Tag Archives: traced in air

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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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!