Tag Archives: the faceless

Favorite Metal(ish) Albums Of 2012

‘Tis the season for year-end lists of what everyone and their dog thinks are the best albums of the past year, as well as the incredibly pretentious and elitist mindsets that come with them. I’m not going to pretend I know what’s best for anyone, but I do know that there are definitely albums I enjoyed much more than others, despite some critical flaws in some of them. My tastes can be a bit whacky at times, but I’m pretty sure that there are at least a few people out there who will be curious to know what my favorites are, so I will be sharing them.

But not here.

Instead, I’ll be doing a series of posts over at Under The Gun Review that will double as a countdown to when we’re free of the holiday hell that is the month of December.

Because they’re happening one at a time, I’ll be posting the list as it goes live day by day over at UTG in list form here.

#25: RIITTIIR by Enslaved (read it)
#24: Results by Murder Construct (read it)
#23: Awakened by As I Lay Dying (read it)
#22: Ex Lives by Every Time I Die (read it)
#21: Failed States by Propagandhi (read it)
#20: Eremita by Ihsahn (read it)
#19: Dead End Kings by Katatonia (read it)
#18: Les Voyages De L’Âme by Alcest (read it)
#17: Autotheism by The Faceless (read it)
#16: All Hail The Void by Enabler (read it)
#15: Legend by Witchcraft (read it)
#14: Death Is The Only Mortal by The Acacia Strain (read it)
#13: No Matter Where It Ends by Black Sheep Wall (read it)
#12: Book Burner by Pig Destroyer (read it)
#11: Parallax II: Future Sequence by Between The Buried And Me (read it)
#10: Monolith Of Inhumanity by Cattle Decapitation (read it)
#9: Incongruous by Beneath The Massacre (read it)
#8: All We Love We Leave Behind by Converge (read it)
#7: CVI by Royal Thunder (read it)
#6: Danza IIII: The Alpha – The Omega by The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza (read it)
#5: Hasta La Muerte by Xibalba (read it)
#4: A Flash Flood Of Color by Enter Shikari (read it)
#3: Yellow & Green by Baroness (read it)
#2: Koloss by Meshuggah (read it)
#1: L’Enfant Sauvage by Gojira (read it)

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It’s called a “live” show for a reason. Be alive.

Being the metalhead that I am, concert-going is a pretty steady habit of mine. I scour Last.fm, Ticketmaster, Facebook, MySpace, and many other destinations across the ‘net to make sure I can figure out all the acts coming to town that I must see. I’ve been to many bad shows, many mediocre shows, and a handful of great shows. In the metal world, you most likely won’t make it if your live show doesn’t hold up (unless you get lucky and are heavily backed by some powerful people in the genre). How do you do that, you ask? You play your fucking hearts out.

The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza doing it right

Merely showing up and playing doesn’t cut it, though. Any idiot with half a brain can figure that out (and still somehow, bands manage to get this first step wrong). Aside from not showing up or forgetting how to play your own songs, this isn’t really that hard of a step. If you’re a small band, it’s pretty tough to be so bad that the half-drunk people scattered around the bar for your opening performance outwardly dislike you. Once you’ve shown up, proven that you can actually play the music you wrote and (hopefully) play on a regular basis, you’re halfway to have a decent show.

If you decide that you’re fine being lifeless statues on the stage, playing your music (rhythm guitar for Between the Buried and Me I’m calling you out) then leaving, that’s fine – you can just enjoy having people not care about you or your band. You play metal, for Christ’s sake, you shouldn’t be so damn boring while playing your music. That is unless you hate your own music, and in that case why are you playing it at all? Do everyone a favor and at least make it look like you’re not dead, and that you actually enjoy playing music.

How about playing the same songs in the same way every night? Well, since the people there might know and like them, that’s a pretty safe bet. Think outside the box with me here a second, what if you actually (dare I say), improvised? I know, it seems a bit strange to think about, and it requires plenty of trust and comfort level with your bandmates. Don’t you think you would have built that up through practice and living in a van with them while on tour? At the very least, switch up a solo or two, perhaps play a great cover song – give the fans something new and exciting. No one is ever going to leave your set saying “Oh my god! Did you see [guitarist] play that solo from [song with a solo] the same exact way he does on the album? IT WAS AMAZING.” unless you’re one of very few people/bands (The Faceless, Tosin Abasi, Paul Masvidal and All Shall Perish being a few of these).

razormaze at church

Razormaze bringing the fire

Some of the best sets I’ve ever seen have been entirely unorthodox, or special in some way. It’s really not that hard if you have a little creativity – which you should, being a musician and all. I can vividly remember seeing Razormaze at Great Scott in Allston, MA for the CD release of their debut album The True Speed of Steel being one of the greatest sets I’ve ever witnessed. The guys were full of energy and passion, and the entire crowd was stoked to see them. Toward the latter stages of their set, their rhythm guitarist’s (Alex Citrone) guitar ceased functioning, and without really skipping a beat the band continued their set with a cover of Mötorhead’s “Ace of Spades.” You may scoff at that, or think it’s silly, but the crowd (including myself) thought it was the greatest thing ever at the time.

Sometimes bands can actually not pull out any surprises, but just bring it so hard it doesn’t matter – that’s the case with bands like The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza,Irepress, Isis, and The Faceless. With these bands, crowd involvement is often key. The more intense and into it the crowd is the better the performance feels. For instance, when you have a constant stream of body surfers flowing towards the stage as you’re screaming through your most brutal verse as a band, it’s hard to not be completely stoked about everything around you (that was the case when I saw Danza).

So bands, put on the show of your lives every single night, the fans will definitely appreciate it. Fans, make it known that you want a good show!

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.]

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 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.