Sunday, January 26, 2014

Enslaved - Eld

My favorite genre of metal at this point in my life is epic viking/folk metal. Bands like Moonsorrow, Falkenbach, Windir as well as countless others. The music is rooted in mixing folk elements into extreme metal....usually epic black metal. The lyrical content is usually centered around Germanic/Northern mythology and folklore. Of course the credit for creating this genre is usually applied to Quorthon and Bathory and I agree. However,  Norway's Enslaved came along and took the concept a step further and on Eld, they perfected it. This is epic viking metal at it's finest and, in my opinion, and has way more in common with the aforementioned bands than does Bathory.

A lot of people, it appears, have given this album rather unflattering reviews whereas I believe that this album is nothing short of perfect. No, this is not black metal but Enslaved never were a black metal band! Their music had a black metal "sound" but that's where the similarities end. Listen to Vikingligr Veldi and Frost and you will see that Enslaved were much more than black metal not to mention the lyrics not being as dark as their peers with the emphasis on Nordic Mythology. With their third full length, Eld, from the opening track "793 (slaget om Lindisfarne)" the genius of this album shows. The song starts slowly with the keys providing an orchestral sound slowly building with choral voices as the keys build the atmosphere. Acoustic and electric guitars fade up into the song along along with the rhythm section to the main riff of the song. The verse and Grutle's clean vocals can make me think of a Viking chanting a song of victory. This song is epic and shows a band expanding a genre and setting the bar for future bands. This song clocks in at 16:10 and never ceases to grab your interest. It is one of the best metal songs ever made.

The rest of the album is just as good and even expands further on the sound they were trying to create on this album...epic black metal. Yes, you can see that Enslaved were moving towards a more progressive sound with this album. But songs like "Hordalendingen", "Alfablot", and "Kvasirs Blod" unleash the black metal with blasts and killer riffs. Grutle's rasps are as powerful as ever and he adds his clean chants in there as well. The remainder of the album seems to go back into epic territory again with songs like "For Lenge Siden" and "Glemt" going in a more epic direction with less focus on playing fast and instead the focus is on creating huge compositions. Closing out the album is the title tack and is another great track that about sums up the sound on this album going from blasts to epic sounds and chants. A perfect close to the album.

I don't understand the negative press this album sometimes gets. I guess those who do not like this album are the people that think this band should have kept regurgitating Frost over and over again. I think this album sees a band maturing and giving us a taste of the further genius that is to come. I do think this band could do no wrong so it could just be my bias but I'm not so sure. This album, in my opinion, is one of the best metal albums ever made.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Queensryche - Queensryche

Okay, I am an old metal head and I grew up on Queensryche. I remember when the self titled EP came out and, like most metal heads of the time, was floored by this guy's vocals. How the fuck did this guy learn how to sing like that? Was this Rob Halford's love child? I became an instant fan of the band and believed (and still do) that Geoff Tate had (you see how I said HAD) the best voice in metal at one time. We all know the story...three essential albums and one good album after the release of the EP. Then it all went to shit!

So we get to 2012 and it seems that the band finally decided that they turned to shit because of the same man that made them great...Geoff Tate. So they fire him and bring in Todd La Torre from Crimson Glory. They start playing shows focusing on their earlier material. All the while a butthurt Geoff Tate decides that he's going to get a band of wash ups and call his band Queensryche too. WTF is going on? Will we actually get a decent Queensryche album now. Will this shake up make everything right in the world?

So, we fast forward to June 2013 and we get a new Queensryche album (if you can call thirty-five minutes an album). Metal heads are waiting on the edge of their seats to see if they will return to their former glory. Well, I'm sorry to say that what we got was an almost EP of mostly homogenized hard rock with minimal metal to be found. And what happened?  You got people jizzing all over themselves saying that Queensryche went "back to their roots." What album were they listening to? And don't get me started on the production! This is over loud production where the drums and base drown out the guitars. And the guitars have this strange thin sound to them and are buried WAY down in the mix.

Okay, before I get carried away here let me clarify where I stand with Queensryche. The EP, The Warning, Rage For Order, and Operation: Mindcrime are essential metal albums...period. These albums are as close to perfect as metal albums can get. Empire was a really good and enjoyable hard rock album with some metal here and there. Every album after that was absolute shit...including Promised Land. I still don't know why that album gets so much praise. So, to me, a back to their roots would be a heavy metal album from Queensryche and they failed to deliver that. Instead the band decided to play it really safe and make an almost sort of metal album. The opener, "Where Dreams Go to Die" is a really good metal song that would not have been out of place on Mindcrime. Sadly their are not too many more moments like that to be found on the album.

Todd La Torre is actually the perfect replacement for Geoff Tate. He has pretty much the same sound to his voice with a touch of James Rivera in his lower registers. Sadly this all goes to waste because most of the songs on this album are just mediocre. "Spore" seems to have a nice riff going throughout the song and would not be too out of place on Rage For Order were it not for the production. "In This Light", "Vindication", and "Fallout" are decent catchy songs but they still seem to play it really safe and have very minimal metal in them. The rest of the album is just so mediocre. Where's the metal??

So here we have Queensryche with an excellent new singer and plenty of potential. So why did they play it so safe? Did they rush this album just to put out something because of Tate releasing his abortion under the Queensryche name? This is the best album since Empire but that is not saying much at all. Their next album needs to crank up the metal or I will, once again, write this band off for good. So sad.


Tad Morose - Revenant

Tad Morose....this band conjures up some great memories for me when it comes to metal. I got to see the band open for Edguy in New York then see them again a few days later at ProgPower V in Atlanta. I actually got the chance to meet the band and spend some time with them and their former vocalist Urban Breed. Wow, that's coming up on 10 years ago now! The band has made it's mark in metal with their brand of traditional/power metal but it was Urban Breed that put these Swedes on the metal map.  Although they put out two quality albums prior to the Urban Breed era, I think most metal heads can agree that the albums with him were their very best. He is also one of the coolest people in metal!

So now we have Revenant, their first with new vocalist Ronnie Hemlin. Was he able to replace the irreplaceable?  No he wasn't. Urban Breed is unquestionably one of the best vocalists in metal today and his voice on any subsequent album by this will be surely missed. I am probably being biased because of the quality of the Urban Breed albums and was expecting a "Kamelot moment" when it comes to his replacement.  However, even though Ronnie Hemlin isn't horrible, his voice tires quite quickly. He actually reminds me of a second rate "Ripper" Owens if  "Ripper" were to only sing in a lower to mid register.  When Ronnie tries to go to a higher register, it doesn't work, at all.

With that said, the songs on the album are actually quite good. What you get here is a crunchier Tad Morose but all the while keeping the melody that we know and love about them. The songs are well written and the solos are well done with a mixture of technicality and melody.  Guitarist Christer "Krunt" Andersson and drummer Peter Moren are the only members from their glory days so the band has a mostly new line up but they get the job done very well. The opener, "Beneath a Veil of Crying Souls," starts the album off on a good note. The song is actually quite good and the chorus is rather catchy and Ronnie doesn't sound so bad. So far, so good. The second song "Follow" is a mid paced rocker with another catchy as Hel chorus....but the vocals are already starting to get on my nerves.

The rest of the album affected me the same way.  Great songs, although they vary from powerful rockers like "Babylon," "Absence of Light," "Millenium Lie," "Spirit World," and "Timeless Dreaming" to songs like "Ares" and "Dance of the Damned  with that eastern feel with an "Anubis" feel. There isn't a bad song on this album at all. They range from very good to great, but the vocals kill it. By the time I finished the album, I don't want to hear Ronnie Hemlin's voice ever again. Am I biased towards Urban Breed? Probably. But this album leaves me wondering why they chose him in the first place. Honestly? As good as these songs are, I would MUCH rather listen to Urban Breed's band Trail of Murder than listen to this album again. I probably will listen to it again, but when it's over I will have that same feeling. This album would have received 9/10 were it not for the vocals. What a shame.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Iced Earth - Plagues of Babylon

I really wanted to hate this album.  The first time I heard it I was very disappointed.  I found it to be uninspired and after "Dystopia" was a huge letdown.  I've been a fan of Iced Earth since the mid 90s and have seem them 4 times, including their stint with "Ripper" Owens (which was not THAT bad IMO).  We all know that Jon Schaffer and company have not been the most consistent band in metal.  Iced Earth has created some of metal's best albums....and some of metal's biggest turds. That being said, this album has actually grown on me after subsequent listens.  At times it does seem as though Jon has run out of ideas and at other times it seems like his formula fits perfectly.

The album begins with the title track which clocks in at a rather drawn out 7:47.  It's a bit drawn out in the beginning and could stand to have a few minutes knocked off.  Once it gets going it becomes much more enjoyable and is a typical Iced Earth tune.  The shining star on this and other songs on the album are the solos.  Troy Steele is the best lead guitarist that the band has had since Randall Shawver.  The lyrics are trying to hard to be dark and gloomy but come off as a bit silly.  "Demoncide" picks the pace up a bit and reminds me of classic Iced Earth with Jon's signature riffs used moderately as not to become redundant.  The chorus is catchy and the lyrics are much better than with the previous song.

One thing that I find myself thinking when listening to this album is that it reminds me of bits and pieces of their previous albums....turds included.  "The Culling" is a slower song that seems to just prod along with not much direction.  The solo is very catchy but doesn't really make the song that much better.  "If I Could See You" is a ballad that is just completely forgettable.  "Resistance" is so inconsistent it rocks in places then plods along in other. "Peacemaker" starts off sounding like "Simple Man" then picks it up as the song goes on.  The lyrics are Jon's pro Second Amendment statement.  I'm not sure what to make of it. "Spirit of the Times" (Sons of Liberty cover) and "Highwayman" are just bad.

Then songs like "Among The Living Dead", "The End?", "Cthulhu", and "Parasite" almost take me back to classic Iced Earth.  Not ALL the way back but almost.  Again, the shining star of this album is Mr. Steele. I'm not sure what to make of Stu Block.  Does he really sound like Barlow or is he going out of his way to do so?  Sometimes it feels the latter is more accurate.  I'm just not sure what he's trying to do.  I guess it works in places and not in others.

I think Jon and the boys are at a crossroads right now.  This album is not awful but it's also not as good as I know they can be.  Has Jon completely run out of ideas?  Could be...but he can still pull a few goods ones out of his hat....or du-rag.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Borknagar - Urd

This is my first review on this blog and my first album review in almost 10 here goes.

This is a special album for me.  I've been a fan of Borknagar since their first album and have followed their career closely.  They have made changes to their sound but I see that as progression in this case.  They have also had some of extreme metal's biggest names front this band and each album has its own sound and feel.  That being said, this album is the Borknagar album I have waited for.  This album features the vocal talents of not only current and long time vocalist Vintersorg handling all grim as well as clean vocals but also features Simen Hestnæs (ICS Vortex) on bass and clean vocals.  Of course you know he sang with the band after the departure of Garm in the late 90s.  Along with Lars Are Nedland providing his signature backing vocals, this is the vocal line-up that any Borknagar fan could ask for....unless you believe in miracles and are waiting for Garm to re-join the band!

The songs on this album remind me of the entire Borknagar catalog but also seems the perfect follow up to "Universal."  They are structured for a perfect flow and are full of melody and hooks.  The guitars are extremely prominent with the keys providing just the right mix of old progressive rock and classic metal to provide the perfect atmosphere.  The album starts with "Epochalypse", a speedy song fitting for an intro but also giving you a taste of the epic songs to follow.  "Roots" continues the momentum where you begin to feel the nature and earthiness of this album.  "The Earthling" is just about the best song they have ever done...period!  With the slow emotional beginning this song just builds to this climax of emotion.  This song is where Mr. V. really shows his vocal talents.  The lyrics just touch home for me.

The latter half of the album is just as strong with songs like "Mount Regency" picking the pace back up but also being a varied song.  The vocals, once again, stand out with Mr. V. and ICS Vortex sharing the vocal duties.  "Frostrite" continues the flow with Vortex showing his beautiful clean vocals.  This vocals on this song reminds me of something from The Archaic Course.  "The Winter Eclipse" is the longest song on the album, clocking in a 8:45 this is another song that shows the absolute talent of this band.  Rounding out the album is the proggy "In a Deeper World"  where Vortex is the shining star with his soaring clean vocals.

This is not an album you just listen to.  You have to experience this album.  This is not the kick your teeth in metal album.  Instead what you get here are songs that flow together to make the album a musical journey about nature and life instead of just a collection of songs.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Top 10 Metal albums of 2013

So 2014 is upon us which means it's time to take a look back at 2013.  Here are my picks for the top 10 metal albums of 2013.  I also will add some honorable mentions as well as the biggest disappointment of the year.  So here goes....

10. Amorphis - Circle

There are many naysayers when it comes to Amorphis...especially their most recent outputs.  I'm in the camp that feels as though this band has finally found their formula.  This album was the perfect follow up to The Beginning of Times.

 09. Isvind - Daumyra

This is a very special band.  Without sounding dated, this Norwegian band pulls off 90s Black Metal sometimes better than the classic bands.  This is a very enjoyable 40 minutes of solid Black Metal.

 08. Finntroll - Blodsvept

The trolls have done it again!  They have to be one of the most consistent bands in metal. Their latest output is just the quality Folk Metal you expect from these Finns.  One of my favorite bands in metal.

07. Carcass - Surgical Steel

This album is getting a lot of attention....both negative and positive.  I think this album is a riff-fest and the solos are done with absolute precision.  Yes this is Melo-Death Carcass but this is Melo-Death with balls!

06. Protector - Reanimated Homunculus

Martin Missy just basically stopped having a cover band of his own material and reformed Protector...albeit he's the only original member left and the only German in this German Thrash band.  This album is just kick ass Thrash Metal.

 05. Hell - Curse and Chapter

Another album by veteran musicians, Hell goes back to 1982 and is one of the bands in the NWOBHM movement.  Long time guitarist and producer Andy Sneap helped breathe life back into this band and their most recent output shows them not slowing down at all.

 04. Galneryus - The IronHearted Flag, Vol. 1: Regeneration Side

Ahhh....I just love Japanese Euro-Power Metal!!  All kidding aside, this is a REALLY good Power Metal band with extremely talented musicians.  This is what you should expect from a Neoclassical Metal band.  This is a re-recording of earlier works when they had a different vocalist.  This band has raised the bar for this genre of metal.

03. Feigd - The Dark Passenger

I love SognaMetal.  Although not exactly sounding like Windir or Vreid, this one man band from Sogndal, Norway creates epic Viking/Black metal that has it's own identity.  Probably the biggest surprise for me in 2013.

02. Atlantean Kodex - The White Goddess

I just recently found this band and all I can say is WOW!  This is epic old school Heavy Metal with solid songwriting and an epic sound make this band a new favorite of mine.

01. Argus - Beyond the Martyrs

This is Heavy Fucking Metal....nothing more, nothing less.  This is also a relatively new find for me and it just takes me back to the beginning of metal.  Riffs, twin guitar melodies, soaring vocals, and crafty solos this band epitomizes so called "throw back" metal.  This is the best album of 2013.

Honorable Mentions....

Some bands stood out from the crowd in 2013 but were just shy of making my top 10 list.

Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult - Necrovision

I know...that name!  Don't let the name fool you.  This is quality Black Metal from Germany.

Helker - Somewhere in the Circle

This band from Argentina is another of my favorite finds of 2013.  The singer Diego Valdez is a BEAST.

Motorhead - Aftershock

This is classic Motorhead.  This album is why they have lasted so long.

Children of Bodom - Halo of Blood

Children of Bodom actually did something that bands say they are going to do but never do...return to form.  This is the classic Bodom  we've been waiting over a decade for.  Great album!

Turd of the Year

Okay so now it is time for the biggest disappointment...or as I will call it....Turd of the year.  And this year it is a tie!!!

Black Sabbath - 13

Wow...I can't begin to tell you how disappointed I was when I heard this uninspired pile.  The riffs are regurgitated rather than a throwback.  It sounds forced and it's as if Rick Rubin wanted the band to re-hash a bunch of old classic Sabbath riffs and and throw songwriting out the window.  Oh and Ozzy is just a complete mess.  Sad.

Megadeth - Super Collider

You know, I've always defended MegaDave.  I actually like the post reunion Megadeth albums.  But this?  Risk was bad but this is just disappointing.  With the line-up that Dave has, why is he making this shit?  They can do better....I know it.

Well there it is, take on the Metal of 2013.  Let's hope that 2014 will be even better.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


I'm an Elitist Metalhead. Some of you may be wondering what a Heavy Metal elitist is.  I'll tell's what butthurt mallcore kids call people who school them on what is real metal and what is not!!  Now, I will never say that I'm not a snob when it comes to music and metal, but some things are just a given.  I may be an opinionated asshole but Metal is Metal.

Now, I'm pushing 50 years old and have been listening to Heavy Metal since the 70s.  I was raised on Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, etc.  I graduated to Kiss (YES...Kiss - 'Alive' is a metal album!! Quorthon said so!) Judas Priest, early Scorpions, UFO, Rush, Motorhead, etc.  Then comes the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Venom defined metal into distinct styles....but in the end, it's all about the riffs.  From a very early age I have been in love with the sound of the electric guitar....and especially the guitar riffs of good old rock songs and the rock guitar solo.  Heavy Metal expanded on the old Hard Rock riffs to create a sound with its own identity.  Heavier with more intricate sounds. Also, the guitar solo is one of the distinguishing characteristics of traditional Heavy Metal and takes on a life of its own. It's guitar wankery pure and simple...but it's fucking GODLY!  Metal gained some popularity in the late 1980s but since the early 1990s  it went back underground and has grown into different sub-genres over the past three decades.  True Metal has stayed alive and well...all due to Heavy Metal Elitists.

I've been active in the online metal community since the beginning.  I'm webmaster of The King Diamond Shrine (currently needing some updates).  I've been to King Diamond's house in Texas.  I've been friends with James Rivera (Helstar) for over 10 years.  That's right, I am name dropping!!!  I've been to many, MANY shows and met many bands.  I saw  Iron Maiden open for Judas Priest when DiAnno was vocalist.  I saw Dio with Black Sabbath on the Mob Rules tour. 

Clearly, my age is showing but I think we can all agree on why I feel qualified to be a Heavy Metal Elitist. 

I like most genres of metal.  Traditional Metal, Power Metal (even some flower metal), Thrash, Death, Black, etc.  I love it all.  But is has to be Metal!  Mallcore is not metal.  Metalcore is not metal!  Djent is not "Melodic Progressive Death Metal."  Most Hair Metal  is not metal!  I even saw Avenged Sevenfold labeled as NWOAHM....the "A" being American. Really?? NO! 

This is a heavy metal webzine that will contain mostly album reviews but will also have some interviews as well as metal news and information. No metalcore, no mallcore, no -core, no djent...only metal, TRUE metal!

Song of the day...