Tag Archives: nuclear blast

Rhapsody of Fire – The Frozen Tears of Angels [Review]

Rhapsody of Fire are a band who have not missed a beat since releasing their first album back in 1997, and The Frozen Tears of Angels is no different. Released April 30, 2010 via Nuclear Blast, it is the band’s eighth full-length album.

Rhapsody the Frozen Tears of Angels

Rhapsody of Fire have had an incredibly consistent and productive career over the last thirteen years, even still The Frozen Tears of Angels is certainly their best release in a decade. Technically the third installment of the The Dark Secret Saga (which started with Symphony of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret, which still doesn’t make sense to me). This time however, the album is fueled more by riffs than big orchestral parts, something a lot different than their two previous albums. It also once again features the legendary Christopher Lee doing narration, a welcome addition to any epic power metal album.

Where this album shines, however, is in the production and mastering. All of the guitar tones are incredible, and mesh really well with the orchestral parts. Though the orchestral parts are heavily compressed sometimes, it never becomes overwhelmingly so. I strongly prefer the production on this album to Triumph or Agony, as having the 70-piece chorus/orchestra play such a prominent role in the mix took away from the “metal” aspect of the album. Triumph or Agony was sometimes overly cluttered, but on The Frozen Tears of Angels everything has ample space to breathe in the mix (you can even clearly hear the bass lines in most songs).

And the riffs, dear God the riffs. They are wonderful. The guitar work on this album is the best that Rhapsody of Fire has ever featured on an album. They’ve made a transition from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra styled guitars from their early albums to more of a pure speed metal style similar to that of Blind Guardian. This is known almost immediately by the fierce beginning of the song “Sea of Fate” – as well as other instances on the album. There isn’t a single bad guitar part of the album, every riff and solo is good and they all fit really well in the grand scheme of things. Even in the song “Labyrinth of Madness” where it’s just guitar wankery for the entire four minutes, it’s still a wonderful closing note for the album.

Track picks: “Reign of Terror” and “Crystal Moonlight”

Overall score: 9 out of 10 wizard staffs

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

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

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…

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!

All Shall Perish – Awaken The Dreamers [Review]

Awaken The Dreamers is the third studio release from All Shall Perish, a Deathcore band on Nuclear Blast records, hailing from Oakland, CA. The album’s release date was September 16, 2008.

All Shall Perish Awaken The Dreams

I didn’t really know what to expect coming into this album. The two previous All Shall Perish albums, Hate.Malice.Revenge and The Price of Existence, were straight up deathcore albums. I went to their myspace to check out the new tracks a while ago, and these were not ordinary deathcore tracks. They felt like a mix between All Shall Perish, Necrophagist, and Between The Buried and Me. There were some crazy riffs, a few crazy bass and guitar fills, and a whole bunch of other stuff that did not play a large part in their previous efforts. Upon listening to the whole album, only then did I realize that All Shall Perish really are trying to redefine their sound an image, and break down some walls – with force.

The first track on the album is a prefect example of what I am referring to. “When Life Meant More…” is backed to the brim and overflowing with new intensity that sounds very similar to that of Necrophagist or Between the Buried and Me. The technical shredding happens while the heavy parts lie underneath, and the song does not lose touch with what it’s supposed to be – brutal. It’s still got all the staggering rhythms and growling vocals, with little extra kick.

From there, the song becomes increasingly varied, some ranging more towards the old All Shall Perish, and some that stray away from the mold even further. The next song on the album, “Black Gold Reign” moves from the BTBAM and Necrophagist sort of sound to a more As I Lay Dying and In Flames sound. At about 1:50 in, there is even a power metal wail, which REALLY caught me off guard, but seemed very necessary. There is even an airy interlude for a few seconds, which would have never happened on other All Shall Perish albums.

But, enough comparison. This album really delivers in it’s own way. As much as certain parts of the album sound like someone else, it’s never enough to really give it much thought. Combing a huge amount of styles, they bring it all together in a neat little package. Quite little, at that: the album is only 36 minutes long.

The album does not pass as though it is only 36 minutes long, however. There are so many different things that happen throughout the album that it feels like it should exceed 50 minutes. The songs fit so perfectly together, and seem very lengthy at times toward the end of the album when the more airy drawn-out sections become more prevalent, and Story/Orem get into solo mode. All in all, this album is filled with very tastefully technical musicianship, something that really is under-appreciated in many cases. The sweeps, the weeping solos, the shredding, the chugging, it’s all used tastefully in almost all cases. On the opening track, there is a very significant amount of shredding, but is is lower in volume than the rhythm guitar, which is almost unheard of.

The vocals are also very well done on this album. They’re a good as ever and about the same as always; a couple instances where Hermida switches it up a bit when he adds in the power wail (and sometimes goes other directions with it) adds a small amount more dynamic than before. Also, Hermida’s enunciation is completely flawless. There are too many instances where a vocalist will forego enunciation for a lower or faster growl, but Hermida is completely uncompromising. The same goes for the bass and the drums – nothing new or overly exciting, aside from the fact that the production quality has been improved on these for this album (this is not to say they are not impressing, they just haven’t changed from the last two All Shall Perish Albums).

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to give this album for a score, and I really still rest undecided about it. Part of me wants to give this album a 9.5/10, but something seems wrong about that, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Track picks: “When Life Meant More” and “Awaken The Dreamers”

Overall score: 9.5/10 devil horns
Since I can’t think of any good reason not to give it this score other than the length of the album, I’ll go with my gut feeling. I strongly considered a ten, but with it’s “Colors” by BTBAM nature, it simply does not live up to that, which is a ten in my book.