Tag Archives: metal

Razormaze – Miseries [Review]

Now, I don’t want to make it a habit to review EPs of bands all the time, but I’ve made an exception due to a special request. So, let’s talk about Boston-based Razormaze‘s new (free!) EP Miseries. The EP was released unto the word on April 27th through the band’s Bandcamp page.

Miseries by Razormaze

So, I’ve been listening to these guys a lot, including seeing them multiple times live, since before their first full-length, The True Speed of Steel (which I reviewed) back in ’09. Needless to say, I was quite surprised when I heard Miseries. Where The True Speed of Steel was a bit silly and funny at times, there’s little fun to be had with this EP. It’s foot-to-the-throat for all three songs, which is both good and bad. The most endearing part of Razormaze’s first full-length was how fun it was, which at times overshadowed the over-the-top attitude of the band members. It’s nice to know, however, that the guys can make music that’s more serious, though (which helps them avoid being treated like band who rely on schtick to be successful).

In terms of the music and production, though, it’s another stretch in the right direction for Razormaze. It’s still full of catchy riffs and melody lines everywhere, and the guitar solos just keep improving. A lot of people criticized Alex Citrone’s vocals on The True Speed of Steel (I always thought they were great), and he’s stepped up his game as well. The only real downside I can see to the new stuff is that they’ve started to wander away from their very unique brand of thrash in favor of a less original and more traditional thrash sound (which, if you think about it, might not even be a negative).

Regardless, Miseries does just what a good EP should do – shows promise of forthcoming new material and gets the mouths of ravenous fans watering.

Since there’s only three tracks, I’m not going to give the EP a rating or make track selections, but I’ll say it’s definitely worth checking out. You can grab a copy for free from the band’s Bandcamp page in just about any format you like.

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Annotations of an Autopsy – The Reign of Darkness [Review]

The Reign of Darkness is the second album from the English quintet Annotations of an Autopsy, a followup to 2008’s Before the Throne of Infection, and is released on Nuclear Blast records.

Among the clutter of the various metal sub-genres there lies a nice niche of bands that are a cross between deathcore and grindcore – no band embodies this better than Annotations of an Autopsy. This is known almost immediately after beginning the album when the first instrument you hear are the drums – a gut busting fill followed but a simple blast beat – then the rest of the troops fall into place. The grinding guitars and thick raspy voice follow behind the drums, and it sounds as though you’ve got a brutal death metal album on your hands. Then the tempo change, straight into the first beatdown of the album.

After you’re about three minutes into the album, you have pretty much heard the entire arsenal this band employs – the good news is that the limited arsenal does not hold the band back. All of the breakdowns are varied, the riffs never gets stale, and the drums are on point. By far the biggest letdown of this album are the vocals and lyrics. While Steve Regan’s (aka “Sewer Mouth”) enunciation is pretty phenomenal at times, he always sounds as though he has a mouth full of jello, or is simply gargling into the microphone. Every syllable of every word on this album sounds almost identical, and it becomes very repetitive and annoying.

Simplicity lends itself all to often to this style of music in terms of guitar work, but that is something Annotations of an Autopsy have decided isn’t really the best strategy to keep a listener’s attention. At times the guitar parts are very simple (see many of the verses), but when it is time for the guitars to step it up, the do so in a big way. Solos are not often a huge part of the more brutal metal styles, but this album has a few very tasteful and unique guitar licks and some very groovy riffs.

When taken as a whole, The Reign of Darkness is a pretty standard drag-you-through-the-mud deathcore/grindcore album that is not about taking prisoners or breaking boundaries. It’s a very humble album that knows what it does, what it wants, and how it’s going to do it. A solid second album from a band who put out an embarrassingly bad first album, something that leads me to believe this band has a very promising future.

Song picks: “Catastrophic Hybridization” and “Portrait of Souls”

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10 devil horns

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.

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.]

Razormaze – The True Speed of Steel [Review]

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

razormaze the true speed of steel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall score: 10/10 devil horns

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

Anomia – ESM [Review]

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

anomia ESM album cover

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

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

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

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

Track picks: “M51A” and “It”

Overall score: 7/10 spin kicks

The resurgence of thrash

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

thrash metal bands

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

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

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