extent. Through the band’s two albums there are a lot of parts that scream “we’re more than boring tech-death!” – which is spot-on. Especially apparent on Akeldama, The Faceless are both machine-like in terms of skill, and visionaries in terms of technical death metal. Writing catchy and evocative riffs and song structures, this band is clearly aware enough to avoid the “SHRED SHRED SHRED BLAST BEAT” mantra of most technical death metal bands today, bringing new hope to a genre being held together by the likes of Necrophagist. Well, eat it, Necrophagist! The new sheriff is in town, and there isn’t room for the both of you! (just kidding, guys, I love you – bring your friends along if you like)
  10. Derelict
    Yet another awesome progressive Canadian band I have already covered. Yawn. BUT NOT REALLY! For those of you out there who like Strapping Young Lad, Derelict will be right up your ally. (I mean, honestly, who does not like Devin Townsend? Losers. That’s who.) Somehow this band is completely unknown in the US, but have some pretty strong hometown followers throughout Canadialand. Boy do those people like their metal (and breed some amazing bands, too!). Now, I’m not all that up on trendiness, but I really think these Canucks are onto something here. I think Derelict should most definitely be the next big act to come out of Canada. Unspoken Words might be in the top ten greatest metal debuts I have ever heard, it is that good. Now if they can only get working Visas to tour the US so people might actually find them.
  11. Cynic
    Being that I was only five years old when Cynic released their first album, Focus, in 1993, I can’t say for sure how popular Cynic were then. I can say that they are less-than-well-known now, which is a horrible. Focus is a great album, and Cynic’s second album, Traced In Air (2008, long story on the delay) is even better. It took my top spot for albums in 2008, and is an album I strongly believe all the praise it gets and more. Progressive metal at its finest, the album’s only flaw is that it runs too short (only about 34 minutes in total). If you are completely against vocoders and auto-tune, you have to give this album a listen. If you love them, you still have to listen. In no way can anyone ever regret hearing Traced In Air it is so mammoth, albeit a very densely-packed mammoth. Every note on the album is planned out and perfect. Every drum strike even, every nuance just enough.
  12. High On Fire
    Ever wonder what Matt Pike has been up to since his stonerific days in Sleep? Well, he joined another stonerific band called High On Fire. This time, he is making music with a bit more gusto. Think of High on Fire as Sleep, but with a need for anger management classes or some sedatives. Lots of cool tribal drumming and signature Matt Pike riffing and vocals, this band disappoints at no point on any of their three albums. With a very vintage sound, Pike is clearly trying to help with the revolution to bring back good ol’ drinkin’ metal and succeeding. The most amazing part about High On Fire is the incredibly thick sound they have for only being a three man outfit. If you were not living under a rock in 2007, you probably at least heard of all the commotion Death is this Communion got, and rightfully so. If you never listened to them then, you now have no excuse.
  13. Protest the Hero
    Yeah, yeah, I know. Another Canadian Prog Metal band. So sue me. Regardless, this band is way more talented than even the band themselves can handle, causing them to create frenetic hook-ridden, shred-laden, everything-metal that leaves everything in its wake. Coming up with a way to describe Protest the Hero is not hard, but nothing I can say would give these boys the credit they deserve. Sadly, I did not find out about these guys until after I made my Top of ’08 list, of these guys would have rivaled Cynic’s Traced in Air for the top spot with Fortress. An album more memorable than any album I have heard that came from the last decade. PERIOD.

Well, that is that, folks. Thirteen bands to get your metal on with. Did you already know them? Let me know your thoughts! Weigh in on the high praise I give to these bands. I encourage “heated debate” – it is the easiest way to find out what you love and hate.

Also, any great bands you could add to the list would be rad, since I’m always on the hunt for new and great metal.

Horns to the heavens and beers to the mouth, kiddies! \m/

[Note: I commend you if you actually made it through this post. That was a lot of shit.]

The Heaviest Matter of the Universe Awards 2008

So, I thought it might be cool if I came up with a bunch of superlatives for metal albums in ’08 to showcase more than just my top ten. So, for those who don’t know what a superlative is, you most likely had nothing to do with a high school yearbook. They’re like awards that you give to people in your class, like “class clown” or “best smile”, etc. These will be music/band related ones. I hope you enjoy!

Bests:
Vocals: Iconoclast – Heaven Shall Burn
Drumming: Planetary Duality – The Faceless
Shredding: Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Newcomer: Relentless – Brother Von Doom
Production: Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Lyrics: The Way of All Flesh – Gojira
Comeback: Traced in Air – Cynic
Style Change: Scream Aim Fire – Bullet for my Valentine
Name (album): Lost in the Sound of Separation – Underoath
Name (band): This is Exile – Whitechapel
Album Art: Twilight of the Thunder God – Amon Amarth
Album opener: “My Will Be Done” from The March – Unearth

Worsts
Production: Death Magnetic – Metallica
Style change: Midheaven – The Human Abstract
Lyrics: Scream Aim Fire – Bullet for my Valentine
Name (album): Love and Other Disasters – Sonic Syndicate
Name (band): Scream Aim Fire – Bullet for my Valentine
Album Art: The Incurable Tragedy – Into Eternity

Mosts
Overachieving (bad): Midheaven – The Human Abstract
Overachieving (good): We Are The Nightmare – Arsis
Controversial: All Hope is Gone – Slipknot
Brutal: This is Exile – Whitechapel
Shredding: Zero Order Phase – Jeff Loomis
Overrated: The Incurable Tragedy – Into Eternity
Disappointing: Overcome – All That Remains
Erratic: We Are The Nightmare – Arsis
Technical: obZen – Meshuggah
Surprising (bad): Overcome – All That Remains
Surprising (good): Dreamer – Haste the Day
Progressive: Traced in Air – Cyinc
Complete: Holographic Universe – Scar Symmetry

Leasts
Surprising (bad): A Sense of Purpose – In Flames
Surprising (good): Motörizer – Motörhead
Technical: Torn – Evergrey
Shredding: This is Exile – Whitechapel
Controversial: Watershed – Opeth
Progressive: Motörizer – Motörhead
Complete: Torn – Evergrey

Miscellaneous
Album of the year: Traced in Air – Cyinc
Single of the year: “Vacuity” from The Way of All Flesh – Gojira
Riff of the year: at about 1:10 of “Servants to the Night” from We Are the Nightmare – Arsis
Guitar solo of the year: at about 1:23 of “Awaken the Dreamers” from Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Interlude of the year: “Memories of a Glass Sanctuary” from Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Fastest: Ultra Beatdown – DragonForce
Biggest wannabe: Shogun – Trivium

So, yeah, that’s what I have come up with. Let me know how you feel! Got some you think I should add or change? I’d love to hear the criticism.

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!